On January 31, we lost John Wetton and remember him with the flip side of Asia’s first and biggest hit single.
By Warren Kurtz
Flip side: Ride Easy
A side: Heat of the Moment
Top 100 debut: April 17, 1982
Peak position: 4
Photo taken by Mike Inns, courtesy of Glass Onyon
John Wetton was in a variety of British acts in the ‘70s including Family, King Crimson, Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry, and Uriah Heep. Their co-founder and keyboardist Ken Hensley told Goldmine, “John Wetton came into Uriah Heep to ‘replace’ Gary Thain. That was impossible! You can´t ‘replace’ anyone, but John brought some really amazing qualities to the band. Sure, he had a great voice and was an innovative bass player, but the one thing I learned from him, above all else, was how to approach song arrangements without limits and with a totally open mind. I have taken that lesson with me since. It was a very positive time for me. I am sad that he left us too soon.”
In 1982, John Wetton gained fame as the lead vocalist and bassist in a quartet which was called the first super-group of the ‘80s, Asia. The other members were drummer Carl Palmer from the ‘70s super-group Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), Steve Howe, former lead guitarist from Yes, and Geoff Downes, also from Yes and the Buggles. Their self-titled debut album cover artwork was created by Roger Dean, who designed album covers for Yes and Uriah Heep in the ‘70s. It also featured the group’s first two Top 40 hits “Heat of the Moment” and “Only Time Will Tell” along with FM radio staple “Sole Survivor.” “Asia” was the best-selling album in the U.S. in 1982. Missing from the nine song collection was “Ride Easy,” the flip side of “Heat of the Moment,” which certainly would have fit, in terms of style and quality.
John Wetton sang purely, “Ride easy my friends” over a backdrop of keyboard sounds from Geoff Downes, including harpsichord, synthesizer and piano. Steve Howe’s guitar was also prominent, while Carl Palmer kept a steady and powerful beat. After the single left record stores in the summer of 1982, this fan favorite became a rarity until the 2000 CD was released, “The Very Best of Asia: Heat of the Moment 1982-1990.”
Asia returned to the Top 40 twice in 1983 with “Don’t Cry” and “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” from their second album, “Alpha.”
Epicon records has just released a 2 CD / 1 DVD set of the John Wetton and Geoff Downes collaboration Icon, live in a historic London church, for the collection called “Urban Psalm.” A variety of top-notch musicians are featured, including cellist Hugh McDowell from ELO. Live versions of Asia’s final two Top 100 singles, “Go” and “Days Like These,” are included along with “Heat of the Moment.”
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, around 9:05-9:25 a.m. Eastern time, on WVCR.com as part of “Moments to Remember.”