Today, November 4, marks 15 years since the Spice Girls first album, Spice, was released. Closing out 1996 with a titanic dose of girl power, the album would go on to sell almost 24 million copies and spawn countless imitators like B*Witched, All Saints, and later on, the Pussycat Dolls.
Obviously to most rock fans, November 4, 1996 is a date which lives in infamy, ushering in a new era of pop dominance at the hands of boy bands, MTV's Total Request Live, and screaming rabid pre-teen girls. The Spice Girls came on the scene armed with hooks, big production, ready-made marketable personalities, big dumb sex, and the blessing of pop impresarios hellbent on world domination.
This is a blog that Rocks Off has been waiting over a decade to write, as the embers of girl power keep reigniting the music world in different ways. Current chart sensation Adele has been a vocal fan of the group, turning ten years old just as the girls were going global and inspiring her to begin a singing career.
After years of music at large being dominated by country, grunge, and hip-hop, something like the Spice Girls was all too fresh. Their hooks on songs like "Wannabe," "Say You'll Be There," and "2 Become 1" proved irresistible to fans, and were the bane of the existence of everyone else.
Rocks Off saw the seeming inanity of the Spice Girls, but could at least respect the craft, and the chicks were hot, and when you are 14 years old that counts for something. OK, that was everything.
The girls, Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell, Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton, Melanie "Scary Spice" Brown, Victoria "Posh Spice" Adams, and Melanie "Sporty Spice" Chisholm, found themselves getting adopted by their female fans as sort of role models for fashion and behavior. Girls latched on to the members that they felt they resembled, which was genius marketing on the part of Spice's handlers.
For Rocks Off, Ginger Spice was just a continuation of a fascination and attraction to redheads that began with Miss Yvonne from Pee Wee's Playhouse, and continues to today with Mad Men's Christina Hendricks. But you all knew that.
If you haven't seen their 1997 film, Spice World, then you are missing out on the real best picture of that movie season. Titanic was funny and all, but Spice World had the Spice Girls in it. The whole thing is on YouTube, so tell your boss that you are under the weather or something and dial it up. Elvis Costello, Meat Loaf, Roger Moore, Elton John, and even Hugh "Crippled Angry Doctor" Laurie all make cameos. Ginger Spice dresses up in all kinds of slutty outfits and the girls cover a Gary Glitter song while bare-assed men dance behind them.
Ginger left the group in the summer of 1998 and soon began a solo career. The group carried on with a world tour, hitting Houston on August 25. We were there a few rows back in the pit with our friend Natalie, who cried with joy for most of the set, while we made do ogling Posh Spice since Ginger was gone. Oh, and we were sophomores in high school if that matters.
So on this 15-year anniversary we dive into a ten little-known facts about the group that you either forgot, try to not remember, or keep hidden in a special box in your brain that gets pulled out when no one is in the car with you or it's girls night out.
The group began life in 1994 as Touch, with the original five answering an ad put up in pubs and dance studios. Emma Bunton replaces Michelle Stephenson who leaves the fold in July 1994.
The video for "Say You'll Be There" was filmed in the Mojave Desert. Each Spice Girl took a pseudonym for the shoot, placing them as some sort of crime fighters. Well, there was leather and dancing, we know that much. There was Katrina Highkick, Trixie Firecracker, Kung Fu Candy, Midnight Miss Suki and Blazin' Bad Zula.
Ginger and Scary caused a ruckus in 1997 when the group finally met the Royal Family Both girls kissed Prince Charles and grabbed his ass, to the fright of the traditional onlookers. The Prince admitted he was a fan at the time. Wow.
Speaking of the high and powerful being touched by the group, when Nelson Mandela met the girls he remarked "These are my heroes. This is one of the greatest moments in my life," much to the chagrin of the world press.
In *Anthony Kiedis' memoir, Scar Tissue, he recounts the time he and the rest of his band dressed as the girls for the 10th birthday party of bassist Flea's daughter Clara. Apparently he made a great Posh. John Frusciante was Druggie Spice.
*There was another RHCP connection to the Spices, as Kiedis ended up dating Mel C for a period in the late '90s. During this time the band covered "Wannabe" live on the regular it seems.
"Wannabe" holds a special place in pop history as it's debut became the highest ever in the Hot 100 chart by a British band, beating the Beatles "I Want To Hold Your Hand". Oddly enough, the girls were getting Beatles comparisons left and right during their reign by a frenzied UK press.
The group's short reunion tour that ran from 2007 to 2008 almost -- almost -- eclipsed the reformation of another UK band, Led Zeppelin, who reunited for just one evening in honor of music business legend Ahmet Ertegun. The closest the Spice tour ever got to Texas looks to be a February 15, 2008 date in Chicago. It ended up grossing upwards of $70 million along it's worldwide jaunt.
Not to bring up Ginger again, but she appeared in the May 1998 issue of Playboy, as the men's magazine acquired some nude shots she lensed in 1992 and 1995 as a struggling model. A month later, more nudie pics showed up in Penthouse magazine as well. Oh, did you want to see some of those? The rest of the girls have been offered money to pose nude. It was Posh Spice, Mrs. David Beckham who was getting hounded the most, her of the bolt-on breast implants.
The groups' second proper album Spiceworld, released on November 3, 1997, was in part the soundtrack to their film of the same name. The album was a hit, but didn't have the dominating power of Spice, which was still selling rather well. The film's UK success helped album sales though across the pond. Here in the States the album largely tanked. The film did well during it's opening weekend in the US, going up against the Super Bowl. It then disappeared quickly into the video and DVD wastelands. Oh but we own a copy, so there's that.
At the height of Spice-Mania, you could purchase an array of Spice-oriented items. There was chocolate bars, potato chips, a Pepsi deal, bubblegum, lollipops, and Domino sugar. On top of the food you could buy dolls (which go for a mint on eBay), a Polaroid camera with their logo on it, assorted shirts, and even a line of young girls hygiene products to make you smell like a Spice Girls. They were a five-girl Hannah Montana for about two years or so.