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Level 42 is a popular British pop and funk band. The group had a number of worldwide and UK hits during the 1980s and 1990s. The band gained fame for its high calibre musicianship, especially that of Mark King, whose percussive slap bass guitar technique provided the driving groove of many of the band's hits. They are also known for the combination of King's lead vocals and keyboard player Mike Lindup's falsetto backing vocals. After originally disbanding in 1994, they reformed in 2001. Level 42 have sold more than 30 million albums worldwide.
Formation, early years and first successes:
Level 42 was formed in 1980 as a jazz-funk fusion band. The Gould brothers, drummer Phil and guitarist Boon, together with then drummer Mark King all came from the Isle of Wight and had played together in various bands during their teenage years. In late 1979 Phil introduced King to keyboard player Mike Lindup, who Phil had met while studying at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Lindup was studying piano but had taken a course in percussion and he and Phil found that they shared musical heroes - Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Keith Jarrett and Jan Hammer. Boon then returned from the United States in early 1980, after he had given up later on an ill-fated attempt to be "overnight successes" with King. The band needed a bassist, so King volunteered to learn. Lindup was working in London, but would play regularly with the band in loose rehearsal sessions
Initially the band was signed to a small independent record label, Elite Records, after being seen jamming together. Shortly after they released the single "Love Meeting Love", they came to the attention of Polydor Records and signed to them. One of the performers on that track, renowed synthesiser / instrumental keyboardist Wally Badarou, would later become Level 42's longtime co-producer and although he only ever played in the studio with them, he was known as the band's unofficial "fifth member".
In 1981 they released "Love Games", a top 40 hit. They then cut their critically acclaimed, self-titled debut album. This became an immediate success throughout Europe. The following year, a second album The Pursuit of Accidents was made, and singles from the album, first "Weave Your Spell" and then "The Chinese Way" were released, both charting, the latter in particular rising high in the charts and gaining the band a much wider audience than hitherto. Their album went on to become a huge seller. In between, Polydor released The Early Tapes, recorded in the early days of the band when they were signed to the Elite label. A fourth album Standing in the Light generated their first top ten hit in the UK in 1983, "The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)". Recorded with members of Earth, Wind and Fire, this album debuted a new era for the band, less experimental and jazzy than previous releases. There were no instrumental tracks on this album whatsoever, nor on any of their following albums until Staring at the Sun in 1988.
The quartet followed that with the album True Colours in 1984, which veered between funk, power pop, midtempo rock and moody ballads. It yielded the singles "The Chant Has Begun" and "Hot Water" (a top 20 hit in Britain, and a top 5 hit in the Netherlands where the band became very popular, the song reached also #7 in Belgium). That same year, Mark King pursued a solo project Influences. By this time, Level 42 had also gained acclaim for its power as a live band (as showcased on the A Physical Presence album).
The first meeting of the group which would eventually form Level 42 involved Mark King (Vocals/Bass Guitar), Mike Lindup (Keyboards/Vocals), Dominic Miller (Guitar) and Phil Gould (Drums). At all subsequent meetings Rowland 'Boon' Gould replaced Dominic Miller on guitar; Phil and Boon are brothers. The two brothers, along with King and Lindup, are known as the 'original and founding members'. Studio keyboardist Wally Badarou contributed to many of the band's early hits, and is considered by many to be the unofficial fifth member of the group. Initially, the instrumentation responsibilities were not easy to decide. King was primarily a drummer, but also played bass. Boon played bass and guitar equally well. Lindup and Phil Gould were training as percussionists and both played drums, although Lindup also played keyboards. None of them sang. Eventually they settled with the arrangement shown above. Boon also played saxophone. Although they considered looking outside the band for a vocalist, eventually they decided to split vocals between King and Lindup.
Over the years full time band members have included, drummer Gary Husband, guitarists: Alan Murphy, Allan Holdsworth, Jakko Jakszyk, Nathan King, keyboard player: Lyndon Connah, and saxophonist: Sean Freeman.
The band still performs live shows and a new album, Retroglide, was released on 18 September 2006. Rumours on fan sites are suggesting that in 2007/2008 work will commence on a new studio album.