Ready to feel old?
The Spice Girls debut hit Wannabe is 25 years old.
A QUARTER OF A CENTURY, PEOPLE.
It feels like only yesterday that Geri Halliwell, Mel B, Victoria Adams, Mel C and Emma Bunton burst into our lives and changed the course of pop forever.
And to think their record company wanted to release the duff album track Love Thing as their first single. Idiots.
Here’s the story (from A to Z) of what would become the most recognised song of all time (and that’s official).
According to pop legend, the song was written in just 30 minutes
But it went through several mixes before the group and their record company were happy. Co-writer and producer Richard ‘Biff’ Stannard recalled to Pink News: “We wrote Wannabe quite quickly, but it took ages to get it to sound right. I remember waking up on the studio floor with this post-it from (co-writer) Matt saying, ‘Press play.’ We’d finally got it. So it was luck and hard work.”
One of those early incarnations of the song was a R&B version
Geri later described it as “bloody awful”.
There were also Jungle and Hip Hop versions
“I hated them all,” admits Geri. We haven’t heard them, but... agreed.
All five girls helped write the song
Richard Stannard recalls: “There were seven of us sitting on the floor in this tiny room. Everyone had their role; Geri was always concentrating on the theme and all the others would chip in with melodies and lyrics… There would be two or three things going on at once; we would have three or four mics up and we would record everything then pick the bits we liked and play it back to them.”
However, Victoria wasn’t actually there when Wannabe was written
Victoria couldn’t make that legendary writing session and so had to text her contributions – something that really bothered her.
“I just couldn’t bear not being there,” she wrote in her 2001 autobiography, Learning To Fly. “Because whatever they said about how it didn’t matter, it did matter. Saying ‘Yes, I like that’ or ‘Not sure about that’ down the phone is not the same.”
Still trying to work out what “Zigazig-ah” means?
There have been many theories over the years, including it being shorthand for “suck a d***” (charming) as well as “shit and cigar”, which Mel B reportedly directed at a mystery 80s pop singer who was working at the same studio and smoked a cigar in the toilet. Grim.
However, according to Mel C, the origins of the phrase are a lot more innocent
“You know when you’re in a gang and you’re having a laugh and you make up silly words? Well we were having a giggle and we made up this silly word, zigazig-ah,” she told Billboard. “We were in the studio and it all came together in this song.”
But what does it actually mean?
Richard Stannard isn’t about to give that away. “None of us are ever going to tell anyone,” he states. “It’s something they all used to say about a certain something, and they said it all the time so then I was like, oh yeah, put it in.” What. A. Tease.
The group’s record label didn’t want to Wannabe to be their first single
Record label bosses wanted to release Say You’ll Be There or album track Love Thing, but all five girls stood their ground and insisted it had to be Wannabe. Say You’ll Be There ended up being the follow up – and their second No.1 single.
The B-side was co-written by another 90s pop sensation
Cathy Dennis helped pen Bumper To Bumper. She’d already enjoyed solo success in the UK and US in the early 90s and went on to write 10/10 pop classics like Can’t Get You Out Of My Head for Kylie and Britney’s Toxic.
The group’s first TV performance was on Surprise Surprise and was gloriously budget…
The song was featured in an episode of The Simpsons
...when Ralph Wiggum sang the song whilst having a pee. Haven’t we all?
And Adele sang it with James Corden on Carpool Karaoke
The British singer was – and still is – a HUGE Spice Girls fan (especially Geri).
The iconic video was shot at the Midland Grand Hotel in central London
...which has since become the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel. And yes, that famous staircase is still there.
All five group members returned to that famous staircase in 2012
It was for the press launch of the ill-fated Spice Girls musical Viva Forever (RIP).
The video was almost shot in Spain
At the very last minute, the set was changed from a house in Barcelona to the London hotel after the director, Johan Camitz, failed to get permission.
The video shoot was seriously chilly
Despite the freezing temperature, the girls’ PR Nicki Chapman remembers they didn’t complain once. “It’s cold even in the summer if you’re on set at night,” Nicki explains. “And they had very few clothes on. But there was not one word of complaint from the girls, they were so professional, they were so united. They were just focused and on it. This was their opportunity.”
The girls basically dressed themselves for the video
Emma’s dress was from Topshop and Geri’s outfit was picked up for twenty quid from Notting Hill market. Thrifty.
Tony Blair was asked to be in the video
Geri approached the soon-to-be Prime Minister at the 1996 Brit Awards when the group were still nobodies. She told him: “Mr Blair, I’m Geri and I’m in an all-girl band. We’re going to be huge. We’re about to make our first video. Would you be interested in appearing in it?”
The video was banned in parts of Asia
The reason? That’ll be Mel B’s protruding nipples. Well it was cold.
The single didn’t debut at No.1 in the UK
Instead the group had to make do with third place behind Fugees’ Killing Me Softly at No.2 and Gary Barlow’s first ever solo single, Forever Love, at No.1. However, they took pole position the following week and stayed there for almost two months.
After reaching No.1 in the UK, the girls performed the song on Top Of The Pops with zero sleep
There was no time after a 13-hour flight to Japan. “They all just jumped in the shower and filmed Top of the Pops,” remembers Nicki Chapman. “It was a brutal schedule, absolutely brutal, and they didn’t bat an eyelid.”
Wannabe went on to top the charts in 37 countries
And it is still the best-selling single in the world by an all-female group and the best selling debut single in the UK of all time.
It’s the catchiest song of all time. And that’s official.
According to a 2014 study by the University of Amsterdam and Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, Wannabe is actually the catchiest… ever. Participants in the project identified it in just 2.29 seconds, mainly due to Mel B’s unforgettable laugh at the start of the track. It beat Lou Bega’s Mambo No 5 (A Little Bit Of), which was recognised an average of 2.48 seconds in, and Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor at 2.62 seconds.
Geri sang Wannabe at her own wedding. Yes, really.
The former Ginger Spice went solo for a ballad version of the song at her nuptials to F1 boss Christian Horner. Just… no.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.