At the risk of sounding like Sophia Petrillo, picture it – high school, Bexhill-on-Sea, 1995. I’m not going to get the violins out, but I wasn’t popular at school. Like most kids who “looked different” I was bullied and ridiculed, but in my hatred for school I found solace in a songwriter who I believed to my core knew what I was going through. With Disco 2000’s release in November 1995 Jarvis Cocker and Pulp found me, and wonderfully through them I discovered and fell in love with most of the bands that graced the covers of the NME & Q magazine between 1995 and 1999. It was short-lived, but then so was Britpop itself.
Won’t it be strange when we’re all fully grown?
So imagine my complete aghast when suddenly in June 1996, out of literally nowhere, the radio booms out, “Yo! I tell you what I want, what I really, really want!”
Oh god. What the hell is this?! I spat, looking up from the current issue of Q magazine and giving a shocked, acidic stare to my radio like suddenly my cat had brought a slo-worm in from the garden.
I’m not going to sugar-coat this at all. I instantly disliked the Spice Girls when they first exploded in a cosmic nova of Adidas trousers, brash attitudes and would-put-a-transvestite-to-shame make-up. They were the complete antithesis of everything I was listening to and from the second I heard the atrocity to the ears that Wannabe was, I knew that my music, British rock, had some serious competition from these five catatonically-loud girls and the legions of teenyboppers that considered them as disciples of “girl power”, whatever that was. The thing was I guess, after being under a Conservative government for the best part of eighteen years no wonder Britain was happy to have the Spice Girls infused into their lives. Out with Maggie and in with these five instead. Blair #FTW!
I have huge reservations about the Spice Girls and their dogma, a debate of which I could write on about for paragraphs. However I will sum up my feelings with a great quote from one of my closest friends: if the Spice Girls were the embodiment of a new wave of feminism, then Emmeline Pankhurst must be turning in her grave. The only positive thing I could say about them was that they were a fantastic piece of marketing, brilliantly put together by one of pop music’s stellar Geppettos, Simon Fuller. He knew the power of promoting a Kellogg’s Variety Pack-group where there was a Girl for every little girl’s taste, so how could they possibly lose when all tastes were catered for.
The halcyon days of the mid-90s are very much long gone, but it seems someone forgot to mention this to whomever green-lit and decided we need Viva Forever! (The exclamation point is part of the title, it’s not there though choice) which is the new West End musical based on the songs of the Spice Girls. Remarkable, considering they only ever released eleven singles and three studio albums in total. It opens this December at the Piccadilly Theatre in London and boasts long-time celebrity fan Jennifer Saunders as the writer, presumably the best choice to do so after teaming up with the Girls and her comedy partner Dawn French in 1997 for the Comic Relief single, Who Do You Think You Are.
With an original story, but owing a huge debt to Queen’s We Will Rock You and ABBA’s Mamma Mia! formulaic concepts, the storyline of VF! I am lead to believe centres around a young girl called Viva who is in a band herself. After the group try out for a TV talent show, it is suggested that Viva would make a better career for herself as a solo artist. Set to a backdrop of perfectly-timed Spice Girls songs and the creators are hoping that the same success that has been had with jukebox musicals MM! and WWRY will be had with VF!
But are the reasons which MM! and WWRY have enjoyed such long success in the West End and Broadway been down to the fact that not only were these shows the original pioneers of the jukebox musical concept, giving birth to a great blueprint formula, but also that they are based on songs by bands who are considered royalty (no pun intended) when it comes to their status in music history? MM! and WWRY owe a great deal of their success to the fact that subconsciously, fans know the shows are the closest thing they will get in ever seeing Queen and ABBA perform live again.
Take That’s musical, Never Forget, unfortunately was forgotten and closed after just one year of its opening. Can the Spice Girls’ musical avoid the same fate of Take That’s? Let’s hope for the legions of fans who the Spice Girls soundtracked their childhoods to, I am proved wrong.