IN DEFENSE OF THE SPICE GIRLS
By Sally Timms
We shouldn't be surprised that the Spice Girls blew up so big. They rose like post-feminist giants, stomping on all-comers with their great platform boots. After years of Pearl Jam clones and traumatized girls with acoustic guitars the world needed some light entertainment. Spice Girls' music is fun. It's upbeat and positive, it's about Girl Power. They sing about the value of female friendships and boyfriends better accept it:
"if you wanna be my liver (lover), you better (gotta) get with my friends"
They are the natural antidote to the hippy, half-dead Ophelias featured in Lilith Fair. Hooray for the Spice Girls, for they are copers!
Why are they so successful you all wonder? After all, the Spice Girls are a global, cross-cultural phenomenon. They're hugely successful in nearly every country of the world. They sell a trillion zillion records and YOU probably don't own any of them...(I have two). Were they really manufactured?...let's be realistic. No record company executive is capable of being half that clever; if they were, there would be armies of Spice Clones charging up the charts. No-one would have picked those particular girls. They're too chubby, too loud, too crazy, too sexy, too plain, too everygirl. I believe they are their own creation...they are themselves.
The Spice Girls' concept is pretty simple which may explain its popularity. There are FIVE of them: they all have a different look and personality...therefore one of them is bound to be your type. You can choose to like just one, but you may change your mind later: you can like more than one, or you can be greedy and like them all! Who's your favorite? Sporty, Ginger, Baby, Scary or Posh?...I like Scary.
Critics moan about their inability to play instruments. "They can't sing, they can't dance, they don't write their own songs". In other words they don't think they are very good. But Mick Jones couldn't sing very well, losts of people can't dance and they DO write their own songs (at very least, the melodies and lyrics). If "Wannabe" and "Spice Up Your Life" weren't great pop songs, they could never sell out Madison Square Garden in twelve minutes; but last summer those songs blasted out of the radio like fresh air and the ineptitude was part of the charm. The Spice Girls may not sing like En Vogue or dance like TLC, but add up all the parts and it's a wonderful package. So why are they viewed as inferior to their peers? Is it because they don't take the whole thing seriously enough? Acknowledging it could all end tomorrow, they look on with amusement as they enjoy greater longevity than most of the acts launched in the last few years. The second album did not die. Spice Girls are NOT one-hit wonders.
Anyone can be a Spice Girl (or Spice Boy for that matter) and everyone is welcome in Spice World. It's a color-free zone where little home-girls hang out with suburban WASP's. The group and fans are multi-racial and it's no big deal. Fuck Paula Cole with her "I am black" routine - how come no-one calls her on that?...and that tambourine thing she does with her feet??!! God help us all - THAT is the crap that should carry a parental advisory sticker! But in the Grammy stakes it was Paula Cole: 9, Spice Girls: 0 (unprecedented for such a huge-selling group not to be nominated). "Strangely, despite their untiring efforts and financial contributions to its cause, even the industry is down on the Spice Girls.
However, there are signs that the tide is turning. Madonna recently admitted she USED to be a Spice Girl - a little denial going on there because she STILL is one! Avant-gardist Jim O'Rourke apparently likes Baby Spice best. How many other furtive Spice Groupies are out there?...someone's buying those records. Frankly I'n tired of arguing the point, more of us need to come out of the closet and join the fray. We owe it to ourselves to be loud and proud and we must come out of the closet and join the fray. We owe it to ourselves to be loud and proud and we musn't be afraid to let the world hear us shouting, "Three cheers for the Spice Girls! Long live the Queens of Pop!"
A few weeks ago, before Sally Timms' set at Lounge Ax, the expressive country-pop-soul vocalist handed out her essay titled "In Defense of the Spice Girls," printed on shocking pink paper.
It is hilarious.
And true. Spice is nice.
Timms wrote, "They are the natural antidote to the hippy, half-dead Ophelias featured at Lilith Fair. Hooray for the Spice Girls, for they are copers!"
Timms is a native of Leeds, England. Her latest record is the 1997 Bloodshot EP "Cowboy Sally," which includes covers of John Anderson's "Seminole Wind," Patti Page's "Tennessee Waltz" and a saucy version of the Handsome Family's "Drunk by Noon." Timms has been breaking down musical barriers since 1985, when she joined the Mekons collective and debuted on the band's grungy country-punk album "Fear and Whiskey." (The Handsome Family opens for the Mekons in a just-announced show at 9 p.m. Thursday at FitzGerald's in Berwyn.)
She makes some salient points about the Spice Girls.
Such as, "Anyone can be a Spice Girl (or Spice Boy for that matter) and everyone is welcome in Spice World. It's a color-free zone where little homegirls hang out with suburban WASPs. The group and fans are multiracial, and it's no big deal."
There has been a strong response to Timms' essay. Time Out! magazine recently reprinted the piece in its entirety.
"I just like the idea of handing out broadsheets at gigs," Timms said recently over the phone as the Mekons stopped in Dean Martin's hometown of Steubenville, Ohio, en route to a gig in Columbus. "People get really upset or they like it. But they're always intrigued. I stand there and say, 'Here are my thoughts on the Spice Girls.' The audience goes, 'Why is she making us read this?' It's quite funny. Some people can get really disgusted.
"But all these people are down on the Spice Girls, and I don't see why. I think they're really good. I'm irritated by people's blinkard vision. Then, the more I kept handing (the pink sheets) out, the more I'd hear about how other people like them."
Scary Spice is from Leeds, which helps make her Timms' favorite Spice Girl. "She's the prettiest," Timms said. "And she's loudmouthed. . . . I talked to (rock vocalist) Mark Eitzel when I was in San Francisco. He asked if I was kidding about this. I said, 'No, I'm serious.' Then he said, 'Good, because I like them, too.' Then we both started wondering why the press is so mean to the Spice Girls."
Timms has sung several Spice Girls tunes around the house but has yet to perform any. "I did a TLC song once," said Timms, who has begun work on a "bizarre, moody" solo album that likely will be released on Quarter Stick Records. "It's sweet that kids like the Spice Girls because they're fun and colorful, but if you saw them on the Oprah show there were loads of little black girls there -- it wasn't just white kids. . . . You don't often see that kind of boundary crumbling in America."
When Timms was growing up, her family would listen to pirate Radio Luxembourg. Her first big musical crush was on the late Mick Ronson (guitarist for David Bowie and Ian Hunter). "And I loved David Bowie," she said. "T.Rex and when I was younger, Slade. And I listened to a lot of Northern Soul, which was very popular. It was harder edged than Motown. That's the nice thing about England. People really do listen to all kinds of music: glam rock, punk, country. Your mind should be open to appreciate different kinds of music."