Updated: Jan 7
Mark King is the name of one of the bass players who early on inspired me in relation to my own bass playing. I started playing bass when I was 13 where we also played our first concerts in youth clubs and places like that. Our first band was called Hoax and had quite a few changing members, including the later famous actress Trine Dyrholm. Later the band became my first record debut band Blue Chip, but that's another story. When I started playing bass in Odense in the early 80's I hung out with other young people who also played music.
Across the street from where I lived at the time another young bassist lived in his mother's basement. We were a small group of young musicians hanging out in this basement because there was a large record collection and a good stereo system. We could sit and listen closely to the records for a whole night just over a cup of tea. We listened to the songs, the productions and we tried to analyze how the music was made in the studio. We listened to everything from Deep Purple to Level 42 and this really opened my ears to Mark King from England. At the time Level 42 was a relatively experimental jazz/funk fusion band. It wasn't until later that they really became big when they made the pop-funk album 'Running In The Family' in 1987. Of the early albums, I particularly liked 'Standing In The Light' because of the album's compact sound. Later I saw the band live on German TV which at the time broadcast the legendary concert series Rockpalast. An American radio personality from DR had the idea to simulcast the audio from the concerts on P3. That way you could watch the cool shows on TV and at the same time hear the sound in stereo through our receiver in the stereo system. It also meant that you could record the concerts on cassette tapes. Level 42 had just released the album True Colors (1984), and played a blast of a concert. Many years later I also heard the band live in Odense.
Mark King is primarily known for his ability to slap the bass and he thus became famous for some wild slapping bass solos played at a very high and energetic tempo, often on an Alembic bass or on a Status bass. I love Mark King for his different and creative approach to the instrument. Among most bass players at the time there was an opinion that the role of the bass consisted primarily of laying a solid foundation in the music and one should ideally stick to this narrow definition of the instrument. Mark King, on the other hand, proved that you can easily play a rhythmically very active bass even in a pop song, listen for example to the album 'Running In The family'. But Mark King also plays original and rhythmically beautiful finger basslines in songs like 'Seven Years' where King plays a very beautiful and melodic fretless bass. Or in the song 'True Believers' where he plays an extremely swinging finger funk bassline.
When people then talked about the role of the bass in music I always thought: Yes, yes, it may well be that the bass often has a well-defined role in music but just listen to what Mark King can do with a bass. For me he took the instrument to a new place,
and therefore Mark King will always have a special place in my bass book. For more information please check out: LEVEL 42