That picture above is the first one we ever saw of S Club 7.
A lady from their management company came to see us and brought the photograph with her. She also brought a 21st Century Girls VHS but let's not dwell on that because the exciting thing about that day back in the late 1990s was that mysterious photo of seven popstars.
There wasn't much extra information given at the time, other than some names on the back of the photograph.
We don't know when 'John' decided to be Jon but we do know that over the next few years S Club refined and redefined the pop-as-a-brand malarkey and made some amazing songs.
Here's how it all happened.
S Club was a second attempt at the Spice Girls
Two of the biggest pop acts at the end of the 90s were actually previous pop acts done properly. With Westlife, Louis Walsh figured out what all the shit bits had been about Boyzone, and created a far better group.
With S Club, Simon Fuller had a look at his success with the Spice Girls and perfected the formula.
That's not to say S Club were a better act than the Spice Girls, but they were a more efficient and well-rounded pop entity. Most importantly, while the Spice Girls were simply a pop group that ended up being a brand, S Club was a brand with a pop group at its heart. Over the years that followed, this allowed S Club to become a range of merchandise, a TV programme… Even another pop group.
S Club launched off the back of a BBC TV programme
The first sight of S Club 7 was actually on Miami 7, a 'dramedy' effort shown on CBBC or whatever CBBC was called in 1999.
While not groundbreaking as a way of introducing a pop band (North & South had attempted something similar a couple of years earlier), Miami 7 was a stroke of genius in one important respect: its worldwide syndication was an extraordinarily clever way of shoehorning a new pop band into the consciousness of the entire planet. Miami 7 was seen by 90m people in over 100 countries.
They released some very good pop singles
'Reach': amazing. 'S Club Party': amazing. 'You're My Number One': amazing. 'Never Had A Dream Come True': amazing. 'Don't Stop Movin'': amazing. 'Have You Ever': amazing. 'Alive': amazing even though it was just trying to be 'Don't Stop Movin' 2'. 'Love Ain't Gonna Wait For You': we're still fuming this was relegated to AA-side status.
Most of the best S Club songs were written by Cathy Dennis, who seemed to find that the band provided a good clearing house for her INCREDIBLE POP STUFF. In 2014, 'Reach' and 'Don't Stop Movin'' are both solid gold wedding disco bangers that every DJ should have somewhere in their box.
Then S Club TV happened
S Club TV was an attempt at a TV programme. (It wasn't very good.)
Here the hosts are, plugging it on a better TV programme.
Excellent cross-promotion with the 'Reach For The Stars' segment though, right?
(Holly from S Club TV went on to be Holly Willoughby, while Ben had a picture of S Club in his attic or something.)
Then S Club Juniors happened
S Club Juniors were like S Club, but smaller. However, because there was one extra member in S Club Juniors, the two bands were actually exactly the same weight.
As well as nicking S Club's logo and songwriter (Cathy Dennis wrote their first single), S Club Juniors even appeared with a familiar first photo.
S Club Juniors ended up rebranding as S Club 8 and they knocked out some good songs (AND SOME SHIT ONES) during their time together. Among the best were 'Fool No More' and 'New Direction', the latter of which sounded a bit like 'nude erection' which as you can imagine was incredibly funny in 2005 and remains fairly amusing today.
(At the end of 2002 we joined S Club Juniors for two days for a piece for The Guardian, which is quite funny.)
When S Club 8 went tits up Simon Fuller invented a fame school-centred kids TV drama called I Dream, which featured Frankie and Calvin from S Club 8. That didn't go very well.
As you well know, Frankie and Rochelle from S Club 8 ended up in The Saturdays, and one of S Club Juniors' songs ended up being released in the US by American Juniors, who were a band formed by a reality show, but that's just adding an extra layer of complication to the whole thing so let's not get bogged down.
S Club 7 became S Club
In 2002, Paul from S Club 7 cleared off in order to be in some sort of bloody awful nu-metal outfit. He stayed with S Club for a few months — with hindsight he was basically working his notice period — before disappearing for good.
S Club 7 renamed themselves S Club and made an astonishingly shit film called 'Seeing Double'.
