Spice Girls’ Spice turns 25: the album that shaped me

Carl Smith celebrates the group's timeless debut

Spice Girls Spice turns 25

by Carl Smith |
Updated on

Look, I’ll hold my hands up: I’m as guilty of flippant hyperbole as the next person. In a world where everything’s ‘iconic,’ a ‘cultural reset’ or ‘the moment,’ it can be difficult to decipher the meaningful from the memeable.

One statement I’ll always stand by, though? The Spice Girls’ Spice album is the best 40 minutes of audio ever committed to record.

And now, as the group’s debut celebrates its 25th anniversary with repackaged Spice 25 editions and previously unreleased material, it’s only right I honour the album that shaped me far beyond my formative years. And while I certainly can’t claim ownership of a band with over 100 million record sales and fans with their own stories the world over, I can vouch for their lasting impact on me to this day.

Spice Girls fan
©Carl Smith

In her anniversary album thank yous, Mel B writes, ‘All I ever wanted was to be accepted and to make everyone around me - gay, straight, fat, thin, brown, black, shy or loud like me - feel they can celebrate who they are and be free to be themselves.’ Well, Mel, you can consider your mission accomplished.

See, with risk of things immediately escalating into X Factor sob story territory, I was a lost seven-year-old kid in 1996. Navigating the playground was, quite frankly, a nightmare. My obvious lack of interest in Euro ’96 had as good as ousted me from the lads’ clique. The girls weren’t always keen to let a boy borrow their Barbie. In binary Bamford - an unassuming village just north of Manchester - I was the anomaly. The ‘gayboy’ Section 28 forbid teachers from supporting, despite the taunts. Taunts that were, slowly but surely, stripping me of my childhood buoyancy.

Enter: the Spice Girls.

Spice Girls Spice 25 album
Spice Girls' Spice 25 is out now ©Spice Girls

I vividly remember the first time I set eyes on Ginger, Sporty, Scary, Baby and Posh. Wandering Blackpool town centre with my parents, I caught a wall of synchronised Wannabe music videos in the window of a TV rental shop; five fearless women demanding I ‘slam my body down’ and ‘wind it all around.’ I wasn’t entirely sure what I was watching, or what the hell a ‘zig-a-zig-ah’ was, but I knew I wanted in.

Skipping through the school gates on Monday morning, I asserted myself as the Spice Girls’ number one fan. It wouldn’t do much to dispel talk of me being ‘gay’, ’well girly’ or a general misfit but - suddenly - I didn’t care. The band promoted a confidence I didn’t have, but so desperately craved. Their individualities proved I didn’t have to fit in; nor should I bother trying. There was power in owning your originality. Blending in was boring.

Working or middle class, northern or southern, black or white; the Spice Girls showed everyone could coexist and unite to create something special.

While it’s all too easy to dismiss the Spice Girls as a marketing ploy used to flog a few more cans of Pepsi Max, let’s remember Spice was recorded pre-pandemonium. Cynics might claim the ‘Girl Power’ ethos was a shallow example of faux feminism, but their debut record predates their faces being plastered across everything from crisp packets to Christmas crackers.

The Spice Girls wrote those songs with Elliot Kennedy, Richard ‘Biff’ Stannard, Matt Rowe and the Absolute team with big dreams, but no idea of what was about to unfold. Everything was organic, at least to begin with. That truly is Spice's charm.

“It doesn’t matter what anyone else says, it’s about the music,” Emma maintained as she collected the Spice Girls’ Outstanding Contribution to Music award at the 2000 BRIT Awards. And she wasn’t wrong. While sonically a product of its time, granted, Spice still transcends generations with its messages of sisterhood and self-love. This was commercialism with the choruses to back it up.

14 facts you probably never knew about the Spice Girls:


14 shocking Spice Girls facts (SLIDER)

Spice Girls1 of 14
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Victoria's the only member WITHOUT a solo number 1

Out of Your Mind - her collaboration with True Steppers and Dane Bowers - was pipped to the post by Spiller's Groovejet (If This Ain't Love) back in August 2000. Oh, how we miss those big chart battles.

Spice Girls2 of 14
CREDIT: Shutterstock

They were originally called Touch

When the girls first got together, they were called Touch. It wasn't until Geri thought to change their name to Spice that the band eventually agreed on Spice Girls.

Spice Girls3 of 14
CREDIT: Instagram

They didn't come up with their own nicknames

That was the idea of former Top of the Pops Magazine editor Peter Lorraine back in 1996. It just stuck.

