East 17

When East 17 stumbled into the Walthamstow, England limelight in late 1991 they had little idea that their rabble-rousing brand of boy-band pop would create such a storm. Indeed, at the outset, a young Tony Mortimer had been on the verge of signing a solo deal with London Records until ex-Pet Shop Boys manager Tom Watkins suggested that what the world needed was a boy-band antidote to Take That and a band that bad girls could fall in love with. Of course, what Mortimer says now is that he really thought the world needed a UK version of New Kids On The Block and when you think about it this is not a million miles from the inevitable truth. The resultant chaos produced a 1992 debut single, House Of Love, which sold 600,000 copies and a debut album that hit the No.1 spot the following year. ...show more

When East 17 stumbled into the Walthamstow, England limelight in late 1991 they had little idea that their rabble-rousing brand of boy-band pop would create such a storm. Indeed, at the outset, a young Tony Mortimer had been on the verge of signing a solo deal with London Records until ex-Pet Shop Boys manager Tom Watkins suggested that what the world needed was a boy-band antidote to Take That and a band that bad girls could fall in love with. Of course, what Mortimer says now is that he really thought the world needed a UK version of New Kids On The Block and when you think about it this is not a million miles from the inevitable truth. The resultant chaos produced a 1992 debut single, House Of Love, which sold 600,000 copies and a debut album that hit the No.1 spot the following year.

The band went on to achieve 18 Top Twenty hits (including Deep, Steam, Let It Rain, It's Alright and Christmas No.1 Stay Another Day, the latter remaining No.1 for five weeks) as well as four Top Ten albums and sales of over twenty million records. And when East 17 finally split in 1997 it was heralded (and still remains) one of the greatest break-ups in pop history. EAST 17 are Tony Mortimer, John Hendy and Terry Coldwell but it hasn't always been this way. Back in 1991 Mortimer's school-friend Hendy had been hired to provide backing vocals whilst Coldwell and Brian Harvey (who were three years younger) were originally commandeered as dancers.

Tellingly, however, Mortimer heard Harvey singing along in a recording session, noted that his own songwriting skills and rap sensibilities absolutely suited Harvey's fluid R & B vocal overtones and the latter was elevated to lead singer. The ploy worked and soon East 17 were ubiquitous not just in the UK but throughout the world; It's Alright made them the biggest band in Mongolia, stayed at No.1 in the Australian charts for seven weeks and when the band visited the country the airport was so mobbed with fans they had to sneak out through the back doors; in 1994 the band's second album Steam reached No.1 and spawned the epic ballad Stay Another Day which earned Mortimer an Ivor Novello Award; in 1995 the band played to 100,000 in Moscow's Red Square then watched boggle eyed as the usually stony faced security services danced and sang along with the crowd (some of whom - the band found out later - had sold their shoes in order to be able to attend the show); and in 1996 even a duet with Gabrielle called If You Ever reached No.2. In 1997 with little serendipity East 17's world came crashing down around them. Harvey did a radio interview in which he suggested drugs were cool and "ecstasy can make you a better person" and whatever one thinks of his comments now it's plain to see that they were ill-timed: the country's media had barely recovered from the ecstasy-related death of Leah Betts and the subsequent tabloid furore was part-fuelled by the singer's apparent moral abandonment; Harvey was sacked, then Mortimer left and the band imploded. ...show less