One of the most fondest memories of my senior year in high school was the much anticipated debut album of the supergroup called ASIA. A lot was riding on this album back in 1982, as it was the one of the first albums released on Geffen Records after John Lennon's untimely death and Peter Gabriel's Security was still a few months away.
ASIA was primarily a brainchild of Brian Lane, manager of YES after things weren't going too well with that band when they released a album called Drama without original fonding members Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman. Instead singer /producer Trevor Horn, also of Frankie Goes To Hollywood fame and keyboardist song writer Geoff Downes took over the roles fresh from scoring a hugh hit with "Video Killed the Radio Star" when they were known as The Buggles. That song was used to launch the first broadcasting day of the MTV network. So Brian, realizing that Yes was kaput for the early eighties got in touch with other musicians that were of higher caliber and possessed stronger musical playing capabilties than your average head banging joe who was regulated to nothing more than playing standard three chord arrangements in such low maintenance bands such as AC/DC, Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys or Twisted Sister. He retained guitar player Steve Howe and Downes to have a sitdown with former ELP drummer Carl Palmer and former Uriah Heep/Family/King Crimson/U.K./Roxy Music bass player singer songwriter, John Wetton and it was off to LA to record with producer Mike Stone and thus, a legend was born.
The debut album paid off, giving some infamy to AM radio staple playing singles such as "Heat of the Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell" while FM radio lurched onto longer tracks such as "Sole Survivor" and "Wildest Dreams." They even retained YES Album cover painter alumni, Roger Dean to keep the tradition going (Dean will be appearing himself as a subject of a panel next Thursday at San Diego Comic Con International.).
Like other teenagers, this album had a tremendous impact on my life -it inspired me to want to be just like Geoff Downes and so I saved up a shitload of cash from my all three of my paper routes and bought myself a Sequential Circuits Pro One Monophonic Synthesizer just so I can learn that opening twiggy chord riff that opens up "Only Time Will Tell" and had my hair all poofed out. Soon I was hanging out in shopping malls and walking up to every electronic organ store and sneaking in behind every organ salesmen to jam my fingers on those cheesy keyboards just to snake off that riff.
Then I would get chased out by mall security. Sometimes by other girls who had mistaken me for Geoff Downes himself- but that's a another story for another time.
But something strange happened- by the time the band released their second effort Alpha - the novelty sort of wore off. The singles, "Don't Cry" and the "Smile Has Left Your Eyes" were just lackluster compared to their previous effort and therefore led to a series of cancellations on their first ever stadium tours. Their third effort, Astra didn't even warrant a tour and one by one members started to drop out of the band. At first, Wetton was fired by the label for public drunkeness and saying mean things about Howe (I know this by public account from someone I know who has worked with Wetton) and briefly replaced him with Greg Lake (ELP) who did a show in Japan with them for a MTV special but was allowed to come back to record Astra. Then all of the sudden all the other bands had begun coming back to life. King Crimson reformed. Yes reformed with their biggest yet, "Owner of a Lonely Heart". Although ELP hadn't reformed yet , they eventually would in the late eighties. Downes didn't really have anywhere to go, so he has for the past fifteen years or so, kept the band of Asia going - replaced Wetton with a better singer named John Payne and released a score of remarkable albums (better and more mature sounding) named Aqua, Aria, Arena, and Aura (notice a pattern there? All titles begin and start with A), keeping the base of operations mostly in Europe with a few shows here and there in America, mostly on the east coast.
I finally had the pleasure of meeting Downes a few years back while the band was touring for Aura (rare, since I hadn't seen them when they had toured behind Alpha), having gotten permission to go backstage through a few of Payne's friends. I got to tell Downes that he was my teenage idol and Downes was proud to reciprocate by buying me a beer and allowing me to hang with the band at the Rainbow Bar & Grill 'till 4 in the morning. Ex AC/DC drummer, Chris Slade (you see, what goes around comes around) was a freakin' scream with his Angus Young anecdotes.
Now, a friend of mine involved with the Inside Out Music recently e-mailed me with the news of that their label just signed a contract with Asia. Needless to say, I was estatic! My favorite label and one of my favorite bands of all time! It was the perfect match- sort of like the muscial equivalent of a Reese' Peanut Butter Cup! So I called the label's US division in Pittsburgh and asked them that I would happily give out postcards or stickers touting the new album, Steel Nation (hmm, a little break in tradition. I wonder why?)at this year's San Diego Comic Con. Well, they don't have them ready yet since the album isn't coming out in late August- but they know who I am through my friend at the label and said they will be sending other papaphernalia out to me to give out at my table.
