There have been hundreds of girl groups throughout the years on the music scene. Few, if any, can claim to have had the success or the enduring appeal of The Nolans. Their parents were successful singers in their own right in post war Dublin as the 'Sweethearts of Song'. Tommy had sung with most of Ireland's showbands. He was also one of the first Irish singers to star on Ireland's fledgling TV channel RTE where he appeared with Irish Crooner Val Doonican. Maureen had developed quite a following of her own. She was dubbed the Irish Forces Sweetheart. Her natural soprano voice had earned her a place at the Royal College of Music. She didn't complete her course as the lecturers had said that she had a natural voice. To train it, they said, would only be useful in Opera Music. She was more at home singing poular ballads of the day. Maureen Nolan Sr visited Blackpool in the late 1950's and was impressed with the town's entertainment scene. Although Dublin was a large city, it's entertainment scene centred around Dance Halls with resident singers, showbands and Theatres. Both Tommy and Maureen had residencies at local Dance halls but the chances of getting lucrative work were slim. Maureen was offered work in Blackpool and London and decided to make England her new base. She made the trip over to the UK and secured work in London. On her return to Dublin Mrs. Nolan retold her story to her husband and insisted he see it for himself. This time Blackpool was chosen as a base. They had been offered accomodation to start them up and the promise of work. A second trip was soon arranged. Tommy quickly realised the potential for work in the town was huge, with it's dozens of Theatres, Showbars, Cabaret lounges and Working Men's Clubs. A final trip home to collect belonging was made and the family relocated to Blackpool. (Minus Anne who was in hospital for months with a leg condition. She had to stay in Ireland for 10 further months until she was well enough to join the rest of the Family.) Work was indeed plentiful, but Tommy Nolan did take a day job to supplement his earnings. Very quickly singing work came flooding 'in. One night gigs were the staple of "The Sweetheart Singers' until they discovered that concert secretaries in the town had a system of auditioning in one venue. Each club would have a concert secretary visit the audition club and make bookings for artists for the whole Summer Season. Thier act became a clubland favourite for the next eight years. The 'Sweethearts of Song' were quickly replaced as one by one the children came along and individually each child made their stage debut. The family had a rota system for taking certain members of the family on certain nights, where they were usually allowed to sing. As the girls grew older they took on a bigger role in the act. A babysitting error one night meant that all ten of the family were to appear on stage together. It brought the house down. A standing ovation was earned and showbiz history was made. Such was the success of the act that it had now been renamed - "The Singing Nolans". Bernie was to joke several years later "It was clever that wasn't it? We were Nolans and we sang". Their act sang popular chart hits and medleys from films, including their versions of songs from 'The Sound Of Music'. That film made such an impression on the girls that they reportedly went to see it at the cinema 18 times. Their Father could not understand why they wanted to see the film so much until he went to see it for himself. He was impressed with the music, certainly, but he understood why almost immediately. What he saw was a striking resemblence with the on screen family to his own. The film must have made a similar impression on his as their business cards soon even had the subtext "Blackpool's Own Von Trapp Family". In 1970 The Singing Nolans enjoyed their first resident Summer Season at the Town's 'Cetral WMC' They were second on the Bill to an upcoming Freddie Starr. The following year they headlined their own show at the town's largest club 'The Brunswick' where crowds of up to 2000 queued around the block every night for six months to see them. So popular were they that queues began to appear from 5pm for a venue that didn't open it's doors until 6-30. By now all ten members of the family appeared on stage. The younger members took part in the early numbers before being taken home to leave the stage free for the senior family members. Bernie sang 'Strollin' and Linda was featured singing 'Big Spender' Coleen sang 'Where is love' from the musical 'Oliver'. At this time, Denise enjoyed singing strong ballad numbers. Seeing an eleven year old Denise take on Bassey and Cilla Black numbers was impressive. They even learned Eurovision winning songs 'Non Ho L'eta' and 'Apres Toi' from 1964 and 1972. The family recorded the album 'The Singing Nolans' for the independent Nevis label in 1972. The album was recorded in one day and was sold locally at their shows. It remains a major Nolans collectable today, often reaching bids of more than £100 on auction sites. A Christmas EP and a single 'Blackpool' were also recorded. The 'Blackpool' single was written for the town's football club and is still regularly played at Bloomfield Road before each home game. The single also had a more poppy B Side - 'Apple Pie'. These three releases are constantly sourced by new Nolans fans to add to their collection. They have become rare over the years as they were made in limited quanities. They certainly didn't enter the charts.
Growing up in show business meant that there was never any pressure on the children to go on stage, they just loved it. Denise Nolan was probably the most keen to sing in front of an audience. Her tantrums became legendary within the family when it wasn't her turn to work with her parents. When she did appear as a teenager she recalls a tremendous anticipation as she came into the clubs.
"People used to nudge their friends and say that "That's the one there!" Because they knew that although I was only an 11 year old, I could handle songs like Cilla Black's 'Anyone Who Had A Heart' or Bassey's 'This Is My Life' It may seem big headed, but the audiences really did love us and we went down a storm."
A well documented story goes that their act - The Singing Nolans, were spotted during an unscheduled Christmas Day booking.. The family always spent Christmas Day together, turning down any offers of work. The Cliffs hotel called the Nolan household, desperate, as they had been let down by their booking. Tommy initially refused the gig. The hotel called a second time and asked Tommy to name his price. Mr. Nolan said they would only work if they were payed a staggering £80! Within the hour a further call was made by the hotel. They had accepted the fee. Tommy had, by now, settled in his chair and decided he wasn't going to go after all. However Maureen Sr. quickly prepared herself for the booking. Before very long her daughters had decided that they too would accompany her and share a taxi and the stage.
The new owner of the Cliffs Hotel, Joe Lewis, saw the show and immediately offered the act a residency at his prestigious London nightspot, 'The London Room'. When they later told their Father he scoffed that that the offer was just talk. However the next day the offer was repeated. Subsequently, that evening Mr. Lewis turned up at the Nolan family home. The eldest girls Anne, Denise and Maureen were old enough to sign without parental approval, but the younger ones were below the legal age. They pestered their Father to agree to the terms. Maureen even said that she would sign a release. Tommy agreed to sing for two nights in the venue before he made his mind up. When he came home he hesitantly signed the contract in the presence of Lawyers. He was anxious that his family not be exposed to some of the harsher aspects of show business. He was a well liked and respected man in Blackpool and Northern Clubland, but London was a world away from his comfort zone. Anne has since said "If Dad hadn't signed for the younger children Denise and Maureen and I would have gone of our own accord anyway. We were sick of working all over the place in clubs that sometimes had horrible changing rooms. Some of the time audiences were fighting with each other. A lot of clubs were great and the audiences were fabulous, but sometimes they were not. My two eldest Sisters and I agreed that if we didn't get some kind of break we were going to pack it in anyway. I had found a job in an office so this couldn't have come at a better time."
The contract initially seemed impressive. The act was to headline six nights a week in London's West End at 'The London Room'. Their contract would tie them to the Hanover Grand Organisation for ten years.
Joe Lewis was a very successful man. He initially allowed the family to stay in his London home. There they experienced luxury living in a house with a fabulous setting. The splendid property had a private swimming pool and tennis courts. This idylic lifesyle was a million miles away from their own and they enjoyed a long, hot Summer as his guests. It meant that while they were there they could work on their new act and set about finding a home large enough for the whole Family. Tommy didn't leave Blackpool initially. He stayed at home with sons Tommy and Brian in Blackpool. The two Brothers had jobs and girlfriends and did not want to leave the town. Eventually a home was found in Ilford, Essex. The property at 4 Granville Road was, and has since resumed it's role as a Doctor's Surgery. Bernie and Linda finished their schooling at Clark's School For Girls in Ilford. Whilst Coleen split her time between the two homes, mainly staying in Blackpool at her Aunty's. She had a horse, something that has remained a passion of hers since. She did not see a future in showbusiness at all.
THE SINGING NOLANS
Shortly after arriving in London, the Nolan family had to start creating an act suitable for a London late night cabaret. One of the first things Hanover Grand did was to retire the Nolan Parents. It would seem that this was met with little, if any, resistence by them. Hanover Grand claimed, with good reason, that an act featuring four or five Sisters would have more impact and scope than an act with five Sisters and their Parents. Thus, 'The Nolan Sisters' was born. To ensure that The Nolan Sisters were ready for their London debut, The Hanover Grand organisation recruited some of the best people in show business to bring polish to their act. Stewart Morris was brought in early on. Morris the was head of the BBC's Light Entertainment Department. He was used to producing shows such as Lulu's World, The Shirley Bassey Show and the UK Song For Europe where the country chose a song for the Eurovision Song Contest. Morris even went on to produce the entire Eurovision when it was held in the UK in 1977. Choreographer Nigel Lythgoe, the was engaged to put the girls through their paces with exciting dance routines to accompany each of their songs. Several of the girls had a crush on Nigel, who later went on to be judge 'Nasty Nigel' on ITV's Pop Idol. His put downs became the stuff of legend, but he was kind and helpful with the Nolans and they responded well to his coaching. For up tempo songs Nigel produced sharp dance routines and ballads were choreographed with clever arm movements or gentle sways in unison. Unlike today, singers had to use microphones with cables attched. Dance routines would often involve passing mic's to each other as the criss crossed the stage. Seldom did this result in a tangled mess of wires as the girls observed all the rules! The services of musical arranger John Coleman and Conductor Alyn Ainsworth were also secured. Between them they had an unmatched record in TV and live music shows. Finally Robert Earle was brought in as their new manager. Earle had had several hits in his own right as a vocalist in the 1950's. He was now a sharp suited, razor sharp manager. Managers today, ensure that would be pop stars are introduced to stylists who create a look exclusive to them. The Nolan Sisters were not so fortunate. Their 'stylist' was Earle's wife Daphne. Described by one Sister as 'bossy and posh', Daphne went to work on their costumes, hair and make up. The five Sisters went to exclusive designer shops to buy their outfits. Daphne's choice was met with derision by five young women who were not impressed with Jaeger's latest designs. They were more suited to women of Daphne's age than a group of girls aged between 13 and 23. Robert Earle had visions of the act becomming a successor to the Beverley Sisters and insisted that they wear the same clothes as each other, both on and off stage. Some of the stage costumes did please the girls. Their first stage outfit was a red cat suit with the letters "NS" emblazened on white with diamonte finish. Topped off with a red sequin jacket. They were utterly dismayed at the outfit that was chosen for the second half of the show, a long, floaty, yellow evening dress with a butterfly logo on the breast panel. Soon afterwards other outfits were added.
