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Level 42

Band from Isle of Wight

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Lessons In Love

Level 42

Level 42 Biography

Level 42 are an English jazz-funk band formed on the Isle of Wight in 1979. They had a number of UK and worldwide hits during the 1980s and 1990s.History 1979–1980: Prehistory and formation 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. Phil Gould went on to study at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he met keyboard player Mike Lindup in a percussion course. Both musicians found that they had the same feelings about musical heroes: Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Keith Jarrett and Jan Hammer. By 1979, Phil Gould...
Level 42 are an English jazz-funk band formed on the Isle of Wight in 1979. They had a number of UK and worldwide hits during the 1980s and 1990s.


1979–1980: Prehistory and formation

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. Phil Gould went on to study at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he met keyboard player Mike Lindup in a percussion course. Both musicians found that they had the same feelings about musical heroes: Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Keith Jarrett and Jan Hammer.

By 1979, Phil Gould and Mark King were both based in London and became involved in Robin Scott's pop project M. While working with M, they became acquainted with Afro-French keyboard player Wally Badarou, who played synthesizer on M's US number one single "Pop Muzik". 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 drum kit 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 (at this point, entirely an instrumental act) took the name Level 42 and settled on a working line-up of King (bass guitar, percussion), Lindup (keyboards, percussion), Boon Gould (guitar, saxophone) and Phil Gould (drums). The name of the band is a reference to the novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, in which "42" is the answer to "the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything." Having maintained their links with Wally Badarou, Phil Gould and Mark King invited him to work with Level 42. Although he never formally joined the band, Badarou would become a fifth member in all but name: co-writing songs, playing keyboards and synthesizers in the studio and co-producing the records.

1983–1985: Moving towards pop (Standing in the Light and True Colours)

A fourth album, Standing in the Light, was released in 1983. Produced by Larry Dunn and Verdine White (of Earth, Wind & Fire), this album began a new era for the band, being less experimental and less jazzy than previous releases. It provided them with their first UK Top Ten hit, "The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)". Notably, the album featured no instrumental tracks, with the band now focusing heavily on songs. (The band would not release another instrumental on an album until 1988's Staring at the Sun).

The 1984 album True Colours continued the band's development away from primarily jazz-funk based music, switching between funk, power pop, mid-tempo rock and moody ballads. It yielded the singles "The Chant Has Begun" and "Hot Water". The latter was a Top 20 hit in Britain and a Top 5 hit in the Netherlands where the band became popular (the song reached also No. 7 in Belgium). During the same year, Mark King released his first solo album Influences on which he played the majority of the instruments (with a guest appearance by Aswad's Drummie Zeb, and with Lindup guesting on additional keyboards).

Mark King in 1986

Level 42 became known for their power as a live band (as showcased on the 1985 double live album A Physical Presence).[citation needed] For live gigs the band added saxophonist Krys Mach, who toured with the group from 1984 to 1988 and contributed to some album recordings.

1985–1987: Worldwide fame (World Machine and Running in the Family) and split of original line-up

By this time, the band were well established in their mainstream pop/rock sound, as evidenced on their next studio album, World Machine, released later in 1985. King's dextrous bass playing and Lindup and Badarou's chugging keyboards acted as templates for pop songs such as "Something About You" and "Leaving Me Now", which were both UK Top 20 hits (Top 40 hits in the Netherlands).

Significantly, "Something About You" was also their first (and only) US Top 10 the following year; also reaching the Top 5 in Canada and the Top 20 in Italy and New Zealand. "Leaving Me Now" was the second hit from this album, peaking at No. 15 in the United Kingdom but proving less successful in Europe. Elements of Level 42's roots could still be found in the funky "Coup d'État" and "Dream Crazy" on the UK version of the album, as well as a long instrumental track named "Hell," which was also recorded during the World Machine sessions (This last track did not see the light of day until the early 2000s as an MP3 download on the original Napster).

World Machine gained positive reviews from critics, with AllMusic journalist William Cooper, in a retrospective review, describing it as "one of the finest pop albums of the mid-'80s." During the recording of the album, the first major tensions between Phil Gould and Mark King began to surface over musical direction, production and their personal relationship. This clashing led to Gould leaving the band for a week. Allan Holdsworth's drummer Gary Husband was lined up as a potential replacement, but Gould and King's dispute was subsequently patched up and the group went on to enjoy their most successful year to date.

