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East 17

From the release of their monster 1992 smash debut single 'House Of Love', East 17 instantly won a million hearts. What followed was a string of impressive hits including 'Deep', 'It's Alright' and 'Stay Another Day' which showcased a grittier streetwise edge to the group's songwriting, proving the antithesis to the pop music of the day and cementing the Walthamstow quintet at the forefront of popular music for the decade. 

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 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 #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 #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 #.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. A year later Harvey rejoined but it was never going to work without Mortimer, it was time to call time. When East 17 finally split in 1997 it was heralded (and still remains) one of the greatest break-ups in pop history. 

Fast forward to June 2011, East 17 sign to FOD Records, songwriter and main-man Tony Mortimer takes over vocal duties and if the new single 'Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind (Crazy)' is anything to go by then this move proves to be a revelation. The single marks a sea change in East 17 repertoire that sees them sound like a cross between 'Summer Of ‘69' and 'Boys Of Summer' Americana. Mortimer explains the change in direction, “I think everyone is subconsciously inspired by American music and rock ‘n’ roll. And this time around I just wanted to do something more live and when you start out with drum machines you always have to compromise with that music when you play live anyway. So why not try and be as live as you can in the studio? I love dance music and that is the core of what we do but we now just take the energy from that.”

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Past events by East 17