The industry professionals that Hanover Grand had recruited proved vital to the act's success. Morris had initailly been highly critical of their act. He found fault with their presentation, their harmonies and the chat between numbers. Within six months Morris and his team had sharpened the act to such an extent that he was able to go back to Hanover Grand; The Nolan Sisters, he said, "Are as good now, if not better than any girl vocal group that you have ever heard or will ever hear". His presence was intimidating. He was feared by most people at the BBC, but he had seen potential in the girls. Morris was also the one who did not see the same potential in their parents. He insisted that they be retired them from the act.
Working in the London Room brought financial reward in the way of an excellent salary. It did not however allow the girls to earn money in their own right. Earnings from future Summer Seasons, TV appearances record royalties and cabaret would see payment to Hanover Grand and not the girls. Whatever lucrative work they may undertake, they were still to be paid a salary from Hanover Grand. Of course, the money was good and most of the gigs were in great venues. Their Father, now based largely in Blackpool was technically still a manager. As a personal manager he had decided that the three elder girls would have a slightly higher salary than the younger ones, Bernie and Linda. The two youngest Sisters had not yet reached sixteen and so the amount of appearances they made were limited. Strict laws restricted how many TV appearances and live engagements they could undertake. Coleen was invited to London for certain TV appearances that would follow. The restrictions were on a sliding scale. Up to 12 years old a performer could undertake very limited performances. Between 12 and 15 the rules were slightly less rigid. Once an artist reached 16 years old they were free to appear as often as they liked. As the Singing Nolans it is certain those rules were not adhered to. In London there would be greater scrutiny, especially where TV was concerned. In working Men's Clubs the rules stated that an artist under sixteen would have to be out of the venue by 9pm. This rule was broken repeatedly by the act. Not that they minded particularly! They enjoyed performing.
On that basis Linda and Bernie were able to appear two or three times a week on stage until February 1975 when Linda became sixteen and was free to appear unrestricted.
Once the Nolan Sisters' how had been settled in Morris brought chart topping star Cliff Richard in to see the show one night. The two were looking for guests on his, yet to air, TV show It's Cliff. The star's attendance in the audience brought much anxiety backstage. They need not have worried though, because Cliff loved them and wanted him on his show. Recording began shortly afterwards. The Nolan Sisters were booked for all six episodes of It's Cliff and this meant a lot of hard work. Each day the six Sisters left Ilford and travelled across London on the tube to Acton, hone of the BBC rehearsal studios. After the day's rehearsals they went to London to appear on stage at the London Room. Rehearsals were from Monday to Thursday with Recording 'as live' on Friday. The show went out on Saturday Evenings. Some of the show's sketch elements had been recorded early in the week and shown on screens to a studio audience. The Sisters were able to catch their first appearance but missed several of them as they were performing live in London. This was in pre video days and the Sisters did not see their performances until many years later. A One off EMI single was recorded. The song, a cover of the Clarence Frogman Henry number But I Do was premiered on It's Cliff as was it's reverse Now I'm Stuck On You. An audience of 17 million watched the show. Management were confident that the song would be a hit. But the record buying public did not get behind the release and the song failed to gain any momentum, resulting in a disappointing flop. The lack of radio airplay was a foretaste of things to come.
It's Cliff however, was a huge success. Such high ratings saw the Sisters become a household name overnight. There was immediate National press coverage with pictures, articles and interviews appearing in all the daily papers. They also began to be recognised in the street. They loved the attention. Coleen meanwhile, headed back to Blackpool and her pony. In an instant their celebrity had emerged, and bookings came flooding in. The public had little or no idea that they had already been perforning in Working Men's Clubs for more than decade. The act had been groomed for TV, and their style suited TV Variety Shows. They were competent singers, looked attractive on TV and were not difficult to work with. The Cliff Richard show also saw problems with costumes. Bernie, in particular, hated them. She complained bitterly and refused to wear some outfits. Their 'Stylist' Daphne reproached her telling her "We won't have any Sarah Bernhardts from you dear." The Nolan Sisters were forced to wear green dresses on their TV debut that appeared to have come from a bygone age. The green evidently had been chosen to reflect thier Irish roots. Nevertheless, Coleen aged 9 was wearing the same outfit that 23 year old Anne was wearing! Other costumes appeared, from pink romper suits to a flowered knee length creation like the one below. Linda says "We hated them all really. We wore some romper suit things that were badly made, and the green dresses were very heavy and were of a curtain like material." Other appearances followed quickly. The Les Dawson Show, The Very Lynn Show, The Basil Brush Show featured their new single; (Won't You) Make A Little Sunshine Shine. This record sold well and entered the chart in the lower regions. Only the top forty songs were published. Without entering this there could be no Top Of The Pops appearances. Roy Castle's also featured the Nolan Sisters in 1975 on his show Roy Castle Beats Time which saw them sing the UK and winning entry of that years Eurovision. The show showcased the differences between them as a young pop group and the Choir at the John Scurr School Choir. They recorded a private album in 1975 as well. The LP featured songs from their act and was recorded track by track as a live performance. The eponymous album The Nolan Sisters was sold at shows and at the London Room. Only hundreds were printed and it has gone on to become a major collectable, with prices on aution sites often reaching more than £100. You can see the artwork and track listing here
The work load was heavy with TV
appearances almost weekly. The girls also were in the studio recording
singles, they appeared at the London Room up to six nights a week. they
also had engagements in cabaret clubs and theatres alll over the UK. The
webmaster of this site is currently working on a retrospective diary
for all the Sisters. It is astonishing to see the aount of work they had
The Sisters were
paid a good wage for this, but it quickly dawned on them that they were
earning much bigger amounts of money for other people. This
was something that would come to a head in a short time. Stewart Morris
was still very much "hands on" with the Sisters. He was working with
Hanover Grand to give them bookings on TV and elsewhere. His contacts
and knowledge proved invaluable and he was arguably responsible for
much of their early sucesses. Morris was ceretainly behind their next
achievement. This engagement was to give them
their biggest career boost to date. It remains the highlight of all
their careers. He secured The Nolan Sisters as the support act to Frank
Sinatra on the European leg of his 1975 World tour. These concerts were
staged at first class venues all over Europe. Cities like Paris,
Madrid, Brussels, Rome and Munich were featured. Competition was fierce
with several acts in the running. It has been reported that The
Brotherhood of Man and The Three Degrees were also being considered.
Altogether five acts were in the running and it was Sinatra himself who
made the final choice. Sinatra was a legend in the Nolan household and
the joy of working with him was hard to conceal. Tommy Nolan was aware
that the tour was scheduled. Tickets had sold out almost immediately.
He bought two from a ticket tout at grossly inflated prices. The plan
was that he would go the Royal Albert Hall with one and the other would
be given to the family member whose name was drawn out of a hat. When
the call came through that they had been picked the whole house went
into a frenzy. The youngest children were at school and when they
returned home they were greeted with their older Sisters in a state of
elation. Once they too heard the news the family became hysterical once
more. They rehearsed hard with their band to prepare for the concerts.
They would open the show each night for Sinatra with just over half an
hour of their repertoire. They had a five piece band of their own but
were astonsihed when Sinatra himself offered his 50 strong orchestra,
complete with a 33 piece string section for them to use during their
act. During the first show Bernie had a troublesome cough that
interrupted her singing. This was partucularly evident when they sang
an a cappella version of Scarlet Ribbons.
Initially the audience giggled quietly. By the end of the number they
were laughing at loud. Bernie was noticably upset. After the show
Sinatra said "Which of you girls has the cough?" When he saw a distrssed
Bernie he took her to one side and offered words of comfort, saying
"Not to worry honey, it happens to everyone." After they had finished
their set, each night they were rewarded with a chance to see Sinatra
perform from the wings. Sinatra was complimentary about the girls and
announced to the audience that "The kids sound good." He had been
alarmed that they had been scheduled to travel from city to city in a
coach and insisted that they be given a suitable limo for the journeys.
He also presented each of the Sisters with a simple fob on a chain with
the words "Peace and love, Frank Sinatra" engraved upon it.
By 1975 they had a full series of It's Cliff under their belts and recorded two singles, 'But I Do' on EMI and '(Won't You) Make A Little Sunshine Shine' on the Target label. The year closed with an appearance on The Harry Seacombe Show.
The early part of 1976 brought a new tour. This time they were to
appear as the support act for Rolf Harris on his South African tour. The
six week tour also featured Ed 'Stewpot' Stewart. They appeared in
prestigous theatres and lounges in the African State. A chance encounter
one day saw them meeting Tom Jones in a sauna! The heart throb
entertainer was also there on a tour, The girls happened to be staying
at the same hotel. They enjoyed a chat about showbusiness and had a
photograph taken with the superstar. Linda even attended his after show
party. They also appeared in an eight week Summer Season show at
Eastbourne with Ronnie Corbett and Janet Brown. It was the first time
the Sisters had worked away from home on their own for any length of
time. They rented a house and had fun. Although Eastbourne is not a
hotspot for night life the girls enjoyed their time in the town. In
between shows they often had to rush back to London to record TV
appearances. The Sisters also released three singles; 'Rain', 'Thanks For Calling', and 'When You Are A King' A further song 'Oh My Darling'
was given a release in America. It had a slight Country and Western
sound and it was hoped that the American market might have picked it up.
Sales were not strong on any of the singles. As before they managed to
break into the top 100 chart. Most of them reaching the lower part of
the top 50. The burning ambition they had to was to appear on Top Of The Pops would have to wait a while. Radio
One refused to play their singles and without the station a single had
little chance to break into the main chart. The year came to a close
with them singing 'When You Are A King' on The Morecambe & Wise Show
where an estimated 22 million viewers tuned in. By now they were stars
in their own right but chart success still eluded them. The singles were
written by proven hit makers such as Roger Cook and Harry Greenaway.
