1994–96: Formation and early years
"WANTED: R.U. 18–23 with the ability to sing/dance? R.U. streetwise, outgoing, ambitious, and dedicated? Heart Management Ltd. are a widely successful music industry management consortium currently forming a choreographed, singing/dancing, all-female pop act for a recording deal. Open audition. Danceworks, 16 Balderton Street. Friday 4th March. 11.00am - 5.30pm. Please bring sheet music or backing cassette".
– Advertisement placed in The Stage
In the mid-1990s, family management team Bob and Chris Herbert of Heart Management decided to create a girl group to compete with popular boy bands, such as Take That and East 17, which dominated the pop music scene at the time. In February 1994, together with financier Chic Murphy, they placed an advertisement in the trade magazine The Stage asking for singers to audition for an all-female pop band at Danceworks studios. Approximately 400 women attended the audition, during which they were placed in groups of 10 and danced a routine to "Stay" by Eternal, followed by solo auditions in which they were asked to perform songs of their own choosing. After several weeks of deliberation, Victoria Adams, Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm and Michelle Stephenson were among 12 women chosen to a second round of auditions in April; Geri Halliwell also attended the second audition, despite missing the first.
A week after the second audition, the women were asked to attend a recall at Nomis Studios in Shepherds Bush, performing "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" on their own and in a group. During the session, Adams, Brown, Chisholm, Halliwell and Stephenson were selected for a band initially named "Touch". The group moved to a house in Maidenhead, Berkshire, and spent most of 1994 practising. During the first two months, they worked on demos at South Hill Park Recording Studios in Bracknell with producer/studio owner Michael Sparkes and songwriter/arranger Tim Hawes. According to Stephenson, the material the group was given was "very, very young pop";:29 one of the songs they recorded, "Sugar and Spice", would be the source of their final band name. They also worked on various dance routines at the Trinity Studios in Knaphill, near Woking, Surrey. A few months into the training period, Stephenson was fired from the group and replaced with Emma Bunton. It was also during this time that Halliwell came up with the band name Spice.
The group felt insecure about the lack of a contract and was frustrated by the direction in which Heart Management was steering them. In October 1994, armed with a catalogue of demos and dance routines, they began touring management agencies. They persuaded Bob Herbert to set up a showcase performance for the group in front of industry writers, producers and A&R men in December 1994 at the Nomis Studios, where they received an "overwhelmingly positive" reaction.:33 Due to the large interest in the group, the Herberts quickly set about creating a binding contract for them. Encouraged by the reaction they had received at the Nomis showcase, all five members delayed signing contracts on legal advice from, among others, Adams's father.
In March 1995, the group parted from Heart Management due to their frustration with the company's unwillingness to listen to their visions and ideas. To ensure they kept control of their own work, they allegedly stole the master recordings of their discography from the management offices. That same day, the group tracked down Sheffield-based producer Eliot Kennedy, who had been present at the showcase, and persuaded him to work with them. They were introduced to record producers Absolute, who in turn brought them to the attention of Simon Fuller of 19 Entertainment, who signed them to his company in March 1995. During the summer of that year, the group toured record labels in London and Los Angeles with Fuller, signing a deal with Virgin Records in September 1995. Their name was changed to Spice Girls, as a rapper was already using the name "Spice". From this point on until the summer of 1996, the group continued to write and record tracks for their debut album while extensively touring the west coast of the United States, where they signed a publishing deal with Windswept Pacific.
1996–97: Spice and breakthrough
The group performing "Say You'll be There" at the McLaren
party in 1997.
On 7 July 1996, the Spice Girls released their debut single "Wannabe" in the United Kingdom. In the weeks leading up to the release, the video for "Wannabe" (directed by Swedish commercials director Johan Camitz and shot in April at the Midland Grand Hotel in London), got a trial airing on music channel The Box. The video was an instant hit, and was aired up to seventy times a week at its peak. After the video was released, the Spice Girls had their first live TV slot on broadcast on LWT's Surprise Surprise. The first music press interview appears in Music Week. In July 1996, the group conducted their first interview with Paul Gorman, the contributing editor of music paper Music Week, at Virgin Records' Paris headquarters. His piece recognised that the Spice Girls were about to institute a change in the charts away from Britpop and towards out-and-out pop. He wrote: "JUST WHEN BOYS with guitars threaten to rule pop life – Damon's all over Smash Hits, Ash are big in Big! and Liam can't move for tabloid frenzy – an all-girl, in-yer-face pop group have arrived with enough sass to burst that rockist bubble." The song entered the charts at number three before moving up to number one the following week and staying there for seven weeks. The song proved to be a global hit, hitting number one in 37 countries and becoming not only the biggest selling debut single by an all-female group but also the biggest-selling single by an all-female group of all time.
