Gold Badge awards shine light on music's unsung heroes [see the Gold Badge webpage here, and a schedule of past winners]
After years of headlines about industry excesses and legal wrangles, awards show another side to the music machine
|The Gold Badge Awards at the Park Lane Hotel
The Gold Badge awards were held in the fading opulence of the Park Lane Hotel ballroom.
Photograph: Anna Gordon
For 36 years the Gold Badge awards have been a low-key affair conducted
behind closed doors – a quiet nod of appreciation to the unsung heroes of the
But after years of headlines about greedy executives and excessive megastars, wranglings about copyright and file-sharing, the awards organisers wanted to show another side to the music machine.
More than 300 industry professionals – from producers to publicists, songwriters to arrangers – gathered in the fading opulence of the Park Lane Hotel's art deco ballroom today, with not a single A-list celebrity in sight.
"For every big name, every star, there are tens if not hundreds of people working behind them; today is about celebrating those people," said Patrick Rackow, chief executive of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (Basca), who hosted the event.
Among the award winners, one of the most instantly recognisable, if not exactly fashionable, names was that of the television presenter and singer Aled Jones – who said beforehand that he was delighted to receive an award. He did not attend today's awards gathering.
"The Gold Badge awards always go to giants in the industry, so to see little old me up there with them is quite humbling," he said in a telephone interview the previous day. "It does make me feel old though – you have to have been around forever to get one."
Somewhat apologetically, Lesley Douglas, a former controller of BBC Radio 2, wrote that Jones would be "forever synonymous" with his 1985 hit Walking in the Air, but was "much more" than that.
Jones brushed off the reference with the resigned dignity of a man who has answered the same question for half of his life. "If I had a problem being associated with that song, I'd be in the Priory rocking backwards and forwards right now," he said.
Other awards were handed out to knowing applause. The names Bill Martin and Phil Coulter may be little known outside music circles, but their songs – which include Puppet on a String, Britain's 1967 Eurovision winner, and Cliff Richard's Congratulations – are instantly hummable.
With co-writer Coulter, Martin commandeered the radio waves in the 60s and 70s and wrote My Boy, Elvis's last top 20 hit before his death – although some music lovers may be loathe to forgive them for a string of hit singles created for the Bay City Rollers.
Coulter described the rise and rapid fall of the pair's hit Back Home, the first football song to reach number one in the UK, in 1970. "Back Home was an exercise in opportunism," he said. "We were selling 50,000 records a day but the day after we were beaten by West Germany if you'd tried to give someone that record they'd have spat in your face."
He cheerfully acknowledged that his name was unknown among "the great unwashed", but said: "When you start out as a songwriter you know you'll never be a household name. If you've got a problem with that – find another job."
Another winner, guitarist Hank Marvin, who with Cliff Richard and the Shadows achieved 43 top 20 hit singles in 10 years, was saluted by Sir Tim Rice, who wrote that his Fender Stratocaster had "influenced a generation of British musicians who conquered the world".
Marvin was a little more restrained. "I have no idea what the award is for, it's a mystery," he said, as the Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis shuffled past in suit and trainers. "But it's very flattering, particularly to win an award from your peers who you hope recognise talent rather than fame."
Among the winners were Richard Manners, who as managing director of Island Music and then Warner helped to propel Radiohead, Massive Attack, East 17 and Bjork to fame; Gary Brooker of Procol Harum; and the former Basca chief executive Chris Green.
Classical concert promoter Raymond Gubbay, violinist Tasmin Little, producer Hugh Padgham, Culture Club singer Ruby Turner, and songwriter, composer, singer and producer Robert Wyatt also received awards.
The most heartfelt applause of the day was reserved for the music copyist Vic Fraser, a stalwart of the business for more than half a century. "I've been doing this for 52 years, and this is the first time someone has noticed," he said with an air of baffled pleasure. "The music business is like a clock. It is made up of lots of small pieces, and if you take just one of those pieces out, the clock doesn't work."
Gary Brooker's page at BtP