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Formed in Liverpool, England in 1980, the pop group Black was primarily a vehicle for singer/songwriter Colin Vearncombe, who first emerged at the age of 16 in the punk unit the Epileptic Tits. The first incarnation of Black, consisting of Vearncombe and a cast of anonymous session players, debuted with the single "Human Features" on the local Rox label. The record quickly sold out, and soon Vearncombe was approached by the Eternal label, operated by fellow Liverpudlians Pete Wylie and Wah! With the addition of ex-Last Chant keyboardist Dave Dickie and bassist Jimmy Sangster, Black became a true band, and soon issued their sophomore effort, "More Than the Sun."
The trio eventually came to the attention of WEA, which funded Black's third single, "Hey Presto." The record stiffed, however, and when an orchestral rendition of "More Than the Sun" met a similar fate, Black were dropped from their contract. Although he continued on as producer, Dickie soon relinquished his performing duties, and the fate of the group looked grim. Some 18 months of writing and searching for a new record deal followed before Vearncombe was contacted by the tiny Ugly Man label, which issued the minor hit "Wonderful Life." Soon A&M came calling, and in 1987 Black scored a U.K. Top Ten hit with "Sweetest Smile"; the follow-up, a reworked "Wonderful Life," was also successful. The group's debut LP, also titled Wonderful Life, appeared in late 1987, and was well-received throughout Europe.
Black's sophomore effort, the Robin Millar-produced Comedy, followed in 1988, but failed to match the success of its predecessor; after a long hiatus and a number of lineup changes, the group finally resurfaced in 1991 with an eponymously titled LP featuring cameos from Robert Palmer and Sam Brown. Black soon left A&M, and after teaming with producer Mike Hedges, issued Are We Having Fun Yet? on their own mail-order label, Nero Schwartz, in 1993. Three additional Black albums followed on Nero Schwartz after the turn of the millennium: Between Two Churches (2005), Water on Stone (2009), and Blind Faith (2015). Colin Vearncombe died on January 26, 2016 in Cork, Ireland from injuries sustained in a traffic accident earlier that month. He was 53 years old. ~ Jason Ankeny
- Liverpool, England
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