On this day in…1999

October 31, 2008

 Geri Halliwell and Emma Bunton released solo singles on the same day in the UK, beginning a week long battle for number 1 in the UK singles chart



Today’s “On This Day in…” takes us back nearly a decade ago to when, with a debut album from Melanie C, and imminent material the following year from Victoria and Melanie B, Solo Spice mania began to climb towards the levels marked “insanity” in the UK, highlighted by what happened on this particular day in 1999, when the stage was set for a week long high profile chart battle, Blur vs Oasis style, between two former members of Britain’s biggest girlband at this point in time.

In the red corner stood Emma Bunton, who was making her solo mark for the first time as guest vocalist on a cover of Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians’ 1988 hit “What I Am” alongside remixer/producer types Tin Tin Out (video above). Meanwhile in the blue corner, Geri Halliwell, who already had two top 3 hits to her name as a solo artist including one chart topper that year with “Mi Chico Latino” in August, offered the fairly forgettable but otherwise gentle offering, “Lift Me Up” (video below 3rd paragraph) as the third single from her debut UK top 5 solo album “Schizophonic”.

It is a battle that, it has to be said, neither of the girls had anticipated or indeed had wanted. Speaking to Radio 1 shortly after “What I Am” and “Lift Me Up” were released, Emma said, “It was just a media thing really. And it’s a shame they made it into a media thing because there’s always going to be other artists who are out at the same time as you, but you know, there’s room for everybody.” Geri offered a similar opinion in her second autobiography, 2002’s “Just for the Record”, saying, “It always warmed my heart whenever one of the girls had a solo record out and it still does, because it proves to people how talented and successful the Spice Girls were. But the minute I heard that it was Emma on the Tin Tin Out record, and then found out that there was no way of changing the release date, I was horrified.”

Geri however couldn’t have been too horrified. At this point in her solo career rarely anything she said or did would go unnoticed in the press, whether she was singing for Prince Charles on his 50th birthday, starring in her own documentary on Channel 4, making new best friends with George Michael, acting as a goodwill ambassador on behalf of the UN for her “World Walkabout” series for the BBC, or even when Boyzone beat her debut solo single, “Look at Me”, with it’s infamous Ginger bashing video to the top spot earlier on that year in May. To make matters worse, Geri, still being sceptical about how long she had left in the spotlight following her chart thrasing via Boyzone, was extremely motivated for one thing only to stop her sliding into obscurity – success. And this time, it was business as usual all over again, with what appeared to be Geri resorting to any desperate measures she could in order to reach the top of the UK chart for a second time that year and in her own words, not be a “one hit wonder”.

Aforementioned desperate measure came along in the form of then TFI Friday and Virgin Radio breakfast host, Chris Evans. A fellow ginger, Geri had idolized him since his days presenting Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast with Gaby Roslin, when she was still trying to break into showbiz. Interest had been raised after a very lovey dovey interview that Geri did on TFI Friday with Chris some weeks previously. Before too much longer, it was soon all over the papers on the week of the release that the two had been spotted out and about together and were “happily in love”, and quite a few industry cynics (and Spice fans) commented that the whole thing was just a big publicity stunt in order for Geri to get to #1, something which Geri adamantly denied at the time.

Either way, by the time the following Sunday rolled around, all was fair in love and publicity as Geri trounced Emma by 70,000 copies between Thursday that week and right up until tills closed on Saturday. “Lift Me Up” zoomed straight in at #1 to give Geri her second solo chart topper of the year, whilst Emma and Tin Tin Out’s “What I Am” quietly entered not far behind at #2. Both records went onto be some of the biggest sellers of the year, but by the time Christmas rolled round, Geri and Chris were no longer an item, definitely suggesting to all concerned that their relationship was all in aid of a chart topper. Emma would however get her chance to shine (and her own back) some 18 months later, when her follow up single, “What Took You So Long?” soared to the top of the UK charts for a fortnight in March 2001.



  1. After reading your article I finnaly found how Lift me up beat what I am, which is a very good song! I’ve made some Emma reviews in my blog 😀

    Congratulations on your site!

  2. I must admit, I preferred Lift Me Up, and probably still do. And also, I was *all* about Solo Geri at this point too, and could not understand why she wasn’t really making much of a mark with her follow ups to Look At Me here in Oz.

    As always, brilliant post. Thank you for the trip down memory lane.

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