Spice Girls4 of 14

The Wannabe video was BANNED in some parts of Asia

This was due to Mel B's erect nipples.

Spice Girls5 of 14
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Geri MISSED the original audition

After getting sunburnt on a ski trip to Spain, she thought better than to turn up to the auditions with a red face. Thankfully then-manager Robert 'Bob' Herbert gave her a second chance when she called after the original search.

Spice Girls6 of 14
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Emma wasn't in the original line-up

Baby Spice was last to join the group after original member Michelle Stephenson quit the band in 1994. Victoria went on to claim Michelle 'just couldn't be arsed' to put in the same work as the rest of the girls.

Spice Girls7 of 14
CREDIT: Shutterstock

They're Simon Cowell's 'biggest regret'

Speaking to Jay Leno in 2013, Simon said: "Spice Girls is probably my biggest mistake," before explaining "I offered them a deal, but they didn't want to sign to me, so that kind of hurt at the time."Victoria doesn't agree with Simon's account, though. Claiming he passed up on their offer on Idol in 2009, she said: "He is the only man in the music industry who turned down the Spice Girls – and said we would never work. I like that fact."

Spice Girls8 of 14
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Geri's Union Jack dress made a FORTUNE

The infamous dress Ginger wore to perform Wannabe/Who Do You Think You Are? at the 1997 BRIT Awards was sold at auction in 1998 for $68,000 (£41,320) at a Hard Rock Cafe auction. It's since been spotted on display at a casino in the US.

Spice Girls9 of 14
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Speaking of the Union Jack dress...

It was actually made of a 'boring' black Gucci dress - the outfit Geri was originally supposed to wear - and a Union Jack tea towel.Explaining how the look came about, Ginger's former stylist Emma Poole told The Telegraph: "Two nights before, Geri said, 'You know what, Emma? I'm not really comfortable with the dress I'm wearing, I've got a much better idea. I'm going around to my sister's, she's got these great Union Jack tea-towels. I'm going to make a dress.'"

Spice Girls10 of 14
CREDIT: Spice Girls

Wannabe almost wasn't their debut single

The girls have explained they had to fight for the pop classic to be their first single, while the record label reportedly wanted Love Thing. IMAGINE.

Spice Girls11 of 14
CREDIT: Spice Girls

Geri WROTE Goodbye

Sort of. Although the girls' third Christmas number 1 is thought to be written about Geri's departure, she was actually involved in the early stages of the track when it was intended to be included on the Spiceworld album. Mel C explains in the girls' autobiography Forever Spice: "Goodbye was originally about a relationship ending, but now it's about Geri and it's really sad."Ginger isn't credited as a writer for the released version of the track.

Spice Girls12 of 14
CREDIT: Shutterstock

They were Nelson Mandela's 'heroes'

His words!

Spice Girls13 of 14

The Viva Forever video is DEEP

As the girls were too busy touring to film a video for Viva Forever - their last single featuring Geri - they turned to Aardman Animations for the treatment.In an interview with Crack magazine, director Steve Box explained that the video's about loss of youth. He said: "It's like the sadness of the song is leaving your childhood behind. "Pop music is all about sex and love, so becoming interested in that, you suddenly put the toys away, you start to grow up in a different way."

Spice Girls14 of 14

And the Spice Up Your Life video's pretty dark

An unreleased alternative ending to the video shows an erotic dancer in front of a 'SEXXXY SPICE GIRLS' sign, somebody seemingly choking and what appears to be a stack of dead bodies. YouTube it. It's SO WEIRD.

Outside of the school gates and in the safe bubble of my own bedroom, I’d study Spice religiously. That £14.99 Our Price CD never left my Philips boombox; the inlay worn as I obsessively memorised every lyric.

Whatever the lads had teased me about that day didn’t matter. Geri, Emma, Victoria and the two Mels had my back. There wasn't an ounce of self-doubt in their songs, and that confidence was contagious.

Somewhere, in an attic and caked in dust, lies a VHS tape of seven-year-old me performing a Say You'll Be There/Who Do You Think You Are medley at summer school. Channelling my best BRITs '97 Ginger Spice, that kid pranced around without a care in the world. His true, authentic self.

While that footage will probably (hopefully) never see the light of day again, it perfectly encapsulates everything the Spice Girls gave me. Everything I fear I might not have had, had they failed to exist.

Spice taught me to be completely unapologetic and provided solace at an otherwise scary time growing up.

Cheers, girls.

Spice Girls' Spice 25 album is out now on 2CD, vinyl, cassette and digital download.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us