Nov 162011

I had never heard of Jackie Leven, who died of cancer today at 61, let alone heard a lick of his music until a few years ago, when KingEd turned me onto Control, an obscure 1975 album he released under the name John St. Field. KingEd and I listened to it all the way through, leaning forward and grinning at all the right licks. The next day I downloaded the whole thing off eMusic. I can’t speak for Ed, but I never downloaded another song by the guy. That one album was surprise enough, straddling very English hippy-dippy folk and pub rock. It’s nice to find some oddball album and simply enjoy its oddball pleasures.

I tried to contact Leven a couple of years ago for a chat with the Hall, but I never heard back from him. That was cool. Who was I, a guy who never bought more than a single record by an artist he’d never heard before, wanting to drag him into our scene? Like so many who have and who will die, he led an interesting life with unexpected twists and turns. There’s still music to be explored, rock knowledge to be explored. For instance, I didn’t know until reading his obit that he did a duet on “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” with my man David Thomas. I also learned, by reading his obit, that we shared the same birthday. See how this stuff can all make a little sense? I’m glad I happened across Jackie Leven and that one album’s worth of songs.


  4 Responses to “Jackie Leven Dead at 61”

  1. Happiness Stan

    I only own one record by him (and a single at that!) but remember hearing Doll By Doll on John Peel, and the odd track here and there. He was due to play a venue not far from us about a month ago and I’d been hoping to go, but it was postponed so it was then filed under “to look forward to”.

    Like you, I don’t claim any particular familiarity with his music, or know anything much of his life, but was shocked that yet another one who apparently shunned success in the name of art has gone.

  2. pudman13

    I know his work up through the early 80s, and his masterpiece is Doll By Doll’s GYPSY BLOOD, truly one of the great lost albums of that era. I think the complication was that they were marketed as if they were a new wave band, which they most certainly were not. I really highly recommend that album—his singing is just incredible throughout, the lyrics are mature and evocative, and unlike CONTROL, it’s got hooks and melodies.

    I can’t find the amazing “Teenage Lightning,” nor any of the moodier songs from the album, on youtube, but this song is pretty great and shows his incredible vocal range:

  3. H. Munster

    Ian Rankin mentions him several times in his series of books about Scottish detective John Rebus.

  4. THAT’S the kind of knowledge you don’t come across on any old rock blog! Very cool.

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