British boyband-turned-manband seems East 17 seems to suffer from an endless spate of bad luck – a trend that has dated back to their heyday. Before diving into the latest misfortune that has enveloped East 17, here is a chronology of “East 17 misfortunes” dating back to the mid 90s.
Brian Harvey admits to being a regular and unapologetic user of Ecstasy: In the mid-1990s, lead singer Brian Harvey admitted to being a heavy user of the drug Ecstasy on a radio interview. He went one step further by saying there was nothing wrong with the drug. This triggered a media uproar and consequently East 17’s worst PR nightmare. It caused Brian to be fired from the band. The band folded soon after. They had the lost their “voice” (i.e. Brian Harvey).
Short life span of E-17: In late 1998, Brian reformed with former East 17 mates Terry Coldwell and Johny Hendy to form E-17. The band successfully reinvented itself as a R&B outfit with Brian Harvey’s vocals reaching new highs. Unfortunately, the failure of the second single “Betcha Can’t Wait” to crack the UK top 10 caused the band’s label to lose interest in promoting the rejuvenated trio and the band’s resurrection ended prematurely.
Rocky finances: The only individual to come out of East 17 wealthy was Tony Mortimer since he was the band’s principal songwriter. For some odd reason, the financial compensation scheme for the band members did not ensure that the band members (minus Tony Mortimer) would be well off after East 17 ended. In a 2006 documentary band-member Terrry Coldwell said “I had to sell my house after East 17 ended because I could not afford the mortgage”. One cannot help but feel sorry for Terry, John, and Brian. It definitely feels that they were exploited and not adequately compensated for that exploitation. They created value (artistic and monetary) for someone – just not themselves. Milking their legacy by playing at small clubs was the only way the three-piece could sustain themselves thus undermining any anticipation for a full-fledged reunion that could mirror that of musical rivals Take That.
Old acrimony culminates in the infamous “punch up”: In 2006, East 17 reunited for a sold out one-off gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire thus reigniting public interest in the band. A major record deal was on the table. Unfortunately, before anything substantial could materialize, Tony Mortimer punched Brian Harvey for showing up hours late for a meeting thus ending East 17 – yet again.
Just when it seemed that things could not get any worse for East 17, they did and East 17 once again become victims of “Murphy’s Law”. The band was a month away from the release of a new album with new lead singer Blair Dreelan. While their first single, “Secret of my life” did not ignite the charts anywhere, the anticipation for new East 17 material was high. Blair had spent months building a public profile with the band through a series of gigs and PR activities. He was also the primary vocalist for the band. Just when fans were holding their breath for the release date of the album, the band announced that Blair Dreelan had to be released from the band because of other “contractual issues”. Surely, East 17’s PR team must think fans are gullible enough to buy that explanation. It is clear that there was a disagreement between the band’s management/record label and Blair that led to what appears like a “sudden dismissal” of Blair from the band. So what do we have left here?
– Months of PR down the drain.
– All the hard work in building a high profile for Blair through a series of gigs in different countries and an arena tour in the UK.
– An album full of songs with Blair’s vocals all over them that cannot be used.
– Momentum created for absolutely nothing
– No public statement from the band stating what its musical future is likely to be or if there even is a future.
This should lead some to question what the bands options truly are. After a series of public failures, they need to pull off something stellar even for moderate success. Fans have been voicing this idea for a while and it has merit but right now, the band needs to work on creating incentives for Brian Harvey to rejoin the band. Rumors indicate that Brian is working on a solo career. Brian is an undeniably talented vocalist but he has to ask himself whether or not today’s ageist industry is holding their breath for him as a solo artist. His “brand equity” is tied inextricably to East 17. Denying that reality does Brian no good. Furthermore, the band must have realized how they polarized their fanbase by bringing Blair to fill in the shoes of Brian. Attempting to do something similar in the future will not fix things. Hence, their future is tied to one single ingredient and that ingredient is Brian Harvey. Fans have figured this out but does the band want to acknowledge this? More importantly, will they in the near future? Only time will tell.
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