As the Spice Girls take their seats, Mel
B picks up her cloth napkin and uses it to
rummage around inside a nostril. They have
gathered in this private function room at the Four
Seasons Hotel in New York so that I may discover
a little more about them. You quickly learn that in
the flesh, as on record and video, the most
important value in Spiceland is not decorum. e
"Ever-yon, picks their nose," shrugs Geri.
"President Clinton picks his nose." 0 The Spice
Girl is a restless creature. Only occasionally will
there be five
Spice Girls at the table simultaneously. They get
UP, walk around, do exercises on the floor and go to
the bathroom in a constant stream of ones and
twos. Mel B wanders over to the Potted plant in
the corner and begins talking to it. "Like Prince
Charles," she says. Then she walks back and hands
me a matted clump from the top of her head. "I
want to give the young man a lock of my
hair," she explains to the others. I politely slip it into
my notebook. Not to be outdone, Victoria carefully
extracts a single strand of her hair and hands it over.
In Trainspotting, the book," announces Geri, "[one
character] takes her tampon out and puts it in the soup.
And she had a bit of thrush." The others coo.
Would any of the Spice Girls do that?
"Might," says Geri. "We might put a boogie under
the table in someone's office." They laugh. "What about
what we did the other day?" she says. There is much
giggling, and several Spice Girls press Geri to keep
silent. Naturally, she doesn't. They were in Taiwan, she
explains. They couldn't get anyone to understand their
English, and they couldn't find the toilet, and they were
bursting. So Geri and Mel C went into this room ...
"I don't think it was a temple," argues Mel B.
"I think it was a ballroom," says Mel C.
... where the two of them squatted down in a corner
and, in fits of giggles, peed onto some towels they
found there. Stepped away from the sodden towels.
WalkedHERE, BEFORE THINGS GET TOO SILLY AND
agitated, is a cut out 'n' keep guide to the five spice
Girls. This is what you will need to know:
Geri Halliwell is 24. She is known as Ginger Spice.
Her father, an unsuccessful English car salesman, died
three years ago. Her mother is Spanish and works as a
cleaning lady. (Mrs. Mop, the British tabloids call her.)
When Geri was young, she once poohed in the bath
with her brother and sister. She is the most talkative
Spice Girl and the one who is generally first to shout
"girl power," the key concept in Spice Girls
Melanie Brown (Mel B) is 22. She is known as Scary
Spice. Her father, who does hot-metal shift work, is
from Nevis, in the Caribbean. Her mother, who works
in a department store, is from Leeds, in the north of
England. When she was young, Mel B used to have a
boogie collection behind her bunk bed. Now she has a
Emma Bunton is 21. She is known as Baby Spice. She
has blond hair, which she often wears in bunches. Her
father is a milkman; her mother teaches martial arts.
They split when Emma was ii. When she was young,
she was a child model. She recently announced, as a
joke, "I don't want to be a cutie - I want to be a hot,
sexy bitch," but she's now rather perturbed that the
statement has been taken seriously.
Victoria Aadams is 22. She is known as Posh Spice.
Her parents are rich; her father is an electrical
retailer. When she was young, Victoria used to beg her
father not to take her to school in the RollsRoyce. She
was teased at school for that and for her nose. She likes
to dress in Prada and Gucci, and hates the way she
looks when she smiles.
Melanie Chisholm is 23. She is known as Sporty
Spice. Her mother is a singer; her father is in the travel
business. They split when she was 3. When she was
young, Melanie used to eat cat food. She wears lots of
Adidas sportswear. A tattoo on her upper right arm is
of two Japanese symbols: woman and strength. Girl
power, in other words.
These names - Ginger, Scary, Baby, Posh, Sporty -
have been a successful part of the Spice Girls package: a
perfect simultaneous pop expression of heterogeneity
(they're each their own person) and homogeneity
(they're all disciples in the Church of Spice). A strange
fact: Neither the Spice Girls nor any of the people
around them thought up the names. They were invented
during an editorial meeting at a British teen magazine
called Top of the Pops. "We decided they were the kind
of band we could have a lot of fun with," Peter Loraine,
the editor, says. "We thought we could make up some
stupid names." They were going to call one of them Old
Spice ("I'm not saying. . . ") but thought better of it. Top
of the Pops published the names, with an illustration of
a spice rack, and they just caught on. As in the best pop
stories - the Sex Pistols', say - it is not the plans you
think up that make the difference, it is how well you use
IN AMERICA, SPICE GIRLS ARE SUCCESSFUL:
both their debut album, Spice, and the first single,
"Wannabe," have reached No. I, and the follow-up
single, "Say You'll Be There," is heading in the same
direction. Nonetheless, it is perhaps hard for America to
understand quite how famous Spice Girls have become in
the rest of the world. In their homeland, for instance, the
Spice Girls are in the papers every single day. I borrow
the file of their British press clips for a single week
(between March 7 and March 13). The pile is about an
inch thick. There are 141 newspaper stories about them
and many more from various magazines. This is a typical
The Spice Girls wake up each day under a deluge of
feedback. There is stupid gossip. Sordid secrets. Old
photos. (The tabloids' evergreen favorites are finding a
new set of topless or nude photos of Geri who did a
little "glamour" modeling when she was younger - or a
new set of Emma's childhood advertising photos,
looking blond and smiley and productfriendly.) Trivia.
Weighty pieces analyzing the Spice Girls' significance,
furthering an endless, Sisyphean national debate over
whether they are A Good Thing or A Bad Thing.
Rumors. The occasional Scandal. (In December, Mel C
was faced with the headline:
SPICE GIRL'S COCAINE SHAME: ALL NIGHT
BINGES SHOCK FOR YOUNG FANS, which claimed for her a past
of various debaucheries. "I don't think anybody took
any notice of it, did they?" she says, apparently
unconcerned.) Hot news about what the Spice Girls did
yesterday or about what they will do today or
tomorrow. My favorite recent story was when Geri got
a false fingernail stuck in her ear on a video shoot. It
made the front page of The Sun, Britain's best-selling
tabloid, and on the inside was a competition to give
away what the paper said was the actual recovered false
fingernail. (I hate to disappoint
the "lucky" winner and to alert the rock-collectibles
industry, but it was a fraud.)
Then there are the kiss 'n' tells. In Britain, Spice Girls
have released four singles (the two American singles; the
next American single, "2 Become I"; and a double A
side, "Mama" and "Who Do You Think You Are"). All
went to No. I. And, by the Spice Girls' own estimate, in
the time it has taken them to release four singles, 13
different ex-boy friends have kissed and told to the
British tabloids. None of the Girls has been spared. In
Emma's case, she has had only three boyfriends, and
each of them has spilt the beans.
"Everybody has a price," says Victoria.
"I'm going to get them to sign a secrecy form from
now on," says Mel B.
I met Mel B a few months ago on the morning when
the first big love of her life, a soccer player, sold his
story. "It's like selling your soul to the devil, isn't it?"
she sighed. "He's driving around Leeds in a flash car, so
let him get on with it. What can I do about it? I could
quite easily get someone to go and beat him up. Or I
could be really gutted and dwell on how sad it is and the
good times we had. I'm quite cool, actually... I aren't
going to make a fuss about some little story that's
earned him 20 grand. I've got a million. So what?"
When I mention that story today, Met B says, "He
got the sh#@! beat out of him, so that's that. Well
But you told me before that you could make that
happen, but you wouldn't.
She laughs. "No comment."
A PERSONAL GLIMPSE #I.
When a Spice Girl goes back to
her hotel room at the end of the
day, tired but satisfied, shemay
bathe and put on a dressing
gown, and she will want to put
her hair up. Sometimes she will
use a scrunchy, but as often as
not - inspired by the pioneering
example of Mel B - she will sit
on her bed, watching TV or
reading or talking on the
telephone or thinking, with a
pair of underpants twisted into
her hair. A G-string is naturally
the best, because there isn't so
much butt-covering material to
get in the way. She may insist
on clean underwear for this
purpose, though if she is Mel
B, she will be happy enough if
the underwear has just been
taken off. "My knickers don't
smell, anyway," says Mel B.
"They smell of roses. And I
think it's nicer to wear
something that's been lived in
rather than fresh, crisp and
The only Spice Girl not to partake in this ritual is
Geri. "I'm always short of underwear," she explains. "In
fact, today I'm wearing a pair of Melanie B's knickers."
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WHO
THINKS THAT SPICE GIRLS ARE POINTLESS
EMMA: YOU can't ram it down somebody's throat
"I can sing, and I can dance, and I enjoy it as well." You
can't keep doing that. We learned that a year ago.
Obviously, sometimes you think, "f#@king hell!" for
about two minutes. I just think, "Maybe in time they'll
grow to enjoyMEL C: Nothing. Some people love us: and some
people loathe us. You can't dwell on it can U? They're
entitled to their own opinion. I think Madonna is so
talented and so intelligent, but some people just think
she's a talentless slag.
GERI: I think that anybody who has a nega iv, or
positive view on us, that's fine. That's freedom of
speech. That's what creates democracy.
MEL B: I'd probably laugh [laughs] and think, "Oh,
well, I don't blame you for thinking that." But
maybe if they were abusive and started trying to
shout at me, then I'd probably chin'em. Or try to
get my point across,
VICTORIA: Everyone's entitled to an opinion. I
don't think everybody's great. But, I mean, who's
having the last laugh, eh? Come on.
I WATCH THE SPICE GIRLS HOST
AN AMERICA ON
Wfine press conference, each in her own chat room.
Geri is the only one familiar with the Internet.
tells me about going into a sex chat room once and
playing along. When she told them who she was,
didn't believe her anyway. "Then it got a bit filthy,"
she explains, "so I went, 'f#@k off, you pervert."'
