Last night I went to see S Club (no longer 7) on their Good Times Tour in Sheffield.
If you grew up in the late 1990s/early 2000s in the UK then their cheesy bubble-gum pop songs were the soundtrack to your childhood. I loved them! My 11 year old bedroom was decorated with posters of them (and Westlife and 911), I had the VHS tapes of their TV shows and the Hannah and Rachel dolls.
The group was created by Simon Fuller – after he was fired by the Spice Girls – and they were huge in the era of highly manufactured pop music. They were introduced in a BBC TV series and each member (like the Spice Girls) was presented as character easily marketable to children. Their songs were upbeat, catchy and clean.
Looking back on it now as an adult it must have been a fucking weird existence for them as very young adults (the youngest of them were 17 when they signed). They have since spoken about their terrible contracts, their exhausting 18 hours work days with no time off and how little money they receive despite Simon Fuller making millions off them.1 Like many pop artists from that era they didn’t turn make it out as a millionaires and many of them have reported ended up bankrupt and homeless at various points since.
And also like many of their contemporaries, they reformed to squeeze from cash from a reunion tour. When I saw that all seven members of the group were planning to tour in 2023 I knew I had to get tickets!
Sadly a complete reunion was not meant to be. Paul passed away suddenly in April 2023, and then Hannah dropped out (they were in a relationship with for 7 years, its understandable she’d not want to continue with the group) . Gone are S Club 7, now they’re just S Club.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the tour honestly. Hannah had always been my favourite, and while as a child I didn’t pay much mind to Paul afterwards he was one of the more outspoken and honest about the realities of life after S Club. He struggled with the whole experience (he left the group early), and even sold his Brit Awards when he went bankrupt. I was more interested to see those two on stage again than most of the others.
The remaining five (Rachel, Jo, Tina, Bradley and John) did still put on a great show. They all looked great and sounded great, especially Bradley. It was really fun to single along to all the sounds in an arena full of people!
But I was impossible not think about Paul and Hannah, and I kept seeing gaps in staging that seemed meant for seven. In the first act of the show they each wear colour blocked outfits and I was a bit distracted trying to think which colours we were missing! (I think red and purple for the rainbow).
There was a moving tribute to Paul, but there was no acknowledgment of Hannah’s absence which was honestly quite strange. She was seen in the clips of the band in their hey day, as she was often next to Paul on stage or paired with him in the TV show (which did write in their relationship). It was like they’d forgotten she existed despite her face up on the screen behind them!
They also couldn’t perform their classic – absolute banger – S Club Party in full because it would be too awkward with their iconic chorus missing two members!
Tina’s doing her dance
Jon’s looking for romance
Paul’s getting down on the floor
While Hannah’s screaming out for more (ooh-ooh)
Wanna see Bradley swing
Wanna see Rachel do her thing
Then we got Jo, she’s got the flow
Get ready, everybody
‘Cause here we go
Instead they closed with a cut down rather frustrating remixed version.
It feels like this blog post as got rather down. I promise I did have a great time – I left with my ears ringing and throat hoarse from singing my heart out – but I also haven’t been able to shake thoughts of what it should have been. Of how Hannah feels about all this (she has just released a “tell all” book which I am tempted by but I’ll wait for more reviews as that kind of thing usually leaves out any juicy details I might actually want to know!). What it would have been like if they were all there.
I keep wondering what it is – and was – really like for them; these mid-40s people back to perform sugary pop hits for the 30 year olds who worshipped them as children. As a manufactured group chewed up and spat out by the ruthless 90s music industry its hard to believe its for the love of the music, or a desire to reunite out of friendship or some yearning for “the good times.”
As an 11 year old I loved them as two dimensional living dolls, but now as 34 year old I am so curious about them as people.2
I’m going to leave you with Reach. Enjoy!
- https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/s-club-7-tour-hannah-spearritt-paul-cattermole-cp0f8kvw5 ↩︎
- Jo was on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007 and what we saw of her as a person there was a racist bully to Shilpa Shetty… Not great. ↩︎