The Ultimate Guide to the BRIT Awards

This year’s BRIT Awards will be the 39th ever, and due to the gap between the first and second, it’s over forty years since the first ceremony was held in October 1977. There’s no particular reason for a celebration, but let’s take a moment anyway to look back at the previous 38 ceremonies and the history of the awards!

Artists they love

We calculated the top twenty artists at the BRITs just last year, and – spoiler alert – the top five British acts, in ascending order, were Annie LennoxTake ThatAdeleColdplay, and Robbie Williams. Comparison with the top-selling British acts of all time puts Annie Lennox and Take That nowhere on the list, Adele and Coldplay joint fourteenth alongside others, and Robbie Williams joint twenty-fifth.

Or you could compare with the top sixty singles acts of all timeAnnie Lennox still doesn’t make it, Take That are fifteenth, Adele is a bit too recent for the list, Coldplay are sixtieth, and Robbie Williams is twenty-second.

The BRIT Awards seem to have always struggled with the Female Solo Artist categories, obsessing for years on end over Annie LennoxAlison Moyet, Adele, and (internationally) Björk.

Artists they hate

Contemporary artists who haven’t done quite so well based on those lists include Elton JohnQueen, and David Bowie, who came 15th, off the chart, and 11th respectively, although much of their heyday would have been in the 1970s, and OasisSpice Girls, and George Michael, who have never quite made the cut, appearing 10th, 17th, and somewhere just off the list respectively.

Famously, Radiohead have never won anything despite plenty of nominations, and Jamiroquai also inexplicably got lots of nominations but sanity prevailed on the night, and they never quite won.

Nominated in the wrong category

U2 seem to have caused a bit of confusion about whether they were British or International, having been nominated for awards in both. Solo artists have got a bit confused at times as well, with Roland Gift of Fine Young Cannibals receiving a solo nomination in 1990, despite not releasing anything on his own for another decade. Fortunately, his group returned their awards after a particularly vomit-inducing appearance from Margaret Thatcher as part of the ceremony. Mick Hucknall also seems to have caused some confusion in 1997 about whether he was a solo act or group, as did.

Trouble at the top

Plenty of drama happens on and off stage at the awards, most of which is well-documented. A new one that I hadn’t come across previously was that somewhat amusingly, Rick Astley apparently couldn’t quite make it up to the stage in time, so wasn’t able to accept his own award.

There have been some very odd choices of presenters – after Michael Aspel presented the first, and Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood were never invited back, a lot of odd people were, including Tim RiceNoel EdmondsSimon Bates, and Russell BrandAnt & Dec have presented three times (2001, 2015, and 2016), Chris Evans has done four (1995, 1996, 2005, and 2006), and astonishingly James Corden

Nobody cares any more

The ceremony has had its ups and downs (Sam Fox, perhaps not unfairly, apparently blames everyone but herself for the 1989 event). Search online, and there are plenty of good articles about the better and worse moments in its history – this one is one of the better researched.

But in its heyday, the BRIT Awards ceremony was event TV, with a sixth of the country watching, but these days, barely five million people can be bothered tuning in.

Stay tuned for more coverage on the run-up to the 2018 BRIT Awards. There’s plenty of coverage on this blog from previous years, but one place to start might be this post from a couple of years ago.

NME Poll Winners 1952-1992 (Part One)

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that we’ve spent the last few weeks working through the history of the NME Polls, from 1952 to 1992. It’s a long and complicated history, and one that pretty much encapsulates the first forty years of modern popular music in the UK. So as a side-step, it’s worth taking a couple of posts to look at them, award by award.

With such a complex history, it’s hard to trace the winners of a particular category through time, so I’ve taken a few liberties here. Essentially anything that seems to be roughly the same category has been treated as the same thing. Also, for the year ranges, there are a few missing years here and there, so for instance 1967-1970 could mean anything between 2 and 3 wins, but it definitely isn’t 4, as we have no information for the poll results from 1969, or even any meaningful confirmation that the poll took place.