The lack of chart success did upset them, Denise recalls. "They were
good songs to be honest. We sang well on them and they were well
produced. But if no one got to hear them on radio they didn't stand a
chance. It was frustrating because sometimes we recorded a TV show
singing the new song and then the show would air on TV several weeks
after it had been released. By then the record shops had sent back the
singles that hadn't sold."
brought another first for the act when they were selected to support
Engelbert Humperdinck in a series of concerts in New York. The Sisters
flew out to America with their parents with a great deal of excitement.
They were aware that Humperdinck was adored by a mainly female crowd and
they viewed the concerts with trepidation. They feared that the
audience would ignore them as they were only there to see the main
attraction. Instead they found that the audience enjoyed their
performances and cheered them with enthusiasm.
the growing success of the act Tommy Nolan begun to wonder if they
would be in a better position financially if they were to leave the
Hanover Grand Organisation. The company had secured plenty of high
profile engagements for them and they had proved to be profitable.
However the Sisters were still only being paid a weekly wage. If they
left Hanover Grand they would be free to earn their own money. It was a
tough decision as they had only completed three years of the ten year
contract. They decided to carry on with Hanover Grand for a while
longer. The single 'Love Transformation'
was released in September, on the back of a Dulux Paint TV commercial.
The tune was recorded anonymously to promote the paint and following
several enquiries from the public as to who had recorded it was released
commercially. It sold well and landed just outside the top 50. Target
Records and the Nolan Sister's management came closest to success with
the release of their next single, 'LoveBandit'. The single was by far the biggest selling of all the Target singles. It had considerable airplay and was featured on BBC's Two Ronnies
where an audience of 18 million watched. The single sold almost 60,000
copies and reached number 54 in the charts. Denise recorded lead vocals
oh this and 'Love Transformation'. With 'Love Bandit' gaining a following management were told that the midweek chart had seen it enter the top 40. That could mean an appearance on Top Of The Pops
and a bona fide chart entry. Somehow between the mid week and the chart
relase the song drifted and ended up outside the main chart. Everyone
was devastated at the near miss.
Denise was, by now, beginning to voice
her fears about her future in the group. Denise
felt uneasy at the way the act was progressing. She disliked some of
the choreography and preferred singing solo ballads and standards.
However, a major project for the Nolan Sisters was coming up and she
agreed to stay with the act to promote it. Family conferences agreed to
let Denise leave without acrimony after their first general release
album was promoted.
In 1978 the Sisters recorded 20 Giant Hits.
This album remains The Nolans biggest selling album. The whole album
was recorded, in a week! Denise recalls the recording process on her
biography page here.
The project had emerged following market research which was carried out
to find the 20 most popular songs of the day. The record company also
asked the Sisters to choose their own favourite contemporary songs. The
album was heavily promoted with TV advertising and a record shop display
campaign. The Sisters also hit the promotional trail visiting record
shops to sign copies. BBC TV's Nationwide
followed them on their journey. The album was a huge hit, climbing as
high as number three in the UK Album Chart. It received gold disc status
and when the disc was awarded had achieved sales of £300,000. Whilst
Champagne corks were being popped to toast the success and cash sales,
the Sisters could not enjoy a new found fortune - Their contract stated
they were not entitled to royalties as they were salaried. It was
becomming a constant irritation to the Sisters.
TV SHOW FROM 1976 - THE SISTERS SING SCARLET RIBBONS
Denise promoted 20 Giant Hits and then left the act, notbefore the Nationwide recording was completed. The show finished with them singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Denise's departure was featured in the press with raised eyebrows. She commented at the time "I am leaving the act not the family." An interesting feature about the front cover of this album is that Linda is not on it! She was ill with diarrhoea on the day the pictures were taken and was unable to make the photo shoot. A look alike was sourced and used. Although she did not look that much like Linda. The front cover featured the number '20' on a plith with the legend Giant Hits' inscribed on it. The Sisters and the look alike draped themselves over it. The picture was taken from a distance with a filter on the lens. The ploy was not noticed by anyone and still today most people are unaware of it. However when the album was given a makeover and released in Japan in 1981 the pictures are a lot clearer and features close ups. It can clearly be seen that the person who is purporting to be Linda is a fake! Denise's departure, meant she sadly missed out on a major career highlight for the Nolan Sisters - The Royal Variety Performance - at the London Palladium. The Sisters still rank this as one of the best things they have ever undertaken. Denise's own swansong with the group was at the London Palladium in a week long run with with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. A funny recollection from that show was that at the end of their set the girls sang the Andy Williams song 'Happy Heart' The producer of the show wanted Denise to kneel in front of the rest of the girls as the song reached it's cresendo. Denise protested that the move would not be successful as dropping to one knee and nerves didn't go together. During rehearsals the song was completed without a hitch. The opening night her fears were realised when, at the end of the song, Denise dropped to one knee and promptly fell over, spreadegle in front of thousands of people in the audience!
The Nolan Sisters had built up a significant reputation in the industry as reliable workers and a good box office draw so securing work would not be difficult. Denise's departure was a big loss to the group. Denise had been a significant contributor to the vocals of the act, often singing the melody or lead. As Bernie said at the time "We will miss her, not only her presence on stage, but because she has the best voice." The act couldn't dwell too much on her departure as they had to rehearse for that year's Summer Season show as a foursome. Coleen's age had meant that throughout the early part of their career she had to be excluded from all but 80 engagements a year. She had no intention of joining the group, in fact, when the Nolan Sisters offered to fly Coleen to Paris to meet Frank Sinatra she declined, preferring to stay in Blackpool with her pony. Coleen was to miss out too on the Humperdinck tour, the South Africa Tour with Rolf Harris and the Summer Season show in Blackpool in 1978. The 1978's show was to be at the ABC Theatre in their adoptive home town. The show was to feature Irish Brother vocal act The Bachelors and comedian Billy Dainty. The final Target single 'Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue' was a poor choice. Although they were able to sing it on the top rated Morecambe & Wise show it failed to make the chart. This might have been in no small part because the song had only months before been a smash hit for US Country star Crystal Gayle. It was felt that Hanover Grand had badly marketed the Sisters. By making them appeal to a middle aged audience on TV they had alienated them from the single buying public who were largely younger. The Sisters were young and wanted to sing modern songs suitable for younger artists. The decision to leave Hanover Grand was finally made in 1978. They were only four years into their ten year contract. It was natural that Hanover Grand hang on to their act. They were certainly earning the company a great deal of money. Their salary was good, but nowhere near the level it could be. Hanover grand haggled over a release fee. Eventually an agreement was made. Family funds were virtually wiped out. However, it meant that they were now free of any restraints that Hanover Grand may have placed on them. Tommy was reinstated as manager. He now had full control over the act's destiny. More importantly, they were back in financial control over their earnings. Several major record companies wanted to sign the Nolan Sisters. The final short list was WEA and Epic Records. The latter being part of the giant CBS group. Epic wished to promote the act as a pop group rather than a middle of the road vocal group. They had told the family that they planned to use seasoned hot makers Ben Findon, Mike Myers and Rober Puzey who had written and produced several hits for the Dooleys. Epic were victors in the fight to sign the Nolan Sisters. The first song they recorded on the label was to be a a possible entry for the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest. The catchy tune 'Harry My Honolulu Lover' had been written by Terry Bradford. The demo was recorded by Cheryl Baker. The girls liked the song and relished the chance of representing the UK in the contest. The song was rehearsed to perfection. Just before the girls took to the stage at London's Royal Albert Hall March 1979. Disaster struck when a technician's strike resulted in the judges and audience not being able to see any acts performing their song. In fact the strike was over a simple backstage fight! Two technicians had indeed, resorted to fisticuffs over a petty dispute. When one of them was dismissed and the other not. The ever powerful 70s trade unions became involved. No one dared cross the picket line and chaos ensued. The show was cancelled. The audience was sent home and acts sent to hotels. The viewers at home only heard the songs on tape. Judges were to vote on the songs that they too had only heard on tape. They could not see the actual performance. The song had an impressive dance routine and the girls felt it would have added weight to their chances. There was to be more confusion when the North West region could not be contacted. They gave their results the next day. It was felt that they would mark the Nolans highly as they had a strong following in that region. However the judges selected Black Lace, relegating the Nolans to fourth place. The Black Lace song Mary Ann went on to have the dubious distinction of securing the worst result UK result in the contest's history to date. The BBC had been convinced the Nolan Sisters would win and had secured bookings across Europe, including a spot at the Montreux Music Festival, and the Val Doonican Show. Press coverage saw a picture of Anne crying in the back of a car being driven away. Featuring the headline "The Sore Losers". The Nolans were heartbroken at the result. They felt that they had been stolen of the chance to sing their song properly, in front of a live audience. Their act is known to be highly visual and their live vocals are always impressinve. Bitterly disappointed as they were, there would to be no time to dwell on things as they had their first Summer Season without Hanover Grand to complete.
The Nolan Sisters was released that year and featured cover versions and a host of new songs. Coleen also appeared on the album both vocally and on the front cover. Her first appearance on a general release Nolans track since 1974. Apart from a lone solo Single Andy a novelty song abut a schoolgirl crush on Prince Andrew. It was released on the Target label and failed to chart. Epic wanted their debut Nolan Sisters album out before the year end, that would prove difficult as they were booked for the Summer Season at Cleethorpes. The show was a record breaker, smashing all box office records, this left the girls with very little free time. They had to appear twice nightly in Cleethorpes so they were unable to travel to London to lay vocals down for the album. In view of this problem Epic and Ben Findon decided to take a studio to Cleethorpes. Two mobile studio vans were parked outside their rented Summer accomodation and during the day they would record vocals. In the evening they would entertain the audiences in the theatre. It was incredibly hard work and for two weeks the Sisters had very little time off. During the recording Coleen sand slightly off key on one of the tracks. It wasn't discovered until later and she had to fly to London to record an "ooh" It is said to be the most costly "ooh" on record. Anne was married in the June and the Nolans embarked on their most intensive set of cabaret dates thus far. The Sisters also had corporate concerts to undertake including one in Madeira. They employed a musical director this year. The first time they had one of their own. Eddie Peacock had worked with Freddie Starr played piano for the act, he also arranged with bands in venues so that musicians had the right music to work with.
