The group was formed in 1993 when Bob Herbert and his son advertised through The Stage newspaper. Of those who responded to the advertisement five girls were picked Geri Halliwell, Victoria Adams (later to become Victoria Beckham), Melanie Chisholm, Melanie Brown and Michelle Stephenson. They formed a group called Touch. Later, Michelle Stephenson left to pursue her education and was replaced with Emma Bunton.
In 1996 they changed both their name to Spice Girls and their manager to Simon Fuller. Success soon followed, with catchy single Wannabe (with the memorable hook "I wanna really, really, really, wanna Zig-A-Zig Ah") becoming a hit later that year in Britain, and early the following year in the United States. A cleverly constructed image combined sex appeal with post-feminist self-confidence, and their self-titled album followed with many millions of copies sold around the globe, including seven million in America alone. They had several number one hits in the UK, mainly (like "Wannabe") the work of songwriters Richard Stannard and Matt Rowe, including Say You'll Be There (Oct 1996), 2 Become 1 (Dec 1996), Mama and Who Do You Think You Are (double A-side Mar 1997). Say You'll be There and 2 Become 1 were also smash hits in America in 1997, whereas "Mama" and "Who Do You Think You Are" had no American release, because, according to the Spice Girls, American charts are slower moving than most other nations' charts, not because they were not catchy songs. Nevertheless, the Spice Girls were so huge in 1997 and 1998 that it did not prevent American MTV and MTV2 from playing the unreleased "Who Do You Think You Are" video, occasionally.
A factor in the group's success was the ability of individual members to appeal to different types of teenage fans. The five members were dubbed "Ginger", "Baby", "Scary", "Posh", and "Sporty" Spice (originally by a British pop music magazine aimed at teenage girls, though the nicknames soon became universal). Their diverse appearance and class/cultural backgrounds ensured broad demographic appeal.
In 1997, their next album, "Spiceworld", was released, with a film of the same name featuring many of the songs. The film was in the same vein as some of the Beatles films, a factor deliberately played on by director Bob Spiers (the director of The Goodies, Absolutely Fabulous, and Press Gang amongst other, notable British comedy successes) and the resulting film was a commercial success. The critics hated it, however, and the girls won a Golden Raspberry Award each for their efforts. They actually hold a world record documented in the Guinness Book of Records for receiving the most Razzies at one time. (Five)
In 1998, Geri Halliwell left the group to pursue solo projects. In 2001, she covered the Weather Girls 1983 song It's Raining Men.
The remaining members continued as a foursome, but they are currently (as of December 2003) in the middle of a long hiatus from recording and touring as a group, and each has released solo albums (with respectable commercial success, if not in the class of their group efforts). As their layoff extends, speculation grows that the group will not perform or record again. In January 2003, a meeting between all five members spawned rumours of a reunion, but no announcements have been made.
Even by the standards of manufactured pop groups, the Spice Girls are generally regarded as very modestly musically talented. Nevertheless, their commercial success marked the trend at the time, away from singer-songwriters and back towards production-line pop.
Members of the group: