The Brit Awards is a British cultural institution, and award nights simply don’t get any more significant in the United Kingdom. While the ceremony is a celebration predominantly of pop music – and there have been countless more vanilla moments than kaleidoscopic – occasionally, something completely wild will occur.
What makes these outrageous moments even more remarkable is the gob-smacked audience that fills the O2 Arena every year. These acts of rock and roll devastation are an even more beautiful sight when a faux-squeaky clean host in the mould of James Corden is forced to hold the fort while the audience sits there in shock at what they’ve just witnessed
In 1989, the inaugural Brit Awards took place in London, and it was a ramshackle organisation before it began. The nature of the proceedings was bizarre as soon as they revealed Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood was to host the ceremony alongside former model turned popstar Sam Fox.
The first event was a nightmare from start to finish, with the lack of chemistry or presenting capabilities between the hosts giving the awards a strange vibe. However, these unusual moments have become something that the Brit Awards has grown most loved for, and the beauty comes when proceedings get derailed rather than just running predictively smooth.
Here, we are reflecting on the moments that rock ‘n’ roll reigned supreme at the Brit Awards as the clean-cut world of manufactured pop had to sit back and stare.
The most rock ‘n’ roll moments in Brit Award history:
The KLF were a group that did things on their own terms, and the idea of industry conformity was a foreign concept to the band. After all, they did burn a million pounds — they were hardly going to follow the rulebook at the Brit Awards.
In 1992, The KLF won the ‘Best British Group’ alongside Simply Red — which is strange enough already. Rather than performing a standard version of their track, ‘3AM Eternal’, they enlisted the help of Ipswich punk band Extreme Noise Terror who re-worked the song into something deadly.
When the performance came to an end, a voice rang over the speaker, stating: “The KLF have now left the music business”. That wasn’t it. They also left a dead sheep outside by the entrance to one of the Brit Award afterparties with a message tied to its waist: “I died for you – bon appetit.”
Jarvis Cocker vs Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson’s performance in 1996 at the Brit Awards either left you feeling moved or with a slight taste of sick in your mouth, and it’s safe to say that Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker was firmly in the latter camp. When Jackson’s self-righteous, preachy performance got too much for Cocker, he decided to get up on stage to moon Jackson.
Following the incident, Cocker took to the popular iconic ’90s TV show TFI Friday to share his thoughts. “I was just sat there and watching it and feeling a bit ill, ’cause he’s there doing his Jesus act,” he said.
Adding: “It seemed to me there was a lot of other people who kind of found it distasteful as well, and I just thought: ‘The stage is there, I’m here, and you can actually just do something about it and say this is a load of rubbish if you wanted.'”
Oasis vs Michael Hutchence
Typically, it’s common decency at awards shows to be gracious to the person who has just presented with your prize, but that message didn’t find its way to Noel Gallagher in 1996. Oasis had just won the award for Best Music Video, and Gallagher’s immediate thoughts were to humiliate INXS’ Michael Hutchence by saying, “Has-beens shouldn’t present awards to gonna-bes”.
The Gallagher’s and raucous Brit Award behaviour go hand-in-hand. When Liam collected the award for ‘Best Album of 30 Years’ for What’s The Story, Morning Glory in 2010, he thanked every former member of the group apart from Noel before lobbing the microphone into the audience, which prompted the purple-shirted comedian, Peter Kay, to label him a “knobhead”.
Ronnie Wood swills Brandon Block
There’s a high probability that the name Brandon Block DJ doesn’t ring a bell, and you’d be forgiven for not knowing about who Ronnie Wood made an enemy out of in 2000. The ’90s Ibiza DJ was highly intoxicated, and friends jokingly told him that he’d won the award that Wood was presenting, so Block decided to make his way up to the stage.
However, Block wasn’t even nominated, let alone won the award, and Wood looked bemused. “What the hell’s going on?” Wood says with a puzzled look on his face before adding: “We have an intruder.” Block retaliates in heroic style by yelling, “Brandon Block, Oi, Oi!”
“Get off stage, you cunt,” Wood viciously responds. Security then gets their hands on Block, but he escapes from their grasp and finds The Rolling Stones guitarist’s drink planted firmly in his face, as Wood vacates the stage as the winner.
Alex Turner’s slurry sermon
Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner’s speech in 2014 certainly splits opinion. After years of beige celebrations, it was welcome to hear something so off-piste. The well-fueled frontman put himself into the history books for more than one reason as Arctic Monkeys became the first act in Brit Awards history to win ‘Best British Album’ and ‘British Group’ on three occasions.
“That rock ‘n ‘roll, eh? That rock ‘n’ roll, it just won’t go away. It might hibernate from time to time and sink back into the swamp,” Turner began. “I think the cyclical nature of the universe in which it exists demands it adheres to some of its rules,” he continued.
“But it’s always waiting there, just around the corner, ready to make its way back through the sludge and smash through the glass ceiling, looking better than ever,” he continued. “Yeah, that rock ‘n’ roll, it seems like it’s fading away sometimes, but it will never die. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Thank you very much for this. I do truly appreciate it. Don’t take that the wrong way.”
Before delivering a mic-drop, Turner told the Brit Awards: “And er, yeah… Invoice me for the microphone if you need to.”
Speaking about the incident to Rolling Stone in 2016, he said: “A lot of people thought I was waffling away on drugs. But I wasn’t. I just can’t pretend getting an award was something I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid, because it isn’t.”