Best and Worst Single, Video and Album Categories

Here are all the winners for specific singles, videos, and albums, including the wonderful “Best Dressed Album” (later “Best Dressed Sleeve”) award.

Best British Disc / Single

  • 1959 – Cliff Richard – Living Doll
  • 1960 – The Shadows – Apache
  • 1961 – John Leyton – Johnny Remember Me
  • 1962 – Frank Ifield – I Remember You
  • 1963 – The Beatles – She Loves You
  • 1964 – The Animals – The House of the Rising Sun
  • 1965 – The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
  • 1966 – The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby
  • 1968 – The Beatles – Hey Jude
  • 1971 – Mungo Jerry – In the Summertime
  • 1972 – George Harrison – My Sweet Lord
  • 1973 – Golden Earring – Radar Love (World) & The Who – 5.15 (British)
  • 1975 – Bad Company – Can’t Get Enough
  • 1976 – Thin Lizzy – The Boys are Back in Town
  • 1977 – Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen
  • 1978 – The Clash – (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais
  • 1979 – The Specials – Gangsters
  • 1980 – The Jam – Going Underground
  • 1981 – The Specials – Ghost Town
  • 1982 – The Jam – Town Called Malice
  • 1983 – New Order – Blue Monday
  • 1984 – Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Relax
  • 1985 – The Jesus and Mary Chain – Never Understand
  • 1986 – The Smiths – Panic
  • 1987 – Prince – Sign O The Times
  • 1988 – The House of Love – Destroy the Heart
  • 1989 – The Stone Roses – Fool’s Gold
  • 1990 – The Charlatans – The Only One I Know
  • 1991 – Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • 1992 – Suede – The Drowners

Best Dance Record

  • 1982 – Wham! – Young Guns (Go for It)
  • 1986 – Cameo – Word Up
  • 1987 – M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up the Volume
  • 1989 – Happy Mondays – WFL

Worst Record

  • 1991 – Bryan Adams – Everything I Do (I Do It for You)
  • 1992 – The Shamen – Ebeneezer Goode

Best Music Video

  • 1982 – Madness – House of Fun
  • 1983 – Michael Jackson – Thriller
  • 1984 – Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Two Tribes
  • 1985 – Talking Heads – Road to Nowhere

Best Long Player / Album

  • 1971 – The Beatles – Let it Be
  • 1972 – T. Rex – Electric Warrior & John Lennon – Imagine (tie)
  • 1973 – Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
  • 1975 – Rod Stewart – Smiler
  • 1976 – Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains the Same
  • 1977 – Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks
  • 1978 – The Jam – All Mod Cons
  • 1979 – The Jam – Setting Sons
  • 1980 – The Jam – Sound Affects
  • 1981 – Echo and the Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here
  • 1982 – The Jam – The Gift
  • 1983 – Elvis Costello – Punch the Clock
  • 1984 – Cocteau Twins – Treasure
  • 1985 – The Smiths – Meat is Murder
  • 1986 – The Smiths – The Queen is Dead
  • 1987 – The Smiths – Strangeways Here We Come
  • 1988 – R.E.M. – Green
  • 1989 – The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
  • 1990 – Happy Mondays – Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches
  • 1991 – Primal Scream – Screamadelica
  • 1992 – R.E.M. – Automatic for the People

Best Dressed Album / Sleeve

  • 1973 – Yes – Yessongs
  • 1975 – Yes – Relayer
  • 1976 – Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains the Same
  • 1978 – The Rolling Stones – Some Girls
  • 1980 – The Jam – Sound Affects
  • 1981 – Echo and the Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here
  • 1982 – Siouxsie and the Banshees – A Kiss in the Dreamhouse
  • 1983 – New Order – Power, Corruption and Lies
  • 1984 – Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Welcome to the Pleasuredome
  • 1985 – The Pogues – Rum, Sodomy and the Lash

Media Categories

The group of media awards, for radio, TV, films, and venues, are particularly fascinating, since other award ceremonies rarely have anything like this.

