Pomp (and pomposity) at MOJO pop awards

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There was pageantry, pomp and - thanks to Sting - not a little pomposity as music's aristocracy gathered in Whitehall yesterday for a long afternoon of exchanging gongs and pickling livers.

There was pageantry, pomp and - thanks to Sting - not a little pomposity as music's aristocracy gathered in Whitehall yesterday for a long afternoon of exchanging gongs and pickling livers.

In the most sumptuous of settings - Inigo Jones's 17th-century Banqueting House - an almost unprecedented array of musical greats gathered to chew on beef and mash, to quaff wine and occasionally gaze up at ceilings by Rubens.

Across the road from Downing Street, the first MOJO Honours List awards attracted an array of talent that would have had aspirant guitar hero Tony Blair despairing at his inability to throw a tea party that rocks.

They were all there. From the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, to the King of the Mods, Roger Daltrey, and the founder of Ska, Dennis Alcapone.

The event began with the extraordinary sight of four Household Cavalry trumpeters, marching down the central aisle to the sound of reggae. After a fanfare from the cavalrymen, Daltrey climbed on stage to announce that the MOJO Inspiration award - for the band that most inspired the magazine's readers to make music themselves - had been won by The Clash.

Mick Jones, guitarist and songwriter with The Clash, stepped up to join The Who frontman and paid tribute to his fellow band members, Paul (Simenon), Topper (Headon) and "the late, great, Joe" (Strummer). He thanked those who had encouraged The Clash to follow their chosen path and, apparently smitten by the ornate surroundings, observed that "looking here, under Rubens, you know we were right".

Davies was next up, to accept MOJO's Songwriter award, for which The Kinks singer seemed genuinely touched, saying that the votes of readers gave the awards an "aura of authenticity" at a time when "so many things these days are fixed".

Except for a discernible tension, bordering on panic, that accompanied the realisation that the venue was non-smoking, the event passed off rather tamely for what had been billed as an occasion of bacchanalian excess.

Sting, who landed the Mondial award for music that has crossed boundaries, introduced a political dimension by berating the warring factions in the Middle East for failing to heed his message of peace in "Desert Rose", his collaboration with the Algerian artist Cheb Mami.

"Our politicians, our so-called religious leaders, do nothing but separate us," said Sting, advising his fellow musicians to take on their "responsibility" to bring harmony to the world. "Unless we get together we are fucked," he said.

Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin drew the first standing ovation of the afternoon as he was given MOJO's Maestro award for his mould-breaking guitar licks.

James Brown was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement award, presented to him by Marianne Faithfull, who, avoiding understatement, described the handing over of the gong as "one of the greatest moments of my life". Brown responded by thanking "all you beautiful people" in the room.

"When I go home I'm a miserable man. But when I come out here I'm a happy man," he said. "May God bless the world, especially MOJO right here and England. I want to say 'Aaoow!'"

THE WINNERS

* Icon award: Morrissey

* Inspiration award: The Clash

* Songwriter award: Ray Davies

* Hall of Fame: Arthur Lee

* Classic Album award: Television

* Medal: Geoff Travis

* Image award (to music photographer): Bob Gruen

* Lifetime achievement award: James Brown

* Hero award: Roger McGuinn

* Mondial award: Sting

* Special award: The Shadows

* Maestro award: Jimmy Page

* Maverick award: Red Hot Chilli Peppers

* Catalogue release of the year: Muzik City

* Vision award (best music DVD package of the year): Led Zeppelin

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