Black was an English new wave band from Liverpool that released the 1981–82 indie singles “Human Features” and “More Than the Sun.” Their frontman and songwriter Colin Vearncombe (May 26, 1962 — Jan. 26, 2016) retained the name as a solo artist, starting with the 1984 single “Hey Presto.”

Black charted with “Wonderful Life” and “Sweetest Smile” from his 1987 debut album on A&M, which issued his 1988–91 albums Comedy and Black. Between 1993 and 2015, he released eight albums (as ‘Black’ and under his real name) on self-press Nero Schwarz.


Vearncombe was born on May 26, 1962, in Liverpool, where he studied art at John Moores University.

He first played in the unrecorded punk band The Epileptic Tits. In 1981, they evolved into The Tilt, which featured Colin’s drummer classmate Greg Leyland and early Blazetroopers bassist Dane Goulding. Between the completion and release of their first single, they renamed their act Black, which doubled as Colin’s stagename.

1981–82 Singles

Black debuted with the single “Human Features” in 1981 on the Merseyside indie Rox Records. The back-sleeve features scrawled, faceless doodles of a naked man and woman.

A. “Human Features”
B. “Electric Church”

Vearncombe wrote both sides, which Black recorded on February 21, 1981, at Liverpool’s SOS Studio. “Human Features” was the fourteenth and final Rox release (ROX 17). The label issued punk-era singles by The Mutants and Heroes and recent efforts by revivalists of rockabilly (Karl Terry & The Cruisers) and beat (Revolver).

In late 1981, Black welcomed a fourth member: keyboardist David “Dix” Dickie, recently of The Last Chant, which cut the maxi-single “Run of the Dove” on Chicken Jazz, an indie operated by (future Waterboys mastermind) Mike Scott.

By 1982, Black shrunk to the duo of Vearncombe and Dickie. Goulding cut a 1984 single with Laughter Gave The Wolf.

Black released their second single, “More Than the Sun,” in 1982 on small-press Wonderful World Of….

A. “More Than the Sun”
B. “Jump”

The production of both Vearncombe originals is credited to Pixie & Dixie, the names behind one side (“Mousetrap”) on a 1981 split-single on the London-based reggae label Fashion Records. “More Than the Sun” is the only World Of release apart from a reissue of the third It’s Immaterial single (“A Gigantic Raft In the Philippines”) and the Wah! compilation The Maverick Years 80-81. Black toured as Wah!’s opening act.

Black Peel Sessions

On December 6, 1982, Black recorded their first session for BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel. Their session (aired January 25, 1983) debuted four originals: “Under Wraps,” “As Long As It Takes,” “Blue,” and “Stephen For The Moment.”

Black supported the Thompson Twins on the tour behind their February 1983 release Quick Step and Side Kick, their third album and first as a synthpop trio.

Black recorded their second Peel session on June 25, 1983, for the programs’ 7/4 broadcast, which aired another four new songs: “It’s Easy,” “Fast Car Soundtrack,” “Widemouth Frog,” and “Why Do I Do The Things I Do When They Only Get Me Done?”

1984–85 Singles

By 1984, Dix moved behind the soundboard and Vearncombe retained the Black moniker as a solo artist.

The third Black single, “Hey Presto,” appeared in 1984 on Eternal, a Liverpool indie started by local music entrepreneur Pete Fulwell, the onetime manager of local hotspot Eric’s Club (known in the sixties as the Cavern, a Merseybeat stomping ground).

A. “Hey Presto”
B. “Stephen”

Vearncombe and Dickie co-wrote both sides. “Hey Presto” appeared between Eternal singles by It’s Immaterial (“White Man’s Hut”) and Wah! (“Remember”).

WEA (aka Warner Elektra Atlantic) picked up “Hey Presto” for European distribution and signed Black for his next single.

In February 1985, Vearncombe released a re-recorded “More Than the Sun” as the fourth Black single, backed with the self-produced Dickie co-write “Butterfly Man.”

B. “Butterfly Man”

Vearncombe and Dickie ended their partnership after WEA severed ties with Black.


  • “Human Features” / “Electric Church” (1981)
  • “More Than the Sun” / “Jump” (1982)
  • “Hey Presto” / “Stephen” (1984)
  • Black (EP comp, 1984)
  • Wonderful Life (1987)
  • Comedy (1988)
  • Black (1991)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *