Remembering when Jarvis Cocker crashed the Brit Awards stage and 'mooned' Michael Jackson

11 May 2021, 17:09

Frontman of Pulp Jarvis Cocker (inset) crashed the stage while Michael Jackson was performing 'Earth Song' at the 1996 Brit Awards in London.
Frontman of Pulp Jarvis Cocker (inset) crashed the stage while Michael Jackson was performing 'Earth Song' at the 1996 Brit Awards in London. Picture: ITV/Getty

By Giorgina Hamilton

Frontman of Pulp Jarvis Cocker crashed the stage while Michael Jackson was performing 'Earth Song' at the 1996 Brit Awards in London.

The incident has gone down in history as one of the most controversial musical moments of the 1990s.

Jarvis Cocker, lead singer of Britpop band Pulp, crashed the stage during Michael Jackson's powerful performance of 'Earth Song' at the Brit Awards on February 19, 1996 and was promptly arrested.

See more: The Story of... 'Earth Song' by Michael Jackson

The incident saw Jarvis 'moon' the crowd and duck and weave among extras before standing on the very top of the stage as 'Earth Song' continued to play around him at the awards show in Earl's Court.

"I was just sat there and watching it and feeling a bit ill, 'cause he's there doing his Jesus act," said Jarvis Cocker of Michael Jackson's performance at the 1996 Brit Awards (pictured)
"I was just sat there and watching it and feeling a bit ill, 'cause he's there doing his Jesus act," said Jarvis Cocker of Michael Jackson's performance at the 1996 Brit Awards (pictured). Picture: Getty
The incident saw Jarvis 'moon' the crowd and duck and weave among extras before standing on the very top of the stage as 'Earth Song' continued to play around him
The incident saw Jarvis 'moon' the crowd and duck and weave among extras before standing on the very top of the stage as 'Earth Song' continued to play around him. Picture: ITV

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Michael Jackson may have been oblivious to the chaos – he was, afterall, suspended in a crane at the time – but the police certainly weren't, with Jarvis Cocker whisked off to the local station until 3am on the charges of "assaulting some children" that had been on the stage.

Yet why Jarvis caused the incident – and the incredible story of how David Bowie got him out of trouble – are perhaps even more interesting than the controversy itself.

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Asked about his reason for crashing the stage, Jarvis Cocker told Chris Evans on TFI Friday just months after the event in 1996, that he had been sitting in the audience and had felt sick at how Michael Jackson was portraying himself.

"I was just sat there and watching it and feeling a bit ill, 'cause he's there doing his Jesus act.

Watch Jarvis Cocker storm Michael Jackson's performance below:

Michael Jackson performing at the Brit Awards just moments before Jarvis Cocker crashed the stage at Earls Court, London on February 19, 1996.
Michael Jackson performing at the Brit Awards just moments before Jarvis Cocker crashed the stage at Earls Court, London on February 19, 1996. Picture: Getty

"And I could kind of see - It seemed to me there was a lot of other people who kind of found it distasteful as well, and I just thought: 'The stage is there, I'm here and you can actually just do something about it and say this is a load of rubbish if you wanted.'"

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Many years later, after Jarvis Cocker had had a chance to reflect on the night in question, he revealed the darker side to the incident.

Speaking to the New York Times in 2020, Cocker said the moment “changed my life forever, because of the fallout” and it affected him deeply.

“In the U.K., suddenly, I was crazily recognised and I couldn’t go out anymore,” he said.

See more: The moment Michael Jackson did his first moonwalk on TV and changed music history forever

“It tipped me into a level of celebrity I couldn’t ever have known existed, and wasn’t equipped for. It had a massive, generally detrimental effect on my mental health.”

Jarvis Cocker pictured in 1996 at press conference following a court appearance where he was told that he will not be prosecuted for the Brit Awards incident.
Jarvis Cocker pictured in 1996 at press conference following a court appearance where he was told that he will not be prosecuted for the Brit Awards incident. Picture: Getty
Jarvis Cocker revealed it was David Bowie (pictured) who eventually saved him from criminal charges in relation to the Brit Awards incident.
Jarvis Cocker revealed it was David Bowie (pictured) who eventually saved him from criminal charges in relation to the Brit Awards incident. Picture: Getty

The Pulp star also revealed it was David Bowie who eventually saved him from criminal charges.

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“There was an accusation that I’d knocked some kids off the stage," he explained. "I’d been arrested. The only footage that’d been released was like a CCTV camera, and you couldn’t see what was happening.

“That year, David Bowie was getting a lifetime achievement award, and he had his own camera crew there.

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"After two or three days, they released their footage, and then the charges were dropped straight away. Among many other things I’m grateful to David Bowie for, that was amazing.”