Level 42

Level 42 were an English jazz-funk band from the Isle of Wight that released seven studio albums and a live double-LP on Polydor between 1981 and 1988.

Members: Mark King (vocals, bass, percussion, guitar, keyboards), Mike Lindup (vocals, keyboards, percussion, 1980-94, 2006-present), Phil Gould (drums, vocals, keyboards, 1980-87, 1993-94), Boon Gould (guitar, saxophone, 1980-87), Gary Husband (drums, keyboards, vocals, 1987-93, 2001-10), Steve Topping (guitar, 1987-88), Alan Murphy (guitar, 1988-89)


Level 42 had its roots in a musical camaraderie between Mark King and brothers Phil and Boon Gould, who jammed in assorted bands as teenagers on the Isle of Wight. Later, Phil Gould studied percussion at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where he found a shared affinity for jazz in classmate Mike Lindup, who played keyboards. They both had a special fondness for Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, John McLaughlin, and Jan Hammer.

Meanwhile, King relocated to London, where he played drums and guitar on the 1980 album The Official Secrets Act by music-maker M (aka Robin Scott). This brought him into contact with Afro-French keyboardist Wally Badarou, a prolific sessionist (Tumblack, Gibson Brother, Grace Jones, Miriam Makeba).

Initially, King and Boon Gould tried multiple instruments. In their early rehearsals, King drummed and sometimes handled guitar while Boon played bass and saxophone. However, by the time King and the Gould’s convened in London, Phil was a classically trained drummer and Boon had mastered the guitar. King switched to bass, having played it on one track (“Maniac”) with M. A fast learner, he modeled his style on the slapping techniques employed in stateside funk.

By the summer of 1980, the instrumental four-piece of King, Lindup, and the Gould’s chose the name Level 42, a reference to the magic number in the 1979 sci-fi novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by English humorist Douglas Adams. That July, they recorded eight songs for a proposed first album on Brit-funk label Elite (Atmosfear, Powerline). Two singles emerged that year: “Sandstorm” (b/w “Journey To…” by Powerline) and “Love Meeting Love” (b/w “Instrumental Love”). The latter caught the attention of Polydor, which signed Level 42 that fall.


Discography:

  • Level 42 (1981)
  • The Early Tapes July/Aug 1980 (1982)
  • The Pursuit of Accidents (1982)
  • Standing in the Light (1983)
  • True Colours (1984)
  • World Machine (1985)
  • A Physical Presence (live 2LP, 1985)
  • Running in the Family (1987)
  • Staring at the Sun (1988)
  • Guaranteed (1991)
  • Forever Now (1994)

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