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May 13

EAST 17 – “Stay Another Day”

FT + Popular49 comments • 4,204 views

#714, 10th December 1994

Does every Beatles need a Stones? East 17’s manager Tom Watkins may have come to think so. His group poked their noses into the charts before Take That, but found themselves defined against Gary and the boys, and showed every sign of revelling in it. Take That looked back to disco; East 17 knew their way around a rave. Take That were a five-pack of flavours; East 17 moved as a crew. Take That flexed for your gaze but stayed at arms length; Tony Mortimer wrote songs about eating you out. North v south, cheeky v lairy, smooth v rough – playbook stuff, just the way the pop press like it. One effect of the division is that Take That moved onto ballad territory long before their rivals – East 17 always had a place for mid-paced bump’n’grind, but avoided the real weepies.

Until now. This is East 17 doing a slowie, and really going for it, piling on the trimmings of balladry until the song creaks. To this day it shows up on Christmas compilation albums because it’s got Christmas bells on – the clanging chimes of emotional doom. But it’s got everything else on too (except drums). Something about its shameless blowout ambition suits the season, though: all the overdriven heartbreak of a Christmas Day soap packed into five wailing minutes. By its final choruses “Stay Another Day” is piling the bells and strings and multitracked pleading chorales on like marzipan and icing, finding a space partway between Cliff Richard and Jim Steinman.

Linking it all together is Brian Harvey’s sometimes clumsy vocal. Given an Important Song to sing, he picks his way through the tune like he’s too big for it, a laddish King Kong doing his best not to hurt something frail and precious. The effect turns out to be perfect for the record – Harvey’s sad, sing-song, man-child vocals are wounded and baffled exactly when they need to be, when his character’s understanding of the situation breaks down: “Don’t understand what’s goin’ on… All that I do seems to be wrong.” It’s the same bewildered impotence Joy Division tapped in “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.

So for all its ungainliness, “Stay Another Day” has soul, of a sort. Sincerity, at least. I don’t think sincerity is an automatic pass in pop music – pop for me is about making shapes other people can fit themselves into, and honest self-expression is one route to that but not the only one. But sincerity can ambush me nonetheless. At the time “Stay Another Day” came out the relationship I was in seemed to have ended – I didn’t turn to this song, but I could feel the need in it, and give it a nod of recognition. It’s messy, it’s ridiculous, and it knocked every Take That single to that point into Brian Harvey’s backwards white cap.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Kat but logged out innit on 2 May 2013 #

    Yep! It’s amazing.

  2. 27
    Tom on 2 May 2013 #

    Another one for the great E17 lyrics folder that.

  3. 28
    Mark G on 2 May 2013 #

    Gold is that “life .. is worth more than Gold”, etc, innit?

  4. 29
    John on 2 May 2013 #

    The strange thing about East 17’s multiple comeback attempts is that they usually feature either Brian or Tony but not both. It’s a bit like one of those farmer/chicken/boat puzzles. You need 3 out of 4 to use the b(r)and name, but two of them can’t stand each other. Hence the “other two”, usually seen as worthless, secretly hold all the power.

  5. 30
    Billy Hicks on 2 May 2013 #

    29 – See also their essential replacements (who we’ll see here yearly from 1999-2001), who’ll reform with either J or Sean but not both of them.

  6. 31
    Patrick Mexico on 3 May 2013 #

    1994 was a brilliant year for me – as well as discovering TOTP and the UK charts, Burnley’s second promotion in three years, holidays in California and Cornwall (and both of them had subtropical weather!), getting tickets to the World Cup final (and semi-final, but much more on that later!), and needless to say, Sensible World of Soccer for the Amiga. With childhood like this, who needs puberty?

    I’ve never been a huge fan of this though – an obviously iconic, bleakly beautiful chorus that the Doritos ad more paid affectionate tribute to than condescendingly lampooned – but the verses just fall on the wrong side of ‘twee’ and it sets my teeth on edge in anticipation of something round the corner which is much better, in the same way I always fast forward through the theme tune of St. Elsewhere (obscure cultural references a-go-go!)

    5.

  7. 32
    swanstep on 3 May 2013 #

    Don’t get any of the love for this: the melody has no real movement to it, rather we just drone away on the same tight cluster of notes. To pull off this sort of thing I think you need a very special vocal performance, as, e.g., in Je t’aime (Tomscore = 5), but here the vocal’s undistinguished at best. The dread signature of SAW – not bothering to write variations/middle 8s – is sadly evident. Like so many of the #1s this year, it just sounds unfinished to me. Compare it with Frankie’s similarly vaguely Christmasy, Power of Love (Tomscore = 7). There’s just so much going on there and so little here:
    (Being xmas generous) 5

  8. 33
    punctum on 3 May 2013 #

    What have SAW got to do with this record?

