Apr 10

The Top 100 Songs Of All Time: 16. East 17 – House Of Love

FT/9 comments • 1,301 views

I’ll tell you what pop’s missing at the moment and that’s rivalries. Not feuds, we have plenty of feuds, there’s a feud a day on Twitter I think. Feuds are great but the emphasis is on the stars themselves and what they think or feel. Rivalries are different. They’re about the fans, about what stars mean on a social level.

The great necessary thing about rivalries is that if you’re an outsider they should baffle you a bit. Take That and East 17 – seriously? What’s the difference? They’re both boy bands right, both manufactured, you shouldn’t be listening to either of them, you should be listening to oh, I don’t know, Consolidated or something. And isn’t the rivalry all a hype thing anyway? I had those conversations a few times in 1993.

But hype is the brassiere of pop rivalries, it lifts and separates but there’s got to be something there in the first place, some real division the marketing can draw to your attention. East 17 were rough lads, not cheeky, Londoners, ravers maybe – they were singing “House Of Love” at a time when the words HOUSE and LOVE were code for DRUGS and DRUGS. Well, maybe. Would you get Gary Barlow with his songcraft making anything so rambunctious and mucky and unchoreographed as “HoL”?* Would you get Tony Mortimer and his crew of chancers making anything as sleek and crushable as “Pure”?

There were real differences, but proper rivalries don’t just rest on real differences. They rest on the unspoken tribal things the groups bring to the surface, which were waiting there ready for bands to incarnate them for a few months. Those deeper things are why people feel however briefly that the rivalries matter, because unlike silly stuff like Coldplay v Crazy Frog they dredge up the hidden splits WITHIN a group you might be inclined to think of as a mass. After a bit the baffled voices receded and everyone KNEW what East 17 vs Take That ‘meant’. We have hardly anything like that now and it’s a shame.

*or indeed singing “So many bombs in the world it’s like a LIVING MINE”


  1. 1
    Tom on 30 Apr 2010 #

    I was just about to do the next Popular entry when we found our guinea pig had died so instead of explaining imperial phases to my lovely readers I was explaining mortality to a 3 year old. Anyway you get this instead because I knew I could write it very quickly, sorry Popular anticipators.

  2. 2
    stephen graham on 30 Apr 2010 #

    I have been ‘anticipating’ one your Populars since Tuesday of this week. This will do though! I just re-read you rWuthering Heights, in that vein; mighty kudos, just wonderful stuff.

  3. 3
    swanstep on 4 May 2010 #

    This song is new to me…. and, seriously, it strikes me as undistinguished and repetitive – sort of a poor cousin to EMF’s (also repetitive and undistinguished) Unbelievable. Hmmm, so let’s see: 1993 was the year of, among other things, Pablo Honey, Whatever, Exile in Guyville, Rid of Me, Debut, Siamese Dream, In Utero, Together Alone, Dubnobasswithmyheadman. Surely there are at least 16 better songs than ‘House of love’ spread over those nine records. A fortiori…) So, is the point of ‘FT’s top 100’ series just to be madly hyperbolic about/pledge allegiance to stuff that’s somehow important and self-expressive for the author? At any rate, this essay left me none the wiser about what’s so great about this song or East 17 generally, either absolutely or relative to Take That (is it something to do with drugs?). The article also does nothing to explain why ‘rivalries’ between bands or between social tribes are interesting or valuable when they occur. At the level of bands, normally the question is just whether they’re any good, i.e., whether they’re really up to something, despite any rivalries not because of it. Maybe I’m missing something.

  4. 4
    Tom on 4 May 2010 #

    Swanstep the methodology of this list is explained somewhere, but roughly: bunch of FT writers in pub, nominating tracks, if a track gains enough enthusiastic response it goes onto the list, which is compiled in numberical order 100-1 (though you don’t let on where in the list you are, ideally, otherwise people get antsy about the higher numbers).

    We’re writing about the list 6 years after it got compiled, so a lot of the original reasons for the enthusiasm are baffling and lost! (The No.15 song, for instance, is bloody awful, though I’m sure I didn’t endorse it when nominated.) In most cases it had been recently rediscovered and enthusiastically danced to at Poptimism.

    Anyway, the point was to simply flag up an idea – which I agree is barely explained! – that the splits and conflicts within groups of taken-as-homogenous listeners (be they teenage girl pop fans, bookish indie kids, or whatever) can be as or more interesting than the splits within the broad audience for pop music as a whole, and that rivalries which initially seem like the “narcissism of small differences” can come to be lightning rods for these nascent splits.

    This still isn’t telling you anything specific about this song of course! But it’s partly a memo-to-self for the (many) Take That entries I’m going to be writing on Popular (and the sole E17 one).

  5. 5
    Tom on 4 May 2010 #

    “numberical” – erm yes

  6. 6
    swanstep on 4 May 2010 #

    Ah, that’s very explanatory. Thanks Tom. (I was possibly still a bit grumpy from reading a Spin magazine list of the 125 greatest albums from 1985 on, which found room for Moby, the Hives, queens of the stone Age, both Arcade fire albums, etc., but not Hounds of Love!)

  7. 7

    Here is the methodology in full.

  8. 8
    Billy Smart on 4 May 2010 #

    What do you make of the Shampoo version, Tom?

  9. 9
    Gareth Parker on 11 Jun 2021 #

    A fun ‘mock rave’ anthem from the East 17 boys, in my view.

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