Fairport: so British, so conventional (1)
Del Shannon, Bobby Vee and me

Swarb then and now: amazing pictures

Some time today, the essential Simon Nicol interview - being posted in stages as I fit Salut! Live duties around trying to earn a living - should appear in full.Swarb3

But on related matters, I do have to remind readers that the competition for a pair of Cropredy festival tickets is nearing its climax. June 30 - Saturday - is the deadline for sending the correct answer to this question:

Who, in 1999, wrote the Daily Telegraph's premature obituary of the former Fairport fiddler Dave Swarbrick?

1) Colin Harper

2) Colin Irwin

3) Colin Randall

4) Colin Firth

It's your last chance to phone a friend (if Swarb happens to be a friend, so much the better since he knows the answer). There is no option here to ask the audience, go 50-50 or switch to another question (a lifeline the French version of Millionaire has added since I've been living here, but I assume they merely followed Tarrant & Co).

Answers to me via e-mail - see link at top right of this page or go back to previous postings about the competition. The winner will be drawn at random from all correct replies received by close of play Saturday June 30.

A great Swarb one-liner on Sandy Denny, promised earlier, appears on the continuation page........as do some illuminating photographs*, including one taken less than half an hour ago as I write.

Swarb2I called on Swarb at his Coventry home on the eve of the 2003 Cambridge Folk Festival, not so long before the operation that transformed his life.Swarbnow

He was extraordinarily good company, triumphing over the painfully difficult reality of his medical condition - movement was, by then, largely restricted to getting from his bedroom to adjoining studio - to give a funny, warm, optimistic interview. Both photographs were taken that day, the portrait (better in real life than in my grainy snap) being the work of his wife, the artist Jill Swarbrick-Banks.

It was not really part of the subject matter, and found no place in the resulting article, but I could not stop myself putting a couple of questions to him about Sandy. What was she like?

Swarb replied in expected fashion, telling me what a fabulous, incomparably talented performer she had been. I knew that, of course, though it was good to hear it confirmed by a fellow-pro, one generously endowed with musical gifts of his own.

But was she, I persisted, lovable?

"Oh yes," came the response, accompanied by trademark mischievous grin. "Many times."

* Intrigued by the pictures of Swarb? The first shows him looking cheerful in late July 2003, despite the extreme effort just about any bodily movement seemed then to require. The second, by Jill, was taken this afternoon - Thursday June 28 - as Swarb's response to an innocent suggestion from Simon Nicol, in SN's conversation with me, that after such a bout of ill health he'd never be 100 per cent fit again. Indeed, I think the Swarbrick/Swarbrick-Banks household is rooting for another competition based on the question: "Who is fitter, Simon Nicol or Dave Swarbrick?"
First clues: Swarb, says Jill, is "walking miles every day, exercising and generally healthier than anyone I know! Wearing us all out he is..."; Simon, on his own account, "walks to the office each day".

Oh, and the superb final image - previously unpublished, I am assured - was taken by Fairport's official photographer, Kirstie Handley


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