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CMU Beef Of The Week #341: The Spice Girls v The Year 2050

By | Published on Friday 3 February 2017

The Spice Girls

Earlier this week, a time capsule buried by children’s TV show ‘Blue Peter’ in 1998 under the site of what was then known as the Millennium Dome was dug up by a builder, 33 years ahead of its planned excavation in 2050.

It seems that builders working on the site had been wondering where the bloody ‘Blue Peter’ capsule was actually buried – no one seemingly having kept a note of it – though you sense the discovery this week might have been something of an accident. Certainly the capsule’s container got somewhat bashed up during the unearthing.

“The team at The O2 and our contractors ISG have been searching for the Blue Peter time capsule since we started construction work in 2016”, said a spokesperson for The O2, as the big tent is now known (though I’m no sell out, I still call it ‘The Dome’). “Sadly it was accidentally damaged during excavations. The capsule and its contents are safely stored in our office and we’ve let the team at ‘Blue Peter’ know. We’re going to work with them to either repair or replace the capsule and bury it again for the future”.

You could infer from that quote that the capsule’s premature excavation was the deliberate conclusion of a pre-planned search, though one source told The Sun that the discovery was unplanned and the damage came about because unnamed builders, totally unaware of the ‘Blue Peter’ project in 1998, started bashing it up in a bid to get inside.

“Nobody realised it was the Blue Peter capsule”, said the tabloid’s super source. “The boys thought they’d struck gold. They were going at it with anything they could find – hammers, shovels, the lot. At one point a bloke in a forklift squished it with the machine’s teeth”.

I’ve worked in a few warehouses in my time, and I don’t remember forklifts ever having teeth, but whatever. The point is, they found it, and quickly treated it with the reverence it deserved. Actually, according to The Sun, despite having a large ‘Blue Peter’ logo on the side, it was just dumped in a skip until someone else noticed it later.

What was in this capsule, though? Nearly 20 years have passed since it was buried fifteen feet under what initially became an expensive embarrassment – rather than the bold celebration of a new millennium that it was supposed to be – though via deals with live firm AEG and phone network O2, the complex has since been put to some decent use. And don’t you now wish for the days when taxpayer money being squandered on pointless vanity projects was the main issue you had with the government of the day?

The contents of said capsule were chosen by ‘Blue Peter’ viewers in a competition, and therefore largely represent what was on the collective minds of children back in the late 90s. Well, the sorts of children watching ‘Blue Peter’. Those young minds were in part preoccupied with various events in very recent history, with the recently deceased Princess Diana, the Northern Ireland peace process, and the 1998 World Cup in France all represented in different forms. Though that’s not to say kids of the 1990s didn’t get distracted by nonsense fads. For example, there’s a Tamagochi in there, a reminder of a brief craze from that era which, by 2050, will presumably be seen as an early warning of the artificial intelligence that will be running everything by then.

But what about music? How did the kids want future generations to remember the musical delights of their era? Well, with a Spice Girls CD, obviously.

Now, just the format already constitutes a slice of history, though presumably that’s not what ‘Blue Peter’ viewers were thinking about. Napster was still not quite online yet in 1998, and mainstream web usage was in its infancy.

No, the children of Britain wanted the musical legacy of the late Twentieth Century to be represented by Posh, Baby, Scary, Sporty and Ginger. And why not, you musical snobs. The Spice Girls were still a powerful force in pop when ‘Blue Peter’ was surveying its viewers.

Their first and second albums were the third and fourth best-selling albums of 1997 respectively, and the group began 1998 with a number one single in the form of ‘Too Much’, which had helped end the short-lived chart dominance of those Teletubbies’ (something else represented in the recently discovered time capsule).

Though, revisionist historians have recently noted, even then the Spice tower was wobbling. The group had already sacked manager Simon Fuller by the end of 1997, and between fans voting for the group’s CD to be dropped into the ground via ‘Blue Peter’s capsule and the TV show actually burying the thing, Geri Halliwell had already quit the pop enterprise.

Still, it took another two and a half years for the Spice Girls show to finally shut down. And at the end of 1998 they equalled a Beatles chart record by scoring their third consecutive Christmas number one. But after the new millennium that capsule had been built to celebrate got underway, within a year the girl power group were officially on hiatus.

Still, their final single topped the charts, and – as all things Spice started to slip away into the hazy part of people’s memories we like to called nostalgia – at least there was that CD in the ‘Blue Peter’ time capsule. And come 2050, the world at large would once again be able to relive the joy of the great pre-millennial pop phenomenon, back when boybands and girl groups didn’t require talent shows to form.

Oh, except, yeah, fucking nostalgia is its own business these days isn’t it? And so, in 2007, the inevitable reunion occurred. Still, they didn’t try to make a new album, the one new single they did put out was sufficiently lacklustre that we all quickly forgot about it, and the reunion tour was pretty damn successful. It even included a seventeen night residency at The O2, where they got to dance each night on top of the capsule that was so carefully preserving their legacy deep in the earth.

We don’t like reunions at CMU, but that was a nicely brief blast of nostalgia. So now let’s leave things alone until ‘Blue Peter’s big reveal in 2050, right? Oh, what’s that? You think the grand finale should be a West End musical of your songs? Hmm, not sure.

Yeah, who remembers ‘Viva Forever’, the musical that seemed to go live while still on its first draft, resulting in a painful series of public rewrites, none of which saved it from being a disaster. It hobbled on for six months before being put out of its misery, by which point the initially super keen Spice Girls were seemingly pretending they weren’t aware of any musical.

Still, until I mentioned it there, you’d forgotten all about ‘Viva Forever’ hadn’t you? See, legacy intact, bring on 2050. Oh, except there’s all that talk of another Spice Girls reunion isn’t there?

Despite Mel C and Victoria Beckham being confirmed no-shows, and the latter’s reported legal efforts to block her former bandmates from further exploiting all things Spice. Her lawyers could still yet succeed, or the new reunion momentum could just falter on its own accord.

But, you know, this is 2017, no logic is capable of stopping bad shit happening these days. Though maybe the bad shit here need not be the Spice Three tour Mel B is so keen to organise. Perhaps the bad shit can be the destruction of the Spice Girls CD that the children of Britain had so carefully buried in the ground for the enjoyment of future generations.

In a statement about the capsule’s accidental excavation this week, the BBC said: “We are looking forward to sharing these memories with viewers and making new ones as we rebury the capsule until 2050”.

Does that mean they might put some new things in there before the reburial? Assuming so, let’s put that knocked about Spice Girls disc in a nice new jewel CD box but resist the temptation to add anything more recent. Keep their legacy circa 1998 unharmed.