I run around from screen to screen. Someone
Victoria when Spice Girls' second album will be re
leased, and she shouts to Simon Fuller, their
to find out (early November).
Mel B's chat room isn't working. Eventually
gets in, and the questions start.
"Do you guys like AOL she is asked.
"I don't know who AOL are," she says. Then
told, and she gives her answer: "I love America On
line, It's a chance to speak to the world." (Mel B is
clearly not an expert on these matters. Afterward,
will point at the computer monitors and ask, over
over, "I want an Internet. Can I have one of
Geri answers a question about the media
down the Spice Girls.
"I couldn't give a F**K basically," she types.
A note swiftly appears on her computer from
AOL chat-room guide. "Geri, you can't say F**K.
Even that is a violation of our terms of service."
"Oh, balls," Geri types to the world. "I've just
told off for swearing."
A PERSONAL GLIMPSE *2. ALL OF THE
SPICE Girls' periods are in sync. Here is more
information than you ever wanted:
"I get bad beforehand," says Mel B. "And Emma
gets bad. Really, really bad."
"You have to get it onto me," Emma complains to
"I've always been irregular," says Mel C.
"Geri's irregular," says Mel B. "Only me and Emma
are solid ones."
"Niagara Falls, I am," says Victoria.
THE SPICE GIRLS HAVE THIS FLIRTATIOUS,
charming, manipulative banter they indulge in with just
about anyone who comes into their it. I got it when I
first met them, at a photo session in London some
"Chris!" Geri shouted. "The Spice Girls have this
policy: If we're going to have our clothes off, you're
going to take them off, too!"
"Get your clothes offl" Victoria echoed.
"It's just flesh, man," Geri persisted.
"Are you a Spice Boy?" Geri asked. They always
ask this. Everyone always says yes.
I don't think I am, you know.
"You could be," Geri persisted. She doesn't give up.
"I think you are one. Secretly you are."
"He is a Spice Boy," Victoria said. "I've been talking
to him, and I can tell he is."
"Secretly," Geri nodded. "You just don't want to
admit it. You are. I can tell, just by that sparkle in your
You get plenty of this talk when you're around the
Spice Girls. Later, Geri and Victoria tried to drum my
sexuality out of me. When I resisted, Geri attempted to
use the Truman Capote self-revelation method: "I'll say.
I'm mixed. Can't decide." Over the next few days, I get a
smattering of compliments. It's sort of nice. But I also
get a cautionary insight into the possible meanings of
the Spice Girls' flattery. One day I overhear them
discuss someone they work with whom they don't like.
"She's sh#@!, she is," Victoria says. "When I first saw her,
I thought, 'It might be trouble here.' That's why I said
how pretty she was."
THIS IS THE SPICE GIRLS' STORY AS TOLD OVER
and over by the Spice Girls and printed in their own
Spice magazine ("Written by the Spice Girls just for
you!"): Four of them (all except Emma) saw an
advertisement for a girt group in The Stage,
the must-read periodical for star-struck British would-
be entertainers, in March 1993 (It began: "R.U. 18-23
with the ability to sing/dance. R.U. streetwise, outgoing,
ambitious and dedicated?"). They knew each other
already, because they were always turning up at the
same auditions, for musicals or shows or whatever,
where they were inevitably rejected. They were girls
who dreamed in vain of getting a part in Andrew Lloyd
Webber's Starlight Express.
By the summer, the group Touch was formed, with
the four of them and a girl named Michelle. She
subsequently left because of an illness in her family and
because she wanted to go to college. After more
auditions, Emma - whom Victoria knew - was brought
in. They all lived together in a house in Maidenhead, a
town west of London. Their managers at the time
provided them with songs, which the girls hated, and
tried to make them all dress the same. They knew from
the beginning that the managers were no good. When the
managers tried to tie them down to what they felt was
an unacceptable contract, in October 1993, the girls
walked out, paying off the managers' expenses with a
loan. just before then they had changed their name to
They spent the next year "writing, recording,
dancing and eating toast" and eventually hooked up with
a management company run by Annie Lennox's
manager, Simon Fuller, in March 1995. That August
they signed with Virgin Records. Hey, presto.
In essence, much of this appears to be true, but when
you nose around, a few pieces don't fit. For instance -
though I'm not entirely sure why they would lie about
this - they were actually brought together a year later
than they claim: in March 1994. When I point this out,
they don't disagree; they just try to make a joke out
"Was it a leap year or something?" deflects Victoria.
"What's in a year, anyway;"' says Geri.
"We sort of worked it out how many birthdays we'd gone
out on and how many Christmas Pre sents we'd bought
each other," claims Met C. An that's as far as I can get.
We talk about those first managers.
"You know, I feel quite sorry for them, really, says
"They had an idea," says Met C. "They just didn't
know what to do with it."
"If they'd listened to our ideas, then maybe it would
have been a different story," says Mel B. "Our idea
were flowing so fast."
