Rock and pop

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Spice Girls: The interview

Paul Taylor
24/ 1/2008

ALL around the perimeter of the M.E.N. Arena are stalls selling gaudy tat - furry stetsons, plastic sceptres and feather boas. Yards away, inside a security compound, a silver-grey Rolls Royce slides into a parking space and a slender figure in expensively-frayed jeans and a blue Confederate-style cap saunters into the arena.

The Spice Girls and all their celeb-tastic entourage - including that man David Beckham - are back in town. It is like a glimmer of the Manchester of the 1990s, when Becks would be spotted daily in a posh car and Posh would be spotted round the shops{hellip}the days before the paparazzi chased Coleen instead.

"I have such fond memories of living in Manchester," says Victoria Beckham. "So I'm really excited to be here, and I've got all three kids with me and David. And some of his friends from the team are here to spice up their lives{hellip}or slice up their wives."

Gales of laughter erupt among the fivesome. It is just minutes before they take the stage and they are plainly having a ball together. But is Girl Power back to stay? That is the burning question as the Spice Girls reach the end of their European tour here in Manchester on Saturday. After the extraordinary success of this tour, will the Spice Girls make new music together?

"This is something we were asked when it came to the time of putting the greatest hits together," says Mel C. "We did work on a couple of new tracks which are on the greatest hits. But this tour was to celebrate all our past successes. We have no intentions to continue as a group. We're big fans of Take That and they are really deserving of all the new success they are having. But we really don't want to follow that path."

Victoria, resplendent in extraordinary gold corsetry and a severe black bob, goes further: "For me personally, I would not want to be in the music industry any more. It's not a very nice industry to be in. What we are doing is fun - on tour, having a laugh with each other with our families around us."

So this, then, is a "proper goodbye" to the fans, the 30-something girls agree. They admit that it was Mel C who took most persuading to join this reunion - she being the one with the most active solo career. Now this leviathan enterprise is on the road, they couldn't be happier. But as Mel C firmly points out: "the whole show is about nostalgia".

The girls are touring with their families. Victoria admits that Brooklyn is "completely obsessed" with Emma Bunton, and even made her a little cup cake. Mel C, the only child-free Spice, "borrows" the other girls' kids.


"We get up on stage and we're like kids again. And then we're backstage feeding babies," says Emma.

Rewind to 1993 and 400 girls answered an ad in the Stage newspaper, asking "RU streetwise, outgoing, ambitious and dedicated". The successful candidates spent eight months in a house in Maidenhead, transforming themselves into all-singing all-dancing combo.

Ditching the band's creator, Chris Herbert, the Spices linked up with Simon Fuller who launched them on an unsuspecting world. It was 1996. Take That had gone their separate ways, the Britpop rivalry of Oasis and Blur was still simmering and these five very different characters with their schoolyard-style nicknames represented something new.

Between July 1996 and the end of the 1990s every Spice Girls single but one, Stop, went to the top of the UK chart. Their debut album Spice sold 1.8m copies in its first two months, making them the fastest-selling British act since the Beatles. And it did something few other British acts had been doing - it sold well in the USA, topping the chart there and in Canada, Brazil and much of Europe.

Following that Beatles template, there was furious merchandising of anything you could put a Spice Girl on, and then there was a movie Spiceworld, mauled by the critics but a box office hit.

When an exhausted Geri abruptly left the sisterhood in May 1998, it warranted the kind of TV news reports usually reserved for resigning Cabinet ministers. In February 2001, the remaining Spice Girls announced they were taking a break. But as every band from Led Zeppelin to Take That staged reunion tours, the return of Spice seemed inevitable. When the tour went on sale, the 30,000 tickets for the first two dates announced in Manchester sold out in 18 minutes.

By this time, life was very different for all the Spice Girls. The solo music careers of Victoria and Mel B fizzled. Both Mel B and Emma, both aged 32, took the reality TV option, the former in USA's Dancing With The Stars and the latter in Strictly Come Dancing. Geri became a UN Goodwill Ambassador, patron of a breast cancer charity, a children's author and an ambassador for the Prince's Trust, favoured charity of the heir, whose bottom she famously pinched at Manchester's Opera House in 1997.


Victoria, aged 33, was the only Spice Girl to be more famous after the split than before. Following husband David from Manchester to Madrid to Los Angeles, she indulged her passion for fashion, a living embodiment of the adage that you can never be too rich or too thin.

Together, they have produced seven children: Victoria has Brooklyn, aged eight, Romeo, aged five, and Cruz, aged three next month; Mel B has Phoenix Chi, almost nine, and nine months old Angel Iris; Geri has Bluebell, aged 19 months, and Emma has five months old son Beau. All this, you suspect, has put the business of pop in perspective.

There won't be time for a big party in Manchester, they say. After Saturday's gig, they head back across the Atlantic to finish their world tour in North America. So do the Spice Girls really think there won't be yet another reunion tour a few years down the line?

"We're taking each day as it comes," says Emma.

Geri adds: "I never thought THIS was going to happen. That just proves that you never know what's around the corner."

*YOU can also listen to audio clips below.

The Spice Girls play the M.E.N. Arena again on Thursday, January 24 and Saturday, January 26. £55, £75. Call the Box Office on 0870 060 1768 or click here  for more information.

Are you going to one of the shows? Why not tell us what you thought by entering our Reviewer of the Month competition.

Related Audio Clips

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alison hartley
24/01/2008 at 22:40
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