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Keith Richards comes blinking into the daylight to take award

KEITH RICHARDS picked up his Q magazine Special Merit award at around 2pm yesterday. He blinked and confided: "I love this breakfast thing. It's a novelty to me."

There are many rock music awards, but none quite like those given out by Q. For a start, the stars turn up to collect them, even if, as with the Rolling Stones' guitarist, this is a time of day they seldom see. Also, they are brief, with no live performances and no live television link, so the stars actually get to talk to one another and about one another. That, for us eavesdroppers, is where the fun begins. Take the Scottish band Travis, nominated for the Best Newcomer Award. Much muttering from other bands ensued: "They've got two albums out. They've been together three years. What's all this 'newcomer' stuff?"

Some of the dirt was dished in public. The novelist Will Self, presenting the Best Band in the World award did it from the stage. With no hint of a smile or a tongue in his cheek the writer looked over at the table containing the 55-year-old Richards and his fellow Stone Ronnie Wood (52) and said: "I hope it doesn't go to some super group who have to be Zimmerframed on to the stage in some stadium in Sao Paulo."

Some of the bands were at least honest about the hyperbole attached to the ceremony.Accepting the Best Band in the World award, the Blur singer Damon Albarn said: "It doesn't seem very objective, this award, considering we don't sell any records in the USA." A fellow band member, getting into the backbiting spirit of the occasion, chimed in: "But nor do U2 or REM."

Presenting Richards with his award, Bob Geldof said the Stones had defined British rock music, particularly its "snotty" aggressive stance. Richards was "a human riff", Geldof said, adding: "He is the coolest cat - people kill for that cool, he doesn't even have to try."

Richards said: "This is November and I get a man of the year award. You get to be man of the year for two months." He then said he was "embarrassed" by the attention and left the stage, to a standing ovation.

The audience also got up on their feet for Ian Dury - who is fighting cancer - when he and his bandmate Chaz Jankel took the Classic Songwriters title. The Best Album title went to the Chemical Brothers for this summer's Surrender, the duo's third album, which was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize this year but missed out to Talvin Singh's OK.

The Best Newcomer award at yesterday's event in London's Park Lane Hotel went to the Brixton-based dance duo Basement Jaxx and Travis, who were nominated for three titles, took the Best Single category for their biggest hit "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?". Another three-times nominated act, Stereophonics, were named Best Live Act.

Pop veterans New Order, took the Q Inspiration Award. The quartet - who sprung from the ashes of Joy Division after singer Ian Curtis hanged himself in 1980, helped to bring dance music into the mainstream with the worldwide success of their "Blue Monday" single in 1983.

New Order, who have recently been recording together again, also put credibility back into football songs, with their England World Cup anthem "World In Motion" in 1990. Singer Bernard Sumner paid tribute to Curtis, producer Martin Hannett and manager Rob Gretton who have all died. He said: "Thanks a lot, it's been a long time coming but well deserved."