The second Epic single to be released Spirit Body And Soul, charted! Although not a huge commercial success it's entry ensured an appearance on 'Top Of The Pops' which, at the time, was the UK's most successful TV music show. This appearance was also another ambition realised for Anne, Maureen Bernie and Linda. The single stalled at number 34, but the new look and style was certainly working. Songwriter Robert Puzey comments, "Had Spirit Body and Soul been released after Dancing it would have had more of an impact on the charts than it did." The next release however went onto become the Nolans signature tune and stormed the charts Worldwide. The group - now renamed 'The Nolans' had recorded the song in early 1979 and Initially they didn't like it! I'm In The mood For Dancing'was released in the winter of 1979 and by January 1980 it has climed as high as number 3 in the UK charts and number one in 14 countries including Japan where it became the first none Japanese song to do so since Simon and Garfunkel's The Sound Of Silence. It was to be the first time they had recorded a promotional video. Coleen was invited to take part in the filming. She was just 14 at the time! Cabaret and concert gigs continued until the end of the year. They also recorded an entire series of the BBC show Mike Yarwood In Persons At the end of the year the now exhausted family took a holiday to America. 1980 kicked of with more live shows. They also appeared on TV shows all across Europe promoting 'Dancing'. Anne had now married footballer Brian Wilson and was planning to retire from singing. Fortunately for everyone the Summer Season booking that year was in Blackpool. They were to appear alongside impressionist Mike Yarwood for a 16 week run. As Blackpool is quite close to Manchester the recording of the next album was to take place there. The Sisters could easily reach the city and still be back for evening performances. Two singles had been recorded and released as pre tasters for the forthcoming album. Don't Make Waves' featuring Anne and Bernie on lead. It peaked just outside the top ten at number twelve and Gotta Pull Myself Together went top ten in the Summer reaching number nine. The Summer show at Blackpool drew to a close in October 1980 when Anne made her swansong at the theatre. As the Sisters, with Anne on lead, sang the haunting Miss You Nights Anne broke down in tears, realising that this was to be last time she was to sing with her Sisters. Coleen stepped onto the stage from the wings and finished the song. She was still only 15 and couldn't join the group full time until March the following year. Coleen was able to participate in a lot more work by 1980. Anne, by now pregnant, left the act to become a full time housewife and Mum. She had also decided she would run the ever expanding Fan Club. October that year also saw the release of the album Making Waves. Which had been recorded in Manchester and London. The new album went top ten and spent almost a full year in the charts. They were able to announce that late in 1980 they would be going on tour with their first ever headline UK National Tour. They would be playing in large theatres instead of cabaret clubs or as a support act. As they rehearsed some of the newer numbers and had new costumes made. They also put together their own band for the tour - "Car Park"
Who's Gonna Rock You was released just prior to the tour. Giving the Nolans ample opportunity to plug the tour. The Nolans hit the road! Brothers Brian and Tommy Nolan ran the merchandising operation at all the venues that the tour played. Items as diverse as scarves and flashing visors were sold alongside the inevitable posters, badges and programmes. The success of Making Waves was instant. It was released the World over and was particularly successful in Japan, Australia and New Zealand. During 1980 the Sisters made trips to these territories and appeared on most of the top rated shows in each country. Another album was released that month. The Nolan Sisters Collection was a compilation re release of the 20 Giant Hits album. This time released on the budget label Pickwick. That album was so successful it was repackaged in two formats named 'The Best Of The Nolan Sisters Vol 1' and 'Vol 2'. It is interesting to note that several of these Pickwick Albums began to appear in the chart. They were quickly banned by the Chart Company as they were cut price albums and had an unfair advantage over new release, full price records. Attention To Me became the fourth single to be released from the album. It was another top ten smash hit reaching the top ten in May 1981. All these singles received considerable airplay and television promotion. Seeing the ladies appear on Top Of The Pops, Pebble Mill At One, Video Stars and Tiswas amongst others too numerous to list.
Their success in Japan had surprised everyone - no one more so than the Nolans themselves. Sales of 'Dancing' had rocketed. In the UK almost half a million copies had been sold. However in Japan the song broke all records. It remains in the top ten selling records of all time in Japan. It sold more than 670,000 copies. Only superstar names such as Mariah Carey and Celine Dion have sold more amongst English language songs. With the name of the act now shortened to 'The Nolans' they went on to uperstar status in Japan. Their first tour, played to huge venues and sold out. The ladies recorded a 30 minute live programme for Japanese TV. Shown over the Christmas period, it featured the girls lip synching to their hits at famous London landmarks. Who would have imagined them singing "Who's Gonna Rock You" at Trafalgar Square or "I'm in the mood" opposite the Houses Of Parliament!
The Sisters were approached to star in their own TV specials for the BBC. They recorded two 30 minute TV specials at the New London Theatre for transmission on BBC TV. The ironic part of that recording is that the theatre is directly below the London Room! Denise was in the audience and cheered the girls on. The group flew out to Japan in 1981 to take part in the Tokyo Music Festival. They were triumphant with the Findon, Myres and Puzey composition 'Sexy Music' which was taken from the 'Making Waves' album and went on to become a smash hit for the Nolans in Japan. The cash prize and trophy were picked up by them and they became only the third non American act to win the festival. Jermaine Jackson and Randy Crawford had been already been defeated in the contest. The Nolans road show in Japan was unstoppable. First, a 30 minute UK special was recorded for ITV; "Extraordinary Lives" saw Maureen, Linda, Bernie and Coleen' in a studio chatting about their career to date. Later in 1981 a single 'Chemistry' was released, it was another top 20 smash in the UK and was seen as a taster for the next album; 'Portrait' due to be released in March 1982. The single 'Don't Love Me Too Hard' was released early in 1982 at the same time as 'Portrait'. Both were big hits which saw the girls consolidate their position as the most successful girl group in the UK. That year the girls completed their second national headline tour, which was a tremendous success. In total the latest album featured four singles 'Chemistry', 'Don't Love Me Too Hard' 'Crashing Down' & 'How Do I Survive' the latter being released in Japan only. A notable fact about the album 'Portrait' is that it was released in Japan as 'Don't Love Me Too Hard'. Also of note is that the release was one of the first 50 albums ever to be released in CD format anywhere in the World. A considerable achievement. 'Crashing Down' failed to make the UK top 75 which was a severe blow to the Nolans. Despite heavy TV work to promote it including 'The Lena Zavaroni Show' and 'Cheggers Plays Pop'. The song did chart in Japan. Once more, Radio One failed to support the release. Following the success of the specials they recorded two more for BBC TV. At the close of the year a greatest hits album was released entitled 'Altogether' the album's title was also a play on words, for Anne had decided to come out of retirement, meaning the act and the hits were 'Altogether'. Anne had missed singing and her Sisters, and had decided to come back to the group. There had been plans to release a new album in the UK on the Epic label. The label wanted the girls to record the album in the United States with a sought after producer. The costs were creeping higher. Those costs were to fall on the Nolans shoulder and not Epic's. The stand off went on and on until the label and the Nolans management decided to shelve the idea, and part company. The release of 'Altogether' saw the four album contract fulfilled and each party could walk away. The girls released two more singles, the first of which was 'Dragonfly' used to promote both the tour and the new release Album. 'Dragonfly' was the only new track on 'Atogether'. This was the penultimate single release from Epic. Their final Epic single was 'Dressed To Kill' After that, they would be without a record deal for some time.
There was an alotted time to rehearse for the tour, due to start in November 1982. Anne, by now was a Mother having given birth to a beautiful daughter, Amy. Anne made headlines of her own during the birth. she developed spreaclampsia during the birth. The condition is dangerous as the Mother had exceptionally high blood pressure. In Anne's case it almost meant death. She was unconcious for most of the delivery. Fortunately, after a ceacareun section, Mother and baby were fine. The whole family reunited to star on Russel Harty's show where all the family were able to showcase all their talents. Amy even came on set in her specially made costume.
The tour commenced in 1982 and Amy went on tour too! Looked after, as ever, by her devoted Grandmother, Maureen. 'Dragonfly' failed to make the chart in the UK. Despite having a new writing team and new sound. In 1983 The final Epic single 'Dressed To Kill'' was released. the singles was released in 7" and 12" formats, making this a first for the act. Epic had not been happy with the sound of the single. They had wished it to be remixed. However, the Nolans stood their ground and it was released unchanged. It entered the chart as the girls' highest ever chart entry (28). Allegations of chart rigging were made by the industry watchdog "IMRB" who promptly removed the song from the charts. This was a crushing blow to the Nolans who were completely innocent. It seems that a limited edition free poster was offered to would be purchasers of the single. The limited edition was only available in selected stores. Those stores being chart return shops. A few hundred of which, dotted around the country made up the entire UK chart. They were supposed to be secret, but were easily identified as they had the machine for tallyinig sales on the desk. The Music Research Bureaux used the sales of these shops to organise the full top 100 singles! Many acts had bemoned this system as it often exclued their music. Usually chart return shops were in dedicated record shops. Stores such as Boots and WH Smith sold hundreds of thousands of albums and these songs never registerd as chart entries. Artists like Dana and Des O'Connor were selling in huge numbers and not entering the chart. More about that later on! The single had been seen as a chance to relaunch the act after a couple of relatively poorly charting singles. The act was given a makeover visually with new hairstyles and costumes. But it was to be in vain. The song did receive airplay, but it's chance of re entering the charts was blown after being removed from the chart as such a high entry. The one TV show that did invite the girls to perform the song on was "Freddie Starr's Showcase" That performance was not enough to galvanise support for the song. CBS also had ideas that the girls record music in America. This would be a collossal financial gamble. The Nolans would be footing the bill for recording, Should the recording not succeed, they alone would be out of pocket. The chosen producer could not guarentee success. The risk was too much and the Sisters decided their time at CBS was coming to a close.
