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King of bass on another level

PUBLISHED: 17:16 23 October 2008 | UPDATED: 17:13 16 August 2010

PROPELLED by frontman Mark King s thundering basslines, jazz funk band Level 42 were as much a significant part of the 80s as the A-team, ZX Spectrums and Maggie Thatcher, writes Jason Goodyer. Such was their success that at one point that their record l

PROPELLED by frontman Mark King's thundering basslines, jazz funk band Level 42 were as much a significant part of the 80s as the A-team, ZX Spectrums and Maggie Thatcher, writes Jason Goodyer.

Such was their success that at one point that their record label made frontman and bass player Mark King insure his thumb for a staggering £3 million.

"It sounds like a bit of a paltry sum these days, now that so many millions are going down the swanee with the banks at the moment. At the time it was quite exciting," he recalls. "It made a great headline. We had just signed one of those mega 1980s deals with the record company and it was just part of the recording agreement that we did with them."

The band were formed in 1980 after King and brothers Phil and Rowland Gould moved from their home on the Isle of Wight to London. They soon formed a friendship with keyboard player Mike Lindup and began meeting for informal rehearsals.

The four were accomplished musicians, each being proficient on more than one instrument, but the band needed a

bass player. King, who was primarily a drummer, volunteered and Level 42 were born.

Over the next two decades the band featured many personnel changes with King remaining the only constant. Now they are part of the way through a 20-date UK tour and are scheduled to perform at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon on October 25.

With such a large back catalogue to draw on the band decided to let the fans vote for the songs they wanted to hear live on their website. "We go out on tour on a biannual basis and we have got an awful lost of songs to choose from, "King explains.

" I try and do my best to make sure that it wasn't exactly the same as last time.

"You kind of make the assumption that the audience is going to be the same as the one that came last time or pretty much the same, so with that many songs you want to know what songs they want to hear and I sort of said: 'if you say your top three songs then we will see what we come up with'.

"There were one or two nutters that got on and crashed the system by voting for the same song hundreds of times but we got a good response."

Predictably there were lots of votes for the band's big hits such as Running in the Family, It's Over and Lessons in Love, but King says the vote unearthed some

surprises.

"Some of the songs chosen were ones that I never would have thought of, and it's been very refreshing to get them out and play them, especially because we are not out promoting any new albums.

"A couple of them are songs we have never played live before that were hidden away on albums."

l Level 42 are performing at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon on Saturday. For information and tickets call the box office on 020 8688 9291.

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