Kanye West, Adele, Foo Fighters and Mumford And Sons lead the nominations for the 2012 Grammy Awards, which take place on February 12. Here are a few things you might not know about the long-running American awards bash.
Big winners last year included Arcade Fire (best album) and country-rockers Lady Antebellum. Plus, Mumford performed alongside Bob Dylan. The event was actually initially launched to ward off the threat of the rock and roll explosion, in 1959.
The night’s biggest attention seeker? Lady Gaga, who appeared on stage in a giant egg, carried aloft by flunkies before performing ‘Born This Way’. The first Grammy Awards were presented on 4 May 1959. Record Of The Year was ‘Volare’ by Domenico Modugno.
The Grammys are often criticised for being pompous and punishingly long-winded. In 1959, there were 22 awards. These days there are well over a hundred. Still, interesting things have occasionally happened at the Grammys, honest. And here are a few of them…
Bob Dylan’s 1998 performance was interrupted by a half naked moron called Michael Portnoy during his set. The dancing weirdo explained his slogan thus: “Soy represents dense nutritional life. Bomb is, obviously, an explosive destructive force. So, soy bomb is what I think art should be: dense, transformational, explosive life.”
The Flaming Lips bagged the award for the longest-titled Grammy win in 2007 for ‘The Wizard Turns On…The Giant Silver Flashlight And Puts On His Werewolf Moccasins’ (Best Rock Instrumental Performance).
Robin Williams might be a comedian but he’s won four Grammys. He’s also responsible for one of the only decent jokes told at the ceremony. In 2003 he put his ear to the trophy and quipped: “Listen … you can actually hear careers ending.”
Elmo the Muppet has won three Grammys, including one for 1998’s ‘Elmopalooza!’ (Best Music Album For Children).
Despite picking up several nominations, Fleetwood Mac have only ever won one Grammy Award, in 1978 for ‘Rumours’. Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham turned up to the ceremony zonked on Quaaludes, whisky and pot… and threw up before they could collect their award.
Worst ever speech at the Grammys? In 1998, rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard was pissed off when Wu Tang Clan lost out to Puff Daddy in the Best Hip-Hop Album category. “Wu Tang is for the children!” he insisted, inaccurately. In fairness, he was probably on drugs.
50 Cent strolled across the stage during Evanescence’s 2004 acceptance speech for Best New Artist in protest at rap not being recognised. Quite a lame protest, in hindsight.
Most awkward Grammy moment? In 1976, crooner Andy Williams was hosting the show. When a live satellite link-up with Stevie Wonder went wrong he said, “Stevie, can you see us now?” Williams was never invited back to host again.
Yoko Ono (and her son Sean Lennon) received a standing ovation in 1982 when she arrived to receive a Grammy for ‘Double Fantasy’, the album she made with John Lennon shortly before his death.
In 1990 Sinead O’Connor became the only artist to refuse a Grammy – for Best Alternative Music Performance for the album ‘I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got’.
Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder graciously used his acceptance speech for Best Hard Rock Performance to diss the Grammys, announcing “We just came to relax. We just wanted to watch the show. I don’t know what this award is. I don’t think this means anything.”
Michael Jackson was honoured posthumously at the Grammys in 2010. The award was accepted by his children, which was a sweet gesture and naturally everyone was far too polite to mention that neither child looked remotely like him.
Tool won a Grammy for best metal performance in 2001. They didn’t take it too seriously – during the band’s acceptance speech, drummer Danny Carey thanked Satan, and bassist Justin Chancellor concluded: “I want to thank my dad for doing my mom.”
Unbelievably, Baha Men won a Grammy in 2001 for that interminably irritating song ‘Who Let The Dogs Out?’.
Greatest ever Grammys duet? Gotta be Elton John and Eminem doing ‘Stan’ in 2001. Eminem was getting flak at the time for perceived homophobia – but Elton was keen to build bridges, saying: “If I thought for one minute that he was [hateful], I wouldn’t do it.”
Will Smith won the first ever Best Rap Performance award in 1989, for DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’.
Milli Vanilli won a Grammy in 1990 for Best New Artist, but their award was taken away when it was revealed that the lead vocals on their record were actually someone else’s.
Norah Jones is one of three artists to have won Best New Artist and Record Of The Year in the same year. Sheryl Crow and Christopher Cross were the other two.
The ceremony has flipped from West Coast to East Coast over the years (and was even in Chicago at one point). Madison Square Garden hosted the event for one year only.
Perhaps the greatest Grammy performance was Michael Jackson’s 1988 rendition of ‘Man In The Mirror’. It lost out to Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’y Worry, Be Happy’, a tune that George Bush Sr tried to appropriate for his campaign.
U2 have won the most Grammy Awards (22 to date).
Elvis never won a Grammy in a top category, but he did win in the Gospel music category in 1971.
Stevie Wonder holds the record for most Grammys won by a solo artist with 28, plus a Lifetime Achievement award.
Led Zeppelin have only won one Grammy – the Lifetime Achievement award in 2005, 25 years after they split.
The joint-record for most nominations in one year is held by Michael Jackson (12 in 1983) and, Babyface (12 times in 1992). Babyface never really became a household name in the UK, but he wrote or produced pretty much every massive R&B song of that era. Plus, he had awesome hair.
So what will happen at this year’s ceremony? Eminem is the lead nominee, after being named in 10 categories. The rapper has received nods for the most prestigious Grammy categories, including album of the year for ‘Recovery’ and record of the year for his duet with Rihanna, ‘Love the Way You Lie’. But Lady Gaga may yet steal the show…