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.