Born in Derby, raised in Bournemouth, John Wetton first cut his musical teeth on church music at his family’s piano, soon discovering a knack for song writing with an early bandmate, Richard Palmer-James; a relationship that would continue to flourish through five decades.
His career was soon linked to that of another old friend, Robert Fripp, who set about to reform King Crimson in 1972. The eventual Crimson core of Wetton, Fripp, and Bill Bruford is often considered the “classic” line-up, as the timeless LPs “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic,” “Starless and Bible Black,” and “Red”) truly took the band to its imaginative limits. But after a blistering show in New York’s Central Park in 1974, the band took a hiatus that became permanent. John honed his trade with artists including Roxy music (including Bryan Ferry solo) and Uriah Heep at their commercial peak.
After some brief but significant time with the Wetton/Bruford brainchild U.K., John decided to turn his attentions to a solo career and entered the studio to record “Caught in the Crossfire,” an album that, in hindsight, shows a logical bridge from the music of U.K. to the eventual music of Asia.
At the same time, John joined forces with Atlantic Records’ A&R man, John Kalodner, who was moving to the newly-formed Geffen Records, and wanted to assemble a group that would unleash a new sound across the musical landscape while preserving the finest elements of progressive rock. He found his dream line-up with Wetton, Geoff Downes, Steve Howe, and Carl Palmer. This “fab four” of progressive pop would rule radio and record sales worldwide throughout 1982 and 83, including the biggest selling album of 1982, number 1 in America for 9 weeks, and the sound track to that summer, spearheading a new medium called MTV.
Although by the end of the 80’s the band was still going strong, John felt that it was sounding tired and he was ready for a break.
With renewed energy, John began work on his “Voice Mail” album; two songs of which, “Hold Me Now” and “Battle Lines,” have become classics among Wetton fans. In fact, “Battle Lines” eventually replaced “Voice Mail” as the album’s title when it was selected as the theme for the film “Chasing the Deer". To promote the album, John embarked on his first solo tour and later released a live CD called “Akustika.”
Continued autobiographical songwriting led to 1997’s “Arkangel” album, an emotionally gritty album followed by 2000’s “Sinister”.
Despite being left off the extensive tour schedule, American fans had plenty to celebrate in 2002 with the first-ever John Wetton Fan Convention. Multitudes filled a Pennsylvania venue to spend a weekend with John, his band, and Geoff Downes, who shared the stage with John for the first time in over ten years.
Fans delighted in a resurgence of the Wetton/Downes team when John returned to the studio to begin work on 2003’s “Rock of Faith". Two new songs written by John and Geoff created a buzz among fans hoping for an eventual reunion of the original Asia line-up. That buzz roared in 2005 with the release of “iCon,” an album of original music by Wetton and Downes.
With Wetton at the top of his game (again), imagine what it would sound like if Downes, Howe, and Palmer all joined in! It indeed happened in early 2006, as the four musicians responsible for Billboard's Number One Album of 1982 sat down in a London hotel and began the groundwork for a worldwide reunion tour. After a media blitz across the US, the tour kicked off in Rochester, NY in August of 2006. Fans quickly snapped up tickets as more and more dates were added.
During this same time, John and Geoff released the second of their iCon albums, "Rubicon." The historical meaning of the title was not lost on the musicians or their fans, as the songs reflected John and Geoff's personal and professional decisions to sever restrictive ties of the past and forge a positive new outlook.
As Asia set out on a much-anticipated second year of touring, fans demanded more. Their wish was granted as the band retreated to the studios at Liscombe Park and got to work on "Phoenix." The appropriately titled project was an incredibly balanced one, fully showcasing the creative potential of its musicians.
The band’s success continued with long tours and the recording of the second album of their reunion, Omega, while Wetton found time for his solo career as well, releasing "Raised in Captivity" in 2011. John and Geoff had released the final of the iCon triology, iCon 3, released in 2009.
In 2012, ASIA returned to the studio to record XXX, proving that a reunion can last longer than first time around, followed by Gravitas with new guitarist Sam Coulson. The ASIA dragon was still flying high 30 years on.
Just when John was living a second artistic youth, life left him to face the ultimate test: when John was diagnosed with cancer, in 2015, he knew the only possible answer was to fight. The Battle Lines of his most intimate lyrics were now real, but he knew the warrior that he had become would persevere and win day after day.
And fight he did bravely, until a crisp winter morning of January 2017 when he peacefully embraced his destiny and embarked on the longest of his journeys.
Poignantly, Asia had been invited as special guests for an arena tour across America with one of John's favourite bands of all time, Journey. This tour began in March 2017 and extended until 28th of July 2017, including a memorial gig on June 17th. John's chosen successor, Billy Sherwood, took over bass and lead vocal duties.
Reflecting the legendary status of John, Journey's leader Neil Schon, introduced their iconic hit "Lights" every night by asking the entire audience to switch their phones to 'torch' as a tribute to John Wetton. A soul-stirring tribute to a genius who made the world a better place.
John's legacy of music and wisdom is immense and carries on through the creations of artists of all ages that he has inspired and through the work of the many people who loved and admired him.