There was a wave of British jazz-funk crashing onto the shore in the early 1980s, but few bands in that domain would make the lasting impression, and one that continues to this day, of Level 42. After some early, modest singles success, the chart of 29 August 1981 saw them step up to the album chart for the first time with their self-titled debut set.
The group, featuring the vocals and dynamic bass playing of Mark King, the keyboards and vocals of Mike Lindup and brothers Phil and Boon Gould on guitars and drums respectively, hit the scene in the summer of 1980 with the impressively mature, laid back single ‘Love Meeting Love.’
The track only reached No. 61 in the national chart, but created the buzz which led to their top 40 debut the following spring with ‘Love Games.’ These early tracks, like the ensuing long player, were produced by the vastly experiences British blues figurehead Mike Vernon, who was suggested to the band by Polydor Records’ late A&R head Alan Sizer.
The debut album, produced at Vernon’s studio in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, arrived just after the next single ‘Turn It On.’ That sounded to most ears like a surefire hit, but peaked at a disappointing No. 57. Another single, ‘Starchild,’ also missed the top 40, but nevertheless Level 42 was released amid considerable anticipation amid the group’s already loyal fans.
In the liner notes for a subsequent reissue of the album, King told this writer that ‘Love Games’ was “the track that broke us onto radio, then television. We got a spot on Top Of The Pops with it and made the charts in Europe. In fact, it’s still one of the most popular songs we play live.”
The record’s chart debut came at a cautious No. 56, in the same week that Bob Dylan‘s Shot Of Love and Steve Hackett‘s Cured also took their bow, and as the Electric Light Orchestra’s Time climbed to No. 1. Then a real boost to the Level 42 camp ensued, as their album raced to No. 20, buoyed by the extensive UK tour they began at The Venue in London on 21 August.
That may have been its peak, but the record spent a total of 17 weeks in the top 100, winning silver certification and setting the scene for another top 20 album the following year with The Pursuit Of Accidents. Then came Level 42’s real breakthrough in 1983 with the top ten single ‘The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)’ and its parent LP Standing In The Light.
Level 42’s Eternity tour of the UK in October 2018 underlines their immense and enduring popularity as a live attraction. “We can’t wait to get on the road again in the UK in 2018, it’s always such a hoot, and our fans are always a joy to play to,” says King. “The band is ever evolving, and reinvention, both musically and in the way we present ourselves, has become something of a tradition for Level.”
Level 42 can be bought here.
Follow the official Level 42 Best Of playlist.