  9. 34
    swanstep on 3 May 2013 #

    @33, Punctum. I was just relying on your remark about ex-SAW hands, Harding and Curnow producing at #8.

  10. 35
    punctum on 3 May 2013 #

    SAW composed as well as produced though. Also it’s simplistic to dismiss SAW songs in that manner since they are far more oomplicated than they might initially seem. Try singing “Nothing Can Divide Us” without your throat rupturing.

  11. 36
    swanstep on 3 May 2013 #

    @35. Fair enough. Notwithstanding their virtues, however, SAW’s own descriptions of their processes and aims are pretty depressing, e.g., http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/feb09/articles/classictracks_0209.htm describes in detail all of their reverse engineering of timbres and beats from other people’s records, explains how ideally they have no real writing process, don’t bother with middle eights on any level (always just leaving some B-team engineer to apply some effects to either a chorus or verse pattern), always use the same vocal mike (because the kids will never notice). And so on.

    That’s the stuff that, for better or worse, lies behind my somewhat flippant ‘dread signature’ remark above. But, hell, maybe the widely discussed processes of modern hit factories such as Stargate or Max Martin have vindicated or should have vindicated every part of SAW’s model. I guess we’ll have plenty of time and opportunity to think over such points in a few years on Popular.

  12. 37
    AMZ1981 on 4 May 2013 #

    Just correcting a factual point East 17 did not `poke their noses into the chart` before Take That. House Of Love came out Sept 1992 at which point Take That already had one top ten hit to their name (albeit a cover).

    East 17 remain quite hard to categorize. While every boy band (a phrase that didn’t really come into use until the mid 90s by which time Take That had split and East 17 had shot their bolt) since have been influenced by Take That, it’s hard to think of anybody whose sounded like or being influenced by East 17. They were also erratic hit makers (a lot of their singles stopped outside the top ten) which suggests that when they hit bigger it was on the merits of the song.

    Finally in the top ten over Christmas 1994 (although it didn’t peak until Jan 1995) were Boyzone with a generic cover of Love Me For A Reason which shows that the era of credibility seeking boy bands was over almost as soon as it begun.

  13. 38
    Kat but logged out innit on 4 May 2013 #

    #37 – oh I dunno, I think the ‘badder’ boybands (Another Level, MN8) took several cues from East 17: at the very least they also aimed at a slightly older age group and had a ‘dancier’ style of music to go with it, I guess because older teenagers would be more likely to go out dancing? Though obv East 17’s club music in 1994 was obv very different to Another Level’s in 1998!

  14. 39
    Another Pete on 4 May 2013 #

    Never mind the lyrics the phrase for me that has come synonymous with East 17 is ‘Too much baked potato’ which is Brian Harvey’s explanation for how he managed to run himself over. He had attempted suicide twice before but claimed this was just a freak accident.

    The influence I can remember East 17 having was mostly on sixth form bands thinking naming themselves after the local postcode was a good idea for a band name. I expect thanks to added toilet humour, there was a band called IP2 from Ipswich.

  15. 40
    Weej on 5 May 2013 #

    So, as has been mentioned surprisingly little upthread, this isn’t a romantic ballad at all, it’s (according to wikipedia at least) a desperate plea from Tony to his dying brother not to leave this world. But then, what’s the “final kiss” and “baby” about? I expect there was a certain amount of retooling to fit the song to a target audience, that may be it, but doesn’t that seem a little distasteful? If not that, then what?

    (BTW – the song itself, like quite a few others, has been ruined forever for me by v/vm – even when I hear the original the horror of that vocal sound lingers. It wasn’t on youtube, so I uploaded it – you probably don’t want to hear it, it’s not a pleasant experience in any way – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Yai2kxjr0M )

  16. 41
    James BC on 7 May 2013 #

    I completely agree with you about the clumsiness of the vocal adding to the song. There are a few songs where I’ve often thought the singer’s struggle against the song brings a new dimension.

  17. 42
    James BC on 7 May 2013 #

    #8

    Brian Harvey’s the lead singer on this, isn’t he? Not Tony Mortimer. One of those cases of the songwriter in the band not being the lead singer, so his heartfelt words have to be delivered by his bandmate.