Riding a wave of publicity and hype, the group released their next singles in the UK and Europe; in October "Say You'll Be There" was released topping the charts at number one for two weeks. In December "2 Become 1" was released, becoming their first Christmas number-one and selling 462,000 copies in its first week, making it the fastest selling single of the year. The two tracks continued the group's remarkable sales, giving them three of the top five biggest selling songs of 1996 in the UK. In November 1996, the Spice Girls released their debut album Spice in Europe. The success was unprecedented and drew comparisons to Beatlemania, leading the press to dub it "Spice mania" and the group the "Fab Five". In seven weeks Spice had sold 1.8 million copies in Britain alone, making the Spice Girls the fastest selling British act since the Beatles. In total, the album sold over 3 million copies in Britain, the biggest-selling album of all time in the UK by a female group, certified 10× Platinum, and peaked at number one for fifteen non-consecutive weeks. In Europe the album became the biggest-selling album of 1997 and was certified 8× Platinum by the IFPI for sales in excess of 8 million copies.
Spice Girls debut single "Wannabe" is one of the best selling singles of all time, topping the charts in 37 countries and selling over 6 million copies Worldwide.
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That same month the Spice Girls attracted a crowd of 500,000 when they switched on the Christmas lights in Oxford Street, London. At the same time, Simon Fuller started to set up million pound sponsorship deals for the Spice Girls with Pepsi, Walkers, Impulse, Cadbury's and Polaroid. In December 1996, the group won three trophies at the Smash Hits awards at the London Arena, including best video for "Say You'll Be There". In January 1997, the group released "Wannabe" in the United States. The single, written by the Spice Girls, Richard Stannard, and Matt Rowe also proved to be a catalyst in helping the Spice Girls break into the notoriously difficult US market when it debuted on the Hot 100 Chart at number eleven. At the time, this was the highest-ever debut by a non-American act, beating the previous record held by the Beatles for "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and the joint highest entry for a debut act beating Alanis Morissette with "Ironic". "Wannabe" reached number one in the US for four weeks. In February 1997, Spice was released in the US, and became the biggest-selling album of 1997 in the US, peaking at number one, and was certified 7× Platinum by the RIAA for sales in excess of 7.4 million
copies. The album is also included in the Top 100 Albums of All Time list of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) based on US sales. In total, the album sold over 28 million copies worldwide becoming the biggest-selling album of all-time by an all-female group.
Later that month, the Spice Girls won two Brit Awards for Best British Video, "Say You'll Be There" and Best British Single for "Wannabe". The group performed "Who Do You Think You Are" to open the 1997 Brit Awards, with Geri Halliwell wearing a Union Jack mini-dress that became one of pop history's most famed outfits. In March 1997, a double A-side of "Mama"/"Who Do You Think You Are" was released in Europe, the last from Spice, which once again saw them at number one, making the Spice Girls the first group in history since the Jackson 5 to have four consecutive number one hits. Girl Power!, The Spice Girls' first book and manifesto was launched later that month at the Virgin Megastore. It sold out its initial print run of 200,000 copies within a day, and was eventually translated into more than 20 languages. In April, Spice—the Official Video—Vol. 1 was released; it sold 500,000 copies in the UK between April and June to become the best-selling pop video ever.:102–103 In May, Spice World was announced by the Spice Girls at the Cannes Film Festival. The group also performed their first live British show, for the Royalty of Great Britain. At the show, they breached royal protocol when Mel B and then Geri Halliwell planted kisses on Prince Charles' cheeks and pinched his bottom, causing controversy. At the Ivor Novello Awards, the group won International Hit of the Year and Best-Selling British Single awards for "Wannabe". In June 1997, Spice World began filming and wrapped in August. In September, the Spice Girls performed "Say You'll Be There" at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and won Best Dance Video for "Wannabe". At the 1997 Billboard Music Awards the group won four awards; New Artist of the Year, Hot 100 Singles Group of the Year, Album Group of the Year, and Album of the Year for Spice.
