Monday, 20 February 2012

"You don't look like 'em, George!": the 1989 Brit Awards revisited

It's the Brit Awards tomorrow, a charade of an annual event but at least they seem to have given up on the primary 'anything can happen' promotional angle this year, which as well as suggesting nobody should be interested in the music and awards blithely overlooks that the things that did make a press impression didn't happen on camera (Prescott's soaking), should really not have happened if the production team had a clue what they were doing (Brandon Block's gatecrashing, Sharon Osbourne trying to wrestle Vic Reeves off the mike), had a significance well beyond the ken of the commercial sector it was being presented to (Bill Drummond's machine gunning) or all of the above (Jarvis - the show director missed it and the footage of his appearance didn't surface until three days later) More pertinently the awards weren't restored to live TV until 2007, the event having taken place the day before transmission since... well...

Television has surely never seen such a major abdication of sense as when Samantha Fox, her UK charting days already behind her, and Mick Fleetwood, thrown in at the deep end on the back of his band's revival a couple of years earlier and on the promise of international footage sales, were put forward as hosts of the 1989 Brits. It was doomed well before we saw a moment. Rehearsals went to pot, the cleaners wouldn't let anyone in for much of the allotted time, the autocue was out of anyone's eyeline, Fox was overly nervous, Fleetwood was overly pissed.

Marvellously, instead of the lead-lined vault you might have envisaged, the whole thing has turned up online. Let's walk through it together.


Part one: your hosts come on and do something that's either a knowing gag or a cockup before Fox reveals it to be a cockup - before they've even spoken - a namecheck for Bruce Springsteen silences the kids and Julian Lennon turns up a little late before the sight of four grown adults standing around sheepishly on live TV.

Part two: The Four Tops are repeatedly introduced and then Boy George appears anyway, before Fleetwood starts introducing George for the next award anyway. Then an exclusive video message from Michael Jackson gets lost, meaning the show underruns, leading to all sorts of malarkey come the end.

Part three: Fox so spectacularly loses her place/grip that she ends up having to admit it on camera. "Wind away!"

Part four: Mick misses his cue while personal grooming, then the director gives up during his intro. Alan Price comes on to introduce the Brits School, points to Kenneth Baker and watches him nearly get booed out of the building.

Part five: A glorious fiasco of silence and confusion right at the start with Bill Wyman, Ronnie Wood and Gary 'are you not going to have a look at the possibilities first?' Davies. Nobody remembers to mention what the award actually is. Get your feet off there, Bros. Our hosts then fail to co-ordinate their Def Leppard intro.

Part six: Some comedy is attempted. The Best Classical Recording winner gets the shortest shrift you've ever heard. Fox is given the line "it's still possible for a female to sell her songs and not her image" and delivers it without apparent irony.

Part seven: Ken Russell imposes himself as only he could. Fox gets totally baffled by a routine about the height difference. Phil Collins' speech threatens to never end.

Part eight: Tina Turner has to stop Annie Lennox walking off stage the wrong way. The silences are getting longer. The chairman of the BPI tells Mick he's "done a wonderful job for us tonight".

Part nine: Lifetime achievement winner Cliff Richard is introduced too early and then his big speech build-up payoff turns out to be telling off the whole audience. He then walks off right in the way of the shot.

Part ten: Randy Newman and 'The Mark Knopfler Supergroup' closes the event. Randy Newman! Ending the Brits broadcast in 1989! Randy Newman! And the song didn't even chart in the end. The thing doesn't even stagger to a dignified finish as the floor manager manages to mislead Fleetwood as to how to end once the size of the underrun is discovered. A fitting climax.

18 comments:

David H said...

The inclusion of Samantha Fox was possibly to acknowledge her continuing chart success in certain other European countries, hence somehow proving that the "British music industry" was much more than just domestic chart dominance, even if the sexist "eye candy" argument may have also been a reason for choosing her.

As for Samantha Fox's singing career, it's probably overdue for a reassessment even though she wasn't exactly the best singer in the world. "Touch Me" wasn't a bad Europop record in itself, and at least her voice wasn't autotuned into submission (as it would be nowadays) as well as actually being her voice on the records as opposed to some anonymous session singer as would have have been more likely a decade earlier (ignoring Milli Vanilli of course).

And the inclusion of Mick Fleetwood seems a year too late in this case, though I suppose they wanted to have someone presenting who was very unlikely to receive an award themelves that year. Having said that, such a choice could have been a deliberate rebuff to the perception that the older generation of pop performer wasn't interested in current musical trends - an intended antidote to the Reynolds Girls' "I'd rather jack than Fleetwood Mac" argument perhaps?

Anyway, up to now I've only seen very brief clips of the 1989 Brit Awards after the event (and mainly soon afterwards as well), presumably because of the difficulty of getting permission to show much more of this. Brief clips however don't really do justice to the full atrocity!

James said...

Daily Mirror coverage of the fiasco:

http://www.sendspace.com/file/og6h6o

Noax said...

I'll have to settle down and watch this for a good laugh later in the week. I won't watch this year's Brits - I gave up when they started giving Des'Ree awards for writing nonsensical songs.

A couple of things : I don't think 'I'd Rather Jack' had come out by the time of this ceremony had it? In which case, could it be a Pete Waterman knock-it-out-in-ten-minutes style reaction to all this?

