Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Lana Del Rey Star at U.K.’s Ivor Novello Awards

As he picked up his Ivor Novello Award in London Thursday, Bruce Springsteen told a story about the first time he came to the U.K.’s capitol city.

In 1975, Springsteen and his band arrived at Heathrow Airport famished, and went in search of a cheeseburger — only to find that such exotic cuisine had yet to make it to that side of the pond, with only fish ‘n’ chips available.

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Not knowing what “chips” were (the greasier, chunkier, far superior British take on fries, for anyone still wondering), the Boss spurned the local delicacy and took his hungry heart off to his first ever U.K. gig at the Hammersmith Odeon. There, he was greeted by a giant sign announcing: “London is finally ready for Bruce Springsteen!”

“And,” mused Springsteen, “all I thought was, ‘If London isn’t ready for cheeseburgers, they may not be ready for me’.”

Nearly 50 years on, U.K. tastes have changed – and so have the Ivors, now officially known as the Ivors with Amazon Music. So, while Thursday’s ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel was the 69th Ivors, it was the very first to reward an international songwriter with its highest honor, making Springsteen a Fellow of its Academy.

(Side note: Springsteen’s culinary preferences may also have moved on, if the très European charcuterie-and-cheese-board specially requested for his table, while everyone else dined on guinea fowl, was anything to go by.)

Springsteen’s Fellowship means he joined an elite club alongside the likes of Kate Bush, Elton John, Annie Lennox and the man who inducted him, Paul McCartney.

Macca’s arrival on stage caused ripples of genuine excitement in even this jaded, slightly sozzled industry crowd, which soon turned into howls of laughter as the ex-Beatle roasted his American friend.

“Unlike Bruce’s concerts, I’m going to keep this brief,” McCartney quipped, before adding: “I was wondering how Bruce would fit into the Beatles. When it comes to talent, he was definitely in the Top 5.”

“I can’t think of any more fitting person to be the first international songwriter fellowship,” he added, seemingly more seriously. “Except maybe Bob Dylan. Or Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Beyoncé or Taylor Swift… The list goes on.”

It was the sort of moment only the Ivors can deliver: two legendary figures supremely relaxed not only in each other’s company, but in front of a crowd happy to provide a safe space where, for one day at least, the art of songwriting can take center stage.

Springsteen chuckled away during the speech, hugging McCartney before delivering a trademark sincere response. Complaining of losing his voice after playing a show in “hellacious weather” in Sunderland the night before, he paid tribute to the influence of McCartney’s former band, the Rolling Stones and the Animals. “While I was stone cold born in the bowels of the U.S.A,, at 16, I desperately yearned to be British.”

He also hailed his record company Sony Music Group, especially British chairman Rob Stringer (“I sold all my music and they still treat it like it’s mine,” he said of his 2021 deal for Sony to acquire his recording and publishing catalogs). The less said about his attempt at a British accent the better, but there was no doubting his appreciation of his “long and beautiful history” in this country.

“As we flew towards the U.K. in 1975, all I was wondering was, ‘What do I have that I could conceivably give back to those people who gave me so much?’ The answer is, everything I’ve got. I want to thank you for taking my music into your hearts and into your souls, and for including me in the challenging and beautiful cultural life of the U.K.,” he said.

As it turned out, the Boss was not the only splash of American razzmatazz at this year’s Ivors. Organizers had shifted the start time back from its traditional morning kick-off to mid-afternoon, allowing America – on the East Coast at least – to tune in to the new, shiny behind-the-scenes coverage on Twitch (although many diehard British execs were still in a nearby pub, the Audley, long after the official start time, proof that some Ivors traditions will live forever).

Furthermore, the Special International Award was presented to Lana Del Rey by Universal Music Publishing Group CEO,Jody Gerson.

Gerson – part of a strong U.S.-based publishing presence that also included Warner Chappell’s co-chairs Guy Moot and Carianne Marshall – called Del Rey “a true original who would be a brilliant artist in any era. She’s iconic, she’s influential, her career transcends genres and her songs and music will stand the test of time. She’s a treasure.”

Gerson stressed the best was yet to come for the influential artist – unless, she said, Del Rey chooses to become “a waitress in a waffle house in Alabama,” a suggestion that saw the star give two thumbs up to the cameras.

When Del Rey took her own moment in the spotlight, she was keen to direct it elsewhere, asking her British managers, Ben Mawson and Ed Millett of Tap Music, to stand and be acknowledged as she showed the crowd the “500 quid” advert they’d taken out for her in the event program. They complied, somewhat sheepishly, before the star went on to recall her time living in London: “I didn’t know anybody and I don’t drink so I had absolutely no friends except for knowing them. But they gave me a career here, which also allowed me to go back home – now I get to go wherever I want, whenever I want”.

Del Rey revealed she’d recently turned down the chance to do a stadium tour after her Coachella triumph.

“After Coachella, everyone kind of treated me like a brand-new artist, like, ‘Oh, she’s back’,” she said. “I said, it’s like being in a new ship but I don’t just want to go forward and do a stadium tour, I want to figure out how to turn it into a glass ship that can fly. And I don’t even know what that means – but I’m going to find out.”

So far, so transatlantically kooky. But there was also plenty of no-nonsense Britishness on display as host Lauren Laverne breezed through proceedings, even taking the Ivors’ own Oscars moment in her stride, when Bat For Lashes, handed the wrong envelope, read out the incorrect winner of the Best Original Film Score award (“Poor Things” was swiftly instated as the rightful victor).

