Tuesday, 8 March 2016

When the Spice Girls did Stoneybatter

The Spice Girls came to Stoneybatter on 27 January 1998. They were in town anyway to rehearse for their world domination tour, which kicked off a month later in Dublin's Point Theatre, but they needed a quiet backstreet location to shoot their video for "Stop". They found Carnew Street.

Above: Carnew Street, Dublin 7, today. Note the disc-parking lanes and rakes more cars - though that one on the near right has a 1991 licence plate.
James Brown was in the director's seat, and that's St Gabriel's in the distance. (Even if you never went to the national school you might be familiar with St Gabriel's as our local polling station during elections and referendums.)

This momentous event in pop history also pops up on page 103 (paperback edition) of Another Case in Cowtown:
"You wouldn’t believe it, that morning in Carnew Street: a knock on the door, and Baby Spice and Posh Spice asking can we use your loo and is it an outside convenience? Each household was paid a hundred quid, for the inconvenience of your street being turned into a movie lot, sealed off like they’d found a suspect device: in this case an unexploded Spice Girls single."
It doesn't mention that they also gave a few doors a quick lick of paint, or how a fire engine hosed down the street to give it the wet look, or how the street has since become a minor shrine for the odd tourist to do an homage.

Carnew Street is a popular movie location, and the Irish Film Board has even given it its own locations brochure. It has "stood in for" 1990s Belfast in a fairly forgettable IRA film called Shadow Dancer (released in 2012) and for late 1960s Derry in Bogwoman (1999), and also appears in Michael Collins (1996) and Angela's Ashes (1999). 

The second half of the Spice Girls video - those whimsical "peasanty" bits at the local fair and village hall and so on - was shot in Rathdrum, County Wicklow.

As for the song itself, it began as a Geri Halliwell idea. While it was recorded in the summer of '97 at the height of Britpop (and despite what the male rock press patriarchy says, the Spice Girls were just as much Britpop as Blur and Oasis), it was only released as a single on 9 March 1998, shortly before Halliwell left the group.

The NME's Sylvia Patterson described the song as an "obscenely catchy Motown swinger", Rolling Stone magazine's David Wild called it a retro, confection "that's as undeniable as it is unoriginal", and Digital Spy's Nick Levine wrote years later that it was "still sounding like the best song that Motown never produced".

Can't say fairer than that.