So wind back the years and it's 1977 – the year it all started. Cher was already 21, Robbie was three and Beyonce was just a figment of her parents’ imagination.
Not usually the venue in Wembley to host a music show, but this first year of the ‘British Record Industry Britannia Centenary Awards’ was held in the Wembley Conference Centre on a Monday evening. With everyone loving an anniversary and a reason to celebrate – this event celebrated the centenary of Thomas Edison’s invention of the sound recording but also was the music industry’s way of marking the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
So to recognise Queen Elizabeth II’s 25 years on the throne it was decided that the music from the previous quarter century would be honoured with the winners being chosen by BPI member’s companies. And how that procedure has changed….what is currently a selected/chosen 1,000 Voting Academy Members across all sectors of the industry (in 2009) was in 1977 just one vote per 85 member companies of the BPI and even then only a total of 42 actually returned their votes.
The event cost £25,000 to stage with Michael Aspel as the TV as well as doubling up to present most of the Awards assisted by comedy legend Barry Cryer as the warm-up man and off camera announcer. The guest list included some characters who you wouldn’t necessarily expect to present including Tony Blackburn, Nicholas Parsons and Frankie Howard. Song-writing husband and wife team Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch – probably best known for the Neighbours TV theme – were also present. Someone who became a leading figure and legend for The BPI for many years to come shared the Outstanding Contribution Award with The Beatles. Aspel described “a man clever enough to sign them and to be Chairman of the BPI and EMI” at the time, Mr LG Wood was quite a remarkable figure in 1977.
The event was broadcast by Thames Television and as noted by Brian Southall who wrote the BRITs 25 book – it was definitely TV who were running the show. Peter Jamieson, industry stalwart (chairing BPI on two occasions in ‘80s and 00’s) remembered the evening as Simon & Garfunkel performed and everyone went ‘wow’ but they were asked to do it again….and again. As you know The BRITs currently does not have that cushion or time span – we are live/live. Live/Live means the show happens live from 8pm-10pm with not even a 1 minute delay – and the performers play live. Most critics, ITV and event goers tend to agree that keeping live means you have to watch to see who has won at the same time that particular artist is finding out; plus most feel it keeps you on the edge of your seat...never quite knowing what might happen next!