The BRIT Awards, often simply called The BRITs, are the British Phonographic Industry's annual pop music awards. The name was originally a shortened form of British or Britannia, but has subsequently become a "backronym" for British Record Industry Trust.
The awards began in 1977 under the auspices of the BPI
, the British record industry's trade association. The last BPI Awards show took place at the Albert Hall and was the first of the ceremonies to be broadcast on television, by the BBC - the awards later transferred to ITV in 1993. In 1989 they were renamed the Britannia
Awards, or BRIT Awards. MasterCard
is the long-time sponsor of this annual event.
BRIT is also an acronym for the British Record Industry Trust Show - the Trust supports youngsters in the arts and education mainly at The BRIT School in London.
The BRIT Awards used to be broadcast live until 1989, when Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood hosted a shambolic show in which just about everything went wrong. After this the show was recorded, and broadcast the following night, part of a revamp by Jonathan King for 1990 whose actions also included naming them the BRITs, hosting the show in 1987 - the most successful previous show - and releasing a megamix of British dance acts including S'Express and A Guy Called Gerald called BRITs 1990. He also managed to get Margaret Thatcher to croon How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?
As of the 2007 BRIT Awards, the show was once again broadcast live on British television, airing on 14 February 2007 live on ITV1. Comedian Russell Brand presented the event. Three awards were dropped from the 2007 ceremony - Best British Rock Act, Best British Urban Act and Best Pop Act.
In addition, an equivalent awards ceremony for classical music, called the Classical BRIT Awards, is held each May.
Primary winners of each year
Vic Reeves and Sharon Osbourne (2008)
After Vic Reeves
appeared to forget which award he was presenting, Sharon Osbourne
attempted to wrestle the microphone from him, insisted he was drunk and called him a "pissed bastard". She proceeded to make the full announcement herself. The next day it was reported that Reeves was not intoxicated and was hurt by Osbourne's behaviour
The incident has since been ascribed to an autocue malfunction.
Russell Brand hosting (2007)
Some controversy was caused by the host of the 2007 Awards ceremony, comedian Russell Brand
, who made several quips relating to news stories of the time including singer Robbie Williams
' entering rehab
for addiction to prescription drugs, the Queen's 'naughty bits' and a fatal friendly fire incident
involving a British soldier killed by American armed forces in Iraq
. TV channel ITV1
received over 300 calls from viewers complaining.
Ronnie Wood and Brandon Block (2000)
Dance DJ Brandon Block
was told by his friends that he had won an award and had been summoned to the stage to collect it. Because of his advanced state of intoxication he believed them and walked onto the stage, eventually ending up next to a bemused Rolling Stones
guitarist Ronnie Wood
and actress Thora Birch
who were about to present the award for best soundtrack album. Having been successfully bundled off the stage by security, Ronnie Wood
aimed an insult in his direction at which Block broke free from his captors to square up to the guitarist. A series of insults were then traded between the two – both comically leaning into the microphone so that everyone could hear. Wood threw his drink into Block's face and the DJ was eventually removed from the stage. Some time after the incident, Block claimed that he had subsequently apologised for his behaviour to Wood, who had merely brushed it off.
Robbie Williams and Liam Gallagher (2000)
Around the time of his departure from Take That
, Robbie Williams
had begun an unlikely friendship with the Gallagher brothers from Britpop
at the Glastonbury Festival
. The friendship was short lived, however, and the two parties regularly traded insults in the press with Noel Gallagher
once famously referring to Robbie as “the fat dancer from Take That
”. Having won “Best British Single” and “Best Video” for “She's The One”, Williams challenged Liam to a televised fight saying, ”So, anybody like to see me fight Liam? Would you pay to come and see it? Liam, a hundred grand of your money and a hundred grand of my money. We'll get in a ring and we'll have a fight and you can all watch it on TV, what d'you think about that?”
Gallagher was in Japan at the time touring with Oasis.