It was written by Simon Fuller's brother Kim, and directed by Nigel Dick, then man who'd also directed Britney's '…Baby One More Time' video. It didn't do very well at the Oscars.
S Club and S Club 8 all went off on tour together
The S Club United tour was supposed to be a joyous coming together of 14 pop behemoths.
Sadly it turned out to be more of an elaborate attempt at handing over the S Club baton, and it ended quite badly.
That's a fairly epic interpretation of "we've got good news and bad news", isn't it?
S Club eventually said goodbye for good
S Club's final single was 'Say Goodbye'.
The song was sent out to the media with promotional handkerchiefs, which seemed to be making light of an incredibly sad moment in the history of pop, but we all deal with grief in different ways and over the intervening years we've found a way to forgive S Club's label for their terrible lapse in judgement.
'Say Goodbye' and its accompanying video remain one of pop's best "it's all over let's just put everything in a box and have a cry" farewell moments.
Classic Cathy Dennis. Classic Dennis. CLASSY DENNIS.
Then Rachel Stevens was briefly responsible for a load of tremendous tunes
When the S Club party was in its 'putting out the bins and clearing up the wine stains' stage, Rachel Stevens decided to be a solo artist.
Things kicked off extremely well with the Top 3 single 'Sweet Dreams My LA Ex'.
The song had been written by Cathy Dennis for Britney Spears as an answer record to Justin Timberlake's 'Cry Me A River', but Britney was an idiot and Rachel got the song instead.
Then Rachel released a bizarre postmodern second single called 'Funky Dory', which sampled David Bowie's 'Hunky Dory' album track 'Andy Warhol', and referenced pop art in its lyrics.
THEN — this is the really good bit — Rachel accidentally released one of the greatest albums of the 21st Century in the form of 'Come And Get It'. (It got to Number 28 because the record buying public were extremely irresponsible.) The album included the Number Two single 'Some Girls', which was produced and written by Richard X and Hannah Robinson.
Geri Halliwell was so furious she didn't get this song that she locked herself in her car, an event later referenced in the X‑and-Robinson-helmed Annie song 'Me Plus One'. ('Me Plus One' ends with a sample of Geri Halliwell's dog.)
Jo O'Meara released an amazing single…
…and a shit album. Then she went on Celebrity Big Brother and everything went a bit wrong.
S Club 3 became 'a thing'
Jo, Bradley and Paul weren't really fooling anyone with the whole 'four backing dancers' debacle, but they did a load of student gigs and nightclub PAs. They also appeared on Australian television. :(
You would have thought that this sort of behaviour would put S Club — or S Club 3, or S Club 4 or whoever was available — into classic Big Reunion territory. But S Club did not appear on The Big Reunion. Could it perhaps have been the case that Simon Fuller was looking at The Big Reunion — much like he'd looked at the TV programme Popstars — and thinking, "I can do that myself"? Was he DEVISING a CUNNING POP PLAN?
Look this post's going on a bit now so let's just cut to the chase: S Club 7 are back together.
For a band that launched off the back of a BBC TV programme, it makes sense that S Club should relaunch off the back of a BBC TV programme.
This morning the BBC announced that S Club 7 — that's all of them, even Rachel — would be performing together for the first time in however many years it's been on this year's Children In Need. (Last year's Children In Need was also the location for McBusted's first TV appearance.)
There hasn't been an official announcement regarding new material, but if you think that's not on the cards you're a fool to yourself. Could there also be a tour?
Whether or not the band manage to pull off a McBusted remains to be seen; McBusted announced 13 live dates and ended up selling out over thirty — the genuine public demand and affection for that band has been extraordinary. But while McBusted benefit from Busted splitting before their time was up and McFly's continued existence providing a clear line from the past to the present, S Club ended a few months after it should have done and the profile of S Club's individual members has gone slightly adrift in recent years. Theirs is a proper revival in the way McBusted's kind of wasn't.
Anyway, the success or failure of any full S Club comeback rests on the reappearance of the most important person in S Club's history. It's not Rachel, and it's not Paul. It's not even Simon Fuller.