"They couldn't keep up with us, could they?" say's
The first managers were a father-and-son team, Bob
and Chris Herbert. Usually in interviews the Spice Girls
don't mention them, or they pretend to have forgotten
their names. Today they are a little more relaxed.
"We used to call the manager What's Your Job Bob,"
Geri says. "We knew it wasnt right."
Victoria laughs. "Stop hip-thrusting in your Miami
Vice suit," she says of Bob. "He walked in one day, and
he had a bright-blue suit on and a white shirt and a
medallion and some bright-blue loafers."
"He had all the clothes," says Geri.
THE HERBERTS HAVE AVOIDED TALKING TO THE
press. Some have suggested that the payoff they
received swore them to silence. But when a friend of
mine mentions that he has an old number for them, I
decide to try my luck. Thirty seconds later, I have Bob
Herbert on the phone. He is wary at first, but I explain
that I just need to check some facts and get his side of
the story, and soon he is chatting away, wistful but
"They're trying to make out that they are 'girl power'
and made it all themselves," Herbert says. "But it's like
cooking. That's the analogy I like to use. We put all the
basic ingredients in: provided them with the studios, a
house to live in, dance tuition, writers, paid their
expenses. But to make the ingredients work, you have
to get five spices together."
Emma was recommended by a singing teacher, and
Herbert doesnt believe that she and Victoria really
knew each other. He insists that they were never told
to dress the same: The whole point of the auditions had
been to find five strikingly different girls.
The Herberts set up a showcase to present the Spice
Girls to songwriterr and publishers, and the girls
subsequently began writing with Stannard and Rowe
(who co-wrote "Wannabe") and Eliot Kennedy (who co-
wrote "Say You'll Be There"). Herbert confirms that the
Spice Girls really did contribute to the songwriting. "I
think it's fairly equal," he says. "They'd all got ideas for
lyrics and melodies and subject matter. Geri got the idea
for the rapping side. Keeps her away from singing." In
his mind, the biggest talent is "without a doubt, Melanie
Chisholm. She'd be the one to take a solo career."
It fell apart, Herbert says, because "it was just one of
those business relationships that wasn't working
between us." There was something else, too, that has
not previously been mentioned. "We weren't quite
happy with the lineup." He was planning to throw out
one of the five current Spice Girls, and the intended
victim knew it. "They may have been a strong enough
character to persuade the other girls," he says. "You
always find the least talented is the biggest danger in the
group." He swears he's not bitter. "We created the
Frankenstein that turned on us, I suppose," he laughs.
"We're not dissatisfied." They settled financially before
the Spice Girls' success, but, he says, "a deal's a deal." I
tell him I'd heard the figure of E40,000 mentioned. "As
low as that?" he says. "I can't tell you the figure. I just
wonder which part of the settlement that figure
HAVE YOU YET BEEN IN THE POSITION WHERE
YOU'RE WITH SOMEONE AND YOU WONDER IF
THEY'RE THINKING, "WOW! I'M HAVING SEX
WITH A SPICE GIRL!"?
VICTORIA: [Smiles] I asked that question to
someone yesterday. just out of interest. He said, "No,
because you knew you was you." You think,
"Supposing I was a man and going out with me."
Imagine the pressure of going to bed with someone, and
you've just got this vision of them. The truth is, with
me, I wouldn't say I'm frigid but ... my mum always
said to me, "When you're older, men will take advantage
of you," and they just don't.
EMMA'. I don't know, because I haven't had sex for
ages. Actually, I probably have thought that with my
last boyfriend, at one point. Quite weird. I do remember
[a guy] saying a few times ... he'd took at me and go,
"sh#@!, I'm standing with a Spice Girl! I'm going out with
a Spice Girl!" And sometimes it'd upset me. I'd think,
"Yeah, but we've known each other for years."
MEL C: I should be so lucky as to be in that position.
I do feel like I can't meet anybody at the moment - or,
maybe, ever again - that's not going to think, "It's a
Spice Girl." It's a horrible feeling. It's just human nature -
when people see me, they don't see me, they see a Spice
Girl. I haven't had sex since we've been successful. It's
over a year. It doesn!t bother me, though. I'm not really
interested in sex and stuff. Not at the moment, anyway.
I went through a phase where I had boyfriends, so I've
kind of been-theredone-that kind of thing. Men bore me.
I'm not saying women excite me, but men bore me.
GERI: No. You have to be aware of that sort of thing.
At the moment, I'm just concentrating on what we're
MEL B:Yeah. It's made me feel really good, actually.
But that's one side of me. Once you get over that bit,
then you should enjoy sex because it's me, and I'm sh#@!
hot in bed. [Considers a moment] If you just want a
good going over, you should masturbate. [And then do
you think, "Wow! I'm having sex with a Spice Girl!"?]
No, I just think what a good vibrator I've got. And I
cuddle myself and say, "You were great, man."
BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, THE SPICE GIRLS
should have begun filming their movie. It is written by
their manager's brother and directed by Bob Spiers (who
directed the British TV sitcom Absolutely Fabulous),
and it co-stars Richard E. Grant as their manager. They
have just been at the Cannes Film Festival to drum up
interest in it. During a press conference there, they made
the journalists do a Mexican wave. A British morning
TV show, The Big
Breakfast, got hold of the doodles the Spice Girls drew
while answering the questions and had them analyzed.
Part of Emma's sheet is considered too risqu6 for that
time of the morning and is blanked out. "She wrote
something a little bit naughty," they explained. It read:
YOU FAT BASTARD.
"The film is five days in the life of the Spice Girls,"
"We're going to be playing ourselves," says Emma.
"It's basically a parody of us lot," says Geri. "A
pisstake of ourselves. It's an adventure; it's a thriller;
it's a comedy. It's like us under a microscope and then
through a telescope."
There have been, I point out, far more terrible POP-
star films than good ones. Why do they think it's going
"Because," says Mel B, who has shoved a bread roll
down the front of her shirt, "I've got a third tit."
A PERSONAL GLIMPSE #3. EMMA IS SCARED OF
big things. Like, she can't look at an airplane closeup.
She t1qinks it might stem from when she visited the
center of London as a little girl, and she saw a gigantic
model of King Kong on the side of a building.
Anyway, one thing she very much wants to do while
in New York is avoid seeing the Statue of Liberty.
"I think she'd scare me," Emma explains. "She might
fall on me."
Well, what a poetic death.
She perks up: "That'd be a f#@king good one,
wouldn't it? The Statue of Liberty fell on my head!"
And it'd be great promotion for the second album.
"There you go! That's it. I've planned my death."
Maybe it should land on all of you.
"Could do, couldn't it? That'd be a brilliant ending.
[Grins] And we'd probably sell more than we do now."
WHAT'S THE MOST OFFENSIVE THING THAT'S
BEEN SAID ABOUT YOU?
M E L B: Probably being called half-caste. I got called
that in one interview, and that's degrading - like a
mongrel. I'm not half of anything; I'm mixed race.
GERI: In the newspaper, it said Podge Spice. That's
really f#@king negative and dangerous for little girls.
Can you imagine a big girl who looks at
herself and looks at me and thinks, "sh#@!,
if she's getting called Podge Spice, what
does that make me?" And when I saw
the fourth bloke had sold a story on me,
it started getting on my nerves. Three of
them weren~t even true. I was thinking,
"What must that farmer in Wales reading
the paper think?" He'd probably think
I'm some kind of man-eater who can shag
for io hours. But then you think, "f#@k
it. I know who I am."
MEL C: I think I've got off quite
lightly. Sometimes, for a second,
something makes you go, "Oh." Ages
ago, one of the first things in the paper
about us, I was described as the plain
one. I thought, "That's not very nice."
Then I thought, "f#@k it."
VICTORIA: That I wear cheap
makeup. Chanel does not come cheap,
darling. And what upsets me is when
things upset your family. My dad
opened the paper one day to find that
one of my ex-boyfriends had sold a
story about me having sex with him on a
train, and as rock & roll as it sounded,
and as much as I'd have loved for it to be
true, it was actually very untrue.
EMMA: The time I was on holiday in
Barbados, and they got pictures of me
and my bottom. My mum, as well - me
and my mum's bottoms on the front of
the paper, saying, "Emma's 21, but she's
got the bum of a 40-year old." Don't
laugh! Shut up! I have not got the arse of
a 40-year-old! Do you want to see it?
PEOPLE DON'T GET TO BE FAMOUS
in the way that the Spice Girls are
famous without attracting the kind of
hate that only sudden, unashamed
celebrity can buy.
"There's a lot of hate," Emma
"That's the yin and the yang," Mel B
"I like that," says Victoria.
"Everything can't always be nice and
dandy," says Mel B. "As long as we're
nice and dandy..."
So why do they hate you?
"It starts within themselves," says
Victoria. "If you're feeling really crap
about yourself, you have a really
horrible, jealous evil streak, and it comes
out in you, and you hate somebody
because they're having fun."
"People might just want to hate us,"
Mel B suggests, "to have an opinion."
What do they hate about you?
"We're too loud," says Mel B.
"Maybe because we're not the
greatest singers," reasons Geri. "We're
not five Mariah Careys."
"And we don't look great all the time,"
says Mel B.
"I think there are people who hate us
because I've got a smile on my face," says
"People just hate you because you're
blond' points out Mel B.
The true nexus of Spice-hating is,
naturally, on the Internet. On one site
you may indulge in interactive antiSpice
fun by playing the game Slap a Spice
Girl. "The rules are Spice Girl simple,"
the site explains. "Every time you hear
one of those awful voices and spot a
spicy airhead popping up, give it a
resounding virtual slap."
They have heard about the Slap a
Spice Girl game and claim not to mind.