1983 saw the Nolans enter the charts again with 'Don't Do That' which was a collaboration with heavy rock stars Lemmy from Motorhead and Cozy Powell. It was an unlikely combination but everyone had a great time recording. "It was a little disconcerting seeing Lemmy drinking neat vodka at 9am." Said Linda. Although he was treated the girls very well. 1983 also finally saw the end of the relationship between CBS and the Nolans. As well as the problem with "Where to record the album" - The record company had not been happy with some of the songs that the Nolans had presented to them, Epic CBS, it seemed, wanted to rely on a tried and tested formula without any changes, The Nolans did not. These issues were not going to go away so both companies parted.
In 1983 it was announced that the Nolans were to forgoe the international music scene and bring their music home to their British fans. It was claimed that by spending time in Japan they had taken their finger off the pulse and let slip the vital UK market. They had three singles that hadn't entered the main UK chart and something had to be done. After 50 concert dates in the UK they announced a further full UK concert tour. Problems arose within the act itself with minor squabbles turning into major ones. As things reached an impasse in November 1983 Linda decided to leave the act, leaving the group as a four piece once more. She had been part of the Nolans singing dynasty for since childhood and sang with her Sisters in the Nolans for nine years. It was a huge blow. She was not to sing professionally with the Nolans again until the 2009 reunion tour. Linda secured work at clubs up and down the UK and also appeared at Maggie May's Showbar at Blackpool's Central Pier for a record breaking eight years. The show then transferred to the resort's South Pier for two further years.
A Nolans tour was arranged in 1984 with Anne, Maureen, Bernie and Coleen as the line up. The family spent Christmas together as usual that year. A new recording contract was secured in September 1984. Towerbell Records released the party album 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' in October. The album featured 33 hit songs in medley form. With one full song for each of the Sisters. Bernie stormed with 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart' Anne delivered a beautiful version of 'In Your Eyes' Whilst Maureen and Coleen tackled 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Wherever I lay My Hat' respectively. All the songs featured had all been hits for major recording artists. it was well produced and it received heavy press and TV promotion. With a speically filmed TV commercial showcasing some of the songs. Once again, the recording was swift, with their vocals being completed within a week. Comedy ensued when they recorded the TV commercial. The Sisters were told they would have to have boyfriends. When they replied that they did have boyfriends, the producers told the ladies "Yes, but they have to be in Equity" - the closed shop actor's union. They met their "boyfriends" on the morning of filming. Embarrasment was confounded when the actor boyfriends had to drop their trousers in front of the Sisters as they danced to their tracks! 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' entered the charts and earned silver disc status within the first week of it's release. It later earned a gold disc. Earlier on, we mentioned that artists were missing a chart place becuase the chart was not made up of actual sales, but of sales in 'Chart Return Shops'. In the case of 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' It's debut week, saw it it enter the chart in the lower reaches of the 50+ end of the chart - it had been awarded a silver disc for sales of more than 25,000 units. Above it in the chart, with a new entry at number two, was Ultravox - with no special disc status. Thus proving that, in fact, the Nolans should have been in the top five. No one is saying that Ultravox's release did not ultimately sell more copies BUT on their debut weeks the Nolans had sold far more than Ultravox and were languishing in the lower end of the chart. This is simply because most people who were buying Nolans releases were chosing to buy their albums from shops that had no input with the charts. The same thing was happening to many artists - their plight was not to be recognised for many years - until digital downloads made a much clearer picture. Going back to the 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' - It's release enabled the act to go on tour once more with a product to promote. The Christmas time release was also beneficial because of it's party theme. The Nolans had great fun making the Album, but in typical Nolan fashion they were instructed to record the whole album in a week. This had not been done since the 1978 '20 Giant Hits' record. It is testomony to their vocal talents that they can come up with the goods in such short time. A lone single on the Towerbell Label was also released. 'Goodbye Nothin' To Say' was released in July 1985. The track was available on 7" and 12" formats. The second of only two songs they released in duo format (The other being 'Dressed To Kill') Anne's version of "In your Eyes' was the B' side. Regrettably this single also had no impact on the charts. It was hampered with poor promotion from the label and dreadful packaging. The cover just clipped the faces from the "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" album and placed them at a jaunty angle on a yellow sleeve. With singles chart success eluding them the Nolans needed a reinvention. The group was still very popular on the touring circuit, however, enjoying great successes wherever they appeared. Denise had been enjoying success in her own right with Pantomimes, and soon after the Nolans took to Panto too. It was a chance for each girl to work on their own thus adding another string to their respective bows.
1986 saw the girls without a record contract for the first time since 1974. A life line came by the way of a one off record deal. Sparton Records were impressed with the Nolans vocals when they took part as lead vocalists on the charity single 'You'll Never Walk Alone' which sailed to number one in the charts to help raise money for the victims of the Bradford Football Ground disaster in 1985. The label offered the girls a one album, one single deal. It wasn't long before the ladies found themselves back in the studio recording a new album of standards that were all very dear to them. 'Tenderly' was, and is, considered by many, to be the greatest album the Nolans recorded. It featured songs from the 1940s and 50's and showcased to how diverse the act had become. Two of the tracks were even sung a cappella. The Nolans do have regrets about the album though. They wanted a bigger, more orchestrated sound with higher production values. Budget limits meant that the Album was recorded with just a five piece band rather than an orchestra. They were denied a string section which can really make a song soar. The choice of songs was down to them. They love all of the songs on the album, and vocally they can look back on it with pride. However 'Tenderly' was not a commercial success. Once more, studio time was very limited. The girls had just one week to lay down the vocals. The album's release coincided with another UK tour, which was a great success. Proving the act was still popular. Spartan records have since been accused of failing to promote the album, or the solitary single that was released in tandem, entitled 'Let's Spend The Night Together'' which was even denied a release with what was now a minimum standard - a picture cover. It was not released as a 12" either, and no alernative remixes were made. Something many artists were now taking for granted. There was not a single TV appearance on the back of the release. It received virtually no radio airplay and sank without a trace. There is no doubt that in the pre internet days the only way the public could find out if a record was out was by joining a fan club or hearing and seeing the song on radio and TV. Sparton failed to deliver the girls' new release to the wider market. Something management can also take a share of the blame for.
The Sisters also helped promote another charity single in 1986 when they took part in the Ferry Aid project for the Zebrugge Disaster. The Sisters recorded vocals for 'Let It Be'. They confessed at the time that they felt nervous in the presence of such musical giants as Paul McCartney and Elton John, but they enjoyed the day. In 1987 they appeared on BBC TV's 'Celebrating St.Patrick's Day' which was transmitted from Belfast featuring a host of Irish names. They sang a new song called 'Behave Yourself' which was written by rock singer Jacko. He had penned two tracks for them, the other being 'Don't Blame Me' They became a staple feature of their live shows for many years. Coleen sang lead on 'Behave Yourself' The song was popular and was being considered as a possible single release, but to some people the song was not chart worthy and could not secure a release. Anne gave birth to her second daughter, Alexandra. On the professional side of their lives, there would be no new recordings from them as an act until 1989. Several budget priced albums were released with the same tracks shuffled about and the covers repackaged. Scoop Records released a 6 track EP, as did Epic. Pickwick records had by now obtained licences to release earlier Epic Records material and compilations including 'I'm In The Mood For Dancing', 'Love Songs' and a cassette only double tape release 'The Best Of' all hit the shelves in record shops. The group continued to tour successfully none stop and appeared in smash hit Summer Season Shows and Pantomimes.
In mid 1986 the act toured extensively. The UK government even secured an exchange with the Soviet Union's Bolshoi Ballet. The ballet company came to the UK - The Nolans went to Russia! Altogether 40 Arena Venue dates were completed and although the girls fell ill with food poisoning they enjoyed the experience. They played at huge venues in Soviet states that are now known as Estonia, Russia, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine. The tour of the Soviet Union featured their own band and a small delegation. Authorities accompanied them throughout the tour, ensuring that they did not stray from the itinery. On one occasion one of the crew celebrated their birthday. The girls agreed to have a party in their hotel room. Aware of strict rules the party was a low key, low volume affair with just drinks and snacks. Just before midnight a Soviet KGB Guide came into the room and instructed the bemused party people that the party was over. Bernie, ever the party animal, protested and said that the volume would be kept down, but they would, in fact, be carrying on. The guide left and the Nolans - triumphantly - carried on with their party. Five minutes later the guide reappeared, this time accompanied by armed soldiers. Needless to say, the party ended immediately and the attendees left in haste. Including party loving Bernie who was suddenly 'tired and fancying an early night'. The food poisoning incident meant further problems whilst the girls and their crew travelled across the Soviet Union. Their primitive coach did not have on board toilet facilities and toilet stops were made in remote areas. Sometimes this could even involve knocking on a local resident's door and asking to use their bathroom. Something Anne recalls as being "Filthier than anything I have ever seen." Finding fresh, clean, drinking water was a major problem, resulting in the Sisters being ill for most of the tour. They lost weight and had to see doctors when they returned home. Brian Nolan accompanied them on the tour, acting as the tour manager. He was also their special guest singing two songs in the concert. The concert was a triumph. Soviet audiences were treated to excerpts from the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' Album - some of their own hits and the show stopping Total Eclipse Of The Heart. Their finale; Somewhere Left the crowds cheering for more in every venue. A highlight for Anne was meeting then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Who, Anne says, "Was lovely to us."
