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Level 42 lead singer Mark King on Lessons in Love and playing bass slap-style ahead of date in Margate

Back in the 1980s, Level 42 hit the big time with a stack load of hits such as Lessons in Love and Running in the Family. Here front man Mark King talks back catalogues, good times and gaffer tape ahead of a gig in Margate this week.

Most people can hum a bit of Lessons in Love, whatever their age, can’t they?

That was such a great song for us. It gave us our first No.1. There’s lots of good memories there. It’s a song where if I didn’t put that in the set there’d be a lot of disappointed punters. If you don’t play those songs, people feel a bit cheated. You can’t just play the whole of your new album – you need to get a good mix going. We’ve got 289 songs in the catalogue so there’s an awful lot of choice. As long as there are songs the crowd know and love it’s fine.

Mark King of Level 42
Mark King of Level 42

You perfected the technique for playing the bass slap-style. Does it hurt if you do it a lot?

It doesn’t hurt but I have to use gaffer tape on my thumb. I used the tape for the first time in 1981 in Holland and it looked very impressive in the photographs! It’s nothing scientific but it works all right so I’ve never used anything else. I always have a roll of gaffer tape with me.

I read that your thumb was insured for millions – is it still today?

It was a bit of a publicity stunt back then. Polydor Records were just protecting their investment and it also made a good story. It definitely happened anyway! Now it’s insured for £27.75 third party, fire and theft.

You still live on the Isle of Wight, where you grew up, don’t you?

Yes, it’s a lovely place and there are lovely fields everywhere. It works very well for me. I have a work room in the garden. It’s great to get away and just be here. I spend half the year here but it’s ridiculous how expensive it is to get there now. People can’t afford to come over for a weekend any more.

You have a second home in St Lucia, don’t you?

Yes, I go there at Christmas with the family. We have had a fantastic touring festival season this year so we’ve been all over. It is such a strange way of living but I have had it all my life and I’ve been very lucky.

Level 42 are playing in Margate
Level 42 are playing in Margate

The line-up for Level 42 has changed over the years hasn’t it?

It has, but it’s not like it’s new – we’ve been playing together for years. Nathan King (guitarist) is my brother, of course, so I know him pretty well!

You’re coming to Margate – what are your memories of the town?

We came to Margate two years ago. It can be a bit stormy there, I remember. To be honest though, because you’re always on the bus you often don’t get to see the place you’re playing. The thing is, you’re not on holiday – you’re there to work. I have to be fresh so I don’t disappoint people. You learn these things by doing it the wrong way. People pay good money to see you so you have to be on the top of your game.


Huge in the 1980s, Level 42 had a string of hits, including Lessons In Love in 1986.
Successful as a live and studio band, their popularity waned in the 1990s and, after several personnel changes, they disbanded in 1994 before reforming in 2001.

Still touring around the world, Level 42’s live shows are still in demand at festivals and venues.

Lead singer and bassist Mark King has released 14 studio albums and seven live albums, with hits including Leaving Me Now and Hot Water.

The band’s line-up today is Mark, Mike Lindup on keyboards, Nathan King on guitar, Sean Freeman on sax, Dan Carpenter on trumpet, Nichol Thomson on trombone and drummer Pete Ray Biggin.


Mark King and Level 42 will be at Margate Winter Gardens on Wednesday, October 12.
For tickets £28, visit margatewintergardens.co.uk or call 01843 292795.

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