They are, after all, five people for whom
the possibility the game offers is
redundant. "We've got our own
opportunity to slap a Spice Girl;' Geri
I tell them about the site where Emma
is pictured as the devil - holding a fork, a
pentagram on her tank top, with the
words: BEWARE. EMMA IS
SATAN. SHE HAS NO EYEBALLS; SHE IS THE
SOURCE OF EVIL ON OUR PLANET. SHE MUST BE
Emma looks a little taken aback. Geri
leans over and checks Emma's scalp for a
telltale 666. Nothing.
"Emma," Geri announces, "is not the
"It is disturbing," reflects Mel C, "but
you have to think that some people are
just doing it for a laugh.
"Some people get off on stuff like
that," continues Mel C, who has read
about a Spice Girls death site on the
Internet. Apparently one comment was,
"The Adidas bitch goes first." That got to
her. But today, they express
"It bothers us so much," says Victoria,
"we haven't even looked up from our
"Yeah," says Mel C, "but nothing
would make us look up from our food."
To so many people, the Spice Girls are
nothing but bad. They are the new pop
devil, threatening musical seriousness and
polluting the pure well water of rock's
higher meaning. It's easy enough to
imagine ways in which the Spice Girls
can seem annoying or irrelevant or
lightweight. But the complainers usually
ruin their argument by imagining that a
group like Spice Girls is also some kind
of calculated, dastardly creation to
hoodwink the gullible. (Whereas, of
course, one is supposed to imagine the
Smashing Pumpkins, say, as an effortless
riverboat of unsculpted, unpremeditated
self-expression.) I understand why many
people are horrified by the Spice Girls,
but whenever I hear those arguments, I
want to say: Listen to yourself On which
side is the innocence and enthusiasm, and
on which side the
self-protective cynicism? .
I ask the Spice Girls if they think
they'll ever get into the Rock & Roll Hall
"I don't know," says Mel B. "I hope
"We'll make a little bit of an
impression," says Geri.
"They need to start ordering up the
waxworks," says Victoria.
A thought strikes me: Do they know
what the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is?
I ask them: Who are the most
important figures in pop history?
"Us lot," says Victoria, without
hesitation, and they giggle.
THE SPICE GIRLS' MARVELOUS, LUDIcrously
heightened role in the national life of
Britain reached a surreal pinnacle last
December with The Political Interview.
The Spectator, a small-circulation but
influential, highbrow, habitually right-
wing political magazine in Britain, decided
that it would interview whoever happened
to be the latest big young things in the
pop world about politics. It'd be funny.
The Spice Girls were asked to
participate, and they agreed. "We just
thought it would be another angle," says
Geri. "It'd be something fun to do."
They were interviewed for an hour
backstage at an awards ceremony. It all
went far better than the interviewer could
have dreamed. The Spice Girls are not
short of opinions, and they are not shy
about sharing them. The interviewer had
assumed that the Spice Girls, like most
young people in pop music, would have
left-wing, Labour Party sympathies, but
the two most vociferous talkers, Geri and
Victoria, were aggressively conservative.
Geri suggested that the previous
Conservative prime minister, Margaret
Thatcher - still a hate figure for much of
younger Britain - was the original Spice
Girl: "The pioneer of our ideology - girl
The interviewer, Simon Sebag
Montefiore, wrote up the encounter,
cleverly, as both pisstake and clear
reportage. Nicely deadpan. He took his
fun from purposely over-interpreting
their opinions: "The Spice Girls take a
Burkean view of the growth of our landed
aristocracy... The Spice philosophy
combines Thatcherite economics,
Buddhist tolerance and feudalistic
neoPlantagenet paternalism...." and so on.
When the article came out, the
newspapers went crazy. The Spice Girls
were on the front pages of all three
tabloids, and there were articles for
weeks in every newspaper, debating the
significance of the Girls' positions.
Though three of the Spice Girls had
divergent views - Mel C supports Labour,
describes herself as an anarchist and
Emma declares herself uninterested
in politics - the message that was
picked up was that the Spice Girls were
supporting the Conservative Party
wholesale. The suggestion was that they
represented a previously undetected
youth Zeitgeist that saw through Labour
leader Tony Blair's shallow populism
and hankered nostalgically for firm-
handed '8os Thatcherism. This - the
national demographic that became
known as the Spice Vote and that
became as much an issue in the British
election as the "soccer morn's" vote had
been in America's - was seen as the wild
card that might yet save Conservative
John Major's skin.
"They were talking about us in the
House of Commons," reflected Mel C
in January. "It was ridiculous."
"What is the state of the government
if... Geri asked "they're talking about
us?" said Mel B.
"Exactly," Geri nodded. "If we can
have an influence, that's terrible."
'The Spice Girls sensibly stepped
back, refusing to make any other public
comments on politics, but as polling day
approached, their names were invoked
over and over. On the campaign trail, the
nation's putative leaders faced Spice Girls
quizzes. Tony Blair, who had listed "Say
You'll Be There" as one of his io favorite
records of 1996, managed to name three
Spice Girls (not Mel B or Emma). John
Major subsequently managed to identify
On May I, Britain elected Tony Blair
the new prime minister by a landslide.
