And the Best British Group is… very probably led by a gay man. Wham! Bam, thank you man, it’s The Brits

Bronski Beat? Frankie Goes To Hollywood? Queen? And the Best British Group is… very probably led by a gay man.

And to present the award, two ‘veterans’ of the Status Quo, one of whom sadly went to that great gig in the sky just hours before George Michael.

Yes, Wham! Bam, thank you, man, it’s the Brits… 1985.

Or to give the starchy ceremony its official moniker of the time, The British Record Industry Awards, which, was being broadcast on the tellybox as an annual event for the very first time 24 years ago today, having replaced the Daily Mirror-sponsored Rock & Pop Awards.

The latter fell out of favour with Aunty Beeb when the big acts of the day started getting bored of these tawdry prize-giving routines, and dared and deigned to send a mere video message to accept their glorious gongs on their behalf. Yes, I’m looking at you ABBA.

End result: falling viewing figures.

But the times they were a changin’, even if Neil Kinnock’s hairline wasn’t.

An ‘exciting’ new television programme kicked off at the ungodly hour of half-past nine at night (way past Aled Jones’ bedtime, which probably explains why he didn’t bag a gong) on Tuesday 11 February 1985.

Band Aid had just happened and a new spirit of co-operation and togetherness swept through the British music scene (it says here).

In other words: no attendance, no award.

This was the blurb in that week’s Radio Times.

“Live from the Great Room, Grosvenor House Hotel, London.
Noel Edmonds is host for this star-studded evening of surprises and excitement as the British record industry honours 1984’s most outstanding record stars and producers.

Top names will be there to present and receive the industry’s prestigious annual awards, which this year include two special BBC awards, The Top of the Pops Best British Video Award 1984 and Radio 1 Listeners’ Award for Best Newcomers.

With special guest performances by Tina Turner, Alison Moyet, Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw, Bronski Beat.

A Simultaneous Broadcast with Radio 1. Viewers with stereo Radio 1 may wish to turn off TV sound and position their speakers on either side of the screen, but a few feet away. Stereo headphones provide a suitable alternative.”

Well, that cleared that up then.

Looking back, in the 1980s the yet to be renamed Brit Awards were almost entirely lacking in glitz, glamour, Samantha Fox or Jarvis Cocker wiggling his derrière at megalomaniacal Michael Jackson, as David Bowie and assorted Pet Shop Boys looked on in disgust.

Still, ver Quo were a couple of funny little jesters, weren’t they?

“Do you have a tenner on you?,” asks Rick Parfitt. Cue Francis Rossi reaching for a rolled banknote from his fetchingly slimline jacket pocket. Sniff.

There was controversy at the time about U2 being nominated for Best British Group, not because of their lack of bumders but more to do with them being Irish and all that (despite half of the occasionally awesome foursome being born in England). In subsequent years, the band would be forced into the International categories, so it’s strange that they were nominated here, but there we go.

With Michael and Ridgeley being responsible for three chart-topping singles in ’84, plus the perennial twin set of Last Christmas/Everything She Wants shifting enough units to make it the biggest-selling single in UK chart history not to reach No. 1, the winners kind of had to be Wham! Though Frankie seemed to be doing just fine as well.

By the time of his appearance with Elton John at Live Aid five months later, George had broken the news to his colleague that he wanted the duo to “go out at the top.” But before then he recounted the night of the BPI Awards to Smash Hits’ Peter Martin:

“That was a bit of a fiasco, really, because basically we got the very strong impression that if didn’t turn up for it, we might not get the award. What they wanted us to do was collect our award and then perform afterwards, which I thought was not only incredibly tacky, but lets the whole country know that you knew you were going to get it.

Gay, dear? Who, dear? Me, dear?

“So anyway we said we wouldn’t do that and we got the award, but what was very disappointing about it was that there were an awful lot of people there who were really grudging about our success. I mean, we’d had three number ones and I really felt that we had proved to the business that we had lasting potential.

“I really thought they’d be above that kind of petty criticism. And we got there and it was so perfectly obvious that nobody wanted us to win! So we got up there, and I just wanted to say, ‘sod you lot, you should be able to tell that we’ve deserved this, we’ve worked hard and we make good records.’ So I came away from it thinking that it was a bit worthless. I’ll probably never get another award from the BPI having said that! But I wouldn’t really care.”

And of course it wouldn’t be his last Brit.

Swingorilliant, as ver Hits would say.

Steve Pafford

BONUS: In his later years, Prince became an internet spoilsport who would frequently demand that any uploads featuring his Purple majesty were taken down forthwith, so the pretty hilarious footage of him accepting his two awards flanked by a minder thirty eight times as tall and wide as him are currently lost in the paisley ether.

Maybe we could use some lovely photos…

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