Confessions of a Secret S Club 7 Fan
In the throes of 2002, my world orbited around the British pop phenomenon S Club 7. It was the zenith of the boy band era, with pop superstars like NSYNC, Britney Spears, and the Backstreet Boys shaping the musical landscape. Their contemporary equals could only be the likes of Taylor Swift, possibly BTS, but my allegiance lay with the charismatic septet from across the Atlantic.
The ensemble birthed from the mind of Simon Fuller—Spice Girls’ impresario and the architect behind Pop Idol, Britain’s forerunner to American Idol—featured a quartet of girls and a trio of boys. In a twist of creative genius, S Club 7’s narrative extended into a television series, immersing fans in the group’s escapades across the United States and their musical performances.
It kicked off with Miami 7, capturing the group’s endeavors at a hotel in the titular city, helmed by the cantankerous Howard and his aide, Marvin. This show broadcasted first on the BBC’s CBBC—a network catering to younger audiences—before transitioning to the American cable network Fox Family, which underwent several rebrandings and is presently known as Freeform.
The group’s on-screen journey transported them to the West Coast in a series of specials, one being S Club 7: Back to the 50’s, a delightful time-travel escapade channeling Back to the Future, complete with a standoff against a gang of greasers. This narrative served as a backdrop for the music video of their indelible hit, “S Club Party,” whose lyrics remain etched in my memory as a roll call of the members’ names—a mnemonic device of sorts.
Even now, I can effortlessly recite the band members’ names in rhythm with the song’s catchy lyrics: “Tina’s doin’ her dance/Jon is lookin’ for romance/Paul’s getting down on the floor/While Hannah’s screamin’ out for more/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!”
Following this, the band’s journey continued with L.A. 7 and Hollywood 7. Despite the similar titles, the series carved out a unique niche. It strayed from the formulaic approach of subsequent children’s programming, particularly those on the Disney Channel. The show stood out for what it lacked—a laugh track, as used in Hannah Montana, and the frequent visual gags, such as the animated segments in Lizzie McGuire. Instead, S Club 7 distinguished itself by playfully mocking their pop peers like Hanson, a bold move that I suspect wouldn’t have been sanctioned for the Jonas Brothers under the Disney banner a decade later.
Reflecting on the show, one of its most compelling facets was the incorporation of yesteryear stars as mentors, a nod, perhaps, to the parents in the audience. This included casting choices such as Linda Blair, of The Exorcist fame, and Barry Williams, known as Greg from The Brady Bunch. Only recently did I discover Seeing Double, a cinematic venture about the band’s cloning—an intriguing piece of their library I had missed.
S Club 7’s music radiated an infectious, pop-infused cheerfulness. They maintained a clean image, with the notable exception of a single expletive in one song, and even their cheeky lyrics in “S Club Party” seem quaint when set against the provocative verses of modern tracks like “W.A.P.” Their repertoire, celebrated for its wholesomeness, often explored themes of camaraderie and romance, earning the trust of listeners’ parents. The members, each a skilled vocalist, created a seamless blend of harmonies. Their songs, known for their catchy and spirited nature, reflected the band’s sonic evolution from bubblegum pop to a more mature R&B sound. My father, frequently traveling to the UK for work, procured exclusive CDs featuring tracks unreleased in the States, which naturally made me the object of neighborhood envy.
While S Club 7 enjoyed heightened popularity in the UK, their impact in the U.S. was largely confined to the single “Never Had a Dream Come True,” leading to their status as a one-hit wonder—a sentiment echoed by a respected music YouTuber in a feature on the band. Personally, the song captured my attention upon its release, igniting excitement as it seemed to introduce the band I adored to the rest of the world. However, it never quite ascended to the top of my list of the group’s songs; it recalled the great ballads of the 90s, reminiscent of artists like Seal or Celine Dion.
The year 2002 marked a significant turning point for me: I was graduating from fifth grade, transitioning from the familiar halls of elementary school to the daunting new world of middle school. Additionally, my family was on the cusp of relocating from our cherished Virginia Beach to Richmond. During this pivotal year, I also took on the role of class secretary in our student government, which allowed me the honor of delivering a farewell address during a school assembly. My goal was to create an unforgettable exit from Trantwood Elementary.
