Before Camila Cabello, Zayn Malik or any of the other members that left this generation’s pop collectives, there was Geri Haliwell and the cry heard around the Spice World.
Geri Halliwell announced her departure from the Spice Girls on May 31, 1998.
Two decades ago, Ginger suddenly decided to quit the band, citing depression and differences between her bandmates as the reason for her exit. As fate would have it, the British singer and her longtime sisters (minus Victoria Beckham) would return to the pop scene for a celebratory reunion tour almost twenty years since the controversy erupted across magazines and newspapers. In our latest installment of This Day In Pop, BreatheHeavy decided to turn back the hands of time to revisit the dreaded day when Ginger Spice announced that she was leaving behind Mel C (Sporty Spice), Victoria (Posh Spice), Emma B (Baby Spice), and Mel B (Scary Spice).
Towards the height of the late ‘90s pop explosion, the biggest girl group of the time imploded and it was a shake-up that ruled the media. You don’t become one of the most-talked about stories of the year without good reason. Days prior to an official announcement, Victoria reportedly received a call from the group’s lawyer, Andrew Thompson, with news that Ginger decided to quit the act. “No, this is serious, Victoria. Geri is leaving the band. She’s had enough. She doesn’t want to come back,” Thompson told her. Posh thought it was a joke, but she was dead wrong.
At the time, the bandmates were at the end of the European leg of the “Spiceworld Tour,” with the launch of their sold-out American leg approaching in just a few weeks. As per Haliwell’s autobiography, If Only, which arrived a little more than a year later in October 1999, she had enough with it all. During their last outing together, they hopped on a private jet, unbeknownst that Geri’s uncomfortable farewell would be the last time they’d be together in years. “I thought, ‘That’s really weird. We never say goodbye to each other because we go home for a couple of hours and then we’re back together,’” Baby Spice recalled in an interview years later. Before the chaos hit the media, it was a bubbling mess within the group. Lawyers were calling. Geri told the girls over the phone that she had enough. As per the singer, she had been planning to leave in September at the end of their world tour. However, while on the road, Halliwell, who had been asked to give an interview about her breast cancer scare, was told she was not allowed to do so. That was apparently the final straw.
Geri missed out on two shows, as well as the Wednesday National Lottery show in England, and the media started to question her whereabouts. The remaining four could only cover their tracks for so long with the sick card, but the public statement was just around the corner. “This is a message to the fans, sadly I would like to confirm I have left the Spice Girls, this is because of differences between us. I am sure that the group will continue to be successful, and I wish them all the best,” a message via Geri’s solicitor read. “I have no immediate plans and I wish to apologise to all the fans and to thank them and everyone who’s been there. Lots of love Geri. PS: I will be back”
It might have been a partial honest explanation of the behind-the-scenes chaos, but it was still a distant reaction to what was clearly an emotionally taxing moment for the star, who was only 21 at the time. “One thing that was clear at the time I decided to leave was that inside Ginger Spice, underneath the make-up, the big hair, the giant platforms and the headline-grabbing dresses, there was a real girl and she was being suffocated,” Halliwell wrote in her second autobiography, 2002’s Just For The Record.
Evem that is still not a response that correlates directly with the rumblings that a rift might have occurred between her and Mel B, her closest confidant in the group. “Melanie and Geri have a relationship with each other and it was deeper than a lot of people think,” Mel B’s ex-husband Jimmy Gulzar said after her departure. “You can see that there was a deeper thing going on there between Geri and Melanie than just only [being] members of the group because if any other member of the group would have left the group that Melanie would have been so negative towards to. Melanie was just hurt that Geri had left the group because they were really, really close.” Forget the fact she left on Melanie’s birthday or that the two made a pact that if either one of them ever wanted to leave, they’d give each other a heads up. It’s all interesting context since Mel recently admitted that the two slept with one another in their heyday.
Despite some fallen projects, the Spice Girls brand transitioned into a four-piece. They released the video for “Viva Forever,” an animated clip created before Geri’s departure. They ventured forward with their sold-out tour throughout the States. Most notably, they recorded new music, including their ballad, “Goodbye,” which was meant as a tribute to Geri. It topped the UK Singles Chart and became their third consecutive Christmas No. 1, equaling the record previously set by The Beatles.
Halliwell’s exit certainly marked the end of an era for the Spice Girls and an even bigger turning point in the timeline for a woman who had become overwhelmed with the attributions of international superstardom. As we previously discussed, mental health in pop music is the real deal. Nonetheless, the Spice Girls’ legacy still remained intact and the demand for a reunion grew strong throughout the years. Solo careers were launched, but never to the degree of the collective’s impact. Life took its course, with the women venturing into parenthood, before their eventual 2007 reunion tour and the one-off performance at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony. Nine years since the world saw the five collide together on stage, the interest for another reunion from the Spice Girls has become a reality. If they can get Victoria on board (and fix all this fuss around the sound), then it’ll be just like old times and if there’s one thing we could use in 2019, it’s girl power.