“R U 18-23 with the ability to sing/dance? R U streetwise, ambitious, outgoing and dedicated?” – 1994 advertisement in England
“Girl Power!” – Spice Girls slogan
Is it too far fetched to say that the Spice Girls at their peak in the mid to late 1990s rivaled – if not surpassed – the popularity of the Beatles at their heights? Could one mutter Scary, Ginger, Posh, Baby and Sporty in the same breath as John, Paul, George and Ringo? Of course not. Let’s not even try. But for a time around 1997, thanks to the media hype, their own personalities and unique appearance, and that all the girls you knew were always talking about them, it was impossible to avoid their presence. Reaching a plateau with “Spice World,” their motion picture released in the United States in 1998, the singing group enjoyed a couple more years as Britain’s top Fab Five before their unofficial dissolution in 2001. And yet, sure enough, they’re back making “Headlines” – even bringing along flamboyant entrepreneur/manager Simon Fuller back for another ride. Friendship indeed never ends.
But it did begin somewhere, in South East England in 1994 when Bob Herbert and son Chris of Heart Management hatched a scheme to create, promote, and tout an all-woman group to contend with the heartthrob boy bands that were chewing up the Billboard charts, wooing the female fan base, and all around dominating the pop scene. Briefly named “Touch,” this eclectic union consisted of five young Brit ladies no older than 22 at the time of their discovery. By name they were Victoria Adams: by all accounts the once and future Posh Spice who would later come under the charm and spell of David Beckham; Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell, the former nude model and dancer, and the first to leave the group; Melanie Brown, commonly known as Mel B and Scary Spice, and future lover of Eddie Murphy; Melanie “Sporty Spice” Chisholm, co-writer of eleven UK number-one singles; and Michelle Stephenson, a member for six months before being replaced by Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton, the group’s Lolita.
Long hours of practice spent honing their singing and dancing skills, prepping for their pending explosion onto the pop scene paid off when the group revealed a bit of what they had been fashioning at a showcase in December 1994. Buzz began billowing around Britain. Three months later, the group split from Bob Herbert and Heart Management and were introduced by a Byzantine network to mogul and future “Idol” founder and destroyer of dreams Simon Fuller of 19 Management. Six months later, with Fuller in the shadows nodding approvingly, the group signed a deal with Virgin Records. This was September 1995. The catapult had been put in motion.
“Wannabe” was the world’s introduction to the Spice Girls, their debut single released amid the hot and humid summer of Atlanta Olympic love, 1996. The press instantly recognized their marketability and pop icon potential. While a smash in their homeland, the real test was abroad, in America. Crossing not only their fingers but Simon Fuller’s as well, it turned out “Wannabe” debuted at Number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. It would eventually reach Number One. And so it had begun. Spice was released in the fall of 1996 that combined with an intense marketing blitz and spurred on by the attractiveness of the group (and Ginger’s Union Jack dress), Spicemania was propelled into the mainstream culture like the Spruce Goose coasting along the waters of the Pacific – and Simon Fuller as their Howard Hughes.
In America, Spice was number one – and there was no boy band around who carried as much clout (or was any bit good looking as Posh Spice). A couple more singles released later in 1996 were mere laurels atop their crowns. They were queens of pop, some would say queens of the planet, cascading on the two hemispheres with adoring fans at their feet, millions of voices chanting “Girl Power” so much and so loud it would land on “Trivial Pursuit” as the mantra of the 90s. They felt like they could do anything, that they owned the world. Indeed, their second album Spiceworld debuted in November 1997, a year after the release of the first album.
With songs like “Spice Up Your Life” and “Viva Forever,” the group continued to make headlines as well as some criticism for overexposure. How much spice could the world take? In the same month as their premier of the second album, the group handed chieftain Simon Fuller his walking papers. And a month later, in December 1997, under the guided direction of Bob Spiers, “Spice World” the motion picture had its world premiere. Though it was a box office success, Roger Ebert awarded it half a star and made the infamous comment in his review that the Spice Girls “could be duplicated by any five women under the age of 30 standing in line at Dunkin' Donuts.”
Maybe, maybe not. Still, dissension was in the ranks. Not long after Simon Fuller’s humiliating exit, Geri Halliwell said goodbye. The group was in disarray, as personal lives became more important than spreading girl power. David Beckham’s presence was rocking Posh’s world, and the two eventually married in 1999. In November 2000, three years following Spiceworld, Forever was released to a lukewarm audience. A new millennium had arrived and it seemed fans had other things on their mind. The United States was knee deep in an election controversy, and Tony Blair was raising his game in British politics. Musically, there were new acts. The remaining Spice Girls found nothing lasts forever. In February 2001, they decided to follow their solo careers.
Six years later, they came back, sporting maturity, husbands and children, and an eagerness not to reclaim the entire world, but at least their own Babylon. And in those six years, it was headmaster Simon Fuller who had risen to international stardom with his creation of the “Idol” franchise. The Spice Girls signed with 19 Management in June 2007, prepped a Greatest Hits album for November 2007 – more than 10 years following their debut album – and masterminded a December 2007 tour. The Second Coming is in full force.
Spice Girls on the Web
Link to “Spice World,” the 1998 movie containing individual links.
TV Guide: Spice Girls
Photos, bio and news on the Spice Girls.
Absolutely epic biography tracing the rise of the Spice Girls on.
Up to date details of all the latest news.
Extensive, meticulous daily database of newsworthy items.
Greatest Hits Official Site
The official page for the 2007 “Greatest Hits” album.
Official YouTube Page
Official page with music videos including the new single “Headlines.”
Spice Girls Fan Site
Long-standing fan site that covers all the bases.
Spice Girls Fanatic.org
Current fan site focusing on the new single “Headlines.”
Yahoo! Music Interviews Links
Links to a couple interviews during their 1998 explosion.
Spice Girls on the Screen & Radio
The Spice Girls like November. Spice was the Spice Girls’ premiere album in November 1996, becoming the number one selling album in the United States. Spiceworld followed a year later, but wasn’t quite as successful as their debut album. The group faced threats of over-exposure and fan exhaustion. Their movie “Spiceworld” premiered in Britain in December 1997, grossing about 30 million in the United States. The November 2000 release of Forever failed to reclaim the attention of the earlier records and the group closed shop in February 2001. The Greatest Hits record debuted November 12, 2007.
Spice Girls Say
Gerri Halliwell on her music:
“If you want to know Geri Halliwell listen to my album: it tells you more about me than a documentary ever could.”
Melanie Brown on life principles:
“I live my life on self-belief and I live it partly on going with the flow.”
Victoria Beckham on her domestic life:
“I want a big house with a moat and dragons and a fort to keep people out!”
Emma Bunton on hoops:
“I'm not a big sports fan, but I love it when they slam dunk. That's sexy.”
Melanie Chisholm on humans:
“Everybody in life is a chameleon.”