Spice Girls clean up the Brits

Five feisty young women who do not play a musical instrument between them were confirmed as the most popular group with the public in British pop music last night.

The Spice Girls, virtually unknown this time last year, won two Brit Awards at a frenetic awards ceremony. They won Best Single for "Wannabe" and Best Video for "Say You'll Be There".

Significantly these were the two categories voted for by the public and not the 600-strong "academy" of record company executives, retailers and music industry experts. Equally significantly for those who chart the history of these things, the Spice Girls beat off Oasis, who were nominated for Best Single for "Look Back In Anger".

Earlier in the day, Liam Gallagher of Oasis said he would not be coming to the awards lest he "chin one of the Spice Girls". Responding on stage, Mel C, aka Sport Spice, pointed to her chin and said: "Come and have a go Liam if you think you're hard enough." It wasn't exactly Oscar Wilde but the girls with attitude in the audience applauded their heroes vigorously.

The success of the Manic Street Preachers in winning Best Group and Best Album completes a remarkable story for the Welsh outfit whose founder member Richey James disappeared in 1995. The group dedicated their album Everything Must Go to the Tower Colliery in Cyon Valley in Wales.

A special presentation was made to the Bee Gees, now all in their late forties, who won the award for Outstanding Contribution to the British Music Industry.

The ceremony which was held at Earl's Court, in west London, was followed by a party that reflected the exuberant retarded adolescence of the British pop business - complete with ice skating and dodgem cars.

George Michael, whose comeback album followed years of argument in the High Court over contracts, was voted Best Male Artist and Gabrielle was Best Female Artist. Prodigy was the Best Danceband, John Leckie the Best Producer, Bec, the Best International Male Artist and Sheryl Crowe, the Best International Female Artist. She beat Toni Braxton, Neneh Cherry, Celine Dion and Joan Osborne to claim the prestigious award.

The Best Newcomer was Kula Shaker, Best International Newcomer was Robert Miles, Best International Group the Fugees. Trainspotting won the Best Film Soundtrack.The award ceremony was hosted by the comedian Ben Elton.

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