1987 brought the Sisters to their home town of Blackpool for a Summer Season at the town's recently reopened Grand Theatre. From now on it would become a regular pattern that the Sisters would appear in Summer Shows, then go straight on to Panto. A holiday would then come. The early part of the following would see them tour with a comedy act or male singer. Coleen and Maureen announced that year that they were both expecting babies. The two siblings both had boys, Maureen gave birth to Danny to her partner Ritchie Hoyle and Coleen gave birth to Shane Jr. So names after his Father Shane Richie. Bernie however was still ambitious. She was without children and she knew that any persuit of these ambitions would mean a split with the act. Nagging doubts that Bernie's ambitions were to be thwarted were reaffirmed when her Sisters stated in interviews that their Children had the main role in their lives Justifiably, they did not like the thought of being away from their children for long periods and even the lure of a trip to Japan had not coaxed them away. They had not been to the far east since 1983 and a one off trip was shelved as it meant being away for six weeks. Summer season shows suited the other three Sisters as they could live in one location. Anne's daughter Amy was now at school, so it made perfect sense during the Summer holidays to have regular work where she could be close to her. Many nights when the act had one night bookings Anne would drive home through the night to be with her daughter when she woke up. That was even more apparent when she gave birth to her second daughter, Alexandra in 1987. That year saw a long Summer season at Blackpool's Opera House which they starred with Cannon and Ball from July to October. They were also able to film a one off TV comedy show Filthy Rich And Catflap along with long time Nolans fan Rik Mayal. The late Spring of 1987 brought a major TV advertisement booking. The Nolans starred in the TV ad for Brother's range of knitting machines. (VIEW YOU TUBE CLIP) This was extended to a brochure promotion showing the ladies in knitted garments. 1988 saw the Nolans appear in Summer Season once more, this time at Bournemouth. A tour followed and all but Coleen appeared in Pantomime. The girls were still enjoying regular TV work,
The music industry was changing. Girl groups Bananarama had enjoyed a huge run of hits that had started to dry up. They became the first established act to employ the services of a trio of hitherto unknown record producers. Pete Waterman, Mike Stock and Matt Aitken worked at Pete Waterman Ltd (PWL). When Bananarama joined PWL they enjoyed their most successful period ever. Smash hits included Venus and Love In The First Degree with Venus hitting the number one spot in America. Quickly PWL became known as the hit factory. Often writing songs within 30 minutes and recording them immediately. Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue, Hazell Dean, Sinitta, Sonia and Jason Donovan to name a few were enjoying monster hits. Even seasoned artists who's chart careers had stalled such as Donna Summer were high in the charts again. The girls' management enquired about getting them in PWL's studios to record new material. Bernie was less than entusiastic but agreed it was good way of raising their chart profile once more. PWL were booked solid for at least two years and despite having two studios, they could not fit the Nolans in. Pete Waterman said of I'm In the Mood For Dancing - "I hated it, the audience loved it. They wanted it playing three times a night when I was DJ'ing. ME, I couldn't stand it. I would put the headphones on and cue something else up while it was on." He was interested in working with the Nolans but it would not be for the foreseeable future. Costs had also risen to use their studios and so an alternative had to be found. They managed to source and use the services of Barry Upton. Who had a chart career of his own and had acted briefly as a member of the Brotherhood of Man. Upton was now working as a full time producer and would later find success with Steps and a Sonia. He agreed to re record 'Dancing' with the act and to produce it in a similar style to PWL. The ladies went into the studio once more in Summer 1989 and recorded 'I'm In The Mood For Dancin' 89' This was indeed given the Stock Aitken Waterman treatment with a throbbing disco beat. The song was released in 7", 12" and CD format. Bernie, once again took lead vocals. Coleen provided lead vocals on the reverse track, the brand new No Question. The song was selling well and looked set to enter the chart when the distribution company went bankrupt and supplies could not reach the shops. It has been suggested that releasing the B Side might have led to better sales as the original song was so admired it could not be improved upon. They were able to promote the song on ITV's This Morning and they flew to Ireland to undertake both TV work for the single and to appear in concert dates. They appeared in TV a special for RTE television which was transmitted live. In more recent years the single has been credited as a chart hit, registering a depressing number 99 placing where it stayed for one week.Family spirits plummeted at the fate of the song. But a new opening was just around the corner.
In 1990 they appeared on Channel 4's new nightly TV chat show Jonathan Ross Tonight shocking audiences by singing the song Panic originally made by the anti establishment indie band;The Smiths. Their tongue in cheek version did prompt Smiths songs to write to them to say they were impresed at their version. The Smiths' mournful lead singer Morrissey is yet to comment! Linda who had topped the bill in Blackpool from 1985 with her Maggie May show on the town's Central Pier was temporarily immortalised in wax at Blackpool's Taussaud's museum. 1989 brought them home to Blackpool for a Summer Season at the Grand Theatre with The Grumbleweeds and Brian Conley. Their biggest selling album 20 Giant Hits was released in the UK on CD this year, their first CD available to the UK market.
For the 1990s Summer season work and Pantomime became the mainstay of the Sisters work. They had started to undertake bookings in gay nightclubs, using backing tracks. None of the Sisters liked doing this. They all prefer live musicians. Bernie in particular hated the medium. Seasons were undertaken in towns such as Blackpool, Skegness, Great Yarmouth and Bournemouth. Although the act had no product to promote, they proved to be a box office draw and there was no shortage of work.
In early 1990 they were approached by Universal Panasonic in Japan with a view to releasing several albums for the vast Japanese market. As usual, recording was to be done quickly. They were able to lay the vocals down at a local recording studio in Blackpool. The producers in Japan had already sent the recorded music files to the local studio. The songs had to be translated with English lyrics. Some of them not resembling the actual translations at all. Des Dyer, who had been the lead singer of 1970's pop group Jigsaw completed the task along with Mike Myers, Ray Hedges and Clive Scott who between them produced thevocal part of the project. The albums; Playback Part 2' - Rock & Rolling Idol - Tidal Wave - It's True What They Say - Lost Lonely Beaches' - Colorful - The Hottest Place On Earth - Please Don't - Valentine Pops In Japan - Celebration Royal Wedding and Christmas Pops In Japan - As well as repackaged CD's of 20 Giant Hits and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun were released between 1991 and late 1992. Some of them were released within a week of each other. The concept was that songs that had been major hits in Japan by Japanese artists would be translated into English and recorded by the Nolans. After the first of the albums became an instant hit in Japan it was arranged that some of the later tracks would be recorded in Japan where they could spend a little more time and get more involved with the process. Most of the songs would not sit well with a UK audience, even with an altered English translation. The Japanese however, loved them. One album received a Japanese Grammy for 'Best concept album by a foreign recording artist' That was particularly sweet for them as other nominees had been MC Hammer and Bryan Adams who were huge stars at the time. With the first albums being hits, they were invited back to Japan for a full concert tour. They played to packed houses once more. Several items of merchandise were produced for sale including bags, t shirts, posters and "Refreshing Nolans Wet Wipes". Whilst on tour they were invited to appear on many major TV shows. Japanese TV had, like the UK changed. Orchestras were not always available and in many cases the Sisters used backing tracks. One particular show had erotic dancers around them. The SIsters refused to take part in what had been planned, and only after heated arguments were they allowed to sing their song as just the group. The act went to Japan every year for the next four years. Such was the resurgance of their brand. At the same time Pickwick Records began releasing CDs of songs that they had still had the licences for, and so a further UK release of 20 Giant Hits was released. Once again, Royalties were not due to the artists.
Coleen gave birth to her second son, Jake in 1992. She continued to work for most of the time. The Summer Season that year was in Bournemouth with Joe Longthorne. In addition to the new Japanese releases several Greatest Hits were also released featuring newly recorded versions of their hits, in some cases, demo versions of the songs surfaced. The artist had no control over their release. The Universal Panasonic arrangement that The Nolans had secured had promised them a UK record release in the form of a brand new album. Mike Myers, and Ray Hedges had produced many of the Japanese albums and the Nolans wanted to use them for their new UK album. The album was destined to have several new songs and some covers. They went into the studio and recorded, as Bernie said at the time "Masses of songs, loads of new stuff and a some covers, it really means a lot to us." Maureen had stated "We have recorded some a capella tracks too for the album" At this stage the idea was to record more than was needed and then to select tracks that would go on the album. A small, independant label had agreed to release the album which featured songs such as a dance version of the Bryan Adams' smash hit Run To You. They also recorded their versions of Say It Ain't So Joe, That's What Friends Are For and thier show stopping a cappella version of Unchained Melody. New songs recorded included a song written by Hazell Dean called Out Of Control and a mid tempo song Take Away The Heartache which was featured on BBC's Pebble Mill At One Other highlights of the album were new dance numbers What's Your Intention?' and a drum and bass song Could This Be. the record company were considering releasing some of the tracks under a psudonym. One track, Somebody Loves You was played anonymously in London clubs and had been well received. The record company executives had mistakenly thought that the Nolan name was somehow toxic in chart terms. This was nonsense. The act had sold over 25 million records Worldwide and the label's cold feet was counter productive. Recording for the album was completed in 1992. Sadly the label failed to deliver on its promise. The Nolans were devastated. Their management decided to try and find another label to release the product.
Coleen had decided to leave the act at the end of 1993 whilst the recorded album was still on hold. Her departure was not given any official statement. The fan club had been notified, but the story wasn't commented on by the press. By the time the 1994 Summer Season production at Blackpool's Grand Theatre had it's promotional material printed, Coleen had been air brushed out of the pictures. That show featured an all star line up with The Nolans, The Grumbleweeds, Duncan Norvelle and Dooby Duck. It ran from May to November, twice nightly and remains the most successful Summer Season show at the venue's history. That Year marked the 100th anniversary of te theatre and Queen Elizabeth attended a matinee performance.
The album had still not been given a release and by early 1994, a new label had been found to release it. The label's officials wanted them to release a new single to see if there was enough interest in the act to follow up with the album. The record company had the whole batch of new recordings available to chose from. They chose to ignore all but one. The Sisters tried without success to push the label into releasing a new song. They felt the hitherto unreleased tracks could have benefitted from newer remixes. Bernie had favoured Run To You which although a cover, had proved popular with the club goers in the trial the previous year. This, or one of the new tracks could have been a modern come back single. The record company chose instead to take the Nolans back into the studio where they re recorded I'm In The Mood For Dancing - Altogether four versions were recorded. The white label record was sent to clubs, whose feedback would determine which version would be released as the single. The triumphant version that was released was the one that had a similar sound to a recent chart smash Saturday Night by Danish singer Whigfield. Comparisions were made with Whigfield's and The Nolans release. Music journalists were quick to point out that both songs had a recognisable, annoying 'duck quack!' Reviews were not positive. Anne said "We tried so hard to get them to listen to the other stuff we had recorded and they just weren't interested. The B side of the song was recorded for the Japanese albums. It wasn't even one of the songs that we had recorded for the new UK album. In these cases you know you are right, but the management override what you say and you just go along with it and hope that they were right and you were wrong. Loads of people love In The Mood For Dancing - I do, but they loved the original song, they didn't want it changing."
