As a schoolboy, Crotchety Man hated the term after Christmas. He never liked the cold winter months and, worse, that was the term we had to go on cross-country runs. The Crotchety lungs couldn’t deliver enough oxygen to the blood to sustain even a gentle jog for more than a few hundred yards, so distances measured in miles represented the ultimate torture for this otherwise reasonably athletic specimen of adolescence.
I have always assumed that my lack of puff is down to my genes but it’s hard to tell because no form of vigorous exercise ever took place in my family. (Although the daughter of one of my cousins did win the senior women’s event in the Gibraltar triathlon in 2013, so the runner’s genes can’t be too far away in the family tree.) Whatever the reason, I have always been in awe of lean long distance runners like the Brownlee brothers and, in their honour, I’ve selected the Level 42 song, Running in the Family, as the first Track of the Week of 2019.
The Research Elves turned up some surprises this week. For a start, Level 42‘s front man, Mark King, whose funky bass playing gives the band its distinctive sound, was originally a drummer and guitarist; he only started to play bass guitar because his bandmates included the Gould brothers: Phil, who was a better drummer, and Boon, who was a better guitarist.
Level 42 was formed as a jazz-funk fusion band in 1979. Their early material was entirely instrumental and it’s well worth a listen if you like that style. By the time they released their first eponymous album in 1981 they had added vocals and Love Games, a single taken from the album, entered the UK top 40. The band continued to drift away from jazz towards pop and R&B, becoming ever more popular over the next few years.
They reached their peak, in my opinion, with the 1987 album, Running in the Family. Several singles from that release, including the title track, hit the higher reaches of the charts in the UK and much of Europe. But in 1985 tensions within the band had begun to show and by the end of 1987 both the Gould brothers had quit. Subsequent personnel changes, the Elves tell me, included short spells for Allan Holdsworth (of Soft Machine and Bill Bruford’s band), Jakko Jakszyk (now with King Crimson) and Gavin Harrison (also now in King Crimson). What better recommendation could there be?
After a 5-year period in which Mark King worked as a solo artist, Level 42 was reincarnated in 2001 and has continued to this day. The most recent studio album from the band was released back in 2006. Since then a live album was issued in 2013 and there was a 19-venue UK tour just last year. They also have three dates lined up for 2019: one in the Netherlands, one in Scotland and one in Ireland.
Level 42 may not have the answer to “the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything”, but they have certainly managed to stay up with the leaders during their 40 year run in the music business.
Fat Man: The trouble is obesity runs in the family.
Thin Man: No, the trouble is no-one runs in your family.