Swan Arcade

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Renowned for their potent a capella vocals and intricate close harmonies, Swan Arcade was a leading light of the British folk revival, drawing upon gospel, blues, and pop music traditions to create a…
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Renowned for their potent a capella vocals and intricate close harmonies, Swan Arcade was a leading light of the British folk revival, drawing upon gospel, blues, and pop music traditions to create a unique bridge between past and present. Swan Arcade was led by Yorkshire native Dave Brady, who began singing traditional folk songs in local pubs while still in his teens. After losing an arm in a motorcycle accident at age 19, he was forced to abandon the guitar but was still able to play the concertina. At a Leeds folk club Brady met his future wife, Heather, and together they began performing as a duo. With the 1970 addition of bass Jim Boyes, the couple launched Swan Arcade, taking the name from a Bradford-area shopping district recently demolished per the order of city officials. Considered direct descendants of the unaccompanied close-harmony approach of mid-'60s acts like the Young Tradition and the Watersons, Swan Arcade nevertheless presented an eccentric and confrontational interpretation of folk traditions, including in their repertoire such rock & roll hits as the Beatles' "Paperback Writer" and the Kinks' "Lola" alongside more conventional protest anthems. Upon signing to the Trailer label, Swan Arcade issued their self-titled debut LP in 1971. Despite critical acclaim the record fared poorly, and when relocation forced Boyes to resign, the group's continued future looked dim. Instead, former Young Tradition bass Royston Wood agreed to assume Boyes' position, exiting a year later to make way for Brian Miller. Despite the admiration of the influential BBC Radio DJ John Peel, who played Swan Arcade regularly and hosted three live broadcast sessions, their sophomore album, Matchless, was not released until 1976, by which time Boyes had returned to active duty. The trio split two years later.

The Bradys next relocated to the Seascale area, opening their own hotel. While Heather oversaw kitchen duties, Dave served as maƮtre d', often adopting a different costume for each successive course of dinner and regaling guests with folk songs after dessert. At this time Brady also emerged as a leading opponent of nuclear energy, and for a time served as the electoral agent for the Carlisle faction of the Labour party. Swan Arcade reunited in 1983, releasing Together Forever to critical favor and commercial shrugs. The trio nevertheless remained a fixture of the folk festival circuit, and during an August 1986 appearance at Whitby Folk Week teamed with members of the Watersons as the Boggle Hole Chorale, delivering an impromptu charity performance for a local school. The gig proved such a success that in 1987 the Bradys and Boyes agreed to revisit the experience, teaming with the Watersons and Martin Carthy to form the folk revival supergroup Blue Murder. However, upon releasing the LP Diving for Pearls later that year, Swan Arcade dissolved for good, and as the Bradys began channeling more of their time and energy into politics, they did not contribute to subsequent Blue Murder performances and recordings. Dave Brady also worked as transport manager for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, a position he maintained for close to two decades; he also returned to singing with Mr. McFall's Chamber, an experimental cabaret project led by SCO violinist Robert McFall. The Bradys ended their marriage in 1998. Shortly after retiring from the SCO, Brady died of a chest infection in London on May 29, 2006.