The record managed a appearance at the lower end of the charts the week after it's release in April 1995. It entered at number 54 and climbed to it's peak at 51 before leaving the chart entirely the following week. The webmaster of this site spoke recently to a former Radio One DJ who is a long time Nolans fan he said "I was sent the white label to this by Tony Clayman and I thought 'I'll give it a go' There were three or four mixes to the song. One was bang up to date with the current club sound, another was slightly dated and then there was a really bad Whigfield sounding version. I was asked what I thought and told them that they had to release the club version. I am sure I was not alone in thinking it was the better choice. Imagine my disappointment when I was sent the promo single and they had gone for the Whigfield version. I love the Nolans, I really do, they are such pro's. They must have been really cheesed off with the outcome." The Nolans promoted the single, performing it on TV on shows such as Live From The Lilydome and Channel 4's Big Breakfast. Coleen had even agreed to come out of retirement to complete the line up. None of this saved it.In view of the poor performance of the single the record company then shelved the project entirely. Later on the licences to the tracks were then sold to independant labels and they did indeed surface as tracks on cut price CD's carrying the misnomers Best Of The Nolans and Disco Party Classics. The Nolans had no imput in these releases. They were not even told of their existance. Despite the failure to release the album the Nolans were not idle. They had a major Summer Season that year to undertake and Pantomimes around the country.
Meanwhile Linda had enjoyed success in musical theatre starring in touring productions of Prisoner Cell Block H and Back To Baccarach. She had also been on the panel of the stage version of the Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer stage spin off of their TV show Shooting Stars She also appeared on the Saturday evening TV show Night Fever. After promoting the single, Coleen went back into retirement. Her husband, Shane Richie was now a major TV star and his success provided financial security so she could stay at home as a full time Mum. She was the least ambitious singer in the group and had not always enjoyed show business. She took a part time job in a health food shop and settled into domestic life. The job was more of a time filler than a need for cash. She was living in Denham, Buckinghamshire and all her family were away or working. The Nolans were now singing as a trio full time. The New line up consisted of Bernie, Anne and Maureen.
In Summer 1995, after the end of the Summer Season at Blackpool's Grand Theatre, Bernie announced that she too was to leave the act. She had been unhappy for some time. A few years before she had voiced her ambitions. The other Sisters were not seeking such a heavy workload that recording and promoting would entail. Bernie claimed at the time that she was fed up with production numbers and wanted to try something a "bit rockier" she was even considering appearing as a backing vocalist for such a show. She stated that she enjoyed singing harmonies and that that would be the one thing that she would miss. She was also very depressed at the standard of some of the venues they were working in. The group were now playing in Bingo Halls and Holiday Camps as well as Gay Clubs and Theatres. Often the sound systems were less than adequate. The lack of real musicians sealed Bernie's decision. After her departure it would not be financially viable to emply a band of four members for a duo (Anne and Maureen). The two Sisters had new backing tracks made and although they were of good quality, recorded with real instruments they did not come close to live players. All good singers enjoy having an audience in front of them who had come to watch the show. In these new cabaret venuesthat was not always the case. Specialist cabaret venues were fine. They had good sound systems and people generally had come to see the show. In Bingo Halls and holiday camps that was not always the rule. Bernie, in particular, had hated that people might not be actually watching the show and it was a major factor in her decision to leave. Her departure was not a total shock to the group, although they had hoped she would stay. She said at the time that she was scared of going on her own and that she might be back in a year begging for the group to take her back.
Bernie's solo career was always going to be a risk. She had appeared on TV on her own in 1982 in Cheggers Plays Pop in 1982 and On The Waterfront in 1988 both times as a presenter. In 1992 she played the lead in Liverpool with a short run of The Devil Rides Out a Colin McCourt musical based on the Dennis Wheatley novel. None of these jobs affected her membership of the group, so her solo launch filled her with trepidation. She was quickly signed up late in 1995 for a major role. It was announced that she had landed her first starring role in the major National UK touring production of Billy. The musical production of the book Billy Liar. She was scheduled to appear alongside Jason Donovan. Although initial publicity pictures were released, the show was suddenly cancelled without warning before it was even rehearsed. Bernie was crushed. Jason Donovan's subsequent high profile drug addiction was blamed. Bernie immediately found work in low profile roles and semi professional shows, which she saw as a way to improve her acting skills. It would also help her in getting used to being on stage without her Sisters. She played in Godspell and Maria in The Sound Of Music. Bernie continued in this way until Summer 1997 when she was chosen to star in the World premiere of Oh what A Night alongside US singing star Kid Creole. The show was a huge success and went on to tour Worldwide (minus Bernie) for several years. The venue is the largest theatre in the UK with over 3000 seats. At the same time that she was starring in Oh What A Night she had to dash across the town to appear in her own late night cabaret show six nights a week at the Stakis Hotel. This show saw three different full scale production shows that went on until 2am. Anne and Maureen vowed to continue as a duo. They had a string of bookings and were confident of success. Initially they recruited two female dancers who could recreate a line up that would at least look like a line up of four. In 1997 Bernie successfully auditioned for the lead role of Mrs. Johnstone in Willy Russell's Blood Brothers a role that would later become synonymous with the Sisters. Bernie toured the UK with the show and in in London's West End at the Phoenix Theatre. The show hit Liverpool mid tour where she was spotted by casting staff working on Channel Four's flag ship soap Brookside. They later told producers that they should see Bernie. They went to see her in the show and quickly invited her to a screen test.
After auditioning for the show Bernie was offered and accepted a part in the long running soap. She had loved the role in Blood Brothers'but this was too good an opportunity to miss. However, she was tied to a contract. Bill Kenwright, the show's producer graciously allowed her to leave without penalty. Linda had recently auditioned and landed the same role in Blood Brothers. She was due to star in the West End. Bernie's departure from the show had caused a problem. So Kenwright asked if any of her Sisters were suitable. She suggested Denise and upon hearing her on CD and in audition she too landed the role. Kenwright changed the venues and placed Denise in the West End, and Linda on tour. Maureen joined the show several years later and that led to Guinness awarding them a World Record for "The most siblings starring in the same role in a professional production". Sadly, they mistakenly placed the wrong Sisters in the wrong venues. They later corrected the mistake. Denise was not entirely happy with the West End. The audiences were largely visitors from overseas and she felt that they were not totally 'getting' the gritty, Northern story. After eight months she and Linda swapped venues. Linda preferred the West End as she enjoyed city life. Denise was much happier on tour. She loved being able to see the country. She is an avid sightseer and loves the countryside. To be able to spend a week or two in a new town was heaven to her. Most of the days were free so she was able to explore museums, historical sites and beautiful towns in the UK. She stayed in the job for the next four years.
For the Nolans meanwhile, 1998 and 1999 saw them tour the UK and Japan. Initially they had employed girl dancers, but they were dropped when Anne and Maureen decided that their act was dynamic enough as a duo. However, Anne's eldest Daughter, naturally began to show an interest in a musical career. Amy, and her friend Julia Duckworth had been singing in local groups as teenagers and had even appeared on ITV's This Morning with another school friend. The show's host identified her immediately and saw her potential. Amy and Julia decided to join the group in 1999, encouraged by Anne and Maureen. Once again, The Nolans were a four piece. The group introduced Julia as a cousin. It was not a malcious attempt to defraud the public. It just helped audiences feel that they were watching the family act. In fact Julia was almost family as she and Amy had been friends since infant school and she was very close to the family. They toured the country and were thrilled when they found that they had landed a lengthy Summer Season contract for 2000 at the Grand Theatre in Blackpool working with Billy Pearce and John Inman. In the run up to the show Anne noticed lumps in her breasts. Her fears were realised when tests were carried out and breast cancer was diagnosed. Anne had fourteen lumps removed. The show was scheduled to start in July. Anne proved her show business trooper status as she was determined to work through her treatment. She had surgery and had 14 lumps removeed. Following that she had to undergo extensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Anne amazed everyone by working the entire time, missing only a few shows, usually on the days that chemotherapy was carried out. The show business adage - The show must go on - was tested to it's fullest - Coleen came out of retirement to take Anne's place, which she agreed to do unpaid. It was a typical gesture of the family. Brian Hudson, Linda's husband had said many years previously that there was a Nolan wall that surrounded itself when times were difficult. Although Anne found it a strain to complete the run, she did so and enjoyed a rest after the show ended.
After two years in Brookside Bernie decided to leave the soap. She had auditioned and landed a part in ITV 1's The Bill where she stayed for a further 3 years. She had enjoyed her tme in the Brookside, but was upset in 2002 when she was prevented from taking part in a major show that could have brought her even more success. An airline pilot and amateur songwriter called Martyn Baylay had written the song Come Back. He says "I had always tried to deliberately write a song for the Contest, I would try anything to get in, I studied form so to speak and tried to create the perfect contest song. None of this was successful, so when I thought I don't care about formula any more, I sent in Come Back and it won A Song For Europe 2002." The demo of the song was submitted to the BBC to consider for A Song For Europe featured Bernie singing lead vocal. The song made the final eight and Bernie was very much on board. She was told that the show was in Tallinn, Estonia that year and that, if successful at Song For Europe she would have to go to Estonia for up to two weeks prior to the Contest Final for rehearsals and press conferences. She would need to make a promotional video and be on hand for UK TV promotion and possibly European appeances. She asked the programme to allow her time off to persue this once in a lifetime opportunity. Channel 4 and Phil Redman's production company would not give her the time off as she was a show regular and her presence was needed. Bernie was under contract and it could not be broken. Bernie felt a mixture of hurt, upset and anger at the missed chance. She carried on working on the show and the songwriting team chose Pop Idol entrant Jessica Garlick to to sing at the Song For Europe Contest. It would appear that any attempt by a Nolan to appear in the Eurovision Song Contest was doomed to fail. In any event. Garlick DID win the Song For Europe. She went to Tallinn and came a very respectable joint third place. Bernie's own version of the song was never released. The webmaster of this site has heard it and says "It is incredible - Bernie's voice was magnificant. I am sure that if it was her representing the UK at Eurovision she would have won. I say that because Bernie had such a stage presence. She was a fantastic live singer and was instantly likeable to a TV audience. That, and the fact that she was an established name already and had enjoyed success in most parts of Europe. I am utterly convinced that she would have won. Jessica was a lovely singer but, in my opinion, she came across as miserable and looked far too nervous." Bernie was naturally devastated, so when a better paid role was offered, the wrench from Brookside was easier.
