The BRIT Awards launched in October1977, hosted by Michael Aspel, at the Wembley Conference Centre. In part to recognise Queen Elizabeth II’s 25 years on the throne, the event cost a tiny £25,000 and winners included The Beatles, Shirley Bassey and Queen.
Fast-forward 11 years to 1988 and the awards had moved to the Royal Albert Hall. The Who performed later than scheduled, forcing the BBC to take the momentous decision to delay the 9 o’clock news. Noel Edmonds hosted and New Order won Best Music Video, the BRIT Awards were THE music event of the year. Things took a turn for the worst in 1989 – the most disaster filled awards to date – when pin up Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood consistently confused their lines, missed the autocue and introduced the wrong guests. Despite the chaos, Phil Collins, Annie Lennox and U2, to name but a few acts carried home awards.
Skipping to the 90s, the BRITs put on some stellar moments. These included the last public appearance of Queen with Freddie Mercury (1990), the arrival of The BritPop Wars in the shape of Blur VS Oasis (at its height at the 1996 Awards), Jarvis Cocker’s stage invasion (1996) and Chumbawamba dousing John Prescott in icy water (1998).
As the BRITs entered its 23rd anniversary at the start of the Millennium they became more polished and refined – more like a made-for-TV ceremony than a fly on the wall look at the wild behaviour of the music industry.
The unpredictable and kooky elements of the previous decades gradually disappeared and the BRITs came under fire for being (in the words of Robbie Williams) ‘so f***** boring’. Fans criticised the increasing presence of US artists, most recently Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Bruno Mars, for overshadowing British talent. Viewing figures for the recent 2014 show fell to 4.2 million, the lowest since 2006.
So what does the future hold for the industry’s best-known awards? Should the ceremony bow out in a cloud of nostalgia? Or should it go on and embracing a slicker, international show?
For me, I’d like the BRITs to lose their corporate style, and embrace more UK based up and coming artists. With so much home-grown talent struggling to break through, it’d be great for the awards to adopt a ‘Radio 1 Introducing’ style feature. Fresh faces and voices who are not inhibited by industry rules and protocol would take the BRITs right back to the fondly remembered years gone by.