Ivors Academy chairman Tom Gray – now also a prospective Member of Parliament, and one of the few political figures not to drop out of attending the ceremony after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a snap general election the night before – billed the Ivors as “the biggest celebration of songwriting anywhere in the world,” but also warned: “Songwriters should not be taken for granted.”

He was not alone. This season’s serial award winner, Raye, picked up Songwriter of the Year and brought her grandfather – a former aspiring songwriter who, according to Raye, “had a song stolen from him that was huge” – up on stage.

“This is for all the songwriters who never even made it into this room, that just needed a break,” she said, before repeating her call for record labels to give songwriters points on master recordings and travel/food expenses for sessions.

“This is not a joke,” she fumed, as the crowd gave her a standing ovation (and a few major label executives squirmed in their seats). “We are so important. I’m talking about the voiceless beating heart of this industry, which is songwriters. We need to come together.”

Elsewhere, Squeeze songwriter Chris Difford delivered a hilarious speech as he presented KT Tunstall with the Outstanding Song Collection prize.

“KT has recently joined the long list of people who have supported Squeeze and gone on to much better things,” he quipped. “R.E.M., the Police, Bon Jovi, the Jam, Dire Straits and U2 have all supported Squeeze over the years. Today proves that a support slot with Squeeze is the gift that keeps on giving. Unless, of course, you’re A Flock of Seagulls…”

In return, Tunstall announced a new publishing deal with BMG (scooping the official announcement the following day) and recalled her first Ivors win back in 2006 for “Suddenly I See,” when she wrote in her journal: “Oh my God, I won a fucking Ivor. I had no idea that was going to happen and I wore my really crap jeans.” “So I dressed up this time,” she noted.

Veteran pop star Lulu presented Elton John’s long-term writing partner Bernie Taupin with the Outstanding Contribution to British Music award, noting that you can “travel anywhere in the world, turn the radio on and there’s Bernie communicating with us.”

In response, Taupin apologized for the time when he and the then-Reg Dwight were just “jobbing songwriters” and entered a prospective song for the U.K.’s Eurovision Song Contest entry, which Lulu had to sing on TV as part of the selection process (the song wasn’t selected and Lulu eventually became the Contest’s joint winner with a different tune, “Boom Bang-a-Bang”).

“In the interim between that godawful song and today, maybe I did something right in order to win this,” Taupin said.

There were plenty of newer faces too. Skepta picked up the Visionary Award (“I know all the songwriters in the room are feeling like what we do has no value anymore, and technology could just do what we do. But our talent is not something that can be taken away”).

Dave collected the PRS for Music Most Performed Work for his Central Cee collaboration, “Sprinter” (“As a songwriter myself, to see this many people share the same sentiment in one building is amazing to see”).

And last year’s Rising Star winner Victoria Canal returned to win Best Song Musically & Lyrically for “Black Swan” (a song she also performed live at the awards).

It all added up to a vibrant ceremony with notably more international star power than its usually more high-profile recorded music rival, the Brit Awards.

Whether the Ivors can keep it up, now that its top award is, presumably, open to all comers, remains to be seen – and much of the chat at the aftershow centered on how organizers could possibly top this year’s McCartney-Springsteen combination.

But that can wait. This year, there was only one way to end proceedings, as Springsteen grabbed a guitar and a harmonica and wheezed his way through “Thunder Road,” his voice cracking but still energizing a crowd that couldn’t quite believe they had a front row seat for a show you only usually see in stadiums.

And, as everyone dispersed to the parties, Springsteen’s speech still stuck in the memory.

“Once this was only a dream I had, today it’s real,” he said. “I guess London’s finally ready for… cheeseburgers.”

And, as the Ivors head off into a potential bold international future, the only question that remains is: Do you want fries with that?

The full list of the Ivors winners is below:

Academy Fellowship

Bruce Springsteen

Outstanding Song Collection with PRS for Music

KT Tunstall

Outstanding Contribution to British Music

Bernie Taupin

Visionary Award with Amazon Music


Songwriter of the Year with Amazon Music


Special International Award

Lana Del Rey

Best Album

Black Classical Music”

Written by Yussef Dayes, Rocco Palladino and Charlie Stacey

Performed by Yussef Dayes

Music published in the U.K. by YD Music-Kobalt Music Publishing and Sentric Music

Best Contemporary Song

“Geronimo Blues”

Written by Kwake Bass, Peter Bennie, Biscuit, Raven Bush and Kae Tempest

Performed by Speakers Corner Quartet feat. Kae Tempest

Music published in the UK by Warp Publishing and Domino Publishing Company

Best Song Musically and Lyrically

Black Swan”

Written by Victoria Canal, Jonny Lattimer and Eg White

Performed by Victoria Canal

Music published in the UK by Second Songs-Sony Music Publishing, Warner Chappell Music Ltd and Universal Music Publishing

PRS for Music Most Performed Work

Written by Central Cee, Dave, Jo Caleb and Jonny Leslie

Performed by Dave & Central Cee,

Music published in the UK by Sony Music Publishing, Warner Chappell Music Ltd and Kobalt Music Publishing

Rising Star Award with Amazon Music

Master Peace
Best Original Film Score

Poor Things”

Composed by Jerskin Fendrix

Music published in the UK by Sony Music Publishing

Best Original Video Game Score

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor”

Composed by Stephen Barton and Gordy Haab

Music published in the UK by Universal Music Publishing

Best Television Soundtrack

The Following Events are Based on a Pack of Lies

Composed by Arthur Sharpe

Music published in the UK by BDi Music obo Sister Pictures and Rights Worldwide

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