The 1996 Brit Awards were the 16th edition of the biggest UK pop ceremony and took place on 19 February at London’s Earls Court Exhibition Centre. The host was Chris Evans. The accompanying album contained 34 tracks and was the eighth in the series.
Michael Jackson vs Jarvis Cocker: Michael Jackson was given a special Artist of a Generation award. At the ceremony he performed Earth Song with an elaborate stage show, culminating with Jackson the Messiah being surrounded by children. Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker mounted the stage in fury, lifting his shirt and pointed his arse in Jacko’s general direction. No charges ensued. Cocker always maintained that this was a spur of the moment act which was a reaction to Jackson’s pomposity-laden finale. Well I wonder.
Oasis vs Blur: 1996 saw the feud reach its height. In the lead-up to the ceremony, the British media focused on the rivalry. Both factions lapped this up and ignite their own cannons. Example – the Gallaghers taunting Blur at the ceremony by singing a rendition of Parklife with lyrics amended to Shitelife. Did this inspire Mogwai’s infantile t-shirt?
The ’96 Brit Awards is my favourite of the entire series. The track selection and sequencing are spot-on with all bases covered. A time-capsule of 1995 that exorcises ghosts and spirits galore. We begin – inevitably – with Oasis and Wonderwall. Is it about Meg Matthews or not? The video won the award. Then it’s a brisk run-through Britpop’s highlights: Pulp’s Common People followed by Blur’s zenith The Universal. Another fantastic promo video, this one with a Clockwork Orange theme. And some jollification from the Lightning Seeds – Lucky You. A quick trip across the Atlantic for Green Day’s punka Basket Case before the enduring summer ’95 sound of Alright.
The return of Shaun Ryder and Bez. Black Grape don’t feature on as many compilations as they should so the inclusion of the gangster-tripping Kelly’s Heroes is a breath of funky air. It’s Great When You’re Straight – Yeah and its Carlos The Jackal sleeve being a worthy addition to any record collection. Next come Radiohead with the plaintive High And Dry before Edwyn Collins’ biggest solo hit A Girl Like You. Another classic LP from ’95: Cast’s All Change. We get the rifftastic guitar power of John Power on Alright. To post-grunge and Garbage’s Queer with Butch Vig at the helm for their moody yet tuneful debut LP.
Just step s’ways: Leftfield spent most of the year in the album charts with Leftism. The liberating Afroride features here; epic in 7″ form. Meanwhile Bristol continues to produce brilliant LPs; Tricky’s Maxinquaye followed in the tradition of 1994’s Dummy and Protection. The mournful Pumpkin has a wonderful vocal from Alison Goldfrapp that drifts. Next: Ash’s frenzied yet so cruel Kung Fu. Down To The Water sees PJ Harvey continue her uncompromising style and move in a different direction on To Bring You My Love. Elastica’s debut 45 Stutter; one of the greatest singles of the ’90s and here, some 30 months after its initial release. To the end: Bjork’s orchestral Isobel, the Tank Girl theme.
Round Are Way: Roll With It kicks off disc 2. Leading into Paul Weller and the first single from the Stanley Road LP, The Changingman. By Weller’s own admission, most of the backing track is borrowed from the descending guitar intro riff of ELO’s 10538 Overture. Meanwhile the Lightning Seeds return for a second tune on the haunting self-fulfilling Perfect (Acoustic Version). U2 crash in with the Nellee Hooper produced Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me from Batman Forever. Turn you inside out – Alanis Morissette’s bitter Hand In My Pocket from the narcissistic nightmare Jagged Little Pill. 1995’s best selling single all over the world was Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise. Straight outta Compton.
There’s more Batman Forever as Seal’s languid Kiss From A Rose also featured on the soundtrack. And Lenny Kravitz takes another stride forward on the dreamy grungy Circus. Everything But The Girl’s Missing sparks off another dance section; it’s the Todd Terry Club Mix of Missing. Elsewhere M People hoovered up the hits with their oddball cover of the Small Faces’ Itchycoo Park. Happiness Stan – that’s what life is about. All too beautiful. Ashley Beedle’s about on Shara Nelson’s celebratory Rough With The Smooth while Massive Attack dug out Protection, a fantastic follow-up to Blue Lines. The title track is immense; beautiful trip hop with the Bedsit Queen Tracey Thorn on vocals.
Help: The War Child charity album is represented by the Manic Street Preachers’ curveball take on Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. Their first as a trio. David Bowie’s gothic hyper cycle Outside yields the guitar + vocal = perfection melody of Strangers When We Meet. From the class of 1984 comes Lloyd Cole, minus The Commotions since 1989. Sentimental Fool is pure jangle heaven with the classic Stephen Street production. Draining the glass for you. There’s two more singer-songwriters for the long road: KD Lang’s alluring If I Were You and Joan Armatrading’s understated Shapes And Sizes.
Black Grape – Kelly’s Heroes
Elastica – Stutter
M People – Itchycoo Park
Lighting Seeds – Perfect (Acoustic Version)
Lest we forget
David Bowie – Strangers When We Meet