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27 November 2014

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Essex at 20

Tony Mortimer
Tony continues recording and producing

Essex at 20: Tony Mortimer

Gary Butcher
Celebrating 20 years of BBC Essex. We've a series of special programmes featuring 20 different characters from our great county. Here we meet East 17 founder member and songwriter Tony Mortimer.

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Tony Mortimer was the founding member and songwriter for 90s boy band East 17. Together with childhood friends Brian, Terry and John, the band chalked up 16 Top 30 hits, selling 20 millions records worldwide. The 1994 Christmas number one single Stay Another Day shifted six million copies alone.

Hailing from Walthamstow, the band were signed by larger than life pop mogul Tom Watkins, who previously enjoyed success with The Pet Shop Boys and Bros. According to Tony, Watkins signed East 17 because "they were the only band with a dog!"

The band proved particularly popular in Eastern European countries such as Latvia and Lithuania, along with war torn countries including Israel, where they enjoyed seven consecutive number ones.

"I wanted to have a number one single, travel the world, be adored by thousands of screaming girls and earn a million pounds. I achieved it all."
Tony Mortimer

In 1997 singer Brian Harvey sparked a drug controversy, when he claimed he took 12 Ecstasy pills in one night, which caused media uproar and even led to questions being raised in the House of Commons. Brian was sacked as a result of this, after which Tony decided to leave as well. Brian was reinstated and along with Terry and John formed E-17, who had a couple of top 20 hits before calling it quits in 1999.

Tony won an Ivor Novello award as songwriter of the year for Stay Another Day, which remains a popular favourite at Christmas time and the band's live pinnacle came when they played to hundreds of thousands of Muscovites in Red Square.

Now based in Essex, where he continues recording and producing from his home studio, Tony enjoys the rewards his years as the band's songwriter have brought him.

He said: "I had a number of goals: I wanted the band to last for more than five years, have a number one single and album, travel the world, be adored by thousands of screaming girls and earn a million pounds. And I achieved ever single one of them."

East 17 reformed this year and played a sell-out concert at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, and talk of a new release from the band has not been ruled out.

last updated: 28/12/06
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