After all that, none of the Spice Girls
IN THEIR DRESSING ROOM BACK-
stage at The Rosie O'Donnell Show, the
Spice Girls are briefed by one of the
show's staff: "[Rosie is very
spontaneous, but this is an outline. She
might ask how you got the names, and I
think you should give her an honorary
name...." At the same taping: Courtney
Thorne-Smith and a 7-year-old chef who
is cooking fried cookie dough.
When the staffer leaves, the Spice
Girls are alone, except for their manager
and me. They break into song, as they
often do. "Warren G! Rap for me!" they
croon. They met Warren G recently. "I
thought he was totally sexy until I met
him, sighs Mel B. "He was all flabby.
He gave me his number, and I thought, 'I
don't want that!' But I thought, 'I'd
better take it. He might shoot me.' "
They all show me their new jewelry.
After Spice went to No. I, Virgin gave
each of them a $5oo Tiffany voucher.
Met C bought diamond-stud earrings:
one for her right ear, one for her nose.
Emma has a diamond eternity ring.
Victoria has a bracelet. Then they argue
about whether the little kid in Jerry
Maguire is cute.
It is time for their vocal warm-up.
Kenny, their vocal coach, plays the
chords to "Say You'll Be There" on a
keyboard, and they practice. For what
it's worth, I hear each of the Spice Girls
singing alone, and I hear them
harmonizing together. They don't all have
the strongest voices - the two Mels can
let rip; the others are a little more fragile
but they can do it.
When they appear with Rosie
O'Donnell, they offer her a choice of
being either Tough or Sassy Spice. "Can
I be Tough-Sassy Spice?" she asks.
Backstage, people crane their necks for-
ward, fascinated by these hyperkinetic
British girls they've heard so much
"Which one is the porno star?"
A PERSONAL GLIMPSE *4. MEL B, THE
Spice Girl known as Scary, shows me
her tongue stud. She has ii of them, and
she rotates them, except for the black
rubber one, which collects lots of white
mouth junk. When she takes a stud out,
she says her tongue feels so light that
she speaks with a lisp.
Mel B unscrews the stud by clamping
it in her teeth, but she can't get it back in
again without a mirror. I'll have to do.
She hands me the metal bolt and folds
her tongue back on itself between her
half-open teeth, so that the bottom of
the tongue-piercing hole gapes between
her teeth. I have to push the bolt gently
through the hole. A little disgusting but
kind of fun. It is alarming to think what
millions of people around the world
would give to get Mel B's saliva on their
A WEEK BEFORE THIS AMERICAN
visit, Spice Girls performed three songs
live in Manchester for the Prince's Trust,
Prince Charles' charity to provide
opportunities for young people.
Beforehand, they were introduced, and
the British front pages had photos of
them squeezing up to the heir to the
British throne, a large lipstick kiss from
Geri on his right cheek.
"I didn't flirt," says Mel B.
"I didnt either," says Emma.
"Geri did," says Victoria.
Geri pinched Prince Charles' royal
bottom. "I pinch everyone's bottom,"
she says. "Why am I going to stop at the
So, I inquire, would you pinch the
"Yeah," she says. "No. It depends."
They say that everyone else was
being careful around Prince Charles.
"People were trying to censor jokes,"
says Geri. "He's just a man, just like
anybody else, who wants a laugh. . . ."
"And wants his bum pinched," says
When Emma asked after the 14-year
old Prince William, his older son (who,
as revealed in a tabloid article titled
WHAT WILLS ROYALLY ROYALLY
is supposed to have ripped down
his Pamela Anderson Lee poster at
boarding school and replaced it with one
of Emma), his father apparently replied,
"Don't be a cradle snatcher."
"He said, 'Are you going back to
London after the show?' " says Victoria,
"and I said,'Yes. Why? Do you require a
"He was really polite," says Met C.
"Grabbing his bottom, I was being a
cheeky little girl," says Geri. "I was
thinking, 'God, that's the prince."'
How was it?
"It wasn't bad," she says. "How old is
he? Fifty-odd? It was like a waterbed.
Something to grab hold of. He tensed it
"Prince Charles was holding in a fart
when he saw us," asserts Mel C.
"I'll tell you what was funny," says
Geri. "Melanie was sticking her tongue
out and talking about getting her tongue
pierced, and I said to him, 'Why don't
you get a Prince Albert?"' A Prince
Albert - named, perhaps apocryphally,
after Queen Victoria's husband, Prince
Charles' great-great-great- grandfather - is
a ring through the head of the penis. This
is not the kind of thing you discuss with
royalty. "He said, 'What's a Prince
Albert?' " says Geri. "I told him. And
[British comedian] Stephen Fry said... "
[Geri acts out his pointed finger and his
downward gaze] it's down there.' "
THE SPICE GIRLS TALK ABOUT THE
reasons it has worked.
