The Infinite Jukebox: East 17’s ‘Stay Another Day’

I have never been interested in boy bands, though that attitude had to change, at least in part, when I married a Take That fan. I saw them twice with her on their first reunion tour, learned to appreciate some of their songs, and one of these, ‘Rule the World’, is to me as good as anything I’ve heard. But the rest? Gah! Spare me, save my ears, relieve me from this hideous mockery of good music. Say not the name Boyzone in my hearing, let not the existence of Westlife be mentioned.
East 17 were a particularly unbearable example of the breed. They were the bad boys to Take That’s good boys, the dickheads whose schtick was outrage allied to the harmonies. This was still in the days where, however much you didn’t listed to Radio 1, you nevertheless heard things far more often than you ever wanted. Thankfully, I cannot now consciously remember or recognise a single East 17 song.
Except one.
‘Stay Another Day’ was the Xmas no 1 of 1994, spending five weeks at the top, the band’s only no. 1. Even at the time, with not reason to have an alleviated view of boy bands, I liked the record. It’s a gorgeous, slow ballad, built upon some wonderful harmonising on the much-repeated chorus, rising to some extended vocal arrangements over the song’s long coda that sends the song into infinity and leaves you regretting that it has to end when you could listen forever.
This isn’t a Xmas song, yet the addition of Xmas bells over the coda are a perfect touch, drawing the atmosphere of the season into the song, adding a touch of stardust. it isn’t even a romantic song, despite the words talking about asking someone to stay, though Girls Aloud turned it into a love song for the b-side of their first single.
No, this is an incredibly sad song, written by lead songwriter Tony Mortimer, following the death of his brother, a suicide. Knowing that the message is to a loved one who, rather than being a lover, leaving, was a brother who left forever, deepens the meaning of the song and the togetherness of the harmony, with the band as a surrogate brotherhood, increases the poignancy of the forlorn desire for the loved one to stay. All of us are affected by this.
And the final genius of Tony Mortimer is that to accompany this plea, he found a tune of simple beauty, free from tricks, in which to say how much his brother meant to him.
I’ve never heard the Girls Aloud version of the song and never will. To turn this song into a romance is cloth-earedness of the highest water, and Mortimer’s bemusement at the step says all that need be said. Though one can never rule out the possibility of someone singing this song with an equal measure of pain and understanding in their heart, I should venture to suggest that none of us, no matter what our voices, have any right to this song, and that it is something that should be accorded the respect of being left pristine.
None of the meaning of this song I knew in 1994. All I knew was that it was a lovely sound from an unlikely source that, for four minutes at a time, reconciled me to them. Knowing all I know, I regard it with more profound love than so long a time ago. This is a song that will outlive all the centuries.

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