Sunday, 6 September 2009

M People talk to the Observer

Series: Flashback
Flashback: 13 September 1994

Confounding the critics, M People pip the likes of Blur to win the Mercury. Mike Pickering looks back

* The Observer, Sunday 6 September 2009
* Article history

M People at the 1994 Mercury Prize ceremony

M People, featuring Mike Pickering, far left, at the 1994 Mercury Prize ceremony. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA

"We'd spent that day putting the finishing touches to the follow-up to Elegant Slumming. We got changed at the studio and headed for the Savoy in the mood for a celebration. We had no sense of expectation - we didn't care about winning a prize we knew very little about. In those days it was a much smaller event - each of the nominees had a table for friends and it wasn't the big scrum it has become.

"We were on the table next to Blur, who were nominated for Parklife, and I remember Jarvis Cocker making a very funny speech - a hard act to follow. The alcohol meant that when it was announced we'd won, I wasn't paying much attention. I just remember people jumping up and hugging me. As I got up to walk to the stage, Elastica's Justine Frischmann, who was Damon Albarn's girlfriend at the time, leant over and said: 'Ah well, there goes my new fridge freezer.'

"At the after-party a drunk Phil Daniels complained bitterly about our win; being a true northerner I put him in his place, asking why he'd done nothing good since Quadrophenia. It wasn't till the following day that we realised we had upset all the broadsheets by winning. They thought the Mercury was the property of "indie" bands, who, by the way, were all signed to majors. But at least it did open a big debate on anti-dance snobbery.

"It always amuses me to see the amount of column space that is given to the Mercury in the months leading up to it - and the indignation afterwards if one of the 'worthy' artists doesn't win."

• M People's founder Mike Pickering is now the head of A&R at Columbia Records

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