The group name came from the postcode for Walthamstow, an area of London between the old East End and the Essex commuter belt. They achieved 18 Top 20 singles and four Top 10 albums, and were one of the famous acts along with Take That in the UK and some parts of the world during the early to mid 1990s. They occasionally blended rap and pop in songs such as "House of Love", "Steam" and "Let It Rain", attaining fame as a result of the main songwriter Tony Mortimer.
Mortimer wrote the vast majority of the group's songs, which often contained rap verses vocalized by him to complement Harvey's more fluid R&B style vocals. The group was usually seen as a grittier, more political and hip-hop or rap-aligned group than rival boy band Take That.
East 17 scored 12 Top 10 hits on the UK singles chart between 1992 and 1998. Their debut album, Walthamstow, shot to #1 on the UK album chart. It featured a string of Top 20 singles, including "House of Love" and "Deep". "It's Alright" became a major success in Australia, reaching #1 in early 1994 for 7 weeks in a row and #3 in the UK in 1993. The lyrics to some of their songs (e.g. "Let It Rain") had political undertones, talking about war, peace, equality, love, and other political issues. Their popularity reached Mongolia during the 1990s around the Steam album period, particularly with the song "It's Alright", helped by music television channels, Channel V and MTV.
In 1994, upon the release of their second album, Steam, they scored their only UK number-one single with "Stay Another Day", which remained at the top for five weeks and was also that year's Christmas number-one. In 1996, the group hit #2 with the track "If You Ever", a duet with the singer Gabrielle.
East 17 also appeared on the Childliners record The Gift Of Christmas, alongside acts such as MN8, Boyzone, E.Y.C., Sean Maguire, Deuce, Ultimate Kaos, Let Loose, Backstreet Boys, Peter Andre, Michelle Gayle and Dannii Minogue amongst others.
Following the somewhat low-key release of the album Up All Night, their drop in appeal in comparison to previous albums was attributed to the fact that Mortimer stepped down as songwriter. The album's songwriting duties were split among the four members of the group, although all of the singles released from the album were actually penned by Mortimer.
In 1997, Harvey was engulfed in a drug controversy when he claimed he took 12 Ecstasy pills in one night, saying, "It's cool to take drugs". He also claimed that Ecstasy "can make you a better person"The act went against the group's "boy band" image, and there was a huge media uproar, with questions being asked in the House of Commons. The group's career and reputation was tarnished. Harvey was sacked as a result. Mortimer later decided to leave several months later, due to creative differences between himself and the rest of the group.
Harvey, Coldwell and Hendy all attempted a comeback in 1998 under the name of E-17 and landed a record deal with Telstar Records after recording an album's worth of self written material in their home studios. Their first single "Each Time," which reached #2 in the UK. But without Mortimer's songwriting influence, the band struggled, and after rather disappointing sales of the next single, "Betcha Can't Wait" reaching just number 11 in the charts, and their album Resurrection not selling as much as the record complany would have liiked, the band were droppped by their label in 1999.
After launching himself as a solo artist with help from Wyclef Jean, Harvey went back to East 17 to play numerous gigs on the nostalgia circuit with Coldwell and Hendy. On the ITV1 docusoap Redcoats, East 17 was shown performing at a gig that was held at Butlins in Bognor on a programme that also featured Keith Harris.
In 2005, Harvey, Coldwell and Hendy performed as E-17 in the country of Mongolia.
Mortimer attempted to create two bands, but each time opted to return to production work for other artists from his Essex studio. He also recorded his own solo material, released in January 2006 on his official website
Brian Harvey made the news in 2005 when he accidentally ran himself over, and required surgical treatment.
On February 4, 2006, Harvey appeared on the UK television music show CD:UK, where he announced that East 17 might make a comeback with the original four members. In mid-February 2006, the group reformed. They played their first concert since reformation on May 30 at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London.
After reforming for the one-off gig, it was reported that East 17 had split up again, since Hendy was unable to fully commit to the band because his roofing business took up a lot of his time. Friction also flared up again between Harvey and Mortimer, resulting in the latter's departure and the rest of the boys performing as a three-piece at various club events.
Brian Harvey has been banned from driving for six months on March 3 2008 after being found guilty of going nearly double the speed limit.
Brian Harvey has also been quoted as saying "This time it means so much more to us, in that before we were always guaranteed to have an adoring crowd before us at every concert, whereas now we are working our way back ourselves, and to even have a crowd still these days we consider more of an achievement than anything we've done before."
|Year||Single||Chart peak positions||Album|
|1992||"House of Love"||10||5||1||Walthamstow|
|"Slow It Down"||13|
|"West End Girls"||11||4|
|1994||"Around The World"||3||4||23||10||Steam|
|"Stay Another Day"||1||3||1||1|
|1995||"Let It Rain"||10||12||33||5|
|"Hold My Body Tight"||12||73||9|
|"Thunder"||4||36||22||2||Up All Night|
|1996||"Do You Still?"||7||54||6|
|"Someone to Love"||16||42||10|
|"If You Ever" (with Gabrielle)||2||5||4||Around The World (The Journey So Far)|
|1999||"Betcha Can't Wait"||12|