1997–98: Groundbreaking success, Spiceworld and Halliwell's departure
In October 1997, the Spice Girls released the first single from Spiceworld, "Spice Up Your Life". It entered the UK Albums Chart at number one on 19 October 1997, making it the group's fifth consecutive number one hit single. That same month, Simon Fuller took the Spice Girls east to perform their first live major concert to 40,000 fans in Istanbul, Turkey. Later, the group launched The Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal, then travelled to South Africa to meet Nelson Mandela, who announced, "These are my heroes." This was the year when the Spice Girls reached the height of their career. In November, the Spice Girls released their second album, Spiceworld. The album was a global best seller. It set a new record for the fastest-selling album when it shipped seven million copies over the course of two weeks. Gaining favourable reviews, the album went on to sell over 10 million copies in Europe, Canada, and the United States combined, and 20 million copies worldwide. Criticised in the United-States for releasing the album just nine months after their debut there, which gave the group two simultaneous Top 10 albums in the Billboard album charts, and suffering from over-exposure at home, the Spice Girls began to experience a media backlash. The group was criticised for the number of sponsorship deals signed—over twenty in total—and they began to witness diminishing international chart positions. Nevertheless, the Spice Girls remained the biggest-selling pop group of both 1997 and 1998.
On 7 November 1997, the group performed "Spice Up Your Life" in the 1997 MTV Europe Music Awards. After this performance, the Spice Girls made the decision to take over the running of the group themselves, and fired their manager Simon Fuller. The firing was front-page news around the world. Many commentators speculated that Fuller had been the true mastermind behind the group, and that this was the moment when the band lost their impetus and direction. Later that month, the Spice Girls became the first pop group to host ITV's An Audience with...; their show was watched by 11.8 million viewers in the UK, one fifth of the population.:148 In December 1997, the second single from Spiceworld, "Too Much", was released, becoming the group's second Christmas number-one and their sixth consecutive number-one single in the UK. The group ended 1997 as the year's most played artist on American radio. At the 1998 American Music Awards on 26 January, the Spice Girls won the awards for Favorite Pop Album, Favorite New Artist, and Favorite Pop Group. In February 1998, they won a special award for overseas success at the 1998 Brit Awards, with combined sales of albums and singles for over of 45 million records worldwide. That night, the group performed their next single, "Stop", their first track not to reach number one in Britain (it entered at number two).
"Spice Up Your Life" became the group's fifth consecutive chart-topper, which made them the first act to have its first five singles reach number one in the UK.
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In early 1998, the Spice Girls embarked on the Spiceworld world tour that Fuller had set up for them covering Europe and North America, starting in Dublin, Ireland on 24 February 1998 before moving to mainland Europe, and then returning to Britain for two gigs at Wembley Arena and twelve gigs at Birmingham's NEC Arena. Recordings were made for a planned live album, but the idea was dropped after Halliwell's later departure. Later that year, the Spice Girls were invited to sing on the official England World Cup song "How Does It Feel (To Be on Top of the World)", the last song recorded with Halliwell until 2007. It was derided by England football fans in favour of a re-release of the Lightning Seeds anthem "Three Lions", which beat it to number one on the singles chart.
On 31 May 1998, Halliwell announced her departure from the Spice Girls. Through her solicitor she 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." Halliwell claimed that she was suffering from exhaustion and wanted to take a break. Rumours of a power struggle with Brown as the reason for her departure were circulated by the press. Halliwell's departure from the group shocked fans and became one of the biggest entertainment news stories of the year, making news headlines the world over. Halliwell went on to launch an initially successful solo career.
The four remaining members were adamant that the group would carry on and that their approaching North American tour would continue as normal. However, Halliwell's departure threw most of the group's plans into disarray. It also meant that most of the material the group had recorded throughout the first half of 1998 at Dublin's Windmill Lane Studios with longtime collaborators Richard Stannard and Matt Rowe was scrapped. A rumoured animated venture by Disney also failed to materialise.
Halliwell's departure was the subject of a lawsuit by Aprilia World Service B.V. (AWS), a manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters. On 9 March 1998, Halliwell informed the other members of the group of her intention to withdraw from the group, yet the girls signed an agreement with AWS on 24 March and again on 30 April and participated in a commercial photo shoot on 4 May in Milan, eventually concluding a contract with AWS on 6 May 1998. The Court of Appeal of England and Wales held that their conduct constituted a misrepresentation by giving the impression that Halliwell intended to remain part of the group in the foreseeable future, allowing AWS to rescind their contract with the Spice Girls. This is now the leading case in English law on misrepresentation by conduct.
