Born in 1950 into a Romany (Roma) family, Jackie Leven spent his childhood and teenage years clearly marked out as an outsider in the clannish, insular world that was Fife, Scotland at that time. Although Scottish himself, neither of his parents were from the area - his father was an Irish Cockney, his mother was from a large Northumberland (Geordie) family, and adapting to existing cultural norms was a hard, if not formidable task for such incomers.
This seems to have formed the start of an independence of mind in the young Leven, hopelessly wayward at school (although outstanding at English and essay writing), with few friends, and those mostly considered 'oddball'. His attendance at school was woeful, but those truanting times spent alone in glens and hills and by rivers still form the basis of his songs' imagery to this day.
Things started to change in his early teens. His mother, unusually for the time and the place, was a lover of American black blues music, and although Jackie was used to coming in the door from school to the strains of 'I got the blues in the bottle, but the stopcork in my hand' by Lightnin' Hopkins, it was a source of fascination to school friends whose own homes resonated to the sound of Wooden Heart by Elvis Presley.
Soon he was playing in local bands - the first real electric scene at this time in this part of the world, but also playing his own blues songs in local folk clubs, such as the Elbow Room in Kirkcaldy, where he was encouraged by stalwarts of the scene like Archie Fisher and Hamish Imlach, and passing singers like Doris Henderson, with whom he played a few shows as guitarist.
However, such activity also brought him to the attention of local gangs, one in particular starting a baseless vendetta against him, and he was duly obliged to leave Fife, and indeed Scotland. This precipitated years of rootless wandering, sleeping rough, living hand to mouth, including a four month stint living in corners of the South Bank Centre, London, where he busked for a living. This was during the late sixties when there was much less of the (relatively) ready acceptance of street musicians that now exists in the capital.
He also lived variously in County Kerry, Ireland, Berlin and Madrid, where he had a record released, “Control” (1971) By John St Field (his stage name of the time) - now considered to be a psychedelic underground classic. He started to live in squatted accommodation in different locations in the UK where he began to encounter people with real and sometimes serious mental illness and psychic disorder. He often quotes the American poet Theodore Roethke's great line - 'for what is madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance?'.
1. Soft Lowland Tongue - 4:14
2. Ruins - 3:41
3. The Problem - 10:45
4. Dune Voices - 3:15
5. Raerona - 6:06
6. I'm Always A Prinlaws Boy - 4:13
7. Mansion Tension - 3:27
8. Dog Star - 5:19
9. Sleeping In Bracken - 1:24
Words and Music by Jackie Leven
*John Haines - Drums
*Joe Kuccer - Flute, Baritone Sax
*Jackie Leven - Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Vocals
*Phil Ryan - Organ, Moog
*Alex Atterson - Piano
*Jesse Ballard, Juliet Lawson - Vocals