Craig Allen says: ‘Meet Level 42′
Level 42 is an English pop-rock and jazz-funk band that formed in the late 1970's, and would have their biggest worldwide hits in the 1980's.
Further, their biggest hit in England wasn't their biggest hit in the "states!"
Mark King, and Phil and Rowland Gould (Rowland known as "Boon"), grew up on the Isle Of Wight, and played in local bands together in their teenage years. Phil Gould would meet keyboard player Mike Lindup at a Music and Drama school in London.
In 1979, both Phil Gould and Mark King were in London, working with Robin Scott on "M" ("Pop Muzik"--profiled in 2013, here on nj1015.com).
Lindup soon joined Gould and King, and guitarist Dominic Miller (who would later play with Sting) in informal jam sessions. Boon Gould would soon replace Miller.
Initially, instrument-playing roles were flexible, with band mates playing several instruments. For example, Boon Gould also played sax, and Lindup played drums and guitar. Although King was a drummer, he took on the task of learning bass guitar. He soon had his own take on the thumb-slap bass guitar technique (by the late 1980's, .King was such a good bass player that his hands were insured for a "fortune').
This developing band--an all instrumental act--took on the name Level 42.
"Level 42" comes from Douglas Adams' book "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy," in which "42" is the answer to a question about the meaning of life.
At this time, Wally Badarou, who played synthesizer on M's "Pop Muzik," would informally become a fifth band member. He would co-write songs, play on studio recordings, and take on a record co-producer role.
The band was signed to the small, indie "Elite Records" in 1980.
Level 42 was encouraged to add vocals to their songs...and after considering hiring a singer...the guys settled on King and Lindup sharing the honors. King is a deep tenor...Lindup's falsetto on harmony.
The Elite records single "Love Meeting Love" caught the attention of Polydor Records.
The 1981 Polydor-issued single "Love Games" was a top-40 hit in England. The accompanying album "Level 42" was critically acclaimed! The guys capitalized on their ability to play live, and became concert favorites across Britain.
Between 1981 and 1985, Level 42 released 5 albums (one being a double-live album), and scored several hits across Britain and Europe. But...they had yet to achieve worldwide fame.
By the time "World Machine" came out in 1985, Level 42 had been moving away from their jazz leanings, and was becoming more of a mainstream pop-based band.
"Something About You" and "Leaving Me Now" were both Top-20 hits in England.
"Something About You" would be their first...and biggest...hit in the U.S. It would become one of "Jersey's Favorite Hits," (#7/1986).
It is interesting to note that, originally, the band wasn't sure that "Something About You" was good enough to be included on the album! In 1991, it won a BMI Award for one million U.S. performances!
Back to the timeline...
During the recording of "World Machine," Phil Gould and Mark King began to disagree about the musical direction of Level 42. The clash caused Gould to leave the band for a week...and drummer Gary Husband was touted as a potential replacement. However, Gould and King patched things up.
"World Machine" would hold a spot on the U.S. album charts for 72 weeks!
1987's "Running In The Family" gave Level 42 its next big, international hit.
"Lessons In Love" would be the band's biggest hit in England, landing at #3 on the British pop charts. It would be #1 in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and South Africa. It went to #2 in Italy, Holland and Sweden. #3 in England and Ireland. #4 in Austria. #10 in Norway.
"Lessons In Love" would be the last Top-40 hit for the band in the United States...(#12/1987).
Level 42 played the "Prince's Trust" concert in July 1987...
...but rough times were ahead.
Both Phil and Boon Gould left the band in 1987, citing nervous exhaustion. There were other factors...
Phil would depart midway through a tour. His working relationship with Mark King had fallen apart. He was also unhappy about the band's newer "pop" sound.
Boon also left late in '87, after being a supporting player on a Madonna tour. He cited exhaustion...but also wanted to leave the "on the road" lifestyle, and spend more time with his family. His departure from Level 42 was amicable...and while he would no longer perform or record with the band, he continued to write lyrics for the band.
After the tour, early in 1988, Gary Husband joined Level 42 as the new full-time drummer.
Steve Topping, a replacement drummer, would quickly depart, after a clash with King!
Guitarist Alan Murphy would join the band near the conclusion of the recording session for the "Staring At The Sun" album. It would spawn several European hit singles, and would be supported by a tour. On that tour, Murphy contracted pneumonia. Already suffering from AIDS, Murphy died in 1989.
Devastated by the loss of their band member, Level 42 took 1989 off...to think and regroup.
"Level Best," a greatest hits compilation was released in 1990...filling the gap, and fulfilling the band's contract with Polydor Records.
In 1990, Level 42 would sign a new contract with RCA Records.
Between then and 1994, several albums would be released...and the band's lineup would fluctuate. As a matter of fact, Phil Gould would briefly return to the band in 1993, with the departure of Gary Husband!
Halfway through the 1994 tour to promote the "Forever Now" album, Level 42 announced their breakup, at the end of tour commitments.
But wait....that's not quite the end...
In 1996, Mark King signed to Virgin Records, and embarked on a solo career.
By 1999, while playing clubs, Mark King would be joined by various former members of Level 42...
In 2001, Mark King, Mike Lindup, and Phil Gould played together at Lindup's wedding...it was their first time playing together in 10 years!
Later that year, Mark King signed a business deal with Lindup, buying the rights to the name Level 42. Although Lindup agreed to play on future albums, he said that he did not want to tour.
With the agreement, Level 42 was back!
The new lineup: Mark King, Gary Husband on drums, Nathan King on guitar, Lyndon Connah on keyboards and Sean Freeman on saxophone.
The years 2001 through 2005 would see multiple tours, and a flurry of early 1980's album reissues in Europe.
In 2006. the studio album "Retroglide" included all member of the new lineup...plus contributions from all the past Level 42 members (with the exception of Wally Badarou). It was during the Retroglide tour, that Mike Lindup rejoined the band, replacing Lyndon Connah.
Gary Husband left Level 42, for the second time, in 2010. He was replaced by Pete Ray Biggin.
In 2012, the band toured Britain and Europe, celebrating the 25th Anniversary of "Running In The Family." The show included an acoustic set, featuring Mike Lindup playing.....accordion! At a show on King's birthday, Boon Gould celebrated by joining the band onstage!
On Halloween 2013, Level 42 released a new 6-song EP. "Sirens" is the first release on their own label "Level42 Records."
Mark King's daughter, Marlee, sings backup on the song "Build Myself A Rocket."
The band undertook a limited date UK tour last fall...
According to their official website (www.level42.com), Level 42 will be playing several festivals across England this Spring and Summer!
They will be headlining an "Ultimate 80's Festival" in May, along with Rick Astley and Roland Gift (from Fine Young Cannibals)! Buy your tickets, and book your flight NOW!
In the meantime, enjoy "Something About You" on New Jersey 101.5!