Are Level 42 a jazz-funk band with a pop sensibility or a pop group with a funk-infused inner core? A good question, perhaps, but it’s a hard one to answer and though they’ve never been easy to pigeonhole, one thing’s for sure; back in the day, the quartet from the Isle of Wight knew how to make records that would appeal to the wider public without sacrificing their musical integrity. Though they were part of the nascent Brit Funk movement in the early ’80s, they quickly demonstrated that their musical vocabulary extended beyond the somewhat constricting parameters of jazz-funk.
Between 1980 and 1994, Level 42 were virtually omnipresent in the UK singles chart. They notched up a very impressive 29 chart entries in a fertile fourteen-year spell that yielded the Top 10 hits ‘The Sun Goes Down (Livin’ It Up),’ ‘Something About You,’ ‘Lessons In Love’ (which was the nearest they got to a UK chart topper, peaking at #3 in 1986), ‘Running In The Family,’ ‘To Be With You Again,’ and ‘It’s Over.’ All those key tracks can be found on an excellent new 4-CD box set retrospective on Universal called ‘Living It Up.’ Not only does it include all the band’s singles – beginning with a funky instrumental called ‘Sandstorm’ that lit up clubs back in 1980 – but also includes a raft of previously unheard studio rarities (including demos) and a brand new acoustic album where surviving original members bassist/vocalist Mark King and keyboard player Mike Lindup, reconfigure some of the band’s classic songs in an unplugged setting.
The release of ‘Living It Up’ coincides with Level 42’s thirtieth anniversary as well as a global tour, which started in May and ends in November (the band play a couple of UK dates in August as a warm up for a lengthy tour of the British Isles later in October). Renowned for his astonishing skill on the bass guitar and currently gigging in the USA with the band, Mark King found time to talk to SJF’s Charles Waring about the group and its music.