The Spice Girls Biography

PHOTO: The Spice Girls

The multi-award winning English girl band called The Spice Girls are one of the biggest pop phenomena of all time, whose popularity at the peak of their fame rivalled that of the Beatles during their heyday in the Sixties.

The Spice Girls consister of five singers - Victoria Beckham, Melanie Brown, Emma Bunton, Melanie Chisholm and Geri Halliwell. The group was initially the brainchild of a father and son management duo, Chris and Bob Herbert, who were keen to form a “girl band” that was capable of competing with the “boy bands” - such as Take That, Boyzone and Westlife - who dominated the British pop music scene in the early 1990s.

In February 1994, the Herberts - who, together with financier Chic Murphy - traded under the business name of Heart Management - placed an advert in The Stage magazine, which asked the question, “are you street smart, extrovert, ambitious, and able to sing and dance?” The management team received literally hundreds of replies, but eventually narrowed their search down to a final five girls, which included Geri Halliwell and Melanie Brown, along with three other hopefuls, who were replaced at various stages of the initial training procedure, as the Herberts fine-tuned their line-up. The new girl band was originally called “Touch”. The Herberts moved the girls into a house in Maidenhead, where they all claimed unemployment benefit while they worked on songs for demos, and dance routines for their future stage act. Emma Bunton was the last to join the group, after one of the earlier hopefuls, Michelle Stephenson, dropped out when her mother became ill.

By March 1995, the girls were growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of a solid record deal and they parted company with Heart Management. After searching around for some time for a suitable manager, they eventually teamed up with Simon Fuller of 19 Management. In September 1995, they signed a record deal with Virgin Records. Having changed their name to The Spice Girls along the way, the new girl band finally released their debut single “Wannabe” in the UK in July 1996, amid a flurry of anticipation and hyped-up publicity. The song entered the charts at number 3, before moving up to number One the following week, where it remained for seven weeks running.

Right from the start, The Spice Girls were set on changing the whole concept of pop music as it had existed up to that point. In their first interview with Paul Gorman, a contributing editor for the influential music magazine, Music Week, he was impressed enough to write the following account of their music: “Just when boys with guitars threaten to rule pop life, an all girl, in-yer-face pop group has arrived, with enough sass to burst that rockist cherry!” The song “Wannabe” soon became a global hit, and went on to make number One of no less than an astonishing 31 countries, thus becoming the biggest selling debut single by an all-female group of all time.

The massively successful “Wannabe” also helped the girls to break into the American pop market, (no easy thing for a British band to do) and it arrived on the Hot 100 charts at the very respectable position of no. 11. At the time, this was the highest level that any British record had ever debuted at, even breaking the previous record held by the Beatles for “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. The Spice Girls went on to take America by storm, and reached the prized Number One spot just four weeks later.

Right from the word go, the Spice Girls style, image and brash stage persona set them apart from any other group that had ever appeared on the pop scene: their motto was “Girl Power” , and they reminded the record-buying public of it constantly! It was reportedly Geri Halliwell who’d originally coined the phrase, but it stuck fast and became one of the Spice Girls’ main trademarks. Early on, they’d also each acquired nicknames, which were originally derived from their debut single and accompanying video. These also helped to define their individual styles and stage personality: fluffy-looking Emma Bunton was known as Baby Spice, whereas the forthright, bold Geri Halliwell soon became known as Sexy, but this was quickly changed to Ginger; Melanie Chisholm was known as Sporty Spice, thanks to her sporty attire, and her namesake, Mel B, became known as Scary Spice, with her bold hairstyles and general “attitude; finally, Victoria Adams, who came across as the most ladylike members of the quintet, was known as Posh Spice.