Also, I do think some of Sam Fox's songs are alright. My favourite is 'Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)'
With Full Force, lest we forget!

Simon said...

I'd Rather Jack first entered the top 50 on w/e 25th February 1989, so any reactive nature to this night is purely coincidental. There can't be too many other pure pop songs containing the word 'demographic'.

Billy Smart said...

Bros actually gave the best performance there. Huuuuerrgh!

26 years on from her heyday, I find Samantha Fox a very sympathetic figure in retrospect. If most of us had been in that position - very young, very famous, a cash cow for News International and a national crude joke - we'd have responded to it with less good grace, I suspect. 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now' is perhaps her greatest moment.

Matra Rancho said...

You look at those "Remember The 80s" CDs and documentaries and forget that for the most part this is what the 80s really was, 40-something dad-rockers in expensive suits. Great to see all this again though, Sam Fox at least battled gamely on despite the hindrances. Mick just seemed to give up after two minutes.

And I'd forgotten how they'd plundered Jan Hammer's album for the incidental music...

THX said...

Yeah, the sight of Mark Knopfler and Alan Price walking on to the Miami Vice theme is just ludicrous.

No wonder Randy never had a hit with that, everyone in the country was immediately reminded of the overpowering roar of Carol Decker and thought, no thanks.

Yazz couldn't sing, Tanita's voice didn't suit bellowing over a hysterical crowd, but at least Kenneth Baker getting booed made a nice change from the screaming.

Who were the Scottish band who released the "Bros are Pish" EP? At least the boys showed up to wow the audience, which was more than most of the other award winners did. Unless they were lost backstage?

Fascinating viewing, anyway.

Arthur Nibble said...

THX, that would be Stretchheads. While on the subject of majestic 80's music, I recently rediscovered The Higsons (yes, with Charlie Higson on vocals) - trmendous early-decade punk / funk!

THX said...

Stretchheads, of course! Thanks, Arthur.

Arthur Nibble said...

No chance of under-running last night, and how ironic that Adele’s moment of glory was cut short due in part to a rambling speech by a band who had already been allocated 11 minutes to showcase their back catalogue.

Simon said...

More pertinently, before the break before Blur's speech Corden had chatted to One Direction for three or four minutes.

I believe this constitutes pertinent comment on last night's activities.

Arthur Nibble said...

Excellent!!! Is this the moment when 'YIN1' goes global? Your next quest is to get the word 'Toppotron' into the Oxford English Dictionary!

Steve Williams said...

After this, Smash Hits did a brilliant feature about them, asking everyone why it was so bad, and a BPI suit was quoted as saying "I wonder if we should bother televising it again".

Ver Hits also talked about Randy Newman, saying "not many people have heard of him, even when he was in his prime", and quoted another BPI suit saying that nobody was allowed to perform their latest single, and Ver Hits said, "Fair enough, but it's funny, then, that the very next day an advert for Falling In Love by Randy Newman appeared in The Sun with the headline 'as performed at the Brit Awards'."

Who would be the modern day equivalent of Randy Newman? Eagle Eye Cherry?

Vin said...

I remember watching it at the time with my Mum - she hated it, I thought it hilarious. Seeing it again has reminded me that this was the trigger for my dislike of everything Cliff Richard...

I loved that Gary Davies, acknowledging everything was a shambles, tried to stand back so that we wouldn't notice him - then after the response of Mick, realised it was absolutely pointless...

Shaded Pardon said...

I remember this fiasco well. I do recall seeing a trailer for it I think before the 6 o'clock news with a scrolling caption at the bottom of the screen saying who would be hosting it and as soon as I saw the names I smirked then frowned wondering "Mick Fleetwood? Why?!?!"

Mind you the BRITS were already a joke. The previous year - in shades of Adele - Rick Astley was about to be given his award when some music biz nonentity snatched the award, shoving Rick out the way to excitedly introduce the final act... another bad reunion of The Who. Fair bit of press about Astley being snubbed I recall.

I know Jonathan King was originally involved with the BRITS... I take it he'd stood down by the 1989 shambles?

Simon said...

The very opposite, in fact - he took over the following year and oversaw the following two as well, claiming credit for shortening the name to 'Brits'.

The Astley snub is referred to in this very broadcast, actually - 7:35 or so into part seven.

alephnaught said...

Interesting to see an indicator of how things have changed from that Mirror article: the way they're shocked, SHOCKED! at Andy Bell from Erasure giving Boy George a peck on the cheek upon receiving his award in part 2, whereas someone in 2012 would probably not even notice it.

Personally I found Bell's evening wear far more scandalous: if you're going to wear a gold lame tux jacket with nothing on underneath, you might at least wax your chest hair!

John Firth said...

I've only vague recollections of this show, and have long wanted to watch it again. All I could remember was Boy George randomly appearing at the wrong time, Mick Fleetwood looking high as a kite, and Sam Fox not being able to read her autocue.

Glad it's resurfaced online, so I can make a copy to keep. I think we had a Betamax at that time, but there no-one thought to record the show (who'd have seen it being so shambolic beforehand?), but that died many years ago, so having a copy on tape would be pretty much useless now anyway.