Banality enshrined: the history of the Brits

So the Brit Awards are done for another year. I didn't watch them because, well, I'm not a lunatic, but I'm glad that Amy Winehouse won best female. The others? Not that bothered really. Still, they seem considerably less weird than in previous years. Take the outstanding contribution award. In 1977, the first time the awards were held, it went to The Beatles. The awards were meant to be a one-off to mark the Queen's silver jubilee but when they returned in 1982, John Lennon got the nod for outstanding contribution. In 1983 he was followed by, err, The Beatles again, though Paul McCartney did get a pat on the back in the form of the newly-minted Sony Award for Technical Excellence. In 1984 it was the turn of Beatles' producer George Martin to be honoured.

After that, the BPI (that's the British Phonographic Industry, who are responsible for the Brits) seemed to forget the rest of the Fab Four and by 1986 they were reduced to giving the oustanding achievement award to Wham! Yep, Wham! Still, they had just split up - it was an emotional time.

Then there are the disappearing awards. Best classical recording was awarded every year between 1977 and 1993 except for 1986, which was obviously a terrible year for classical music. In 1994, the BPI decided they were bored with the classical thing and gave up on it.

Best British Producer was awarded every year between 1977 and 1998 with the exception of 1989 when, presumably, the BPI was too ashamed to hand it out having given it to Stock, Aitken and Waterman the year before.

The awards started off as exclusively British but Best International Artist was added in 1983 to reward the genius of Kid Creole and the Coconuts. By 1986, the category had to be split into two because the BPI couldn't choose between the brilliance of Bruce Springsteen (Best International Solo Artist) and Huey Lewis and the News (Best International Group). In 1988 Terence Trent D'Arby prompted the introuction of an International Breakthrough Act category and a year later Tracy Chapman became the first international female to get the award.

Every now and again the BPI goes completely mad and makes up an award on the spot. The Freddie Mercury Award has been given out twice - to the Help Album in 1996 and to Elton John in 1998. However, Best British Comedy Recording has only been given out once - to Nigel Planer in 1985 for his cover of Traffic's Hole in my Shoe, which he performed as his character Neil from the Young Ones. And don't you love the fact that they specified British, just in case one of those damned foreign comedy records tried to win?

By the late 90s it was obvious the awards had begun to stagnate and, in their rush to give awards to Phil Collins and Annie Lennox, they were ignoring new trends. In 1994 the BPI discovered dance music in the form of M People (I know, I know, I'm only telling you what happened). They liked them so much, they gave them the award again in 1995.

Despite the fact that the Brits were giving awards to the likes of The Verve and, err, Kula Shaker, they still weren't being taken seriously so, in 2003, the BPI decided it was time for black people to have their own category. After all, the Mobos were doing terribly well by then.

Obviously, they disguised the intent a little by called it British Urban Act. The first one went to Ms Dynamite and the second to Lemar before they confounded all expectation and gave the 2005 award to Joss Stone, who is not 'urban' in any sense of the euphemism.

Spurred on by this success, the Brits went category crazy. Best rock showed up, especially for The Darkness, along with Best Pop Act - categories so successful they were dropped entirely from this year's ceremony.

Finally, if you're concerned that in future you'll have endure hit after hit by the likes of Orson or James Morrison, both winners tonight, console yourself with some of the other great choices the BPI has made through the years:

Best British Newcomer 1986: Go West
Best Group 1987: Five Star
Best Breakthrough Act 1989: Bros
International Breakthrough Act 1991: MC Hammer
British Breakthrough Act 1993: Tasmin Archer
Best Female Solo Artist 1994: Dina Carroll
Best International Breakthrough Act 1995: Lisa Loeb
Best International Breakthrough Act 1997: Robert Miles
British Female Solo Artist 1998: Shola Ama
Best Pop Act 2000: Five
British Breakthrough Act 2001: A1

Step forward Mr Morrison, the pantheon awaits...