In November 1996, the group released their debut album, Spice, in Europe. Like the Spice Girls’ debut single, the album was phenomenally successful, and sold 1.8 million copies within less than two months. This made the girls the fastest selling British group since The Beatles. In Europe, the album achieved platinum status eight times over, and in America, the album Spice became the highest-selling album of 1997, earning seven platinum records. With their star firmly in the ascendant, the group released their next two singles, “Say You’ll Be There” and “2 Become 1”, over the next couple of months. These two tracks from the album reinforced the group’s global success, topping the charts in more than 53 countries, and helping to establish The Spice Girls as the most successful group in the world.

In November 1997, the group released their second album, which was called Spiceworld. To prepare the ground for the album, one of the tracks, entitled Spice Up Your Life, was pre-released - and true to form, the album became a global number One virtually overnight. Spiceworld broke all previous records, becoming the fastest-selling album when seven million copies were sold in just two weeks. The album subsequently sold over 10 million copies in Europe. But then things began to turn a little bit sour, as the dream began to fade, and a media backlash began to unfold. In America, the girls were criticised for bringing out a second album just nine months after their US debut. At home in the UK they were accused of over-exposure and of signing too many sponsorship deals with big businesses.

Undeterred, the girls planned their movie debut. Filming on Spiceworld: The Movie, began in June 1997, under the directorial eye of Bob Spiers, of Absolutely Fabulous fame. The frothy comedy also featured a host of other stars as well as the Spice Girls, including Elton John, Roger Moore, Richard E.Grant and Jennifer Saunders. The film was released in December 1997, and was a huge hit financially, netting over $100 million at the box office: but critically, it was panned, and was nominated for no less than seven awards at the 1999 Golden Raspberry Awards, where the girls collectively won the award for “Worst Actress”.

Just prior to the release of the movie, the girls fired their manager Simon Fuller, on the grounds that he had become too controlling and was seeking to overly restrict their personal and artistic freedom. The girls later built their own team, headed up by Nancy Phillips, to manage their affairs. In early 1998, the Spice Girls embarked on a world tour that had been planned by Simon Fuller. The tour began in Dublin, before moving on to cover Europe and returning later to perform 14 gigs at Wembley Arena and Birmingham NEC. Plans were made for a live album but this project never saw the light of day.

The Spice Girls received a major blow in May 1998, when Geri Halliwell announced that she was leaving the band; effectively, this marked the “beginning of the end” of the group. In a public statement, Geri stated: “Sadly, I would like to confirm that I have left the Spice Girls. This is because of differences between us. I’m sure the group will continue to be successful, and I wish them all the best”. Geri also claimed that she was suffering from exhaustion and wanted to take some time out from recording and touring.

At the end of 1999, the group performed for a UK-only Christmas tour, called Christmas in Spiceworld, in London and Manchester; they also appeared at the 2000 Brit Awards, to announce that they’d received the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award - but despite the fact that Geri also attended the awards ceremony, she did not join her former group on stage. In February 2001, the group announced that they were taking a break and would be concentrating on their solo careers for the foreseeable future - but they reminded their public that the band was not splitting up.

True to their word, the girls – including Geri - reunited for a major world tour beginning in 2007, which they announced at a press conference at the 02 Arena in London at the end of June 2007. A documentary was made by film-maker Bob Smeaton to mark the reunion, called Spice Girls: Giving You Everything, which was aired in the UK in December that year.

The Spice Girls Return Tour was called “The Return of The Spice Girls” and when tickets for the first round of concerts went on sale in London, they sold out in just 38 seconds. Additional dates were added in London, as well as in America. These too sold out straightaway. The group’s comeback single, “Headlines (Friendship Never Ends) was used as the official Children in Need single for 2007 and was released on 5 November. The girls also used the tour as a platform to release their new “Greatest Hits” album, which reached No. 2 on the UK album chart. On 1 February 2008, the girls announced that they were cutting short their world tour “due to personal and family commitments”, and the tour ended in Toronto on 26 February 2008, meaning that concert dates in Beijing, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Sydney and Cape Town were put on hold . A further statement from the girls said: “Really sorry if we didn’t get to see you this time round. We all have other commitments in our lives now, but who knows what will happen next?”

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