Tuesday, 31 January 2017

John Wetton

I'm not often moved to write about a musician who has passed, but John Wetton was different.

At the start of the eighties some of my favourite musicians started forming bands together in some sort of fantasy rock group league. First Adrian Belew from Bowie's band & Talking Heads joined up with Bill Bruford, Tony Levin and a guitarist called Robert Fripp who I had never heard of, and then two of the lineup that made Drama, still my best loved Yes album, to form Asia with ELP's drummer and John Wetton.

John Wetton was a favourite by then. A hard driving bass player and a singer with a distinctive mid range voice. I heard him originally on U.K.'s Night After Night live album, worked back to the first U.K. album (where I found Bruford and especially Allan Holdsworth) and then earlier versions of King Crimson. Asia were different, more mainstream, the term AOR was just becoming one of abuse, but with enough substance to keep the music interesting. Built around Geoff Downes keyboard sounds, which were as much Buggles as Yes, Steve Howe's guitar solos were trimmed to keep you wanting more rather than looking at your watch, and Carl Palmer by and large kept out of the way.

In Downes, Wetton had the writing foil he needed to bring out the commercial aspect of his songs and make them hits. Short punchy anthems, the first album was full of them. John Wetton had been heading in this direction for a while, "As Long As You Want Me Here" on Night After Night, and his sole contribution to Wishbone Ash "That's That",and Downes contributions enabled him to create an album full of memorable hooks and tunes. Mike Stone's production and the business backing of John Kalodner and Geffen Records provided the mega seller that four muso's from the seventies would never have expected.

Lightning didn't strike twice and the second album was not as good, and in the end politics got in the way. The whole story is on Wikipedia fairly accurately. After Asia Wetton had a solo career that produced some great songs and a lot of good versions of his past triumphs. I saw the reformed Asia in 2009 and they were good, the voice was there and the bass playing was excellent. Wetton still had it right up to the end. The last picture I saw of him meeting Fripp was of a gaunt figure, who has sadly joined the ranks of the gone too soon. I will remember the powerhouse singer and bassist and play some his music tonight. What would I suggest to the person who has only just learnt his name or lost track in 1982?

Asia - "Asia" The whole album not a bad song on it. Heat Of the Moment might have been the hit but   there are stronger songs and performances.

John Wetton - "Live In Tokyo 1997" Some of his best interpretations of Crimson, U.K. and Asia along with the pick of his then current solo stuff, skip the solos though.

Wishbone Ash - "That's That" from Number The Brave, great metallic bass sound, Asia should have covered this.

John Wetton - "Raised in Captivity" His last studio album and probably one of his best

His whole discography is here explore it and find some lost gems along with songs that if you are of my generation will resonate with you

John Wetton 1949 - 2017 R.I.P.

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