Black in session for John Peel to start the week. Black was also the namesake/project of Colin Vearncombe, who achieved major mainstream success later in the 1980s.
Black’s first release was the single “Human Features” on Rox Records in 1981. At this time, Black consisted of Vearncombe, Dane Goulding (formerly of Blazetroopers) on bass and Greg Leyland another school friend on drums. The single was followed by another independent release in 1982, “More than the Sun”. It was then that Vearncombe formed a friendship with Dave “Dix” Dickie of the Last Chant and the two became musical collaborators and signed for WEA Records.
In 1982, Black played with the Thompson Twins on their ‘Quick Step and Side Kick’ tour and also supported Wah! on a UK tour. The live sound of synth/percussion/guitar and the use of reel-to-reel tapes got them noticed.
Black signed with WEA in 1984 and the next single was “Hey Presto” (1984), which got Vearncombe noticed outside the UK: the video for the song featured on the satellite music channel Music Box, and the single was also released in Australia. The second WEA single was a re-recording of “More than the Sun”. After this, Black was dropped from the record label and Vearncombe and Dix went their separate ways.
In 1985 Vearncombe wrote the minor key song “Wonderful Life”. It was released independently through Ugly Man Records, and got Black noticed by A&M Records who signed Vearncombe and launched his international career. Vearncombe said:
By the end of 1985 I had been in a couple of car crashes, my mother had a serious illness, I had been dropped by a record company, my first marriage went belly-up and I was homeless. Then I sat down and wrote this song called ‘Wonderful Life’. I was being sarcastic.
The song reached number eight in the British charts. “Wonderful Life” was later covered by singers including Kim Wilde and Tony Hadley. A version by Katie Melua was included on the BBC Radio 2’s Sounds of the 80s compilation album, and was released as a single in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Children’s Hospital Charity. But its widespread popularity came from its use on several advertising commercials for brands that included Standard Life and Cadbury’s chocolate. In 2015 Melua sang a version in a Premier Inn advertisement.
Sadly, Vearncombe died in 2016, as the result of a car accident near Cork Airport in Ireland on January 10 of that year. He was in the midst of promoting his then-latest album Blind Faith, which had been released in November of 2015.
This session for John Peel is a reminder of Black during the formative period – but with all the earmarks of a talent on the rise in the 80s.