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PANORAMA: 1997

Adding A Touch of Spice to Girl Power
by Moira Whittle

THEY came from out of the blue and have stormed their way to amazing record sales the world over. Now they have released their second album, and furthered the pop phenomenon that is The Spice Girls.

The feisty five, as they are often called, have produced a fanatical hysteria which rivals only that for the fab four, The Beatles, thirty years ago.

The all-girl band's record sales for their first album, Spice, has already exceeded 17 million and they have five United Kingdom chart number ones under their belt. They have topped the charts in many other countries too, most notably in the United States which is renowned as a difficult market to crack.

They burst on to the pop scene only just over a year ago and already they are listed among the world's most highly-paid performers. They have earned an estimated 30 million pounds sterling this year and could have a turnover of more than 300 million pounds sterling by the year 2,000.

Their book - Girl Power - has sold 250,000 copies in the UK and has been translated into 20 languages, the group has won several music prizes, they endorse or promote a large number of products, and a film is due to be released after Christmas. Yet the band has only just performed its first live concert.

For the Spice Girls are a creation, a commercial venture, a composite pop plan. It began when two pop managers from Surrey, in southern England, father and son Bob and Chris Herbert decided they wanted to create a successful all-girl band which was not threatening to girls.

After placing an advertisement in The Stage, the newspaper for the entertainments business, auditions were held at a central London studio in March 1994. Five girls were chosen and the group, originally called Touch, were given dancing and singing tuition.

One girl was replaced because her character did not fit, and their new manager Simon Fuller - who also looks after international singer Annie Lennox - clinched a record deal with Virgin Records, the EMI subsidiary, in July 1995.

Since then the Girls have been working flat out. They are:

:: Sporty Spice, born 12/1/74. Otherwise known as Mel C. Melanie Chisolm from Merseyside, north-west England, was a session singer, ballet dancer and chorus girl

:: Ginger Spice born 6/8/72. Geri Halliwell comes from Watford, on the northern edge of London, and has been a club dancer, glamour model and game show hostess

:: Scary Spice or Mel B born 29/5/75. Melanie Brown comes from Barrowford, near Burnley, Lancashire, northern England. She is a former shop assistant, and tele-saleswoman

:: Baby Spice born 21/1/76. Her real name is Emma Bunton. The former child actress comes from Barnet, Hertfordshire, south-eastern England.

:: Posh Spice born 17/4/74. Victoria Adams comes from Goff's Oak, Hertfordshire, south-eastern England, and is the girlfriend of Manchester United midfielder David Beckham

It is claimed the girls, who have a strong rapport among themselves, were insistent their first single should be Wannabe. And it has become a kind of anthem for their "philosophy" of Girl Power. The lyrics of the song - "tell me what you want, what you really, really want" - have become common currency. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kenneth Clarke, even referred to them in a formal speech. And the ability to name all the Spice Girls has become a general knowledge test.

They have surprised with their success, despite having been promoted internationally from the outset, and they continue in the ascendant.

"Almost everything predicted for the Spice Girls has ended up having to be multiplied by 10," said Robert Sandall, a spokesman for Virgin Records.

But the girls themselves take their global triumphs in their stride.

"It was what we set out to achieve - world domination. We wrote it down right at the start. And we borrowed Winston Churchill's victory sign for the Girl Power sign," said Geri.

There was talk, because of the lack of concerts, about whether they could sing. But they have put paid to that rumour with their recent show in Turkey.

The new album, Spiceworld is predicted to outsell their first, and soon the next phase of the Spice Girl creation comes to fruition with a 1.6 million pounds sterling nine-month-long concert tour beginning next year. The film, called Spiceworld The Movie, is launched on Boxing Day.

  

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