King recalled in a 2006 newspaper interview , "it was post-war, with one brass tap, an outside toilet and a zinc bath in front of the fire." He later lived on the Camp Hill and Albany prison estates on the outskirts of Newport. He attended Kitbridge Middle School where he met his childhood sweetheart Tracey Wilson, later writing a song about her. He then went to Cowes High School. Originally, King pursued a career as a drummer. His father bought him his first kit for £10, whilst he gained encouragement to pursue a career in music from his music teacher at middle school. Level 42 King moved to London at the age of nineteen, subsequently forming Level 42 in 1979 with Mike Lindup and fellow Islanders, brothers Phil and Rowland Charles Gould.
Still drumming at this point, when the band began jamming and needed a bass player, King reluctantly took over the role at the age of twenty-one. He went on to make a lead instrument of the bass guitar. It should be noted that he did not intend to take up the role of playing bass, but merely did it by way of necessity. He had lost his drum kit on an ill-fated trip to Austria, having to sell it to pay for a ticket back home.
Since Level 42 already had a drummer lined up, King played bass. At one of their first gigs, at the La Babalu club in Ryde, Level 42 were spotted by Andy Sojka, the head of small independent record label Elite and signed. The next year they were signed to Polydor and King spent the next nine years recording and touring with the band. The first Top 40 single, "Love Games", was released in 1981, heralding the band's first appearance on Top of the Pops. The big breakthrough came with the release of "The Sun Goes Down (Livin' it up)" in 1983. While in Level 42, King found his bass-playing services in some demand.
He was invited by Nik Kershaw to play on his second album The Riddle (1984) and by Midge Ure to play on his albums The Gift (1985) and Answers To Nothing (1988). Level 42 supported The Police in 1981, followed by tours with Steve Winwood in 1986 and Madonna in 1987. In 1986, King and Lindup performed alongside Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Mark Knopfler and Elton John at a Prince's Trust charity concert. They released the album Retroglide in 2006 and a European tour followed. Solo and later work In 1984 he released his first solo album, Influences (at the time he needed a deposit to put down on a house - this album gave him that opportunity), followed by One Man in 1998. In 1999 he issued a collection of unused songs in the form of the album 'Trash'; the name hinted at the rough, unpolished nature of the recordings (which were rejected by Virgin Records in favour of the tracks which would ultimately appear on the 'One Man' album). 'Trash' was an historic release as it was issued without a record company and initially offered to hardcore fans via a low-key guestbook entry, made by King, on www.level42.com.
Using an Apple Mac, CD burner and inkjet printer, King manufactured the CD himself and posted it directly to fans, charging £17 plus postage. He hand signed and numbered early copies. Clearly not anticipating the popularity of the album, the initial CDs were numbered as part of a series of 100. Word soon spread of the CD and King eventually shifted in excess of 1,000 copies.
In the years following Trash, King repeated the successful 'home-made' formula releasing a string of live recordings including 'Live At The Jazz Cafe', 'Live On The Isle of Wight' and 'Live At Reading Concert Hall' (which despite being performed as a Mark King solo show, was released under the name of Level 42 as King retained the rights to the name shortly before releasing the CD). Despite being contracted to Universal Music imprint W14, King continues to release live shows on his own Summerhouse Record label, of which 2007's 'Retroglide Live' DVD was the first. Since coming back into the limelight in 1996 with 'One Man' and the supporting US and UK tour, King has toured consistently. With the exception of 'Trash' he has only issued one new studio album in the 8 year period, September 2006's 'Retroglide' under the Level 42 banner. In 2007 King is still the Level 42 frontman and plays a number of festival dates with founder band member and keyboard player Mike Lindup. A UK tour is planned for 2008. Playing style Mark King helped to develop and popularize the slap and pop style of playing the bass guitar in the 1980s.
The slapping and popping style was developed in the 1970s by funk bassists such as Larry Graham and further developed by jazz fusion bassists such as Stanley Clarke. King developed a rapid playing speed using this technique, and introduced technical elements that enabled him to produce a mix of percussive effects while still playing a bass line. One of King's greatest influences was the musician Tom Taylor who gave King guitar lessons at the age of twelve. King's bass playing style is largely based on continuous 16th notes (aka semiquavers), variously described as "machine-gun" style. The "machine-gun" style of playing consists of popping a note, hammering on, then slapping (occasionally with a left hand slap combined) very rapidly. King and Level 42 are considered highly influential artists of the brit funk movement of the 1970s and 1980s. Instruments King has used various models of bass guitar through the years, the two most commonly used brands have been JayDees (as exemplified by "Love Games") and the Status Graphite (evident on his solo works). The JayDees were built by John Diggins, a former employee of John Birch.
JayDee is phonetic for his initials, J.D. Mark King has used Status Graphite basses since the 1980s including the Series-2000 and Empathy models. In November 2000, Rob Green and Mark King developed the Status KingBass, a headless, double cut-away bass with a woven graphite through-neck, Status Hyperactive pickups and active electronics. Status LEDs are a custom option on all Status models. Status Graphite basses are handmade in England by Rob Green. Other known basses he has used are Alembics, Pangborn basses, a Zon bass (on the album "World Machine" for the song "Lying Still").
King's first fretless bass was a Japanese-made "Moon" jazz bass. King also owned two MusicMan basses, a Wal bass, which was fitted with an MB4 MIDI interface (used on the album "Guaranteed", on the track "Lasso The Moon"). In 1996, King briefly used Fender basses. A limited run of 42 "Mark King" Jazz basses were made, built and set up to King's specifications. They all came fitted with SIM's LED lights, flat-radiused fingerboards and a custom neck plate engraved with his signature.
Also in 1999, King used GB basses, handmade in England by Bernie Goodfellow. Home life King moved back to his native Isle of Wight in 1988. During the 1990s, he bought a pub in Ryde, Isle of Wight. The pub was called Joe Daflo's, a contraction of the names of his (then) three children, Jolie (born 1988), Darcy (born 1985) and Florrie (born 1982). King sold the pub in 2000 and it has since become a chain of pubs operating in the coastal towns of southern England. King lives in Alverstone Garden Village on the Isle of Wight with his Dutch longtime companion, Maria Van de Brohm (Ria), and fourth child, Marleigh, born in 1996. Discography For a Level 42 discography, see Level 42 discography. Albums * Influences (1984) * One Man (1996) * Trash (1999) * Live at the Jazz Cafe (1999) (live) * Live on the Isle of Wight (2000) (live) Singles * "I Feel Free" (1984) * "Bitter Moon" (1996) DVDs * Mark King - One filter (1996) (live) * Mark King Group - Live at the Jazz Cafe (1999) (live) * Grupo Mark King - Live at the Isle of Wight (2000) (live) Read more on Last.fm.
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