Level 42 is an English pop rock and jazz-funk band which had a number of worldwide and UK hits during the 1980s and 1990s. The band gained fame for its high-calibre musicianship—in particular that of Mark King, whose percussive slap-bass guitar technique provided the driving groove of many of the band’s hits. The band are also known for the combination of King’s lead vocals and keyboard player Mike Lindup’s falsetto backing vocals.
Having been a very successful live and studio band in the 1980s, Level 42’s commercial profile diminished during the early 1990s following a series of personnel changes and musical shifts. After disbanding in 1994, the band reformed in 2001.
Mark King and the Gould brothers (Phil and Rowland, the latter generally known by his nickname “Boon”) were all brought up on the Isle of Wight and played together in various bands during their teenage years. When Phil Gould was studies in London, he met keyboard player Mike Lindup on a percussion course.
In late 1979, Phil Gould introduced Mark King and Mike Lindup to each other, and all of them began playing together in loose rehearsal sessions, developing their own jazz-funk fusion style. The developing band’s original guitarist was Dominic Miller (later to find fame playing with Sting), but he was replaced by Boon Gould on the latter’s return from working in the United States.
Initially, instrumental roles were flexible, with Boon Gould also playing bass guitar and saxophone and Lindup doubling on keyboards and drums. Mark King was primarily a drummer (although he also played guitar) but had recently sold his drumkit to pay for transport back to the UK after an ill-fated European venture. With Phil Gould and Boon Gould established (respectively), as the most accomplished drummer and guitarist in the quartet, King opted to learn bass guitar instead. At the time, King was working in a London music store. A notably flexible musician and quick learner, he had observed visiting American funk players demonstrating the thumb-slap bass guitar technique and developed his own take on the style in a matter of weeks.
The developing band took the name Level 42 and settled on a working lineup of :
• Mark King (bass guitar, percussion)
• Mike Lindup (keyboards, percussion)
• Boon Gould (guitar, saxophone)
• Phil Gould (drums).
• Wally Badarou (co-writing songs, playing keyboards and synthesizers in the studio) — Phil Gould and Mark King invited him to work with Level 42.
In 1980, they were also encouraged to branch out into vocal music. Having considered recruiting a singer, the band eventually settled on giving King and Lindup the vocal role. They developed a complementary style, with Lindup’s falsetto frequently used for harmonies and choruses while King’s deep tenor led the verses (although Lindup would also sing entire songs on his own). Lyrics were generally written by the Gould brothers while King, Badarou and Lindup concentrated on Level 42’s music.
- LEVEL 42 DISBANDS
The years of personnel upheaval and hard gigging had taken their toll, and it was announced halfway through the Forever Now tour (on the day of the Manchester Apollo gig) that Level 42 would be disbanding permanently following their concert commitments.
In 1996, a second Level 42 live album, Live At Wembley, was released, featuring a 1988 concert from the Staring At The Sun lineup of King, Lindup, Husband and Murphy.
- Increasingly, Mark King and his band were playing more and more Level 42 tracks at their live shows. In late 2001, King came to a business agreement with Mike Lindup and bought the rights to the name Level 42. Although Lindup agreed to play on future albums, he did not want to tour. King announced the new lineup of Level 42 as himself, Gary Husband on drums, Nathan King on guitar, Lyndon Connah on keyboards and Sean Freeman on saxophone. (In effect, King was relaunching his solo band under his old band’s name.)
On 13 February 2005, Level 42 played a historic date at The Forum in London. For the first time since 14 October 1994 at The Royal Albert Hall, Mike Lindup joined the band on stage. 2005 saw a burst of reissue activity. In March, two classic-era Rockpalast shows from 1983 and 1984 were released on DVD, and in April a show from 1983 recorded in Scotland was released on CD asThe River Sessions”. In June, The Ultimate Collection II was released (including a brand new song called “Genius Of Love” – this was in fact a Level 42 tribute/collaboration by Italian-American dance producer Hardage, featuring Mark King on vocals and incorporating a sample of the Level 42 track “I Want Eyes”).
A new album, Retroglide was announced in February 2006. The album was chiefly recorded and produced by King at his home studio, with Gary Husband, Lyndon Connah, Sean Freeman and Nathan King all contributing. (For Husband, this was his first Level 42 studio album since 1991’s Guaranteed. Mike Lindup added keyboards and vocals to many tracks, and Boon Gould co-wrote most of the album with King as well as contributing a guitar solo on the track “Ship.” Phil originally arranged the track with his brother Boon. However, Retroglide was also the first Level 42 album.
The album was promoted via a supporting tour throughout the UK, Netherlands, Germany and some other European countries, scheduled for October 2006. In May 2006, Level 42 announced that Mike Lindup would return full-time. On Sunday 26 August 2007, Level 42 played an outdoor gig at the Arundel Festival in West Sussex. The performance had a number of unexpected changes to the setlist. “Running in the Family,” a top 10 hit from 1987, was the second song in the set for the first time ever. The track usually appeared towards the end of the show in a medley of the band’s most successful singles, which King affectionately refers to as “a string of knackered old hits.”
1981 – Level 42
1982 – Strategy – The Early Tapes
1982 – The Pursuit of Accidents
1983 – Standing in the Light
1984 – True Colours
1985 – World Machine
1987 – Running in the Family
1988 – Staring at the Sun
1991 – Guaranteed
1994 – Forever Now
2006 – Retroglide
- 1981: “Love Games”
1983: “The Chinese Way”
1983: “The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)”
1985: “Something About You”
1985: “Leaving Me Now”
1986: “Lessons in Love”
1987: “Running in the Family”
1987: “It’s Over”
1987: “Children Say”
1994: “Forever Now”
1994: “Love In A Peaceful World”