I was flabbergasted when I saw an advert on the tv this morning, telling me the Spice Girls and their ‘Girl Power’ message started 25 years ago. This officially makes me old.
They were a huge influence on me back then. They became a huge part of my life at the tender age of 15. I grew up far too fast, many of their songs framing important moments of my teens and twenties. Hearing the start of “Say You’ll Be There” or “Too Much” and their lyrics that mirrored my first heartache, nights out, time spent with friends and so much more.
The realisation that at 15 I was just discovering what it meant to be influenced by the opinions, lyrics, messages and fashion choices of celebrities. I thought I was Ginger Spice, using my first visit to a real hairdresser to have my hair dyed red with a bleach blonde streak in the front. Yes, it looked ridiculous. Yes, i’ve hidden the pictures. No, I don’t regret it.
I’ve spent some time this morning trying to come up with a way of talking about their influence on me at various junctions in my life.
So this is a series of short stories about some of their songs and their reflection of my life. How the songs still remind me of those days, the people I loved (names altered for privacy) and the reasons why I connect the two.
Me and my best friend Jo watched a fist fight between some boys that we hung out with. I wasn’t in a school or group of friends where this was normal. I’d never seen this happen before. I just remember it upset me. I couldn’t talk because I was in shock, seeing one of my friends (having been punched in the face) injured, bleeding and in pain.
When we got home Jo put my CD single of Wannabe on to try and cheer me up. We played it on repeat until we had no voices left.
No man could come between our friendship, and despite still being at school, we both went out drinking nearly every weekend. Jo would grill, assess and evaluate any man I showed an interest in. Her opinion was always the deciding factor and no one slipped through the net.
“If you wanna be my lover, you’ve gotta get with my friends”
My first real love, Simon (who I now believe was just an obsession), was a boy. He wasn’t cocky or rude, unlike many of the other men I’d met, but he was afraid of hurting me.
After nearly 2 years together I discovered messages from several women about meeting up with him. It made it easy for me to want out. He may have done it deliberately to get rid of me. It’s a question I still ask myself, but i’ll never know. My obsession was strong and I couldn’t imagine life without his love.
I was 19 for gods sake.
“I want a man, not a boy who thinks he can”
Without question, even now, my least favourite Spice Girls song. I think they released it for Mothers Day in the UK. I really hated it. The word ‘Mama’ was baby language to me. The lyrics felt basic. Like words you’d write in a Hallmark card.
Hearing it now though, I remember my own Mum, who is now long departed.
I was a tearaway teenager and put her through years of worry. Going out and not returning until 3am. Drinking every weekend from a young age. Avoiding school and leaving myself with exam results far below my capability. Spending hours in my (ridiculously untidy) room with music as loud as my HiFi would manage. There’s so much more. She put up with a lot.
I hope she knows I’m sorry.
“Every other day I crossed the line, I didn’t mean to be so bad”
From one end of the acceptance spectrum to the other. ‘Stop’ was my favourite of their singles.
I vividly remember the white coat and matching knee high boots worn by Emma Bunton (Baby Spice) in the video. I adored this look. Probably too much (pun intended). I spent about £100 on a white coat and boots of my own. I looked like a marshmallow.
Working as a waitress, I experienced my first unwanted advances from a chef – a common theme working in hospatility. But I wasn’t happy being alone after the dumping i’d experienced from Simon (See ‘Too Much’ above), so I agreed to go on a couple of dates. He had an air of desperation. Asking me for an autobiography over burgers. Then he changed plans to be in the same nightclub as me and my friends on a Friday and Saturday. It got creepy, and the second date was the last.
“You need less speed, get off my case. You’ve gotta slow it down baby, just get out of my face”
A song with significant meaning for many and marking the change the Spice Girls went through going from a group of 5 to 4. Geri Halliwell’s (Ginger Spice) departure shocked and upset me far more than any normal human. At the time I thought she was the ‘Main Spice’ and as a group, they would never have success without her, which basically turned out to be true (for a while).
I always hear this song in the context of death. A filter of grief allows me to only hear and feel the words that I can apply to my losses and the sadness attached. It’s personal to me who is gone, so I won’t provide details here, but I will say the death of my mother still haunts me and this song always acts as a reminder of that awful, painful and difficult time.
Every time i’ve had to say goodbye to someone I wondered where that soul lands? What happened next? Why did they have to leave? Why did I have to watch?
My only conclusion is to try and remember the positive and happy memories rather than just the sad ones.
“Look for the rainbow in every storm. Fly like an angel heaven sent to me”
That’s my little homage to the incredible force and whirlwind we all experienced when the Spice Girls and their strong message of equal rights and girl power thundered in to our lives.
I’ll enjoy this music, and remember these memories, for years to come.