It was 25 years ago today that a complete and utter phenomenon exploded in the UK that would spread around the world and make five young women rich and famous beyond their wildest dreams.

The official release of the single Wannabe on July 8, 1996, marked the astonishing arrival of the Spice Girls who would go on to dominate the pop charts and earn themselves the status of cultural icons of the late 1990s.

The song had actually been released in Japan, seen as a huge market for a girl group, on June 26 and such was the buzz about it that the record company Virgin Records sneaked it out in the first week of July to favoured radio stations ahead of the official release on Monday, July 8 – they had hoped to release it at the same time as their debut album Spice later in 1996 but decided to go early to cash in on the feelgood factor engendered by that year’s European football Championships held in England. The exciting video, the catchy ‘girl power’ lyrics and that fact they were not just another boring boy band won the Spice Girls immediate fame that has lasted for 25 years.

To read some accounts of their early history you might think it was all happenstance and serendipitous luck that they started at all, but in fact the Spice Girls had been preparing for their ‘wannabe’ moment for two years.

They were brought together by impresarios Bob and Chris Herbert of Heart Management following auditions in early March 1994 to find five “strikingly different girls” as their advert stated. Victoria Adams, Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm, Geri Halliwell and Michelle Stephenson were chosen from 400 women to form the original line-up and the band was to be called Touch. Stephenson soon dropped out and was replaced with Emma Bunton.

The group began to live together in a house in Maidenhead, and at first they learned ‘poppy’ songs before getting training as professional songwriters. They fell out with Heart Management in March 1995, but soon signed to Absolute producers and the 19 Entertainment management company of Simon Fuller of Pop Idol fame who arranged a deal with Virgin Records – they were impressed enough to offer a five album contract.

By now calling themselves Spice after a song they had written, Fuller took them to Los Angeles where they heard of the rapper Spice, and so the Spice Girls were born. Long months of song writing, practising and choreography – mostly by themselves – followed before their debut album began to be produced.

The National:

Wannabe was one of the earliest tracks to be recorded and it was all done in less than an hour with the Girls contributing last minute improvised lyrics. The Spice Girls and their management and producers knew exactly what their target audience was – girls and young women. They wanted a ‘dance-pop’ feel to the song which was written by the Girls in collaboration with songwriters Matt Rowe and Richard Stannard.

Here’s an excerpt and anyone above the age of, say, 20 or 25 will only have to read the lyrics for the catchy tune to kick in.

Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want So tell me what you want, what you really, really want I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want So tell me what you want, what you really, really want I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah If you want my future, forget my past If you wanna get with me, better make it fast Now don’t go wasting my precious time Get your act together we could be just fine If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends (Gotta get with my friends) Make it last forever, friendship never ends If you wanna be my lover, you have got to give Taking is too easy, but that’s the way it is.

Extraordinary. The single went to number three within days and then rocketed to number one in the UK charts where it stayed for seven weeks. The Spice Girls were seen everywhere on television and they went on promotional tours to the Far East and Europe and the USA where Wannabe was released in January, 1997, hitting the top of the American charts for four week. In all it was a chart hit in 37 different countries, and eventually sold nearly two million copies in the UK alone. Though some critics hated it and there was a backlash against an all-girl group, the music industry and the public loved it and Wannabe was named Single of the Year in the following year’s BRIT Awards.

The idea of each Spice Girl having a nickname was actually post-Wannabe and was dreamed up by the staff of Top of the Pops magazine, but Posh, Scary, Sporty, Baby and Ginger stuck and the Girls soon adopted their names.

For a couple of years they were huge stars, and Victoria Adams became even more famous when she started dating and eventually married England’s biggest football name David Beckham. Geri Halliwell left in 1998, and the other four carried on but eventually all pursued solo careers. There’s not enough space to chronicle all their activities since the 1990s. Suffice to say they have had mixed success in their careers but their two renunions in 2007 and 2019 were massively successful.

Their relationships and marriages and personal lives generally have always been news. They are all now in their mid-40s with Geri Halliwell the oldest at 48.

They will always be the Spice Girls and it all started with Wannabe.