I devised a plan to culminate my speech with the hit “Don’t Stop Movin’” playing from a boombox. With the music teacher’s approval, I executed my plan. I encouraged my fellow students with a rallying cry to “don’t stop movin’” before the music began. Opting not to dance, I believed the song’s energy alone would suffice. While one parent half-expected a breakdance performance, I was simply elated to share the music that had shaped my early years. The response was a round of polite applause—a modest reception, yet it marked a personal triumph.
My fascination with S Club 7 waned shortly after that memorable moment in my elementary school’s auditorium. I gravitated towards the edgier sounds of Green Day, whose punk-rock ethos was a stark departure from the bubbly tunes of S Club 7. That summer, like many others across America, I was captivated by Sheryl Crow’s hit “Soak Up the Sun.” The members of S Club 7, once the epitome of the girl-next-door image, stood in contrast to the defiant persona of Avril Lavigne, whose song “Complicated” became a defining anthem of the time. Interestingly, the YouTuber I admire once likened S Club 7 to a “middle school Daft Punk,” which resonates humorously with me, considering my deep dive into Daft Punk’s music during middle school—a label like “elementary school Daft Punk” might have been an even better fit.
Meanwhile, S Club 7 encountered their 0wn challenges. Paul Cattermole left the group to chase a metal music dream that ultimately didn’t take off. While I had largely stopped following their TV show, I distinctly remember the episode where he bid farewell, with the band finding themselves in Barcelona. In 2003, about a year after his departure, the band confronted the inevitable and announced their disbandment.
Fast forward to the present day, 2023, which has turned out to be a year of high drama for the band. They kicked off with the thrilling announcement of a reunion tour, promising the return of all seven original members. Tragically, in April, Paul Cattermole passed away unexpectedly at the age of 46 due to heart failure. The group delayed the tour to honor his memory, later initiating the first segment of the tour in the UK as a tribute to Paul. Notably absent from the current lineup is Hannah Spearitt, with speculation rife about her reasons for not participating. Some suggest she is overwhelmed by grief, while others hint at contractual disputes.
As the North American leg of the tour approached, I found myself intrigued despite not having closely followed the developments. Upon reviewing the tour dates, I discovered a concert scheduled in Philadelphia, a manageable journey from my home in D.C. Contemplating this, I realized that attending the concert would fulfill a longstanding dream from my youth—one that I hadn’t fully appreciated until now as a cherished item on my bucket list.
While I may have missed the opportunity to witness legends like Bowie, Prince, or the Beastie Boys live on stage, the prospect of seeing S Club 7 was an unexpected consolation. My excitement grew secretly at first—I was somewhat sheepish about confessing to my friends just how thrilled I was. Attending an S Club 7 concert in my 30s felt like the quintessence of a “guilty pleasure.” Yet, as time went on, my resolve only strengthened; I felt compelled to be there. I purchased my ticket, eagerly anticipating what seemed like an assured event.
However, within a mere 24 hours of securing my ticket, the band announced a postponement of the North American tour dates to the following year, with the Philadelphia concert I planned to attend being completely canceled. The reason provided was vague: “Administrative issues,” as stated with a tone of frustration in their Instagram announcement. “We are so sorry that our forthcoming US and Canada tour dates have been postponed due to an admin issue beyond our control,” they said. The vagueness of this explanation left me wondering about the real reasons behind this sudden change.
Once again, it seems I’ve been let down by a nostalgic piece of my past—something I held dear, now diminished by the most unexpected turn of events. My affection for S Club 7 blossomed in an era bookended by my fascination with pop culture icons like Alex Mack and the network G4—times that shaped my early years and adolescence. This recent letdown echoes those previous disappointments of anticipated reunions that never quite captured the original magic.
There are, however, a few concerts scheduled for next year that I could potentially attend, though it promises to be a more challenging prospect than I initially thought. If I do make it to a show, there’s a lingering concern that the experience might be marred by the absence of Paul and Hannah. Perhaps it’s time I learned to hold on to the cherished memories of my youth as they are, without expecting them to be resurrected. This recent disillusionment has reinforced a tough lesson: some things are truly meant to remain in their own time and place.