WHEN a boy from Kirkcaldy credits the Princess of Wales with helping him to get his singing voice back, anyone’s interest would be more than piqued.

That was Fife singer-songwriter Jackie Leven, who died 10 years ago this November but packed a few lifetimes into his 61 years. His musical output exceeded 30 albums, from his New Wave days in Doll by Doll, to his genre-spanning solo work under a variety of guises.

We’ll come back to Diana later.

Like many singer-songwriters of his era, commercial success might have been thin on the ground, but Leven has a loyal following that protects his legacy.

However, it’s hoped that a new release on Glasgow’s Night School Records, through its offshoot School Daze label, will allow his music to reach a wider audience and inspire a new generation.

Straight Outta Caledonia is a compilation of 10 songs taken from his body of work, and curated by label boss Michael Kasparis. He admits that he was somewhat intimidated by the volume of music so, as a recent convert to Leven’s work, he went to the most knowledgeable sources when researching his choices.

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As well as Leven’s widow Deborah, he consulted fans through online groups and forums to ask what their top 10 Leven songs were.

“It’s amazing how little crossover there was,” he says. “I had to consider a few things in the compilation, one of them being the usual audience for the label’s releases.”

Night School is known for new releases of something that Kasparis describes as “outsider pop” and even though much of Leven’s output could fall into the folk or blues categories, he definitely fell into that outsider category too.

“For me, it’s about having an emotional reaction to songs and that’s what I use with everything that gets released on the label.

“That’s true of Night School or School Daze, which I’m hoping will become more of an archival label.”

The first time Kasparis heard Leven was in the car of Night School artist, Molly Nilsson, who didn’t know too much about Leven, but played a certain track to people who she thought might appreciate it and be interested.

“That was The Sexual Loneliness of Jesus Christ,” says Kasparis. “It really got to me and since then I’ve been trying to do the same thing as Molly, but on a bigger scale.”

The Sexual Loneliness of Jesus Christ opens Straight Outta Caledonia. It tells the story of not the messiah, but a flesh and blood man with the same sexual frustrations and loneliness as mere mortals.

Kasparis approached Leven’s label, Cooking Vinyl, several years ago and went about the process of licensing the songs.

“I think they were surprised to hear from this indie label in Glasgow looking to release a Jackie Leven compilation. Initially I wanted to do something with a larger biographical element, but he really was quite enigmatic. I have a good relationship with Deborah but I didn’t want to be too intrusive. I thought it might be quite difficult for her to write something about Jackie.”

The focus of the album shifted when he heard that Ian Rankin was a fan, who had known and worked with Leven. “I asked him if he would write something and it turned out to be much more personal than I expected. It changed from being a factual and historic representation of Jackie’s work to something that was much more personal.”

Ian Rankin (below) found Leven in that old school way of reading a review in the music press.

The National: Author Ian Rankin attends the launch of Literary Lunches at The Royal Scots Club, Edinburgh, announcing the first in the series of lunches which will feature Scottish crime authors Rankin, Lin Anderson and Lesley Kelly, and be chaired by Jackie McGlone.

“It made me think I should investigate Jackie,” he says. “I dashed out and bought the CD of Shining Brother Shining Sister, which means it must’ve been 2003. I loved it to bits and started buying up everything else of his I could find.”

Leven’s other well-known fans include the likes of ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock. There’s also another, well-known to Ian Rankin, called John Rebus.

“I decided that John Rebus would also like Jackie’s music, so mentioned in a book that Rebus listens to a Jackie album at one point. I didn’t know Jackie was a fan. “He was on a flight somewhere over Scandinavia and saw himself mentioned in the book he was reading. On his return to the UK he got in touch with my publisher and we started to correspond, eventually meeting for the first time at a midnight gig he was doing at the Edinburgh Fringe.”

According to the fan stories gathered by Kasparis, Leven was always available to people who came to his gigs.

“Being a musician now means giving greater access to fans, but I’ve always thought they should be slightly more enigmatic. That clearly was not the way for Jackie, who had this almost larger-than-life friendliness.

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“For example, a friend of mine had a ticket to see him in East Kilbride, but he wasn’t able to go. The next day Jackie called him up and asked him if everything was OK, simply because he hadn’t shown up. He got his number from the ticket booking. Nowadays that would probably be a breach of GDPR but then it was just Jackie showing concern.”

IN 1984, following a savage street attack, Leven was left unable to speak for around two years. During that time he became addicted to heroin, but recovered with the help of his wife and by taking a holistic approach. This led him form The Core Trust, which advocated this approach to recovery.

Now to that fateful meeting with Princess Diana. She had agreed to be a patron of The Core Trust and attended a gala fundraising lunch every year. Before one event she said to Leven that she understood that he used to be a singer. He responded that he was STILL a singer.

She asked him to sing something. He said that they would be late for the lunch, but slightly flirtatiously (as Leven tells in in a 2010 radio interview) she showed the “royal” card and said he had to. He sang the Scottish air The Bonnie Earl of Moray to an audience of one.

His voice may not have ever reached the heights it did before the attack, but it was back.

“He was a complex individual and went through several stages as a musician,” adds Ian Rankin. “He’s been called Caledonian Soul, but I think that only scratches the surface. He was restless, always wanting to work with new people and in different traditions. But to me he was a troubadour, a wanderer who wrote songs about his own experiences and the dark turmoil of others.

“He was unique, irreplaceable, the one and the only.”

Straight Outta Caledonia is out now. www.nightschoolrecords.com