well. we reinvented it. anyway. and Take That rode on our backs. because they were doing shite for two years before we came out. Then we came out and created this market and we’ve done it and took it to there.’ He extends a pointing finger. ‘And now it’s got to go somewhere else. The kids are growing up.’
‘1 think we’ve taken it to the point where it can’t go no further.’ pipes up Hendy. ‘Not with the pop scene. Because you’re getting all these new bands coming out now.just making us look silly.’
By new bands. they’re meaning ‘all the new boy crap that’s coming out and making us look cheap.’ as if you didn’t know.
‘Caught In The Act. Upside Down —’
‘— 9l l. It’s all toot. that.’
It embarrasses them? ‘Big time.’
The basic problem is that, like generations of street kids before them. East 17 believe anything in the charts sucks. Even if it’s them. And it’s not like they’re embarrassed by a few of their early tracks; according to a spluttering Tony Mortimer. ‘the whole lot’s shite’.
East l7 lore has it that he’s the spiritual guru of the band. but he isn’t in much of a mood to show it today. He’d rather brush aside questions of a spiritual nature with a bad quip or by descending into vague mumbling about how he wants to make music that’ll ‘make people’s chakras revolve the other way or something.
‘I think it’s important for me to keep on the spiritual aspect of things.’ he begins, ‘because I
think that’s the core ofthe whole universe. If we keep that in our songs. we’ll touch people all the time. And music as well. Music’s deep, because the walls ofJericho was brought down by a load of trumpeteers playing the root note of the foundations. Sound can heal. too. and I think that’s closer to where we want to go.
‘lt’s I997 now.’ he states. rather prematurely. ‘lt’s not The Beatles no more. We’re trying to reach out there . . . write a song for aliens. Yeah. let’s give the aliens some rhythm when they come down.’
All this babble sits uneasily with the East l7 image as streetwise neds with a past of petty crime and mild substance abuse. ‘I think we
‘We’ve taken it to the point where it can’t go no further - you’re getting all these new bands coming out now, just
making us look silly.’
should all just have kept our mouths shut.’ is what Hendy has to say about that. but it’s a subject he can’t resist for long.
‘Even I still nick stuff now and again,’ he confesses, to Mortimer’s delight. ‘I do! I’ll be there and I’ll be Imimes looking around shiftin and slipping something into his pocket I and I’ll walk out feeling woah, yeah! Why? I dunno. When I was younger. I always used to nick things. I think that’s where the bad boy image comes from. We used to nick a few car stereos.
EAST 17 FEATURE
But maybe ifl was brought up in a different area I wouldn’t have been like that. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. anyway. I‘ve had it all done to me. I've done it, so it’s obviously come back on me. I’m only taking little things like a packet of chewing gum, but I wouldn’t damage anybody's property or break into anybody’s home, ’cause I know they‘ve worked hard for that.’
As if intent to distance themselves from other boy bands. they avoid showbiz cliches that other teen-pop groups could be relied on to trot out. Ask Tony Mortimer if he would be disappointed to find that his music turned out to be nothing more than an ephemeral. passing thrill. and his answer is surprisingly hard-headed.
‘We don’t look into it. We’re too busy doing what we do. We don‘t look into the fans. We try and do a service — the cliched stuff. a fan club, give them information and stuff — but we don't really look into fans. do we? Because there’s four of us in a group. I think we all pass the buck on the attention. So it’s not like if it was me solo. and there’s l().00() people there for you.’
Hendy’s rule of thumb is that the majority of fans fancy Brian. then Tony, then himself and Terry. ‘No. you get more than me.’ Mortimer shoots back. ‘You do. I get psychos.’
‘Yeah, you do get problem ones. don’t you?’ concedes Hendy. and spends a few moments silently enumerating his blessings before alighting on the explanation. ‘lt’s ’cause you’re spiritual.’
[fast I 7 play the SEC C, Glasgow on Fri [3 Dec.
The recent onslaught of boy bands, led by Glasgow-based 91 l, is witnessed byAlastair Mabbott.
ithout so much as a trickle on the floor.
the gents is spotless. For once. the
SECC’s clientele is 99 per cent female. and practically all of them school age, because this is the night the Smash Hits roadshow comes to town.
Luminous orange and green are obviously in this season. and hundreds of girls have made early and awkward stabs at sophistication. for the most part involving the ill-advised exposure of midriffs. On the concourse outside the arena. they stand out from an anonymous sea of denim and black that could herald a crowd fifteen years older.
Nothing prepares you. though, for the mania that breaks loose the moment the lights go down. The frenzied screaming that erupts never wavers through three identikit boy bands, and only flags a little with the appearance of club diva Grace. The crowd is now merely wildly appreciative. But 02 compere Tristan Bancks knows exactly how to bring it up to manic heights again: just mention the name Boyzone. In any context. ‘This next group supported Boyzone’ — EEEEEEEEEH! — ‘on their last tour.’ The other way is to allude to the fact that local heroes 9| l are closing the show.
This is 9ll’s second Smash Hits tour, and. with a Top Ten single now in the bag, their first
headlining show. Three boys from the North
of England. they were thought mad when they chose to ‘make it’ by moving to Glasgow, but the risk has paid off. ‘We suddenly discovered that in Glasgow they’re so dedicated to you that you can go and open a little store and find that all your Glasgow fans’ll be there. no matter where it is.’ says Lee. ‘They’ll stand outside your hotel for five or six hours. They’re there everywhere you go, always supporting you.’
Out front. it’s celeb alert time! John Reid of The Nightcrawlers is spotted. and before long has vanished in a serum of autograph hunters. But the time has come for the evening’s climax. A fanfare announces the imminent arrival of 9| 1. and the screams reach concussion-inducing force.
Once they’ve got going. 91 I seem like natural headliners. Their songs have a noticeably harder edge than the ‘Love Me For A Reason’ rewrites that opened the gig. Their look is just that bit
911: frenzy-Inducing Glasgow boy band
more ‘street’. Their stage moves are immeasurably better. Banners are waved, glow sticks are held aloft. This is the last chance for Glasgow to go completely mental . . .
There’s a moment of complete disorientation on the way out of the arena. Who are these people. these pale. tired wraiths. settled in clumps all around the concourse? It takes a moment to adjust to the fact that these are the parents waiting to take their daughters home. They sit quietly, patiently, every line on their faces testifying to a life of hard work with scant reward. It’s almost too much of a contrast to that volcano of teen energy to bear. Is this their future too? Poor nutrition, stress. spirit- sapping work. or no work at all? Small wonder that the fantasies flitting across these stages can prompt such explosive reactions.
The Smash Hits tour was at the SECC, Glasgow on Fri 22 Nov.
The List 29 Nov-l2 Dec I996 7