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.
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.
Upon releasing the LP Diving for Pearls later in 1987, 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.
The Bradys ended their marriage in 1998.
Shortly after retiring from being transport manager for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Brady died of a chest infection in London on May 29, 2006.
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