Belle & Sebastian beat Steps to Best Newcomer Award (1999)
In 1999, indie band Belle & Sebastian
were nominated for Best British Newcomers, despite having released three albums before the 1999 Awards. The award was sponsored by Radio One
and voted for online by their listeners. At the time, Steps
were Britain's biggest boy/girl pop band and were also nominated. Despite this, the award was won by Belle & Sebastian
. On the Saturday after the awards, a story appeared in the press alleging that Belle & Sebastian had rigged the vote in their favour, encouraging students from two universities to vote online. However, fans argued that the band had a predominantly large student following, that band member Isobel Campbell had attended one of the universities in question, and in particular, the award ought to be given on artistic merit as opposed to popularity or CD sales. The following year Steps were presented with the award for Best Selling Living Act, a newly-created award for that year.
Belle & Sebastian were not the first act to have been accused of motivating all their fans to vote for them in a BRITs public vote; similar allegations were directed at Depeche Mode for winning Best British single with "Enjoy the Silence".
Chumbawamba throw water over John Prescott (1998)
In 1998, Danbert Nobacon
of politically active band Chumbawamba
threw a bucket of iced water over Labour
cabinet minister John Prescott
. Despite apologies on behalf of the band from EMI Europe, Chumbawamba
were unrepentant claiming, ”If John Prescott has the nerve to turn up at events like the BRIT Awards in a vain attempt to make Labour seem cool and trendy, then he deserves all we can throw at him"
Geri Halliwell's Union Jack dress (1997)
Widely thought to be the most iconic Brits moment in the awards history, Geri Halliwell
, aka Ginger Spice of the British girl group, the Spice Girls
, wore a Union Jack
dress in 1997, which created phenomenal attention and subsequently made all the front pages the next day. Geri was originally going to wear an all black dress, but she thought it was too boring so her sister sewed on a Union Jack tea-towel, with a 'peace' sign on the back, so not to offend anyone. It was worn during the Spice Girls' performance of their Number 1 hit "Who Do You Think You Are
". Later on she sold her dress in a charity auction to Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas for a record £41,320 (US$66,112), giving Halliwell the Guinness World Record for the most expensive piece of pop star clothing ever sold.
Jarvis Cocker's stage invasion (1996)
In 1996, Michael Jackson
was given a special "Artist of a Generation" award. At the ceremony he accompanied his single "Earth Song
" with a stage show, with Jackson as a Christ-like figure surrounded by children. Jarvis Cocker
, of the band Pulp
, mounted the stage in protest of the performance. Cocker ran across the stage, lifting his shirt and pointing his (clothed) bottom in Jackson's direction. Cocker was subsequently questioned by the police on suspicion of causing injury towards three of the children in Jackson's performance, although no criminal proceedings followed. "Earth Song
" became Jackson's biggest hit in the UK, spending six weeks at the top of the chart.
The KLF, a machine gun and a dead sheep (1992)
In 1992, dance/art band The KLF
were awarded Best British Group (shared with Simply Red
) and were booked to open the show. In an attempt to hijack the event the duo hooked up with Extreme Noise Terror
to perform a death metal
version of the dance song 3am Eternal
that prompted conductor Sir Georg Solti
to walk out. The performance ended with Bill Drummond
firing blanks from a vintage machine gun into the audience and announcer Scott Piering
stating ”Ladies and gentleman, The KLF have now left the music business”
. Producers of the show then refused to let a motorcycle courier collect the award on behalf of the band. Later, guests arriving for an after show party witnessed the band dump a dead sheep outside the venue with the message ”I died for ewe – bon appetite”
tied around its waist. KLF disbanded three months later.
Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood (1989)
In 1989, in an attempt to add some excitement and appeal to the proceedings organisers decided to rename the awards to 'The BRIT Awards' presented by Fleetwood Mac
's Mick Fleetwood
and former page three
girl Samantha Fox
as co-hosts of the live show. The inexperience of the hosts, an ineffective autocue and poor preparation combined to create a shambolic performance. The hosts continually got their lines mixed up, a pre-recorded message from Michael Jackson
was never broadcast and several star guests arrived late.
The Samantha Fox/Mick Fleetwood show proved to be the single most important event in BPI/BRIT Awards history. It was just so disastrous that the British public's interest was revived and the BRITs became associated with risky live TV.
Most successful acts
There have been numerous acts, both groups and individuals, that have won multiple awards. The table below shows those that have won four or more awards.