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 1970s

In 1972, NME celebrated its twentieth birthday, with the same anniversary of its poll winners awards ceremony the following year. Their readership seems to have been fascinatingly obsessed with Cliff Richard and Elvis Presley during the first half of the decade, and then in 1976 seem to have been very dismissive of the early Sex Pistols, before falling very deeply in love with them the following year.

1970

The NME website (and consequently Wikipedia, which definitely doesn’t include material copied from other websites) includes the 1971 results here by mistake, so I’ve tried to transcribe what I can read on the article scan. Apologies for the omissions:

  • British Male Singer: Tom Jones
  • World Vocal Group: The Beatles
  • British Vocal Group: The Beatles
  • World Musical Personality: Elvis Presley
  • World Female Singer: Dusty Springfield
  • British Female Singer: Lulu
  • Best TV/Radio Show: Top of the Pops, followed in second place by Top Gear
  • Top Disc Jockey: Jimmy Savile
  • Best Instrumental Unit: [illegible]
  • British Vocal Personality: Cliff Richard
  • Best New Group: Jethro Tull
  • World Male Singer: Elvis Presley
  • New Disc Singer: [illegible]
  • British Blues Group: Fleetwood Mac

Due to the public’s obsession with Elvis and Cliff not entirely matching the contents of the magazine, this was the last of the live shows until 1994.

1971

There was no ceremony show from 1971 onwards, but there was still a poll, with the following winners:

  • World Male Singer: Elvis Presley
  • World Female Singer: Diana Ross
  • World Musical Personality: Elvis Presley
  • World Vocal Group: Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • British Male Singer: Cliff Richard
  • British Female Singer: Cilla Black
  • Best British Single: Mungo Jerry, for In the Summertime
  • Best TV/Radio Show: Top of the Pops
  • British Vocal Personality: Cliff Richard
  • New Disc Singer: Elton John
  • Best New Group: McGuinness Flint
  • Top British Group: The Beatles
  • British Instrumental Unit: The Shadows
  • Top Disc Jockey: Jimmy Savile
  • Best British LP: The Beatles, for Let It Be

1972

  • World Male Singer: Elvis Presley
  • World Female Singer: Diana Ross
  • World Musical Personality: Elvis Presley
  • World Vocal Group: T. Rex
  • British Male Singer: Cliff Richard
  • British Female Singer: Cilla Black
  • British Vocal Group: T. Rex
  • British Vocal Personality: Cliff Richard
  • British New Group: New Seekers
  • British Instrumental Unit: Collective Consciousness Society
  • TV or Radio Show: Top of the Pops
  • Disc Jockey: Jimmy Savile
  • New Disc Singer: Rod Stewart
  • Best 1971 Single Disc: George Harrison, for My Sweet Lord
  • Best 1971 Album: tied between T. Rex, for Electric Warrior and John Lennon, for Imagine

1973

  • British Male Singer: David Bowie
  • British Female Singer: Maggie Bell
  • British Group: Yes
  • British Stage Band: Genesis
  • Most Promising New Name (British): Leo Sayer
  • Disc Jockey: John Peel
  • TV Show: Old Grey Whistle Test
  • British Single: The Who, for 5.15
  • British Album: Pink Floyd, for The Dark Side of the Moon
  • Best Guitarist: Eric Clapton
  • Best Keyboardist: Rick Wakeman
  • Best Bass Guitarist: Paul McCartney
  • Best Drummer: Carl Palmer
  • Best Producer: David Bowie
  • Best Instrumentalist: Roy Wood
  • Best Songwriters: Elton John / Bernie Taupin
  • Best Soul Act: Stevie Wonder
  • Best Dressed Album: Yes, for Yessongs
  • World Singer: David Bowie
  • World Female Singer: Diana Ross
  • World Group: Yes
  • World Stage Band: Alice Cooper
  • World Album: Pink Floyd, for The Dark Side of the Moon
  • World Single: Golden Earring, for Radar Love
  • World’s Most Promising New Name: Golden Earring

1974

Again, the NME website and Wikipedia have repeated the 1973 results here by mistake, but this time unfortunately there is no alternative source for the results.