Best Disc Jockey

  • 1955-1957 – Jack Jackson
  • 1958-1959 – Pete Murray
  • 1960-1963 – David Jacobs
  • 1965-1972 – Jimmy Savile
  • 1973 – John Peel
  • 1975 – Noel Edmonds
  • 1976-1980 – John Peel

Best Music Radio Show

  • 1975-1976 – Alan Freeman
  • 1977-1992 – John Peel

Best TV Show

  • 1965-1972 – Top of the Pops
  • 1973-1977 – The Old Grey Whistle Test
  • 1978 – Revolver
  • 1979 – Fawlty Towers
  • 1980 – Not the Nine O’Clock News
  • 1981 – Coronation Street
  • 1982 – The Young Ones
  • 1983-1984 – The Tube
  • 1985 – The Old Grey Whistle Test
  • 1986 – The Singing Detective
  • 1987-1988 – Brookside
  • 1989 – Blackadder
  • 1990-1991 – Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out
  • 1992 – Have I Got News for You

Best Film

  • 1978 – Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • 1979 – Quadrophenia
  • 1980 – The Elephant Man
  • 1981 – Gregory’s Girl
  • 1982 – E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
  • 1983 – Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
  • 1984 – Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • 1985 – Letter to Brezhnev
  • 1986 – Mona Lisa
  • 1987 – Angel Heart
  • 1988 – A Fish Called Wanda
  • 1989 – Dead Poets’ Society
  • 1990 – Wild at Heart
  • 1991 – The Silence of the Lambs
  • 1992 – Wayne’s World

Best Club / Venue

  • 1986 – Town and Country Club
  • 1989 – The Haçienda
  • 1990-1992 – Town and Country Club

Best Fashion Item

  • 1989 – Flares
  • 1990-1992 – Dr. Marten Boots

People Categories

In later years, the poll included some odd nominations for people, often outside of the world of music, which provide an interesting window on the past.

Most Wonderful Human Being

  • 1976-1977 – Johnny Rotten
  • 1978 – Sid Vicious
  • 1979 – John Peel
  • 1980-1983 – Paul Weller
  • 1984 – Arthur Scargill
  • 1985 – Bob Geldof
  • 1986-1988 – Morrissey

Klutz/Prat/Creep/Bastard of the Year

  • 1975 – Steve Harley
  • 1977 – Freddie Mercury
  • 1978 – John Travolta
  • 1979 – Gary Numan
  • 1980 – Margaret Thatcher
  • 1981 – Adam Ant
  • 1982-1989 – Margaret Thatcher
  • 1990-1991 – Saddam Hussein
  • 1992 – John Major

Best Dressed Male

  • 1979 – Gary Numan
  • 1980 – Adam Ant
  • 1981 – Michael Foot
  • 1982 – Paul Weller
  • 1983 – David Bowie
  • 1984 – Paul Weller
  • 1985 – Morrissey

Best Dressed Female

  • 1982-1983 – Siouxsie Sioux

Worst Dressed Person

  • 1985 – Bob Geldof

Most missed Dead Person

  • 1976 – Jimi Hendrix
  • 1981 – John Lennon

Political and Real World Categories

These are some of the oddest categories – I’m honestly not sure what the “Hype of the Year” category was all about, but it is interesting to see just what was catching people’s eyes at the time.

Event of the Year

  • 1977 – Death of Elvis Presley
  • 1980 – Death of John Lennon
  • 1982 – The Jam Split
  • 1986 – 1986 FIFA World Cup
  • 1987 – Nuclear Agreement
  • 1988 – Nelson Mandela’s Birthday Bash
  • 1989 – Revolution in Eastern Europe
  • 1990 – Margaret Thatcher’s Resignation
  • 1991 – The release of the hostages
  • 1992 – Bill Clinton winning the US election

Pin-Up/Sex SYmbol/Object of Desire

  • 1978 – Debbie Harry
  • 1986 – Joanne Whalley
  • 1988-1989 – Wendy James
  • 1990 – Betty Boo
  • 1991-1992 – Toni Halliday

Bad News of the Year

  • 1987 – Another Conservative Victory at the General Election
  • 1988 – US Election Result

Hype of the Year

  • 1985 – The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • 1989 – Batman
  • 1990 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • 1992 – Madonna – Sex

That concludes part one of the summary of NME Poll Winners. Next week, we’ll look at the artist categories.

