Boys to men

East 17 claim to have invented the boy band niche, but their world is being turned Upside Down by a rash of young upstarts. Alastair Mabbott asks if the band, now old enough to release a greatest hits album, are man enough to survive.

hey came from nowhere, or Walthamstow, which resembles it in so many ways and their mission, should you choose to believe them. is to go straight back there. While his shiny-pated band-mate John Hendy lounges on the bedspread of a luxury suite in one of London’s swankicst hotels. Tony Mortimer of East 17 is thinking about the future. ‘Prince.’ he concludes. The diminutive genius is proof to him that there can be creative life after smash-hit singles.

For East 17 have reached that awkward age where teen adoration and assured chart places are no longer enough. The previous night, at a relaxed, invitation-only showcase to launch their greatest hits album Around The World: The Journey So Far, they’d been terrific fun, stuffing an arena-sized backing band into a small theatre and letting rip. The chemistry that has resulted in a dozen-plus hits was mirrored in their appearance on stage: to one side of the three tattooed love boys John, Terry and Brian in their vests and puffa jackets stood stripling Tony in a plain white shirt, looking like a member of a different group. Their swingbeat sensibilities set against his love of hip hop, rap and classic songwriting.

Tony Mortimer may well turn out to be East 17’s George Michael, but the others are no Andrew Ridgeleys. Songwriting is shared between all four, and it’s been said

‘Take That rode on our backs, because they were doing shlte for two years before we came out. Then we came out and created

this market.’

that should the group break up they’d have no trouble establishing themselves as a strong British swingbeat unit, especially with soulful singer Brian upfront. They insist there’s no danger of a split. But like most bands who bring out a greatest hits album, they feel it’s the end of a phase. So where do they go

from here? __ ‘Now we can get ambient and m?“ artistic, Mommer deadpans. No,

9,5”, *g 394'? Hittite» fin :0

.. it’s definitely the 6nd of a Phase- Allboystogether: (tron Ieh to right) Terry. Tony, John.“ on. The end of that market that we . . .

BThe List 29 Nov-12 Dec 1996