Our Thoughts On The Passing Of John Wetton!

Like many, I first became aware of John Wetton as a member of '80s prog supergroup Asia.

Not a fan of prog-rock, per se, it was impossible to deny the accessibility of Asia's now-legendary debut album and the band's ability to compete on the pop charts against the likes of Olivia Newton-John at her most physical, Survivor at their Rocky-est, and, er, Hall & Oates at their oatiest.

With hits like "Heat of The Moment", "Only Time Will Tell", and an album that would spend nine weeks at #1, Asia quickly dispelled whatever doubts anyone may have had about four veteran musicians surviving in the age of MTV.

Knowing the egos involved - Steve Howe (Yes), Carl Palmer (ELP), Wetton (UK/King Crimson) and Geoff Downes (Buggles, Yes) - one had to be amazed that such potentially volatile personalities could co-exist long enough to complete an album, much less one that would come to define the careers of all involved.

Of course, if there weren't tensions before the album became successful, tensions between Steve Howe and Wetton would ultimately reach a boiling point, resulting in Wetton's departure from the band on the eve of a worldwide live concert MTV broadcast. Carl Palmer's former bandmate Greg Lake would step in at the last minute and turn in a performance that was better than it had any right to be, giving those of us who'd been disappointed in Alpha hope that Asia would return to form.

What none of us knew then was that Wetton, knowing the worldwide MTV broadcast was too soon to cancel, had given the band an ultimatum: "Either Steve Howe goes or I go."

Band leader Geoff Downes informed Wetton that Howe was staying. Incensed, Wetton stormed out of rehearsals, potentially throwing the whole highly-publicized event into the toilet at great expense to the band, tour promoters, and, most of all, MTV.

Even as a teenager, this writer found Wetton's decision to abandon the band on the eve of their worldwide performance highly unprofessional, but seemingly par for the course in the world of prog-rock, where one literally needs a Pete Frame Family Tree just to keep track of all the comings and goings of the many ego-driven, mercurial prog-rock musicians in bands like Yes, Asia, Crimson, et al.

To his credit, Carl Palmer's former bandmate Greg Lake, with only a few days to prepare, stepped in at the last minute and performed admirably, giving many fans hope that he would continue as the band's singer.

Incredulously, Wetton would return to the band months later and succeed in getting Howe fired and replaced by, of all people, the guitarist from Krokus (Mandy Meyer).

The failure of their third album, Astra, would then lead Wetton to leave the band yet again, but not before bringing in David Cassidy (yes, THAT David Cassidy) to co-write and produce a track ("Praying 4 A Miracle") for their cobbled-together Then And Now album.

His second departure cleared the way for Steve Howe to return to the band in 1992 while
Wetton would not return to the band until 2008, when all four original members reunited for the Omega album. Whatever tensions between Howe and Wetton that had plagued the band throughout the '80s seemed to have finally dissipated and the original line-up would remain intact for three albums until Steve Howe's retirement from the band in 2013.

While Asia had been tapped as Journey's support act this summer, Wetton bowed out to continue his fight with cancer in hopes that he could return to the band as soon as possible. Sadly, before such a day could come, Wetton would lose his battle with the dreadful disease, leaving behind a very respectable musical legacy that, despite numerous upheavals, has stood the test of time.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

1 comment:

  1. John did not give the band an ultimatum over Steve Howe. Management fired him, very unfairly. Ask his widow, Lisa Wetton, or Geoffrey Downes, for the accurate account.