Well I told them that I would get the word of mouth going anyway, so here:
So click on that to hear 30 second samples of all ten tracks.
Yeah, so I had a free time on my hands today.
My books haven't arrived. I wonder what's the hold up?
Let's go over some more of these freebies I got on FREE COMIC BOOK DAY.
Yesterday was the crappiest of the bunch. Today I have two of the outstanding ones to talk about. Actually, make it three:
Gemstone (and not Gladstone- that now defunct Arizona publishing house that I said yesterday. You see how senile one gets at forty) has outdone themselves this year with a flip book in reminiscent of the 'old Ace Double' paperback series featuring Mickey Mouse on one end and Uncle Scrooge on the other. Reading these two reprints make me ponder why I didn't pursue more Carl Barks material in the past. It's of the equal par of a meth sniffing giddy feeling, the sort you feel after re-discovering the brillance of Will Eisner's the Spirit in the DC Archives collections (of which I'm already two volumes behind on - a new comic con resolution to hopefully recify) . The obsolute startling revelation for me reading this book was that this was the sole Mickey Mouse story that Carl Barks has ever done as editor, John Clark explains that Barks had never felt comfortable drawing Mickey Mouse as he did with Donald Duck. That's a shame, because I felt that the "Riddle of the Red Hat" was absolutely riveting and Barks had such a firm grip on Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy's charactizations and mannerisms- a sense of high tension never seen before in a Mickey Mouse short. And on the flip side, we have the Uncle Scrooge story "The Second Richest Duck" - which is unbelievably one of the most enjoyable comic book stories I have ever read. Uncle Scrooge cohorts Donald and his nephews to embark on this crazy harebrained mission halfway around the world to South Africa to settle a bet with another self made multi-milloniare duck thought to be missing has resurfaced to see who is the richest. Needless to say, egos entwine and the wager winds down to a deadly contest of thrills and skills of who has the biggest and longest ball of string. I was reading this while I was waiting for a bus to take me home from work, nervously popping in cigarettes in and out and I must have at least waved off three rush hours buses so they wouldn't interrupt me. This stuff is the stuff of legends and it certainly lives up to the hype that I've heard Maggie Thompson, editor of Comics Buyer's Guide tout so often. It's surreal that I have a better appreciation for it now that I'm struggling with my forties.
Beckett Comics did an outstanding job on their freebie as well with their sample offering of The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty. It's a western, believe it or not- although you wouldn't have guessed it by the title, but it comes at a good time in my life when I'm just crazy about HBO's Deadwood and a sudden craving to be checking out some Sergio Leone's spagetitti western DVDs. It's a western with some Brother Grimm elements, some fantasy elements and some horror elements. It sort of reminds me of this big book I bought from Mojo Press called Weird Business - it's a heady brew that packs a wallop of a tale and the storyline, the artwork, and the quality instantly makes me yearn for more. But it wasn't until I finished reading the book that I realize that an old correspondance buddy of mine, Jeff Amano was involved with the cover and was the CEO of the Beckett's comic book line. I first heard and communicated with Jeff when I sent out a submission packet of the Deposit Man to him back in '95 or '96 when he was self publishing a excellent book called Taoland that was years ahead of its' time when Jeff was experimenting with computer graphics. We wound up Christmas Card buddies for a while.
Oni Press allowed people to sample a issue of Andi Watson's Love Fights. I used to scarf up any Oni Press Title when I had money to do so. I was led to believe that when Oni first started out that they were a imprint of Dark Horse comics- but like defectors from Marvel to form Image, I guess the same applied to Dark Horse refugees to form Oni. But I like their ideas and concepts that nearly all their titles were nothing more than one shots or four issue limited series. I assume all that changed with Queen & Country, and now I guess this is a on going series also. It's a charming person to person dramedy set wthin a super-hero culture. Reminds me of a lighter side of George R.R. Martin's Wildcards series where you're a nobody or you're not chic if you're not endowed with super powers. Very cinematic and it's storyboarded like a episode you would catch on Adult Swim. The flip side has a eight page rough penciled preview of Everest: Facing the Goddess by Greg Rucka and Scott Morse. It didn't really do much for me.
And the rest tomorrow. Plus your cards and letters. If I can find them.