  18. 43
    punctum on 7 May 2013 #

    Good God, so he is! Had totally blanked it out of my mind (it was the hat, it MUST have been): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkCXwZZaOA4

  19. 44
    glue_factory on 7 May 2013 #

    Re:40, I’ve had a fair few songs already ruined by V/VM, but thankfully none that I liked that much beforehand.

    There’s at least one bunnyable record (subject to a famous tussle-for-the-topspot) he has also touched, along with Green Door by Shakey. It might be “nice” to post links to all of them, as Tom reaches them.

  20. 45
    23 Daves on 7 May 2013 #

    Bar a couple of breaks (a year-and-a-half in Stamford Hill and one year in Melbourne) I’ve lived in Walthamstow for the last thirteen years now and was born only four miles away, and it’s odd being forced to analyse East 17’s output. You can walk into Homebase and see Brian Harvey pondering which screwdriver to buy on a Sunday in my neck of the woods, or watch him bomb out of Walthamstow Central underground station in a bit of a hurried huff – they feel more like peculiar local representatives than stars in these parts, not aided by the fact that none of them have ever really looked starry at any point in their careers. In fact, they can blend into the sea of baseball caps and street clothes quite easily in the shopping centre. Meanwhile, Tony Mortimer is known to drop money off to local charities, including one just around the corner from me.

    Also just around the corner from my flat is the “East 17” wall. This is a 6ft wall which had the band’s name emblazoned across it in huge spray-painted letters. Several times the council removed it, and every time it returned – until a few years back, when the final scrubbing happened. There were local rumours that it wasn’t one person producing the graffiti but that in fact it was the effort of a number of people locally to keep the wall as a tribute to the band. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but it’s a pleasant thought. (I managed to catch a weak late attempt at respraying the wall here: pic.twitter.com/HhyMsFVgI7)

    “Stay Another Day” always felt like a very odd record in their catalogue to me, as if they were in some way trying to show Take That that they too could show a sensitive side. At the time of its release I was somewhat distracted by the fact that Oasis’s “Whatever” was at number three, which to me still sounds like one of the finest records they ever released, and a surefire number one in a fair world – “SAD”, on the other hand, just broods and builds, never quite to Walker Brothers levels, always showing a mournful restraint. It didn’t feel like a smash hit to me on the first listen, and its sheer power in the charts came as a shock. Now it’s familiar and evergreen – especially round these parts – but I never really find myself either enjoying it or becoming irritated by it when it comes on. Musically it feels like it should be soundtracking something rather at the forefront. Take those bells and strip the vocals away, and it’s the backing track to an emotional moment on a Christmas Day Doctor Who.

    Again, it’s just one I have to file under “things I don’t quite get”, although I did/do enjoy a lot of their other singles.

  21. 46
    Kinitawowi on 17 May 2013 #

    @17: yep, this was pretty much peak time for the Now!s. I know plenty of people with only one Now! album and it’s usually number 29 (then 26, then 34, then it all goes a bit wonky). But disc 1 of Now! 30 has always been a big highlight; the huge one-two-three punch at the end of Protection, Glory Box and Whatever were always awesome, we’ve got SAD, Freak Power, and even (puts up riot shield) my favourite Simple Minds song in She’s A River.

    As for E17… thanks punctum @8, never knew any of that (usually I try not to find it out, but sometimes it makes sense). Between this and It’s Alright (Now! 27, people!) for their best song.

  22. 47
    Erithian on 4 Jun 2013 #

    Ah, bless them, didn’t know they had it in them…

    To be honest, for a band that looked such a bunch of berks, E17 had a surprising number of convincing moments, “Let It Rain” in particular (at the Brits with Mortimer in a wheelchair!) Bearing in mind the subject matter, “Stay Another Day” is a particular success, expressing sincerity without veering into mawkish, and with even the writer being ablt to goof around a bit in the video. A fine tribute, and probably the one thing Tony Mortimer can be proudest of in his life. Good luck to him.

  23. 48
    weej on 13 Jan 2015 #

    Brian Harvey smashes his gold records in a protest against the music industry – not sure why, or what he’s trying to say, all a bit sad really.

  24. 49
    MUSICALITY on 24 Apr 2017 #

    Their global calling card and rightly so #1 as far away as Zimbabwe to Israel and right through Europe amongst other places.
    Real and raw emotion can never be outdone which when considering boybands are primarily known to be superficial this track shines through.
    The latter part of the song with bells, vocals and increased intensity help the track soar.

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