Irresistible charm of five girls and the biggest turn-on of all

Last night, five women performed a task reserved each year for statesmen, Oscar winners and the regulars of celebrity gossip columns, yet only a few months they were unknown.

The Spice Girls switched on the Christmas lights in London's Oxford Street, the latest piece of exposure in a collective existence spanning less than six months in the public consciousness. If you admit you don't know who they are, your tabloid-reading friends will ask what planet you have been on, but don't be too hard on yourself. In the context of this particular rise, to say "meteoric" would be an understatement.

The exact provenance of the Spice Girls remains unclear. What is indisputable is that their first record, "Wannabe", is at number one in the charts of 27 countries, that it sold 1.25 million copies in the United Kingdom alone and that it stayed at number one here for seven weeks. Their second single, "Say You'll Be There", went straight in at number one and sold 750,000 copies in two weeks and their debut album, Spice, is at number one in Japan and will, without any doubt, go straight to number one when it is released here next week.

What has the music industry in such a sweat over the five women - ranging in ages from 18 to 24 - is that they have succeeded at all. All-girl British groups, apart from the one memorable exception, Bananarama, have always struggled. Five all-singing, all-dancing women were not supposed to be a success - the music press said so when "Wannabe" was released - so what went right?

The secret appears to stem from the fact that these are no puppet airheads. These are feisty women whose sex appeal strikes a chord with teenage boys and men, and whose attitude earns the admiration of young girls and adoring female adolescents.

They claim not to have been put together like their male counterparts in Take That or The Monkees, yet the line-up is suspiciously eclectic.

There is Geri Halliwell, a 24- year-old former Katharine Hamnett model from Watford (the smart one); Melanie Brown, 21 from Leeds, a kick-boxer with a pierced tongue (the tough one); Melanie Chisholm, 20, from Liverpool, who loves football (the tomboy); Victoria Adams, 21, who still lives with her parents and wears stylish clothes (the sophisticated one); and Emma Lee Bunton, 18, from north London, who turns her back on the harder side of the band (the fluffy one).

If you believe their record company, Virgin, the women, who all wanted to be actresses, kept bumping into each other on the television and film audition circuit. They liked each other, decided to share a house together in Maidenhead, Berkshire, to save money, and began writing songs.

If you believe the more sceptical members of the music business, they were brought together as the result of an ad placed in The Stage by a mystery pop Svengali who was pushed aside when the five decided they no longer needed him. Either version ultimately lends itself to the view that they, and not executives, are calling the shots.

"No one really knows for sure how they came together, but they were pushing themselves for a long time," said Selina Webb, managing editor of Music Week. "They would keep appearing at industry parties and people kept saying: `Who are those girls?'.

"They seem to be controlling their own destinies and don't appear to have been manufactured. Their personalities are simply too strong. Perhaps there was someone in the beginning who brought them together, but they are definitely calling the shots now."

Muff Fitzgerald, their spokesman at Virgin, said the band independently approached Simon Fuller, who manages Annie Lennox.

"They went to Simon because they respected Annie and he was simply bowled over by their music," he said. "The whole thing about being put together by someone is just a myth perpetuated by the music press.

"They are pulling the strings here, and that makes some people uncomfortable."

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week