"Viva Forever" was the last single released from Spiceworld. The video for the single was made before Halliwell's departure and features the girls in stop-motion animated form, as there was no time to produce a video due to the world tour schedule. Originally planned as a double A-side with "Never Give Up on the Good Times", the idea was mainly as there was no time to re-record and edit out Halliwell's vocals or make a video for the track. The North American tour began in West Palm Beach on 15 June, and grossed $60 million over 40 sold-out performances.
1998–2000: Forever and hiatus
The Spice Girls as a four-piece performing "Holler" in Cologne
, Germany at the Return of the Spice Girls tour.
While on tour in the United-States, the group continued to record new material and released a new song, "Goodbye", before Christmas in 1998. The song was seen as a tribute to Geri Halliwell, and when it topped the UK Singles Chart it became their third consecutive Christmas number-one – equalling the record previously set by the Beatles. Later in 1998, Bunton and Chisholm appeared at the 1998 MTV Europe Music Awards without their other band members, and the group won two awards: "Best Pop Act" and "Best Group" for a second time. In late 1998, Brown and Adams announced they were both pregnant; Brown was married to dancer Jimmy Gulzer and became known as Mel G for a brief period. She gave birth to daughter Phoenix Chi in February 1999. One month later, Adams gave birth to son Brooklyn, whose father was then Manchester United footballer David Beckham. Later that year, she married Beckham in a highly publicised wedding in Ireland.
The Spice Girls returned to the studio in August 1999, after an eight-month recording break to start work on their third and last studio album. The album's sound was initially more pop-influenced, similar to their first two albums, and included production from Eliot Kennedy. The album's sound took a mature direction when American producers like Rodney Jerkins, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis came on to collaborate with the group. In December 1999 they performed live for a UK-only tour, Christmas in Spiceworld, in London and Manchester, also showcasing new songs from the third album. During 1999, the group recorded the character Amneris' song "My Strongest Suit" in Elton John's and Tim Rice's Aida, a concept album which would later go on to fuel the musical version of Verdi's Aida. The band performed again at the 2000 Brit Awards, where they received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Despite being at the event, Halliwell did not join her former bandmates on stage. In November 2000, the group released Forever. Sporting a new edgier R&B sound, the album received a lukewarm response from critics.
In the US, the album peaked at number thirty-nine on the Billboard 200 albums chart. In the UK, the album was released the same week as Westlife's Coast to Coast album and the chart battle was widely reported by the media, where Westlife won the battle reaching number one in the UK, leaving the Spice Girls at number two. The lead single from Forever, the double A-side "Holler"/"Let Love Lead the Way", became the group's ninth number one single in the UK. However the song failed to break onto the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart stateside, instead peaking at number seven on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles. "Holler" did peak at number thirty-one on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in 2000. The only major performance of the lead single came at the MTV Europe Music Awards on 16 November 2000. In total, Forever achieved only a fraction of the success of its two best-selling predecessors, selling five million copies. The group did not heavily promote Forever as much as their previous albums, and the promotional campaign was ceased in December of 2000. Emma Bunton officially stated that
- "the record seems to have come to a natural end. I want to concentrate on solo projects and there is no time to release a single now. All our individual projects are scheduled and we wouldn't have time for any promotion."
In December 2000, the group unofficially announced that they were beginning an indefinite hiatus and would be concentrating on their solo careers in regards to their foreseeable future, although they pointed out that the group was not splitting.
2007–08: Return of the Spice Girls and Greatest Hits
The Spice Girls performing "Spice Up Your Life" as the opening number of their Return of the Spice Girls tour, at the Air Canada Centre, in Toronto.
