It's safe to say that I've never exactly got on with the Brit Awards. To an ordinary music-buying member of the public, it's never looked like anything other than a shallow, empty excuse for the people who sell the music to get together and show off about how great they think they are for selling it, under the pretence of celebrating the artistic achievements of musicians they clearly couldn't give a flying fuck about. If you're reading this and fuming in disagreement, well then, do something about it. It's your bloody ceremony.
In fairness, bombastic television presentation and bewildering levels of tabloid excitement aside, the actual ceremony itself is something that it's always been easy to avoid. As indeed have the actual awards and accolades that it doles out; any victory-related excitement and braggadocio soon fades and it's a fair bet that even fans of Brit recipients would be hard pushed to tell you how many they've won and what for. Meanwhile in some cases - naming no Simply Reds - the presence of that pompous stuffy emblem and a flash proudly proclaiming an album to be the work of a 'Brits Nominee' only seems to amplify the waves of tedium and laughability pulsating outwards from the rapidly Charity Shop-bound CD. It's a bit like, well, all of those other high-profile media awards which grab endless acres of column inches without ever having the slightest impact on your own personal reading, viewing or listening habits.
What's harder to avoid, however, is the constant nagging awareness at the back of your mind that The Brits exists. True, it's hardly The Great Satan, or even The Big Victor, and it's not even really the lingering bastion of Thatcherism that some try to make it out to be, but in symbolic and totemistic terms it's a troubling reminder that there's an entire industry out there that if it had its way would happily do away with anything you're remotely interested in, and churn out kerching-friendly bland music for bland people for ever more. Let us not forget that the Brits-approved music world is something that X Factor and its ilk are actually an alternative to.
It's hardly surprising, then, that over the years there have been a couple of high profile attempts at rocking the Brits boat, but even that has now been effectively streamlined and locked-down into a managed, controllable, headline-friendly and 100% safe form of 'controversy' that doesn't reflect badly on anyone involved with the ceremony itself. Adele got a bit mardy! Liam Gallagher was drunk! A dance music DJ had 'words' with an old rocker! And other entirely surprising things you weren't expecting at all! None of which - conveniently - involve anything other than a surly malcontent refusing to play along and spoiling it all for everyone who works very hard behind the scenes to make the Brit Awards the great success story that it is. Even as far back as the Mick Fleetwood/Samantha Fox-hosting debacle in 1989, there was a conscious attempt to blame it on the two admittedly ill-suited hosts (and it's worth pointing out here that La Fox had been doing live TV and radio for several years by that point without any comparable disasters; Fleetwood however should have stuck to being remixed by Arthur Baker) rather than whoever cued in the wrong guests, set up the stage back to front, or gave the green light to the whole thing in the first place. Only the year before, of course, production shortcomings had led to Andrew Lloyd Weber's meaningless speech about nothing (or at least nothing to do with anything or anyone apart from himself) overrunning so badly that there wasn't time for Rick Astley to collect his 'gong' for Single Of The Year, with a mysterious hair-mousse bloke in an expensive suit virtually snatching it away from the presenters before a sharp cut to The Who doing a not particularly exciting show-closer. Doesn't get mentioned quite so often, that.
Even the few brief but incendiary moments of subversion that did get through have been deftly swept under the carpet and are kept as far apart from official Brits history as possible. If you want evidence of this, look no further than the fact that no less than three attempts to upload videos to go with this post to YouTube have resulted in an immediate takedown due to a 'Copyright Claim' from the BPI, whereas endless clips of fucking Dido et al graciously accepting awards remain online ad infinitum. Well, yah boo sucks to that. We're going to be celebrating the incidents that The Brits would rather forget, but which are the only moments anyone else remembers, whether the BPI likes it or not. This, in a very real sense, is Television Freedom...
1992, and unlikely million-selling dance music duo The KLF are named Best British Group - albeit jointly with the depressingly inevitable Simply Red - and are booked to open The Brits at the exact moment they decide to jack in the musical project that's got out of their control and return to their quieter former existence as artists and writers. Instead of the expected pyrotechnic-laden big production number of the sort the band have become known for, the 'suits' get a lone flashing police light and a frantic thrash-metal version of 3am Eternal, ending with Bill Drummond firing some very loud blanks at an audience who probably considered U2 to be a little on the raucuous and unkempt side. Confused silence and close-ups of sour-faced women in expensive dresses ensue.
The following year, a rare outbreak of criticism over the event's predictabler-than-predictable beige-hued line-up from traditionally supportive tabloid pop columnists sees up and coming indie sexuality-straddlers Suede added to the bill at the last minute. Realising they are not going to win any friends at the event whatever they do, Brett and company up the musical abrasiveness and discomfort-occasioning homo-hetero-erotic posturing to a truly remarkable degree, scaring the audience into even less applause than you'd find at a Rebekah Brooks-led Pro-Horsemeat Rally with an address about the future of libraries from Terry Deary. Still, it's not like anyone remembers Tasmin Archer's performance, is it?
1996, and the one you've all been waiting for, as Jarvis Cocker famously pulls the rug from under Michael Jackson's innocence-proving-beyond-all-doubt Christ allegory spectacular through the medium of walking briskly across the stage whilst dressed as the 'Bionic' one off The Boy Who Won The Pools. To be honest, despite being more exciting, hilarious, and generally part of the all-too-brief Brass Eye-era 'something might change because of this' feeling that people were actually trying to start a quiet revolution from the inside, in a way it's not quite as subversive as the other two, as pretty much everyone who wasn't an insanity-fuelled Jackson fan came down heavily on Jarvis' side and applauded it as A Good Thing. Still, it was a truly thrilling moment, and without question Britpop's single greatest achievement, made all the more surreally enjoyable by the crowd cheering wildly when Jarvis appears as though they thought he was about to launch into a duet with Jacko, and by the ensuing press statement which claimed "Michael Jackson respects Pulp as artists". I'd love to know what his favourite track off Freaks was.
Meanwhile, we won't be mentioning Chumbawumba throwing a bucket of water over John Prescott, as it was a feeble and inappropriately-targeted publicity-courting gesture seemingly undertaken to prove that great revolutionary Chris Tarrant did not die in vain.
Why, you may be wondering, did all of these incidents take place so close to each other in the early nineties? Well, that was a time when the Brit-orientated side of the music industry thought that it could bring the troublesome 'alternative' sector's house into some sort of order and get it to play by their rules - anyone else remember the hideous British Music Weekend events? - but found that it still had enough fire in its heart to resent and reject such moves. Even Kingmaker, who were hardly ideological firebrands, released a single expressing their desire to 'bomb' the Brit Awards, admittedly in the days before the authorities would take such a statement too seriously and the right-on brigade would take it literally. A couple of years later, of course, Noel Gallagher and company were only too happy to play along with the mainstream's overtures, which led us into the even bigger mess we're in today.
So when James Corden hosts this year's bash on the 19th, instead of watching it go and listen to whatever you actually want to listen to. Something. Anything. Even Something/Anything, if you fancy a bit of seventies AOR. After all, in the words of another early nineties Brit-snubber, "don't be told who to like/it's your right/it's your choice to choose who to listen to..."
Just as long as you don't choose Kula Shaker.