Original boyband East 17 dream of Club Tropicana moment on comeback tour
For people of a certain age, Christmas will forever be entwined with one song - Stay Another Day, by nineties boyband East 17.
Despite including nothing festive, apart from the odd chime, the song was Christmas number one in 1994 and stayed at the top for five weeks, ensuring their permanent place on the yearly plethora of seasonal albums, alongside Slade, Shane McGowan and Cliff Richard.
There was more to East 17 than Stay Another Day though - in their five year pomp, from 1992 to 1997, there was only them and Take That in the boyband game and the lads from Walthamstow were cooler, edgier and outsold their cleaner cut rivals, with 20million sales worldwide.
After that, things went downhill and an acrimonious spilt ensued. More than 10 years on, they are back, albeit without bad-boy lead singer Brian Harvey, and the original members - Tony Mortimer, John Hendy, and Terry Coldwell - have joined up with new singer Blair Dreelan to embark on a UK tour.
Tony Mortimer, chief songwriter of the band, said: “The new songs are more dancey, very up and happy. Very positive. It’s been very collaborative - we have all written it together.
“We will play the new single on the tour, but other than that, we will stick to the songs people know.
“I hate going to see someone and they don’t play the hits. They want to play their new stuff, but the crowd don’t always want to hear it.
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“We couldn’t do a gig and not do Stay – the crowd would end up singing it for themselves.
In their original manifestation, the band sang to backing tracks, but the new tour will feature a full live band.
“It will be totally live, no tapes,” said Tony. “We’ve been working with this band for the last 10 years. It’s good because you get into it and extend the songs.”
The other major change for the boys is replacing Brian Harvey with new singer Blair Dreelan.
“It is weird without Brian,” Tony explained. “We did ask him, we kind of begged him really, but he wanted to do his thing and that is fine.
“Blair is great – he sings like Brian when Brian was at his peak, plus he is a loon on stage, which is ideal.
“All the original members went to school together and our families know and talk to each other, so it is quite weird when people talk about us getting back together.
“We had such a good time, even though we fell out at the end during our crazy period. You kind of get cabin fever, you are seeing the same people all the time and you have said everything to them.”
Since the band broke up, Tony has been busy writing songs, learning classical guitar, and even taking a degree in psychology, but now he is looking forward to getting back on the road.
“It will be great to play in Islington. I am a Gooner so I have been coming here all my life. I used to go down Essex Road a lot.”
He even revealed rumours of a mystery underground walkway connecting two well known Islington pubs - reputedly used by royalty in bygone times.
“Allegedly there is a tunnel between The Old Queen’s Head and the King’s Head, so the king could get between the two if people were looking for him,” said Tony.
“It’s weird, at school me an’ John used to dream about being in Wham and Club Tropicana. Then we were flying to Italy to do our video the other day I said to him, ‘This is it, after all these years, this is finally our Club Tropicana moment - but now we are old and fat’.
“I’ve not got long, and I reckon I need to lose about 15 stone for the tour!”