CRIES AND WHISPERS: Spice up your life with a deodorant ... or a crisp ... or a lolly
Sunday 16 November 1997
The man to blame for all this is Simon Fuller, who is, as of a week ago, the Spice Girls' ex-manager. Since they sacked him, numerous newspaper jeremiads have predicted the end of the Spiceworld as we know it. "Pop group minus svengali equals McDonalds employees," they chorus, and then, illogically, they cite the relative failure of the Girls' latest single and album as evidence - even though these "failures" occurred during Fuller's reign.
I'm with the Spice Girls. Their commercial promiscuity is more or less unprecedented in pop history. Under Fuller's management, they've been the first group to view their career principally in terms of sponsorship cash, the first to have said, in effect, "Do you really think that Louise, Boyzone and Dannii Minogue are in it for the sake of their art? Of course not. We're all out to get rich here, so let's do it quickly."
This approach must have made sense on paper. After long years of work, Take That got one single into the US Top 10, and split up soon after. Who would have imagined the Spice Girls would do any better? The smart money would have been on middling success in Europe, followed by careers presenting Blind Date and accepting alimony from football players, so it must have seemed logical for their boss to make as fast a buck as he could, and to accept endorsement deals as indiscriminately as Tony Slattery accepts TV jobs.
But the Spice Girls haven't followed the standard trajectory of a teeny pop group. Instead, they are the most high-profile band in existence, with an eminence in America which British acts just aren't supposed to have. If they'd spent more time on their music, and less on over-exposing themselves, this success could have grown for years. But Fuller never got to grips with how big the Girls had become, and he had them holding up cans of fizzy drink so often that you'd think they'd been out of work since a 1970s sitcom cameo.
For pop stars of their standing, this scramble for cash is demeaning. Impulse, Asda and Chupa Chups have a horribly parochial ring, while the Girls' willingness to be out-acted by cuddly Gary Lineker in a naff crisp ad is reminiscent of those Clive James items, in which Robert De Niro or Jodie Foster advertised scented toilet cleaner on Japanese TV. The Spice Girls are outselling U2. They could have afforded to leave smalltime stuff to Ulrika Jonsson.
By assuming that his charges had a short shelf-life, Fuller has only succeeded in shortening it. He has acted as more of a Colonel Tom Parker than a Brian Epstein. Instead of portraying the Girls as pop stars with potential - future Chers, Madonnas and Diana Rosses - he portrayed them as the greedy cows next door. If the golden goose really is on its last legs, then it's his tactics, rather than his dismissal, that have killed it.
How many people had actually heard of Neil Hamilton before he pulled off the admittedly impressive feat of indulging in conduct that fell below the standards expected of an MP? It's hard to put an exact figure on it, but approximately: none. So we can all agree that his fame stems from his being a liar, and as there are lots of liars in the world, we can wonder what makes him so worthy of TV exposure. He and his wife have been haunting talk shows ever since the Election, making grotesque speeches about how they can now relate to the unemployed and destitute.
Recently, his whey face appeared on the trailers for Rory Bremner's new series, and he was out to justify himself on Thursday's Clive Anderson All Talk. Can we please, please stop giving precious air time to this shameless emetic? If it's notoriety that producers are after, wouldn't Mad Frankie Fraser be better value for money?
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