Level 42, “The Jazz/Funk Fusion Era”


Art can be expressed in many different forms. It can be something as dramatic as a seventeenth century painting or something as simple as humming along to a favorite tune. In everyday life people need a way to either express themselves or to unwind and relax at the end of the day. Music provides many people a way to unwind and often place them in a good mood. There are many instances that come to mind when I was feeling sad or bored, and I would throw in a Level42 CD, which would always put me in a good mood. Level 42 is a British band that came about in mid 1980 and has a great influence on the pop/funk era. Level 42 had many international hits throughout the eighties and nineties. Music is an art form that possibly influences the largest number of people more than any other type of art.

Musical Artist


The Eighties sound! “The Jazz I Funk Era”

Presented by:

Miguel Bigueur

January 2001

The early eighties was witness to the second “British Invasion”, which consisted of such big names as: Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, Aha, and Swing out Sister. Level42 emerged in mid 1980 and recorded what was later known as the early tapes. These tapes were simply demos, which were to establish level 42 as a presence in the music industry. These tapes made a statement acknowledging them as a band to be reckoned with. The eighties British sound contained a lot of electronic keyboard, “Synthesized”, sound. While the good majority of British groups were laying a lot of synthesized tracks, Level 42 stayed with the jazz funk sound. This era of music was laced with vibrant melodies and subtle harmonies that were the staple of the eighties sound. Level42 would stray from this way of thinking by implementing a sort of fusion that worked so well for them and brought them so much popularity in the club scene.

Named after a saying in the cult “Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy” book, Level42 were formed in London in 1980 by vocalist/bassist Mark King, keyboardist/vocalist Mike Lindup, guitarist Boon Guild, and drummer Phil Gould and initially started life as a purely instrumental jazz funk outfit. However, once King had agreed to add vocals to some of the band’s material they found the doorway to the charts opening for them as their debut 45 “Love Meeting Love” managed to sneak to the No. 61 position. Level 42’s debut album was released in August 1981, simply titled ‘Level42’. It climbed to number 20, staying in the UK album charts for 18 weeks. Soon after their debut album Level 42 would embark on a concert tour, which spanned a large part Europe.

In the early eighties, Level42 would establish what would later be known as the, “Level 42 Sound”. When someone would talk about the Level42 sound what came to mind mostly were the heavy bass riffs and funky drum rhythms with a complement of synthesized keyboards adding that atmosphere that put a listener in a trance with a hint of guitar carrying along the senses on a very relaxing and exciting ride. The level 42 sound would gain much acceptance in many different countries around the world, as did the better-known British invasion.

Level 42’s music was mostly influenced by the likes of: Stanley Clarke, Earth Wind & Fire, and Wally Badarou all musical artists from varying playing styles and backgrounds. Earth Wind & Fire from United States had that funky soul seventies sound which frequently also had some African rhythms. Earth Wind & Fire is a great influence on the modem funk era spanning all of the seventies and eighties. They were the American contribution to world music. Stanley Clarke, a solo bassist from the United States, was one of the very first innovators of that funky bass sound. Stanley Clarke would duo with a solo keyboardist/vocalist George Duke infrequently and called subsequent albums with his counterpart, “Projects”. Stanley Clarke would have many hits throughout the seventies and eighties. Wally Badarou was an African male keyboardist who would record solo. His music had that natural aspirated sound to it containing slow and enduring harmonies.

In 1983, on the German leg of their previous European tour, Level42 had met up with Larry Dunn and Verdine White, members of the group Earth Wind & Fire, who expressed an interest in producing the band’s next studio album. Level42 accepted the offer but, before jetting off to The Complex Studios in Los Angeles, they completed various touring commitments and entered Marcus Studios (London) in February ·1983 to record their next single, ‘Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind’ with Wally Badarou producing. Shortly after their works in the studio, Level42 made their American debut concert in New York. Success would enable Level 42 to hallmark their sound in America. Two albums, various concert tours and numerous videos would follow the group. In 1986 Level 42 would have perhaps their biggest single hit of all time with ‘Something About You’, which is the song they performed on Saturday Night Live as the guest band. Level42 had made a statement throughout the eighties by selling over thirty million records worldwide. Level 42 had influenced a generation of music enthusiasts taking the world by surprise. The “Level 42 Sound”, is what music enthusiasts now refer to when critiquing music from the same genre.





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