East 17 was a UK boy band popular in the 1990s who scored twelve Top 10 hits in the UK singles chart between 1992 and 1998.. The band's name comes from the postcode for Walthamstow (the area of London between the old East End and the Essex commuter belt). They owe their sound to a mix of influences, from the popular early nineties dance sound of acts like The Shamen and The KLF to the contemporary American hip-hop sounds.
Originally consisting of 4 members: principal songwriter Tony Mortimer, lead vocalist Brian Harvey, plus dancers and backing vocalists John Hendy and Terry Coldwell. "We’re an average bunch of blokes from a town like yours and we make music," the group trumpeted when they first poked their heads into the world of pop. "We sing, we dance. Anyone could be us, we reckon, but they ain’t…" This sense that the band were 'the boys next door' was possibly a major contributing factor in their success.
Their debut album Walthamstow, again named after the area of northeast London where they were based, shot to number one in the UK album chart. It featured a strong string of Top 20 singles, the key songs being "House of Love" and "Deep".
In 1994, upon the release of their second album Steam, they scored their only UK number one single, the 1994 Christmas chart-topper "Stay Another Day", which remained at the top for five weeks and won Tony an Ivor Novello award. In 1996 they hit number two in a duet with Gabrielle, "If You Ever".
Following the somewhat low key release of the album Up All Night, the drop in mass appeal was attributed to the fact that Mortimer had stepped down as the only songwriter. Songwriting duties had been split between all four members, although all of the singles released from the album were the tracks Mortimer had penned.
In 1997, Brian Harvey publicly endorsed the drug ecstacy - stating "it's cool to take drugs" and claiming to binge regularly on the drug. This led to confrontations with Tony Mortimer over the tarnished image of the band. Harvey was fired from the band and Mortimer left shortly after.
Tony has since been on record saying that the split up left him suffering from anorexia and agoraphobia. “Three years of working seven days a week and not knowing where you are or what day it is takes its toll," he said, “At the end I was anorexic. I was over 6ft tall and weighed nine stone but I didn’t think I looked skinny. East 17 nearly ruined me."
In 1998 Brian (freshly rejuvinated by a minor success as a solo-artist in a colaboration with Wyclef Jean), John and Terry reformed for a comeback under the moniker "E17". They had minor success with the single "Each Time", but follow-up "Betcha Can't Wait" and proceeding album Resurrection failed to meet expectations for success and the 3-piece called it a day in 1999.
On 4 February 2006, Brian Harvey appeared on the UK television music show CD:UK, where he announced that East 17 may soon be making a comeback as the original four-piece. In mid-February 2006, East 17 reformed. The band played its first concert since reformation on 30 May 2006 at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London.
A Channel 4 documentary followed the tribulations of the newly reformed band ('East 17 - Reunion' - Airdate: 29 Apr '07). This revealed that, following the SBE show, the band's overwhelming internal differences resurfaced and halted any hopes of a succesful comeback dwindled and Tony refused to work with the band any more.
The other 3 guys have got back onto what is often referred to as 'the Butlin's circuit', touring as a 3-piece and making a little extra cash as a faded tribute to their former glories.