NME Poll Winners – The 1990s

For the first half of the 1990s, the NME Poll continued as a quiet annual newspaper poll, focusing very strongly now on indie rock, and ignoring pretty much everything else that was going on in the world of music. But then, in 1994, it suddenly went public, relaunching an annual awards ceremony, The NME Brat Awards. More on that later, so for now, here are the last three years of poll results:

NME Readers’ Poll 1990

  • Best Single: The Charlatans, for The Only One I Know
  • Best LP: Happy Mondays, for Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches
  • Best New Band/Artist: The Charlatans
  • Best Band: Happy Mondays
  • Event of the Year: Margaret Thatcher‘s Resignation
  • Solo Artist: Morrissey
  • Radio Show: John Peel
  • TV Show: Vic Reeves‘ Big Night Out
  • Film of the Year: Wild at Heart
  • Club or Venue: Town and Country Club
  • Hype of the Year: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Fashion Item of the Year: DM Boots
  • Bastard of the Year: Saddam Hussein
  • Object of Desire: Betty Boo
  • Word/Phrase: ‘You wouldn’t let it lie!”

NME Readers’ Poll 1991

  • Best Band: R.E.M.
  • Best LP: Primal Scream, for Screamadelica
  • Best Single: Nirvana, for Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • Best New Band: Kingmaker
  • Best Venue: Town and Country Club
  • Best Solo Artist: Morrissey
  • Bastard of the Year: Saddam Hussein
  • Film of the Year: The Silence of the Lambs
  • Radio Show of the Year: John Peel
  • Fashion Item: DM Boots
  • Event of the Year: The release of the hostages
  • Object of Desire: Toni Halliday
  • TV Show: Vic Reeves‘ Big Night Out
  • Worst Record: Bryan Adams, for (Everything I Do) I Do It for You
  • Word/Phrase: “You fat bastard”

NME Readers’ Poll 1992

  • Best Band: R.E.M.
  • Best Album: R.E.M., for Automatic for the People
  • Solo Artist: Morrissey
  • Venue: Town and Country Club
  • Single: Suede, for The Drowners
  • Worst Record: The Shamen, for Ebeneezer Goode
  • New Band: Suede
  • Event: Bill Clinton winning the US election
  • Fashion Item: Dr. Martens
  • Bastard of the Year: John Major
  • Hype of the Year: Madonna, for Sex
  • TV Show of the Year: Have I Got News for You
  • Word/Phrase of the Year: “Not!”
  • Film of the Year: Wayne’s World
  • Radio Show of the Year: John Peel
  • Object of Desire: Toni Halliday

See also

NME Poll Winners – The 1980s

Throughout the 1980s, the NME Poll Winners suffered without an annual ceremony where they could drink lots and vomit on the politicians of the day. Overshadowed by the more popular BPI Awards and British Rock & Pop Awards, it’s notable by the late eighties that contemporary pop has been eschewed altogether by NME’s readership.

