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John Wetton's personal story behind Asia's 'Only Time Will Tell'

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With the passing of Asia bassist and frontman John Wetton on Jan. 31, music fans are hopefully taking the time to revisit Wetton's music over the years. One tune that was particularly popular in the early '80s was Asia's Only Time Will Tell, co-written by Wetton and keyboardist Geoff Downes.

The song tells the tale of a man who learns the woman he loves has never loved him in return. 

I see it now
Becomes so clear
You insincerity
And me all starry-eyed.

Furious, the man is determined to put it behind him and move on. 

Now, sure as the sun will cross the sky
This lie is over
Lost, like the tears that used to tide me over.

His parting message to his former lover? You'll rlikely egret choosing him over me, but only time will tell.

In an interview with, Wetton said that many Asia songs featured dark stories.

"... Traditionally, Asia material is incredibly personal lyrics, incredibly personal. Stuff that I wouldn't tell a priest, over fairly lush, colorful, pop-y backgrounds," he said. "It's been the same story since Day One, really. If you look at Only Time Will Tell, Heat of the Moment, Wildest Dreams, it's the same story. These are very intensely personal lyrics, over this bombastic, lush soundscape."

Specifically on Only Time Will Tell, Wetton explained: "Only Time Will Tell, well, it's all gone wrong and it's all your fault, and you'll see. I got stick for that being misogynistic. I'd probably get even worse stick now if it came out today.

"But a lot of people didn't realize that in Heat of the Moment, I was the one saying, 'Look, it's my fault, I screwed up.' In Only Time Will Tell, I'm saying, 'Well, I know this new guy is not as good as I am, but only time will tell. But you're making a big mistake.' That's what I was saying with that one. And they're all from personal experience."

The video for Only Tell Will Tell was memorable during the early days of MTV as well. Directed by video masterminds Godley & Creme, it featured each musician inside TV sets while a gymnast tumbled through the images. 

Only Time Will Tell was the third single off Asia's 1982 debut album and would peak at  No. 17 on the U.S. charts. Will it rise on the iTunes charts again this month in the wake of Wetton's passing? "One thing is sure: That time will tell." 

[Last modified: Sunday, February 5, 2017 9:11am]


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