It hit hard and personal. I was aware of John Wetton‘s state, and knew this tragic day would come rather sooner than later, so the more surprising seemed his upbeat mood and brave front. John, who has just died, aged 67. An optimist, Wetton didn’t want to disappoint his fans, considering them friends – “Friendship for me is love,” he told me once – and John indeed hoped to join the upcoming ASIA tour at some point, although the artist hardly had any doubts he wouldn’t be able to. Wetton enjoyed life to the end, listening to classical music and soaking in the beauty of nature, and sharing it all with the world via social networks, because he wanted the world to share his emotions about it and be happy for him on his recent wedding day. We wanted to talk again, and John was eager to after he’d thanked me for one of last year’s reviews, but Wetton’s management was understandably protective of him, and this is not to be now.
I used to collect every record with John on, and those were plenty because through the years he managed to always sound like Wetton, not like anybody else. That voice – gruff yet supple – could create magic, and did so from the moment John turned up his mighty bass, with FAMILY, and stepped up to the microphone to deliver a lead vocal, with MOGUL THRASH and then KING CRIMSON. Virtuoso as instrumentalist, he always felt the primacy of a song, and “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic” or “Red” didn’t cut to his heart as deep as “Book Of Saturday” or “Starless,” and while John’s joining URIAH HEEP was a move mainly dictated by, again, friendship, his contributions to the likes of “Return To Fantasy” were immense. Brilliant with U.K., where Wetton’s talents as composer reached their peak – “In The Dead Of Night” and “Rendezvous 6.02” only a couple of gems from that short-lived fusion-minded outfit – it was with ASIA that John realized his love of pop music, and “Don’t Cry” will be our motto for today.
He used to bitter in his dark days of the early Noughties and kind in latter days, and that’s the way to remember the great John Wetton. Sleep well.