R.I.P Colin Vearncombe

Well so far I’m distinctly unimpressed with 2016. If Shoey will forgive me nicking a line from an email he sent me, this year needs a re-boot.


With the year less than a month old, I’ve already watched Lemmy’s funeral; we’ve lost Bowie, Glenn Frey, Jack Bannister, Alan Rickman, Jimmy Bain and my own uncle Peter. But (and I admit this despite knowing it will give me some explaining to do within the family next week) the death of the musician better known as Black has hit me harder than any blow I’ve had since losing my brother.

Maybe it’s scratching at the still fresh wound of losing our Dan. Maybe it’s picking at the scars from my own injuries sustained in a fatal car crash. Or maybe it’s because there’s nothing quite so unfair as the untimely death of one of life’s good guys; a searing pain that burns hotter the closer you were to the deceased.

I only knowingly met Colin Vearncombe once, a post-gig encounter that I wrote up on these very pages last April. But he’s been part of my musical life since my sixth-form days. Colin’s early bandmate Dave Dix was a couple of years above me at the Blue Coat School in Wavertree, and though I didn’t know them, there was a parochial buzz about them already in Liverpool. As Black weren’t playing my core taste heavy rock a la Motorhead, AC/DC or UFO, my interest was more social than musical. Enough that I bought the first Black debut release, a seven song self-titled album on WEA that predates the Wonderful Life LP most discographies list as the first Black album.

Nonetheless I admit it was Wonderful Life – with Sweetest Smile, Everything’s Coming Up Roses (now that DID have guitars worthy of my attention), Blue (for YEARS, the lyrics “It’s time to shout, it’s time to let them know what we’re about“, when Howard Kendall’s side were Kings of English Football, had me mistakenly believing CV was an Evertonian), and Sixteens (with its ace bass and more fuzzed-up guitar) and many other brilliantly realised songs – that got me my full fanboy card.

Comedy was almost as good, and the 1991 album is one I’ve bored RRegulars about as long as I’ve known you all. Ask Bish: he’ll back me up.

Whilst subsequent releases didn’t live up to that high-water mark, I maintain that was down to financial and personal limitations on the recordings, rather than creative ones. If anyone is interested, I’ll [temporarily] Drop 2002’s double disc Smoke Up Close in the ‘Box. Imagine the ‘bigger’ of those songs with a budget for strings instead of just a harmonica, and I’m sure you’ll agree. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple. The tour me & DsMam went to last year was recorded and released as a Live album: you can stream (and then please buy) it here: http://www.colinvearncombe.com/music/live-2015/

You know the warning phrase “Never meet your heroes …” Well with my sporting job, I have met some, and yes, there are a number of complete arseholes out there who fell off their own pedestals inside ten minutes. Not Colin Vearncombe. Good musician, great voice, brilliant songs, and a stellar bloke. I feel privileged to have met him, and I’ve got a bunch of musical favourites that I know will last me a lifetime. I hope they gave him a truly, truly wonderful life.


6 thoughts on “R.I.P Colin Vearncombe

  1. Very sad. Had no idea he was still active until your gig review last year.

    Think it John Peel’s passing that hit me the hardest. Never met him, but spent so much time in his company it felt like you had.

  2. Such sad news. Several of his songs, most particularly “Feel Like Change”, have been hugely important to me over the years, perhaps because they have felt (rather adolescent-ly) like they were ‘mine’ in a way that songs by artists with lengthier high-profile careers haven’t – and because it’s been such a thrill when I’ve come across someone else (like Rich!) who also appreciate them.

    RIP Colin.

  3. Lovely remembrance DsD – I only really knew his more famous stuff but am intrigued to go off and hear more now (so sad it takes his parting to make me do that). Condolences to his family, YNWA.

    2016 really has blown hasn’t it? – Lemmy, Bowie, Glen Frey, Dale Griffin, now Colin – less famously perhaps but still noticeable we’ve also lost a great soul voice with Otis Clay, great jazz pianist Paul Bley – and Pierre Boulez from the Contemporary Classical realm. What a shitter of a year.

    (PS Didn’t know you were a Bluecoat lad! They rejected me, so I ended up in the maroon blazer of SFX instead…)

  4. Really sad news. As I said last time I got to see him play a small gig (probably about 15 years ago now) and he came across as a really nice guy. As we no doubt all realise a taste of the big time followed by a retreat into semi-obscurity doesn’t always bring out the best in people. Our friend who was the promoter at the venue told us some hilarious stories of diva-ish behaviour by formerly famous artists who had played this venue. Colin on the other hand was apparently a pleasure to deal with, He seemed to genuinely appreciate having an audience.
    Just listened to Sixteens again, which I heard once on the radio back in the 80s – a really good track, quite different to the obvious big hits.

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