On 28 June 2007, the group held a press conference at The O2 Arena revealing their intention to reunite. The plan to re-form had long been speculated by the media, but the group finally confirmed their intention to embark upon a worldwide concert tour, starting in Vancouver on 2 December 2007. Filmmaker Bob Smeaton directed an official documentary on the reunion. It was entitled Spice Girls: Giving You Everything and was first aired on Australia's Fox8 on 16 December 2007, followed by BBC One in the UK, on 31 December. Ticket sales for the first London date of "The Return of the Spice Girls" World Tour sold out in 38 seconds. It was reported that over one million people signed up in the UK alone and over five million worldwide for the ticket ballot on the band's official website. Sixteen additional dates in London were added, all selling out within one minute. In the United States, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Jose shows also sold out, prompting additional dates to be added. It was announced that the
Spice Girls would be playing dates in Chicago and Detroit (Auburn Hills) and Boston, as well as additional dates in New York to keep up with the demand. On the first concert in Canada, they performed to an audience of 15,000 people, singing twenty songs and changing a total of eight times. Along with the tour sellout, the Spice Girls licensed their name and image to Tesco's UK supermarket chain.
The group's comeback single, "Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)", was announced as the official Children in Need charity single for 2007 and was released 5 November. The first public appearance on stage by the Spice Girls occurred at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, where the group performed at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. They performed two songs, 1998 single "Stop" and the lead single from their greatest hits album, "Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)". The show was filmed by CBS on 15 November 2007 for broadcast on 4 December 2007. They also performed both songs live for the BBC Children in Need telethon on 16 November 2007 from Los Angeles. The release of "Headlines (Friendship Never Ends" peaked at number eleven on the UK Singles Chart, making it the group's lowest charting British single to date. While the album peaked at number two on the UK Albums Chart. On 1 February 2008, it was announced that due to personal and family commitments their tour would come to an end in Toronto on 26 February 2008, meaning that tour dates in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, Cape Town and Buenos Aires were cancelled. Overall, the tour produced some $107.2 million in ticket sales and merchandising, with sponsorship and ad deals bringing the total to $200 million. In March 2008, the group won the coveted "Icon Awards" at the 95.8 Capital Awards; Bunton and Chisholm collected the award. In June, they captured the Glamour Award for the Best Band; Bunton, Brown and Halliwell received the award at the event. In September, the Spice Girls won the "Best Live Return Award" at the 2008 Live Vodafone Music Awards, beating acts such as Led Zeppelin and the Sex Pistols. Bunton was there to collect the award.
2010–12: Viva Forever musical and London Olympics
The Spice Girls at the Viva Forever!
premiere night, 2012.
In 2010, the group was nominated for a Brit Award in the new category, "Best Performance of the 30th Year" for their 1997 Brit Awards performance of their songs, "Wannabe" and "Who Do You Think You Are". The group later won the award which was received by Halliwell and Brown. The group along with Simon Fuller also teamed with Judy Craymer and Jennifer Saunders to develop a Spice Girls musical, Viva Forever!. Although the group were not in the musical, they influenced the show's cast and production choices in a story which uses the music, similar to ABBA's music in Mamma Mia!.
Two years later, in June 2012, the group reunited for the first time in four years for the press conference in London to promote the launch of Viva Forever!. The press conference was held at St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, the location where the group filmed the music video for "Wannabe", sixteen years earlier, to the day.:75 In August 2012, after much speculation and anticipation from the press and the public, the group performed a medley of "Wannabe" and "Spice Up Your Life" at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony, reuniting solely for the event. Their performance received great response from critics and audiences and became the most tweeted moment of the entire Olympics with over 116,000 tweets on per minute. In December 2012, the group reunited once again for the premiere of Viva Forever! at the West End's Piccadilly Theatre. In addition to the promotion of the musical, the group appeared in the documentary, Spice Girls' Story: Viva Forever! which aired on 24 December 2012 on ITV1.
2016–present: Second reunion plans
On 8 July 2016, Brown, Bunton, and Halliwell unveiled a new website under the name "The Spice Girls - GEM", released a short video celebrating the 20th anniversary of their first single "Wannabe", and teased upcoming news from them as a three piece. Brown later clarified that "GEM" was not a new name for the three-piece, saying "GEM is the name of our website - we’re always going to be Spice Girls. I think people are getting it a bit confused with GEM." Chisholm announced that she opted not to take part in a reunion project. Brown reaffirmed Chisholm's position in an interview saying, "Victoria's busy [...] Mel C's doing her own album" and noted that both Beckham and Chisholm gave the three-piece their blessing to continue with the project. On 23 November 2016, a new song, "Song for Her", was leaked online. Following Halliwell's announcement of her pregnancy, the project was canceled. In July 2018, Brown announced the reunion of the band. The band will reunite for an UK tour without Beckham, who declined to join due to other commitments.