Part 20. The Spice Girls

During the 90s girl power was the next big thing, and at one point many it was thought it could displace solar or tidal power as the main contender to break humankind's self-destructive reliance on fossil fuels. Sadly all efforts have failed to come up with an efficient way of harnessing this power that doesn't involve stuffing Geri Halliwell into a boiler.

And whilst burning Spice Girls may seem like a good idea, sadly there are not enough of them to make it worthwhile. As everyone knows, there are only five: Scary, Ginger, Sporty, Baby and Ringo. Interestingly, in the not too distant past there used to be more...

Keith Baxton is a Spice Girls fan, amateur archivist and part time butcher. In 2006 he was ferretting about in the British library when he came across an ancient volume dating from the late 1970s, hidden inside a copy of Smash Hits. The pages were faded and fragile, the manuscript was covered with dust and it was written in a form of English that died out over thirty years ago. However, after many months' hard work, copious supplies of Ribena and not a few paper cuts, Baxton announced that he had found the long lost Magna Popus - an inventory of all the bands in the UK compiled on the orders of Prime Minister James Callaghan upon his succession to the throne. Callaghan sent out his ministers across England to every shire, every town, every farmstead to catalogue bands for the purpose of taxation. A guitarist would have to pay a shilling per annum, as would a bass player. A drummer would be charged two farthings and a singer would be required to pay half a crown. And if you played the organ, penny-wurlitzer or Hammond pedalo-forte you would need to take a test and obtain a licence from the Lord Provost. Bagpipe players were ordered to be shot on sight.

This is all very lovely, you might think, but aren't we rather a long way from the Spice Girls? Have patience, I'm getting there.

The Magna Popus provided some fascinating insights, including the revelation that Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones had attempted to avoid paying tax by having his bass bricked up. However, Baxton's most important discovery came when he found a listing for the Spice Girls. Not only did it appear that the group had formed 20 years before their official history states, but they started out with twelve members. Baxton couldn't believe his eyes; several people have since doubted his ears and his nose has been the subject of an inquiry. But that's as may be - the fact is that there were seven Spice Girls that no one knew anything about and Baxton was determined to track them down.

He found the first three easily: Nifty Spice, Sniffy Spice and Burpy Spice had all remained in the music industry, and had been in various girl groups over the years. In fact for three days in 2010 they had briefly been the Sugababes. Meanwhile, Wheezy Spice and Shorty Spice had opened a café called Wheezy's Place, although they later opted to cash in on their association and renamed it The Spice Grill. The sixth Spice Girl, Baldy, had remained with the group for much longer and had appeared on early demos. However, there were tensions between her and the others which came to a head when Ginger accidentally backed her car over her. Twice. She left the band for health and safety reasons.

Which left one Spice Girl unaccounted for - Tubby. Here Baxton drew a blank although he has theorised that she is being held in some kind of secret cryogenic facility so that future generations can clone Spice Girls of their own. This is probably nothing more than wishful thinking on his part, however.

None of this is true, by the way.

Ricky Stratocaster once got drunk with two members of Deep Purple and woke up in a ditch covered in garlic dip.

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