Level 42 in 2009
|Years active||1979–1994, 2001–present|
Level 42 are an English band formed on the
Their most successful single in the UK was "
After much success as a 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
By 1979, Phil Gould and Mark King were both based in London and became involved in
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
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
After they were seen jamming together, Level 42 were invited to sign to Elite Records (a small independent label) 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. The two men 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.
The Elite Records single "Love Meeting Love" brought the band to the attention of
The band quickly established themselves as concert favourites on the budding British and European jazz-funk scene, taking advantage of the musical expertise and performance skills of all four members.[
In 1982, Level 42 released their third album
A fourth album,
The 1984 album
By this time, Level 42 were known for their power as a live band (as showcased on the 1985 double live album
By this time, the band were well established in their mainstream pop/R'n'B sound, as evidenced on their next studio album,
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. "
World Machine gained positive reviews from critics, with
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" became the lead single on 1987's
By now a leading British pop band, Level 42 played at the
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
In December 1987, midway through the tour, Phil Gould finally 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
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,
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
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,
The band signed a new contract with RCA Records in 1990, for whom they produced their next album,
In December 1990, Level 42 returned to play a record run of concerts at Hammersmith Odeon, London, in part fulfilling booking obligations preceding the band's recent hiatus. Guesting on guitar was Allan Holdsworth, whom Husband had asked to play as a favour while the band searched for a permanent guitarist. These concerts also featured Lyndon Connah (ex-
After the recording of Guaranteed and a week-long promotional tour, Level 42 were in need of a permanent guitarist. Mark King assumed (erroneously) that Allan Holdsworth would not be interested in taking the position. Instead the band recruited well-respected art-pop guitarist, session player and sometime solo artist
Unlike Husband, Jakszyk never became a full legal member of the band (apparently due to "record company politics"). However, following the end of promotion for Guaranteed, the King-Lindup-Husband-Jakszyk line began writing and recording new material together, with at least two songs ("Fire" and "Free Your Soul") completed. Following the next development in the band's history, this work was shelved and remains unreleased.
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
Although Forever Now was a critical success,[
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 Jakszk, 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.
In 1996, Mark King signed to Virgin Records and released a solo single "Bitter Moon". Lyndon Connah, who played with Level 42 at the Hammersmith Odeon live shows in 1990, played keyboards on the track. This was followed up by his second solo album
King later toured as a solo act, playing his own new compositions and some Level 42 favourites. In 1999, he played some shows at the Jazz Cafe in London under the name of "The Mark King Group." The band included former Level 42 members Gary Husband, guitarists Jakko Jakszyk and Nathan King (the latter being Mark King's younger brother) and Jakszyk's fellow former 64 Spoons colleague
Lyndon Connah on keyboards. Although Jakszyk left the band after the Jazz Cafe shows, King continued to tour with this band (sometimes called "Grupo Mark King") over the next couple of years , augmenting the line-up with saxophone player
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.[
Although Mark King was by now two albums into a solo career, 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.[
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, the band settled into a regular pattern of touring and playing old hits.
In 2005, there was a burst of reissue activity. In March, two Rockpalast shows from 1983 and 1984 were released on DVD, and in April a show from 1983 recorded in Scotland was released on CD as The River Sessions. In June, The Ultimate Collection II was released. This 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". Early in the year, there was a brief one-night reunion with Mike Lindup, who joined the band onstage on 13 February 2005 for a date at The Forum in London.[
In February 2006, after twelve years without releasing a new studio album, Level 42 announced the release of
Retroglide also featured input from two previous Level 42 members. Erstwhile guitarist Boon Gould provided the album's lyrics (as well as contributing a guitar solo on "Ship") and the band was effectively expanded to a six-piece via extensive guest performances by Mike Lindup, who added prominent keyboard parts and vocals to many tracks. Although Phil Gould was uncredited on the album, the track "Ship" is the first song since 1986 worked on by all four original members, as Phil originally arranged the track with his brother Boon. However, Retroglide was also the first Level 42 album not to feature any contributions from
In May 2006, Level 42 announced that Mike Lindup would return full-time to replace Lyndon Connah on keyboards.[
Retroglide was promoted via a supporting tour throughout the UK, Netherlands, Germany and several other European countries during October 2006. On 26 August 2007, Level 42 played an outdoor gig at the Arundel Festival in West Sussex: the band's only UK show of the year. In 2008, Level 42 played a twenty-date UK tour.
In 2010, Husband stepped down as Level 42's drummer for the second time, due to prior commitments with
In 2012, Level 42 toured the UK and mainland Europe, in celebration of the 25th anniversary since the release of Running In The Family, by playing the whole album, with a whole array of other hits. Also included in the shows was an acoustic set, with Mike Lindup playing the accordion. In October 2012, on Mark King's birthday during a gig in Bristol, Boon Gould joined the band on stage.[
This section does not
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.[
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.