Oh, and you might enjoy the slightly questionable choices for “human being of the year”…

1980

  • Best Group: The Jam
  • Best New Act: UB40
  • Best Male Singer: Paul Weller
  • Best Guitarist: Paul Weller
  • Best Drummer: Rick Buckler
  • Best Songwriter: Paul Weller
  • Best Bassist: Bruce Foxton
  • Best Keyboardist: Dave Greenfield
  • Best Other Instrumentalist: Saxa
  • Best Single: The Jam, for Going Underground
  • Best Album: The Jam, for Sound Affects
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: The Jam, for Sound Affects
  • Best Disc Jockey: John Peel
  • Best Dressed Person: Adam Ant
  • Haircut of the Year: Eugene Reynolds
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Paul Weller
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher
  • Event of the Year: Death of John Lennon
  • TV Programme: Not the Nine O’Clock News
  • Movie of the Year: The Elephant Man

1981

  • Best Group: The Jam
  • Best New Act: Altered Images
  • Most Missed Person: John Lennon
  • Best Songwriter: Paul Weller
  • Best Female Singer: Siouxsie Sioux
  • Best Male Singer: David Bowie
  • Best Single: The Specials, for Ghost Town
  • Best LP: Echo and the Bunnymen, for Heaven Up Here
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: Echo and the Bunnymen, for Heaven Up Here
  • Best Guitarist: Paul Weller
  • Best Bassist: Bruce Foxton
  • Best Drummer: Rick Buckler
  • Best Keyboardist: Dave Greenfield
  • Best TV Programme: Coronation Street
  • Best Radio Show: John Peel
  • Best Film: Gregory’s Girl
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Paul Weller
  • Best Dressed Person: Michael Foot
  • Creep of the Year: Adam Ant*

* The NME website says “Adam Andy” but I suspect this must be a typo – please correct me if you disagree!

1982

  • Best Group: The Jam
  • Best Male Singer: Paul Weller
  • Best Female Singer: Siouxsie Sioux
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Paul Weller
  • Best Songwriter: Paul Weller
  • Best Single: The Jam, for Town Called Malice
  • Best Longplayer: The Jam, for The Gift
  • Best Live Act: The Jam
  • Best Dancefloor Favourite: Wham!, for Young Guns (Go for It)
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: Siouxsie and the Banshees – A Kiss in the Dreamhouse
  • Event of the Year: The Jam Split
  • Best Dressed Male: Paul Weller
  • Best Dressed Female: Siouxsie Sioux
  • Best Haircut: Paul Weller
  • Best Electronics: Vince Clarke
  • Best Guitarist: Paul Weller
  • Best Bassist: Bruce Foxton
  • Best Drummer: Rick Buckler
  • Best Miscellaneous Instrument: The Emerald Express, Violin
  • Best Radio Show: John Peel
  • Best Music Video: Madness, for House of Fun
  • Best TV Show: The Young Ones
  • Best Film: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

1983

  • Best Group: New Order
  • Best New Act: The Smiths
  • Best Dressed Female: Siouxsie Sioux
  • Female Singer: Siouxsie Sioux
  • Songwriter: Elvis Costello
  • Male Singer: David Bowie
  • Best Dressed Male: David Bowie
  • Best Long Player: Elvis Costello, for Punch the Clock
  • Best Single: New Order, for Blue Monday
  • Best Film: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
  • Best Promo Video: Michael Jackson, for Thriller
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Paul Weller
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher
  • TV Show: The Tube
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: New Order, for Power, Corruption and Lies
  • Best Radio Programme: John Peel
  • Best Guitarist: The Edge
  • Best Drummer: Budgie
  • Best Miscellaneous Musician: The TKO Horns
  • Best Bassist: Peter Hook
  • Best Keyboardist: Steve Nieve

1984

  • Best Group: The Smiths
  • Best New Act: Bronski Beat
  • Best Reggae Act: Smiley Culture
  • Best Soul Act: Womack & Womack
  • Best TV Show: The Tube
  • Best Radio Show: John Peel
  • Best Single: Frankie Goes to Hollywood, for Relax
  • Best LP: Cocteau Twins, for Treasure
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: Frankie Goes to Hollywood, for Welcome to the Pleasuredome
  • Promo Video: Frankie Goes to Hollywood, for Two Tribes
  • Best Film: Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • Best Male Singer: Bono
  • Best Songwriter: Morrissey / Johnny Marr
  • Best Female Singer: Elizabeth Fraser
  • Best Instrumentalist: Johnny Marr
  • Best Dressed Person: Paul Weller
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Arthur Scargill

