They debuted with “House Of Love” and two years later held the Christmas number one. But what really has happened to East 17 since then…?
Music impresario Tom Watkins, who was responsible for the Pet Shop Boys and Bros, put together Tony Mortimer (b.1970), John Hendy (b.1970), Terry Coldwell (b.1971) and Brian Harvey (b.1974) in late 1991 and, as they call came from Walthamstow in London, he called them East 17 after the E17 postcode. They released their debut single “House Of Love” in August 1992, which reached No.10 in the UK and made the top ten across Europe and in Australia which began a chart reign that would last the rest of the decade.
Their follow up, “Gold”, didn’t do so well but the group came back with a vengeance at the beginning of 1993 with “Deep”, reaching the top five in the UK. The single preceded their debut album, conveniently titled “Walthamstow”, which topped the UK chart and was Platinum certified there, in France and in Australia. Three more hits came from that album, “Slow It Down” (UK No.13), “It’s Alright”, which topped the charts in Australia, Sweden and France and even a cheeky cover of PSB’s “West End Girls”, which just missed the UK top ten. Nevertheless, the group were off to a flying start and went into 1994 with new music.
They chalked up a massive hit with “Around The World” that Spring, which gave them their second consecutive single to peak at No.3 in the UK, and then “Steam” in September, another top ten hit in the UK and the song that would give its name to the title of their second album, delivered the following month. The album would eventually sell more than 600,000 copies in the UK, but not before the third single, “Stay Another Day”, was crowned that year’s Christmas number, ‘staying’ at the top for four weeks, as well as charting top ten in a further fifteen counties that season.
1995 was yet another busy year for East 17 with two more hits coming from “Steam”, “Let It Rain” (UK No.10) and “Hold My Body Tight” (UK No.15), whilst recording was already underway on a third album which would be delivered before the year was out. The lead single from this new album, “Thunder”, was released in October reaching No.4 in the UK with the album, “Up All Night”, coming the following month and charting top five across the world with multiple Platinum and Gold discs awarded. Only two further singles were issued from this album, “Do U Still?” (UK No.7) and “Someone To Love” (UK No.16) before it was time to reflect on their meteoric success with a greatest hits album in 1996.
The album, “Around The World: The Journey So Far” proved a huge hit gaining double Platinum status in the UK and yielding a huge hit single in the form of “If You Ever”, which featured singer Gabrielle and performed as a duet between herself and Brian. “If You Ever” became their tenth UK top ten hit. But 1996/97 proved to be a bittersweet time for the group, as they were riding the crest of the wave and with an eleventh chart hit in the bag (“Hey Child”), Harvey was sacked from the group after revelations of drug taking. Tony Mortimer, the main creative force behind the group left soon after, citing creative differences. Coldwell and Harvey continued and not long after, re-instated Harvey and continued as a trio.
Now known as E-17, the group soldiered on with a comeback single, “Each Time” in 1998, which despite all the bad press, went to No.2 in the UK, although success outside their home country was now on the wain. They recorded a new album, “Resurrection”, which bombed while a second single, “Betcha Can’t Wait”, just missed the top ten. Off the back of this, E-17 were dropped by London/Telstar Records and the group split. Harvey made an attempt at a solo career and did win one top twenty hit in 2001 on Whyclef Jean’s “Loving You”. After another best of album in 2005, fans welcomed the announcement that all four original members of East 17 were to reform in 2006 and play live. But after playing one gig, Mortimer was off again following a ‘confrontation’ with Harvey. Reduced AGAIN to a trio, the remaining members continued to perform and even record over the following years, although singles with titles like “F**k That” were scrapped and never released!
A third reunion was on the cards in 2010 but before things could get started, more trouble between Mortimer and Harvey! This time it was Harvey who quit, and yet again, the trio of Tony, Terry and John forged ahead, this time actually recording and releasing new material! They released “Secret Of My Life” in 2011 and a new album, “Dark Light” the following year, their first studio album for fourteen years. Neither they, the album nor the three singles that followed charted anywhere and the following year (2013), Tony was off again! Once again, Coldwell and Hendy continued on, this time with singer Robbie Craig in tow, but after a number of failed attempts at releasing new material, John Hendy departed in 2018, to be replaced by Joe Livermore.
‘East 17’, with just Terry Coldwell as the only surviving original member, continue to perform. John Hendy, by all accounts, has ‘retired’. Brian Harvey recently featured on two 2019 singles with rapper Cryptik Soul (“Come & Save Me” and “Bang ‘Em Up”). Tony Mortimer has made appearances on a number of game shows, but largely focuses his time with his partner and their two children. He released the album “Songs From The Suitcase” in 2013, including a new, solo version of “Stay Another Day”, but neither did well.
Twenty five years after they claimed a Christmas number one, East 17 remain divided but who knows, one day wisdom and old age may heal rifts never before thought possible…