Released 25 years ago, on 8 July 1996, Wannabe spent seven weeks at number one in the UK and four in the US. In the process, it made five unknown girls – Victoria Caroline Adams, Melanie Janine Brown, Emma Lee Bunton, Melanie Jayne Chisholm and Geraldine Estelle Halliwell – global superstars.
It came out of nowhere. It changed the course of pop music. It was Wannabe – the scrappily brilliant debut single by The Spice Girls.
The record label had been worried. Wannabe was too weird, too anarchic. They hated the video. BBC Radio 1 was refusing to play it. Breakfast show DJ Chris Evans told the band to go back to kids’ TV.
But the girls knew better. “It’s not negotiable as far as we’re concerned,” they insisted. “Wannabe is our first single.” And “if they decided they wanted to do something, then that’s what was going to happen,” Wannabe’s co-writer Richard “Biff” Stannard told the BBC. History proved them right.
So here’s a story from A to Z of how the band started, rose to fame, fell apart and put themselves back together again. Because which member of our LGBT+ Community does not love the Spice Girls?!?
A is for Auditions
On 4 March 1994, 400 aspiring singers crammed into London’s Dancework Studios after spotting an advert for a new girl band in The Stage newspaper.
They were split into groups of 10 and taught a dance a routine to Eternal’s Stay. Afterwards, they each performed a solo song to father-and-son management team Bob and Chris Herbert.
Mel B blew them away, singing Whitney’s The Greatest Love Of All, while Mel C went for The Pointer Sisters’ I’m So Excited and Victoria chose Mein Herr from Cabaret.
A month later, they were invited back for a second audition – now with only 10 girls. Geri was there too, even though she had skipped the initial audition after getting sunburnt in Spain. “She just said she was ill and pleaded to be fast-tracked to the recall,” Victoria later recalled.
All four were selected to form the band alongside 17-year-old Michelle Stephenson – “the sort of girl you can imagine in a Flake advert”, said Victoria – who had received the highest scores at the audition.
The quintet moved in to a house in Maidenhead, where they received dance and vocal coaching, but it soon became clear Michelle didn’t fit in.
Eventually, Michelle was replaced by Emma Bunton – a former stage school pupil who had been recommended by their vocal tutor, Pepi Lemer.
“Of course I regret I’m not a multi-millionaire like them,” Michelle later told The Mirror. “But at the time I left the group I knew I was doing the right thing. It wasn’t my kind of music and they were not living the lifestyle I wanted.”
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