The band began as a supergroup with members from Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, and Roxy Music. The original members, the four currently touring under the name Asia, are lead vocalist and guitarist John Welton, guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Geoffrey Downes, and drummer Carl Palmer.
Asia has undergone many lineup changes over the years and at one time or another all the aforementioned original members were out of the band, although Downes has been a part of every studio and live album release.
Payne took over the lead vocal role in 1992 and held that job until 2006. He formed his own version of the band about a year later. In total, and including John Payne's version, 24 musicians have been a member of Asia.
The band released their self-titled debut in 1982. Critics and hardcore fans of progressive rock derided the album. They felt it was to mainstream and not nearly "progressive" enough. Despite critics' lukewarm reception to their inaugural release, the album was a commercial success and Asia concerts sold out all over the world.
Their videos also received heavy airplay on MTV. Unfortunately for Asia, they could never match the success of their initial release.
In the last quarter of 1983, Wetton left Asia. Reasons behind his departure are not universally agreed upon. He may have been fired, he may have quit, or he may have left to deal with his alcoholism. An Asia tour of the United States was cancelled due to poor ticket sales but the band did launch their "Asia in Asia" tour. For the trek, Greg Lake joined the band as their lead singer.
Due to his lack of knowledge of the group's music he sang most of the lyrics off a teleprompter. Asia's tour of the continent also featured the first ever satellite broadcast of a concert on MTV.
Wetton returned to the group the following year and remained until 1991 when he was replaced by Payne. Payne fronted the band until 2006. His departure paved the way for Wetton to come back to Asia for a third time.