Summertime and the living is easy, cups have been won, European football excursions have been planned and our thoughts turn to barbecues with lovely sunny music playing on FM radios. And one of the tracks you can guarantee will play above all others is Black's timeless hit, Wonderful Life, theme tune to adverts for charities and car commercials, something you'll hear on the way to ferry terminals or Bank Holiday weekends at the sea. While it has been racking up the appearances on the play lists of radio and video music stations since its rise to number three in the hit parade in 1987, how many of us gave a thought to its creator - the wonderfully intelligent and erudite Scouser Colin Vearncombe?
The 43-year-old singer songwriter has been living with its legacy since its success and is now returning to make his mark with a new single, Two Churches, out now, and an album out in September. He's also back playing on Merseyside tomorrow night when he plays the Citadel in St Helens. The modern Vearncombe is a portrait of the artist in transition, a man at odds with the huge success with his past, but with so much more to say in the present. So much, that an interview with him is a quote fest, an enjoyable romp around what is right and wrong about modern popular culture.
He dropped out of circulation for a good proportion of the 1990s to live his life only to find that when he came back his profile had dropped and the audience had either moved away or couldn't find a baby sitter. It's a crying shame because a couple of hours in his presence tell you more about music and the world around you than an infinite number of boy band lackies or major label indie band creations.
The new EP Two Churches finds him in highly reflective mood, examining himself and his past to guide his future. But he has struggled to re-find a live audience since going out on his own without a record label. But he's continuing, driven or indeed tortured by his need to have something to say and the ability to say it. He says: 'I'm at the point now where I need to know what I really want, because I am fulfilled, I have a great life by anyone's standards and whether you like it or not, I when I wrote Wonderful Life I effectively wrote a pension. But I need to decide what I want out of this. That song is like a child, it has a life of its own. I can't claim ownership, it goes about its life in its own way. It's quite bizarre that every summer it comes back again.'
And so it does. Between European charities using it for adverts, car companies doing likewise and the odd Bulgarian rave version, Wonderful Life exists as an entity outside of Vearncombe's varied and eclectic back catalogue. The new long player will be the first under the Black name for more than 10 years, his last albums Live at Abbey Road and Smoke Up Close in 2002 were stark and intimate acoustic affairs. The newly energised and angry Vearncombe is a sight to behold in interview mode. He knows Wonderful Life and his other hits (Sweetest Smile and the album Comedy) are seen as pop hits, but he contests that music is not just throwaway accessory for the disposable I-Pod generation.
He says: 'I get very annoyed by people who say art is a luxury and that we can exist without it. I think we would cease to exist without it, whether it is music or story telling or whatever. 'Music is a funny thing, you can't establish the musical superiority of one artist over another, Beethoven must be better than Kylie Minogue, but not to Kylie Minogue fans. People are saying, ' Your time won't come again', and I am saying 'my time, this is about music and what I stand for in music.' I wouldn't do this if I wasn't releasing records, but music has become a bit of a mission for me.'
Warming to the point, he says: 'Just because something is pop doesn't mean it can't transcend itself. I love the Duke of Earl by Gene Chandler, a silly little doo wop song, but it's in my top three of all time. 'Music can be a prop, or a train or a match which ignites something in you. 'I have a bunch of correspondence from people saying that my record saved their lives, that they put it on and they decided not to do something and that is humbling.' So with the new album all ready to go on the back burner and fire in the belly already reaching combustion point, I ask him whether he wants to rekindle his old love affair with stardom. It's neither a love affair or a time which he remembers with much fondness.
He says: 'I never really enjoyed it and did some stupid things, like a backing tour with Chris de Burgh in Canada. I lost money on it and every night I watched him up on stage like a sack of spuds in an Armani suit and I was left asking myself: ' What is this all about'?' And he douses the flames of this notion of rekindled love with stardom, saying: 'When I was famous I was never really comfortable, no money in the world could make me want to be a Premiership footballer or an actor from a soap opera. I never really felt like I had anything. It occurs in a dreamlike state and I didn't really have a deep seated sense of self so it got lonely. I didn't have any conceit or arrogance so I was always going to get knocked around.
'I didn't have the arrogance to survive,' waving his cigarette decisively, he says, 'and only the arrogant survive.' Hopefully, Colin Vearncombe can be the exception to his own rule
COLIN VEARNCOMBE plays the Citadel St Helens tomorrow night