Phil Gould in 1986

Released in early 1986 (and initially recorded to keep up the band's European chart momentum while the band was busy touring the United States), "Lessons in Love" was an international hit and became Level 42's biggest selling single.[citation needed] It gave the band their first number one in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and South Africa, increasing the band's popularity considerably. It also placed at No. 2 in Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden, No. 3 in the UK and in Ireland, No. 4 in Austria, No. 10 in Norway, No. 12 in the US in 1987, No. 18 in New Zealand and No. 22 in France).

"Lessons in Love" became the lead single on 1987's Running in the Family album, recorded to capitalise on the impact. With the band now at the peak of their success, the album added further gloss to Level 42's polished pop sound (despite adding to Phil Gould's disquiet). Further singles from the album continued and built on the band's existing profile: "To Be With You Again" (No. 6 in the Netherlands and in Ireland), the ballad "It's Over" (No. 3 in Ireland and No. 7 in the Netherlands) and Running In The Family's title track (No. 1 in Denmark, No. 3 in the Netherlands, No. 4 in Ireland, No. 5 in Switzerland, No. 7 in Norway and No. 9 in New Zealand). The album itself was a major international success, reaching the Top 10 in numerous countries.

By now a leading British pop band, Level 42 played at the Prince's Trust concert in June 1987, with Eric Clapton standing in on lead guitar for a performance of "Running in the Family". King and Lindup also performed with artists including Ben E. King on "Stand By Me" and George Harrison and Ringo Starr on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".

Despite the success, Level 42 were on the brink of splitting up. Although Phil Gould was the most visibly dissatisfied member, it was Boon Gould who was the first to leave, departing in late 1987, following a support slot on a Madonna tour. The quietest member of the band, Boon surprised both King and Lindup with his sudden departure. However, he had been suffering from nervous exhaustion and also wanted to leave the lifestyle of a constantly touring musician in order to settle down and spend more time with his wife and children. Boon's relationship with the band remained amicable and, although he would not return to Level 42 as a performing or recording member, he continued to write lyrics for the band following his departure. He was temporarily replaced by Paul Gendler (an experienced session player who had previously been the guitarist for Modern Romance) for a six-week headlining tour and for further support slots with Tina Turner.

Mark King in 1987

In December 1987, midway through the tour, Phil Gould left Level 42 permanently. Like his brother, he was suffering from exhaustion, but his relationship with King had broken down once again and they now found it difficult to work together. Phil was also reportedly dissatisfied with the band's direction in terms of their newer "pop" sound, and King and Lindup failed to convince him to stay. To complete the tour dates, the band hired Prefab Sprout drummer Neil Conti to fill in.

1988–1989: The second line-up (Staring at the Sun)

Following the tour, Level 42 recruited Gary Husband as the band's new full-time drummer. He in turn recommended Steve Topping as a replacement guitarist. However, Topping and King's personalities clashed and Topping eventually left the band in early 1988 after initial writing and rehearsing sessions in Dublin. Most of the next Level 42 album, Staring at the Sun, was recorded without a permanent guitarist. Rhythm guitar on the studio recordings was handled either by the band's old friend Dominic Miller or by an uncredited Mark King. In April 1988, towards the end of the sessions, the band recruited lead guitarist Alan Murphy (a session guitarist who had worked extensively with Kate Bush and had also been a member of Go West).

Staring at the Sun was released in 1988, reaching number 2 in the UK and the top ten in several European charts. It included the hit-single "Heaven in My Hands" (number 12 in the UK and also top twenty in the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland). Boon Gould had co-written many of the tracks with King, Lindup and Badarou, while Gary Husband was credited with his first co-write with King on "Tracie" (a tribute to King's childhood sweetheart). To promote the album, Level 42 embarked on a four-month European tour, culminating in six sell-out nights at Wembley Arena. These latter dates were recorded for what would become the band's second live album, Live At Wembley (eventually released in 1996).

Although the band seemed to have maintained their momentum and recovered well from the split of the original lineup, they were about to be hit by a serious tragedy. Unknown to the rest of Level 42, guitarist Alan Murphy was suffering from AIDS, something which he himself may have been aware of before joining the band. At the time, his previous band Go West had been stalled by internal disagreements, and one of Murphy's reasons for joining Level 42 was to ensure that he spent his last days playing the music that he loved. During 1989, Murphy contracted pneumonia: weakened by his existing condition, his decline was rapid and he died on 19 October 1989.