1975

  • British Male Singer: Paul Rodgers
  • British Female Singer: Kiki Dee
  • British Group: Roxy Music
  • British Stage Band: Genesis
  • British Disc Jockey: Noel Edmonds
  • British Music TV Show: The Old Grey Whistle Test
  • Most Promising New Name: Bad Company
  • Music Radio Show: Alan Freeman Show
  • World Male Singer: Robert Plant
  • World Female Singer: Joni Mitchell
  • Drummer: Carl Palmer
  • Misc. Instrument: Mike Oldfield
  • Producer: Eddie Offord
  • Album: Rod Stewart, for Smiler
  • Single: Bad Company, for Can’t Get Enough
  • Best Dressed LP: Yes, for Relayer
  • Soul Act: Stevie Wonder
  • Klutz of the Year: Steve Harley

1976

  • Best Group: Led Zeppelin
  • Best Female Singer: Linda Ronstadt
  • Turkey of the Year: Sex Pistols, with Johnny Rotten in second place, and “punk rock” in third
  • Best Male Singer: Robert Plant
  • Most Promising Emergent Act: Eddie and the Hot Rods
  • Best Keyboardist: Rick Wakeman
  • Best Drummer: John Bonham
  • Best Songwriter/Composer: Bob Dylan
  • Best Television Show: The Old Grey Whistle Test
  • Best Disc Jockey: John Peel
  • Most Missed Dead Act: Jimi Hendrix
  • Best Guitarist: Jimmy Page
  • Best Single: Thin Lizzy, for The Boys Are Back In Town
  • Best Album: Led Zeppelin, for The Song Remains The Same
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Johnny Rotten
  • Best Miscellaneous Instrumentalist: Mike Oldfield
  • Best Radio Show: Alan Freeman‘s Saturday Show
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: Led Zeppelin, for The Song Remains The Same
  • Best Bassist: Paul McCartney

1977

  • Best Group: Sex Pistols
  • Best New Group/Act: Tom Robinson
  • Male Singer: David Bowie
  • Female Singer: Julie Covington
  • Best Album: Sex Pistols, for Never Mind the Bollocks
  • Best Single: Sex Pistols, for God Save the Queen
  • Keyboards: Rick Wakeman
  • Drummer: Paul Cook
  • Misc. Instrument: Mike Oldfield
  • Disc Jockey: John Peel
  • Radio Show: John Peel Show
  • TV Show: The Old Grey Whistle Test
  • Event of the Year: Elvis dying
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Johnny Rotten
  • Prat of the Year: Freddie Mercury

1978

  • Best Male Singer: David Bowie
  • Best Female Singer: Debbie Harry
  • Best Album: The Jam, for All Mod Cons
  • Best Single: The Clash, for (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais
  • Best Songwriter: Elvis Costello
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: The Rolling Stones, for Some Girls
  • Best Group: The Clash
  • Best New Group: Public Image Ltd.
  • Best Guitarist: Mick Jones
  • Best Bassist: Jean Jacques Burnel
  • Best Keyboardist: Dave Greenfield
  • Best Drummer: Keith Moon
  • Best DJ: John Peel
  • Best Radio Show: John Peel Show
  • Best TV Show: Revolver
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: Sid Vicious
  • Pin-Up of the Year: Debbie Harry
  • Film: Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Creep of the Year: John Travolta

1979

  • Male Singer: Sting
  • Songwriter: Paul Weller
  • Best Group: The Jam
  • Guitarist: Paul Weller
  • Bassist: Bruce Foxton
  • Keyboards: Dave Greenfield
  • Drums: Rick Buckler
  • Female Singer: Kate Bush
  • Best New Act: The Specials
  • Most Wonderful Human Being: John Peel
  • Image of the Year: Gary Numan
  • Creep of the Year: Gary Numan
  • Single: The Specials, for Gangsters
  • Album: The Jam, for Setting Sons
  • TV Programme: Fawlty Towers
  • Best Dressed Sleeve: Public Image Ltd., for Metal Box
  • Disc Jockey: John Peel
  • Radio Show: John Peel Show
  • Face of the Decade: Johnny Rotten
  • Farce of the Decade: Mod Revival
  • Film of the Year: Quadrophenia

See also