‘Stay Another Day’: The sad story behind the lyrics to East 17’s Christmas hit

'Stay Another Day' secured the Christmas number one in 1994 (London Recording/ YouTube)
'Stay Another Day' secured the Christmas number one in 1994 (London Recording/ YouTube)

There’s something about East 17’s perennial Christmas ballad ’Stay Another Day’. On paper it should be terrible – all cheesy string sections and cliché chord progressions – and yet I think it’s precisely because of this that the song is quite wounding, as though the stereotypical elements of it reflect the shallowness and inevitability of Christmas, the chorus leaving you staring misty-eyed into your pint as the lights go up at the end of another work party.

I think we all just assumed that the lyrics are about the pain of being dumped and how we tend to try and put off the end of relationships, but, while songwriter Tony Mortimer intended them to be ambiguous, they were actually written about a very sad event in his life.

“I had the melody and the chords and I was looking for a story to go on top of it,” he told Songwriting Magazine. “It was based on my brother’s suicide and losing someone. What would you do if you had one more day with a loved one?

“Over time I started to put together the story and I wrote it in a different way to any song I’d written before,” he explained. “It’s a different way of writing because they were just sections of statements, rather than a verse being a story from beginning to end.

“If you take the first verse, it was just sections like ‘Don’t you know we’ve come too far now just to go and try to throw it all away’ and ‘I’ve only just begun to know you, all I can say is won’t you stay another day.’ It was all based on conversations I’d had with my brother and I was trying to change it into a love song about the end of a relationship.”

Despite the song’s sad origins, Mortimer hopes people can still derive whatever meaning they want from it.

“I wanted to write in an ambiguous way that would mean a lot to a lot of people. It was a bit of a risk as I didn’t know how well it was going to go down, but I wanted the lines to mean something to everyone. Yes there’s my story in there but, more importantly, I wanted it to reach people. Once people connect with a line in a song, that’s what makes a hit.”

This article was originally published on 23 December 2016