Mark King performing in 1988

Devastated, Level 42 took a year off to regroup and rethink. To cover the gap and to fulfil the band's contract with Polydor Records, Level Best (a greatest hits compilation) was released at the end of 1989; also marking a decade since the band's beginnings. During the break, Mike Lindup also recorded and released his debut solo album, Changes (featuring Dominic Miller, Pino Palladino on bass and Manu Katché on drums).

1993–1994: Fifth and sixth lineups (including brief return of Phil Gould), Forever Now and disbandment

In early 1993, Gary Husband left Level 42, leading to the return of group founder member Phil Gould as Level 42's drummer (and principal lyricist) for 1994's Forever Now album. Further changes to the band were evident in that Jakko Jakszyk did not play on the album: all guitars were performed by the American session guitarist Danny Blume (erroneously credited as "Danny Bloom").

Although Forever Now was a critical success,[citation needed] the reunion of Gould and the group was short-lived. When Level 42 began to promote the new album (with Jakszyk returning to the live band for concerts and TV appearances), Gould played only one promotional gig and did not go on the road for the Forever Now tour. He was replaced as live drummer by Jakszyk's friend and frequent collaborator Gavin Harrison (who later played drums for both Porcupine Tree and King Crimson).

It was announced halfway through the Forever Now tour, on the day of the Manchester Apollo gig, that the band would be disbanding permanently following their concert commitments. Level 42 played their last gig at the Albert Hall in London on 14 October 1994. According to Jakszyk, the band recorded tapes for a live album during the final 1994 shows at the Albert Hall and the Brighton Dome which "sounded fantastic", but the album was never released.

1996–2000: Mark King's solo years

In 1996, Mark King signed to Virgin Records and released a solo single "Bitter Moon" (with Lyndon Connah playing keyboards). This was followed up by his second solo album, One Man, featuring lyrics by Boon Gould. The album was not commercially successful.

King later toured as a solo act, playing both his own new compositions and some Level 42 songs. In 1999, he played some shows at The Jazz Café in London under the name of "The Mark King Group" with a band including Husband, Jakszyk and Lyndon Connah. Jakszyk left the band after the Jazz Café shows, to be replaced on guitar by Nathan King (Mark King's younger brother). King continued to tour with this band, now renamed "Grupo Mark King", over the next couple of years, augmenting the line-up with saxophone player Sean Freeman.

In August 1999, three-quarters of the original Level 42 line-up reunited for a private show. Phil Gould invited some musician friends to play at a party, including his brother Boon and Mike Lindup.[citation needed] In 2001, Mark King, Mike Lindup and Phil Gould played together at Lindup's wedding for the first time in ten years.[citation needed]

2001–2005: Return of Level 42 (seventh lineup)

Although Mark King released two solo albums, his previous band's music proved to be persistently popular and he found that he was playing more and more old Level 42 tracks at 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.[citation needed] King announced the return of Level 42 with a new line-up which also happened to be the musicians from his current live band: himself, Husband, Connah, Freeman and Nathan King. On 12 July 2002, the first official Level 42 concert for six years was played at The Circus Tavern in Purfleet, Essex. While not recording any new material, for the next few years the band settled into a regular pattern of touring and playing old hits.

On 13 February 2005 there was a brief one-night reunion with Mike Lindup (who joined the band onstage for a date at The Forum in London)[citation needed] and over the course of the year there was a burst of reissue activity. Two Rockpalast shows from 1983 and 1984 were released on DVD, followed by two CD releases: The River Sessions (a live show from 1983 recorded in Scotland) and a new compilation called The Ultimate Collection II. The latter included a new song called "Genius Of Love", which was a Level 42 tribute/collaboration by the Italian-American dance producer Hardage, featuring Mark King on vocals and incorporating a sample of the Level 42 track "I Want Eyes".

2013–present: "Sirens" EP series and re-engagement with contemporary dance pop

On 20 and 21 September 2013, Level 42 (joined by an expanded brass section), performed three new songs at London's Indigo O2 Arena – "Where's Yo' Head At", "Too Much Time", and "Sirens". All of these appeared on the band's first new release for seven years, the six-song studio EP "Sirens" (released on 31 October 2013, and the first output from the band's new self-owned label Level 42 Records). Mixed by the American DJ John Morales, the EP also contained "Mind On You", "My Independence Day" and "Build Myself a Rocket" (with King's daughter Marlee providing the backing vocals on the last of these tracks). Musically, it built on the production approach of Retroglide while allying the band with contemporary developments in R&B and dance electronica.

On 3 December 2013, the band announced 'The Sirens Tour' – a 30 date tour, starting in October 2014 and taking in the UK, Netherlands, Germany and Italy. In the summer of 2014, the band performed at a number of festivals across Europe including headline performances at Let's Rock Bristol and Rochester Castle. They also played at Rewind festivals. At a performance in Bournemouth, ex-drummer Gary Husband returned due to Pete Ray Biggin being unavailable.[citation needed]

In 2015, the band appeared at a number of UK and European festivals headlining at 'Let's Rock The Moor' and 'Carfest' concerts. They also played two nights at the Indigo2 in London where the band once again featured a larger brass section consisting of Dan Carpenter (trumpet) and Nicol Thomson (trombone) as well as regular saxophonist Sean Freeman.

In 2016, Level 42 performed at a number of festivals across the UK and Europe as well as in Curaçao, Chile and Argentina before embarking on a UK, Netherlands and Scandinavian tour in order to promote the "Sirens II" EP.

On 1 May 2019, it was announced that Boon Gould had been found dead at his home in Dorset. He was 64.

On 4 July 2019, Level 42 made a rare North American incursion, being the band to perform the first concert to launch the week long Festival d'été de Québec (Quebec City Summer Festival).


Current members

  • Mark King – bass, vocals, percussion (1979–1994, 2001–present)
  • Mike Lindup – keyboards, synthesisers, piano, vocals (1979–1994, 2006–present)
  • Nathan King – guitar, backing vocals (2001–present)
  • Sean "Skip" Freeman – saxophone, backing vocals (2001–present)
  • Pete Ray Biggin – drums, percussion (2010–present)
  • Dan Carpenter – trumpet, backing vocals, percussion (2013–present)
  • Nichol Thomson – trombone, backing vocals, percussion (2013–present)

Source : Wikipedia
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Level 42 Discography

  • 1982AlbumThe Early Tapes
  • 1982AlbumThe Pursuit of Accidents
  • 1983AlbumStanding In the Light
  • 1985AlbumA Physical Presence
  • 1985AlbumWorld Machine
  • 1988AlbumStaring At the Sun
  • 1989AlbumLevel Best
  • 1998AlbumThe Very Best of Level 42
  • 2000AlbumThe Early Tapes / The First Album (Remastered)
  • 2000AlbumTrue Colours / World Machine (Remastered)
  • 2001AlbumLive at Reading Concert Hall 2001
  • 2004AlbumLive at the Apollo, London
  • 2007AlbumLessons In Love 2007
  • 2008AlbumThe River Sessions
  • 2009AlbumAre You Hearing? - Level 42 (Live)
  • 2009AlbumLessons In Love
  • 2009AlbumLive In Holland 2009
  • 2009AlbumThe Hits Live! (Live)
  • 2010Album1980 - 2010 (30th Anniversary World Tour)
  • 2011AlbumSomething About You
  • 2011AlbumThe Level Live (The Dave Cash Collection)
  • 2012AlbumRunning In the Family
  • 2012AlbumRunning In the Family (Super Deluxe Edition)
  • 2012AlbumSensational Level 42
  • 2013SingleHot Water
  • 2013SingleLove Games
  • 2013AlbumRetroglide (Remastered)
  • 2013AlbumRunning in the Family: Acoustic Re-interpretations 25 Years On
  • 2013AlbumSirens
  • 2013AlbumThe Acoustic Album
  • 2014AlbumLo Mejor de Level 42
  • 2014AlbumStaring At the Sun (Expanded Version)
  • 2014AlbumTrue Colours (Expanded Version)
  • 2015AlbumSirens Tour Live
  • 2015AlbumSomething About You: The Collection
  • 2018AlbumEternity Tour 2018
  • 2021EPLeaving Me Now (Live)
  • 2021AlbumRetroglide Live 2006
  • 2022Album12" Singles And Mixes
  • 2022Album7" Singles
  • 2022AlbumB-Sides
  • 2022AlbumBonus Tracks
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