"We always go on the concept of:
We're just normal people, and that's
what normal people enjoy," says Emma.
"We are rough 'round the edges, and
we are real people," says Victoria.
"We're not all 6-foot-tall skinny models.
We eat and do normal things,"
"We don't have any airs and graces,"
says Mel B.
"We've made music to please us five,"
Geri says, "so we won't have to retaliate,
five albums down the line, and do that
self-indulgent album ......
"It's already self-indulgent," Mel B
That's how their album sounds, and
that is why it works. This year, there
already have been two No. 1 singles Spice
Girls' "Wannabe and Hanson's
"MMMBop" - that get all their vim,
drive and sparkle from the artists' evident
joy in their creation
Both of the songs are almost
meaningless and at times barely more
than onomatopoeic celebrations of self -
the very quality that makes them so
annoying (if you hate them) and so
invigorating and inspiring (if you love
All of the songs on Spice are credited
as collaborations between the Spice Girls
and other songwriters. None of the Spice
Girls plays any instruments on the
album. (In fact, Mel B plays drums, Geri
plays a little guitar, and Mel C and
Victoria play some keyboard, but these
are not skills they have yet used in the
group.) They sit together in the studio
and suggest the kinds of sounds they
want or work from a loop that their
producers set up.
"It's just really natural," says Mel C.
"We've just got every element we need.
I'm better at melodies, but I'm terrible
with lyrics. Geri's brilliant with lyrics.
Emma's great with harmonies. Mel [B]
always comes up with hooks. And
Victoria's great with melody as well. We
never get stuck."
"You do have days when you're not in
the mood," says Emma.
"When we can't rhyme anything,"
says Mel B. "You know: rat, cat, mat."
The Spice Girls say they wrote more
than 30 songs for the first album, and six
are prepared for the second. They even
wrote one, "Likely Stories" - a song they
sing to me that includes the line "See You
Next Tuesday" ("You know, C U Next
Tuesday: C.U.N.T.," explains Mel B
helpfully) - that they hoped to give to
Jarvis Cocker, the singer from Pulp.
Sadly, the likelihood of this musical cross-
pollination bearing fruit may have been
reduced by a speech Cocker gave at a
British awards ceremony in January:
"I don't know why everyone is
clapping the Spice Girls," he announced.
"They said Margaret Thatcher was the
sixth Spice Girt ... so, f#@k Margaret
Thatcher, and f#@k the Spice Girls."
ANYONE FOR COKE?" EMMA ASKS.
"Pepsi!" they all shout.
"Pepsi," says Emma, chastened.
This is the one part of my interview
that they try to censor. "Please don't
write that," Victoria beseeches. She grabs
my tape recorder and tries to rewind it.
They have a big Pepsi sponsorship deal,
and they have messed up before.
"Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi,
Pepsi," says Emma, as though she can
redress the balance through product-loyal
repetition. The first full Spice Girls
concert will be a Pepsi event: There is a
competition to fly people around the
world to Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. iz.
American pepsi has still not confirmed
whether they will join the deal.
"I'd like to meet President Clinton,"
I ask them whether Hillary has girl
"Who's Hillary?" asks Mel B.
"Oh, who gives a f#@k?" says Mel C.
"I mean, about the Clintons. Who gives a
"Who gives a f#@k?" echoes Victoria.
"But has he got any sons?"
Mel B shoots bubbles from a gun. "He
loves me, he loves me not, he loves me,
he loves me not, HE LOVES ME!" she
"You know what's the greatest
pleasure?" asks Geri. "When you're
dying to go for a pee, when you get there
and have that pee."
"What's even betterbegins
"Is when you have a pooh?" suggests
"No, when it's freezing cold and your
wee's dead warm," says Mel C.
"I don't talk about things like that,"
says Victoria, with deliberate prissiness.
They begin to throw bread rolls
around the room and into the walls.
Mel B has an idea. "Who can do this?"
she asks, grabbing the tablecloth.
"I don't think you should do that,"
Geri grabs a piece of tablecloth, too.
"Yeah, go on," says Emma.
There's no way they'll actually pull.
It's a large, round table overloaded with
food and smart hotel porcelain and
glasses and bottles and jugs....
They do it. Glass and china smash
everywhere. The door crashes open. It's
their security guard, who clearly imagines
that the Spice Girls are under terrorist
attack. The Spice Girls, meanwhile, can't
stop laughing. It's too dangerous near the
table - all shards of glasses and jagged-
edged crockery fragments. So we go and
sit in the corner on the floor, like six
"Haven't you always wanted to do
that?" Mel B asks.
I didn't think you'd actually do it, I
Mel B looks at me, disappointment in
her eyes. Maybe, her gaze suggests, she
has got me wrong. Maybe I haven't
understood that much about the Spice
Girls after all. "How," she says, "could
you have not thought we
were going to do it?"
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