1985

  • Best Group: The Smiths
  • Best New Act: The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • Best Male Singer: Morrissey
  • Best Female Singer: Elizabeth Fraser
  • Best Songwriter: Morrissey / Johnny Marr
  • Best Single: The Jesus and Mary Chain, for Never Understand
  • LP of the Year: The Smiths, for Meat is Murder
  • Best Soul/Funk Band: Cameo
  • Best Reggae Act: UB40
  • Best Live Act: The Pogues
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Bob Geldof
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher
  • Best Dressed: Morrissey
  • Worst Dressed: Bob Geldof
  • Best Haircut: Morrissey
  • Worst Haircut: Feargal Sharkey
  • Biggest Mouth: Bob Geldof
  • Best Film: Letter to Brezhnev
  • Best TV Programme: The Old Grey Whistle Test
  • Best Radio Show: John Peel
  • Best Video: Talking Heads, for Road to Nowhere
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: The Pogues, for Rum, Sodomy and the Lash
  • Best Hype: The Jesus and Mary Chain

1986

  • Best Single: The Smiths, for Panic
  • Best LP: The Smiths, for The Queen is Dead
  • Best Male Singer: Morrissey
  • Best Female Singer: Elizabeth Fraser
  • Best Group: The Smiths
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Morrissey
  • Best Club/Venue: Town & Country Club
  • Best Dance Record: Cameo, for Word Up
  • Threat of the Year: AIDS
  • Sex Symbol: Joanne Whalley
  • Event of the Year: 1986 FIFA World Cup
  • Best Film: Mona Lisa
  • Best TV Show: The Singing Detective
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher
  • Best New Music: The Housemartins
  • Best Radio Show: John Peel

1987

  • Best Group: The Smiths
  • Best Single: Prince, for Sign O The Times
  • Best LP: The Smiths, for Strangeways Here We Come
  • Male Singer: Morrissey
  • Best Female Singer: Suzanne Vega
  • Best New Act: The Proclaimers
  • Best Dance Record: M/A/R/R/S, for Pump Up the Volume
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Morrissey
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher
  • Bad News of the Year: Another Conservative Victory at the General Election
  • Safe Sex: Morrissey
  • Radio: John Peel
  • Best TV Programme: Brookside
  • Best Film: Angel Heart
  • Event of the Year: Nuclear Agreement

1988

  • Best Band: The Wedding Present
  • Solo Artist: Morrissey
  • Best New Band/Act: The House of Love
  • Best Single: The House of Love, for Destroy the Heart
  • Best LP: R.E.M., for Green
  • Best TV Show: Brookside
  • Ugly Bastard of the Year: Bros (collective award)
  • Object of Desire of the Year: Wendy James
  • Film of the Year: A Fish Called Wanda
  • Favourite NME Cover of 1988: Morrissey
  • Best Night Out: The Wedding Present
  • Radio Show of the Year: John Peel
  • Stimulant of the Year: Acid
  • Event of the Year: Nelson Mandela‘s Birthday Bash
  • Bad News of the Year: US Election Result
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Morrissey
  • Creep of the Year: Margaret Thatcher

1989

  • Band of the Year: The Stone Roses
  • LP of the Year: The Stone Roses, for The Stone Roses
  • Single of the Year: The Stone Roses, for Fool’s Gold
  • Best New Band/Artist: The Stone Roses
  • Best Solo Artist: Morrissey
  • Best Dance Record: Happy Mondays, for WFL
  • Hype of the Year: Batman
  • Object of Desire: Wendy James
  • Radio Show: John Peel
  • TV Show: Blackadder
  • Film of the Year: Dead Poets’ Society
  • Fashion of the Year: Flares
  • Club/Venue of the Year: The Haçienda
  • Event of the Year (Music): Reading Festival
  • Event of the Year (Real Life): Revolution in Eastern Europe
  • Bastard of the Year: Margaret Thatcher

See also