As a duo and then a four piece with Anne, Maureen, Amy and Julia, The Nolans toured the UK and overseas, including The Netherlands and Dubai where they enjoyed TV work and live dates. In late 2001 Anne and Maureen were asked to take part in the Reelin and a Rockin tour. It meant that the girls would be providing backing vocals for a variety of 1960s stars such as Gerry Marsden from the Pacemakers, Dave Berry, Brian Poole and many others, the Nolans stayed with the show for 3 years even taking it to Australia twice and on board the QE2. The show was even given a Summer Season as well as constantly touring to packed houses. The two Sisters enjoyed a special guest slot where they sang a Dusty Springfield medley, in keeping with the theme of the show. As well as this work they appeared in gay clubs across the UK as a duoand occasionally as a four piece. They were invited to go on a nighclub tour which was not as much fun. Brannigans was a chain of clubs that employed the girls extensively. They were to appear close to midnight and perform for an hour. Whiilst the audiences did enjoy the hits and covers of seventies anthems they were not the most attentive. Audiences would talk, dance and shout to girls, fuelled by drink. Sucurity guards stood at the stage to prevent any unwanted intrusion and the girls endured sexist shouts from men in the crowd. Sadly, dressing rooms were not of a high standard. In some of these venues disabled toilets were all that were offered, and in one venue they changed in a room full of beer barrels. Slower, gentle songs were often ignored and those wanting to hear the performance had to their experience spoiled by the background noise. Maureen in particular hated these shows. She would often be beset with nerves and telling the others "They will hate us." Of course, they never did hate them. It is fair to say though that this was not their happiest memories.
Each Nolan with the exception of Coleen also continued to star in Pantomime up and down the country. Coleen had only appeared in one panto and vowed that they were not for her and that she would not be appearing in one again. Something she stuck to until 2012.
By 2004 the Sisters were not happy with the work that was coming in. It often involved very late night performing. Summer Seasons had changed their format. Where artists had previously enjoyed a full summer in one town, companies now decided that they would use their stable of acts and move them around the country. One Season involed the group travelling to Great Yarmouth, Skegness, Bournemouth, Weymouth and Wales. Appearing one or two nights in each venue. This prevented them from renting accomodation that they could make themselves comfortable in for a long stretch. For this the girls used B&B accomodation on a nightly basis. It was not ideal. Anne was offered a part in touring variety show. The money was very good and the theatres were also of a high grade. She jumped at the chance. Her co star was to be Bobby Davro. Posters adorned the theatres and the shows started off as a triumph. The cast were shocked to find that the show's producer had fled leaving the cast without a salary after three shows. It also came to light that the producer had not been truthful to theatre managers and the whole project collapsed. Whilst Anne was working away on the show. Maureen had been very worried about not having a wage while Anne was away. She was offered a part and joined the National tour of Mum's The Word, her first job that didn't involve singing. Although she was very apprehensive about the role she embraced it and was rewarded with critical acclaim. Maureen enjoyed the experience immensely and found it had given her new confidence which enabled her to audition for the part of Mrs. Johnstone in Blood Brothers. She was so nervous that she didn't tell anyone what she was doing. To her astonishment she got the job. Some time later, proving that the Nolans seem to do so much together; her sister Bernie in 2007, took on the lead role in the same touring production of Mum's The Word with a whole new cast! While Maureen was away working on the show, should any Reelin' and a Rockin shows arise, Coleen or Amy were on hand to help out. Almost proving Radio two's Terry Wogan right when he said there was a factory somewhere manufacturing Nolans.
Pantomimes continued to be a valued source of income for the girls with most of them starring during the festive period. Maureen was unable to carry out her Panto duties as she was now firmly in place in the West End starring in Blood Brothers. Bernie was occupied with her TV role in ITV's The Bill but found time to star in the hit TV show Stars In Their Eyes (Link is a video clip link) as Anastasia, singing Not that kind of girl. Linda, meanwhile was busy with Blood Brothers as was Denise who was touring the UK with the same show. She abruptly left the show in 2004 and announced she was to tour once again with her The Magic Of Judy Garland show. Whilst Denise was on tour with Blood Brothers she was nominated for an award for her portrayal of Mrs. Johnstone such was her stature in the role she had come to call her own. When Denise left the show Linda was immediately pulled from the West End to take over the touring role once more.
In 2005 Bernie recorded and relased her debut solo album All By Myself which was met with critical acclaim. The album failed to make the top 100 chart, but she did have a minor chart hit with her first solo single effort Macushla which reached number39 in the UK chart with Royalties goinig to her nominated chaity - SANDS the Stillborn and Neonatal Death Syndrome. Bernie had lost a baby to the disease. It caused her immense distress. She knew in advance that the baby was suffering with a condition called Edward's Syndrome. The baby was, as Bernie said; "Born asleep". She had named her Kate. Later that year she took part in ITV's The Games raising money for charity. Bernie was the eldest female on the show so it was no surprise that she came last! After releasing her debut album Bernie worked in Blackpool at the UK's largest theatre the Opera House for the Summer with the hit show Soap Queens Bernie shared top billing with Debra Stephenson from TV's Coronation Street. There was little sparkle between the two, but the show was a success.
Linda continued to tour in Blood Brothers. In 2005 she diagnosed with breast cancer. Following a mastectomy Linda shocked the country by returning to the show after only 14 weeks absence. Later that year CBS Records released the album The Singles Collection and a 25th Anniversary box set that featured all their CBS albums and tracks never released on CD before. Both of these massive hit albums were only on general in Japan. However, by now the pubic had access to the online stores and UK purchase was easy. Universal Panasonic wanted a new version of the Japanese only album 'Playback Part 2'. Anne and Maureen went into the studio to add new vocals to the existing tracks and they were then subsequently remixed. The newly released album, now called 'The Nolans sing Momoe 2005' went to number 1 in the download charts, firmly cementing their stronghold on Japan. 2006 saw Bernie in Panto as the wicked queen in Sleeping Beauty' She starred with Johnny Briggs (Coronation Street's Mike Baldwin) and Tina O'Brien (Coronation Street's Sarah Platt) as the Wicked Queen at Manchester Opera House in Cinderella. Shortly after she joined forces once more with Debra Stephenson in her highly rated show Soap Queens for a short tour. For the Blackpool shows she appeared with Richard Shelton from ITV's Emmerdale in Soap Queen & Kings on the town's North Pier. Bernie was devastated after the show was cancelled after just a few weeks because of poor ticket sales.
Maureen left Blood Brothers in 2007 to tour in a production called Stardust with male vocalist Mike Holoway. She joined him in Panto at Durham that year where she starred as Fairy Crystal in Sleeping Beauty. Summer that year saw her touring with the UK National Tour of Girls Behind Where she played Sadie - Billed as - Tough with a soft centre. Co stars included Sue Devaney and Donna Hazelton. Coleen had found a niche in TV presenting and has worked on ITV's This Morning she took over the role from professional journalists Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan. It was a shock to find that her performance, as well as that of co host Twiggy Lawson universally panned. After less than six months Lawson was dismissed. Coleen continued for a short time, by now joined by seasoned pro John Leslie. Ratings began to improve. However ITV coaxed Fern Brittan out of her maternity leave early to join Leslie. With Brittan firmly in place ITV felt able to offer Coleen "Special Features" which was a polite way of saying that she was too was fired. With only a few "Special features" under her belt Coleen left the show. With her marriage over Coleen returned to Blackpool where work remained elusive for quite some time. Coleen joined Loose Women where she stayed for ten years. She had originally been a panelist on the show's predessor, Live Talk. Since then Coleen has been the darling of the tabloids and has appeared on several high profile shows. Most notably Dancing on Ice. Despite her poor standard of ice dancing Coleen endeared herself to the audience and went as far as the quarter final. The show saw her injure herself several times, but she carried on despite the pain. She fronted her own Sky TV show 'The Truth About Beauty' and has appeared on almost every chat show on TV. Maureen returned once again for a second run in Mum's The Word touring the country once more. Talks were underway already for a return to Blood Brothers.
MORE RECENT PICTURE GALLERY
In 2007 Linda was touring the UK with Blood Brothers. Her husband, Brian, had been receiving treatment for skin cancer in 2005. The two had both battled the disease successfully when tragedy struck. Brian was admitted to hospital with a leg infection and suddenly died. Linda had spent more than 25 years with Brian constantly by her side. He loss was to have a lasting, devastating effect on her. Brian had battled with drink for several years that Linda later discussed in a Nolans book and her own autobiography. The details were not widely known to the public. In any case, Brian had been a rock for Linda and without him she sank into depresssion. She returned to work but after a few short weeks she withdrew from Blood Brothers, suffering from Cellulitis which hospitalised her in Nottigham. Once discharged and back home Linda's depression spiralled out of control. She eventually needed the services of the Samaritans and even went as far as writing suicide notes to her Sisters. Family and friends rallied around her but she was suffering more bad days than good ones. She turned to councellors to help her through and anti derpressents also helped. There was no way that Linda was in a position to work. She explains "In Blood Brothers, the first line I sing was - Once I had a husband, you know the sort of chap - There was no way I could sing that without breaking down. It was just too much." Linda placed a great deal of emphasis on her elder Sister, Denise, who was in a position to spend time with her. Denise became famous for saying "You want to watch a DVD? I have musicals, girly films, period dramas...what you want?" The two Sisters live five doors from each other so the two became close.
Anne Nolan's autobiography, Anne's Song' was released in 2008. She had worked for five years on the book which she explained was "The truth". In May the previous year she had signed the contracts. The book's release saw much publicity and Anne was featured on radio and television for almost a month solid. She undertook a one off concert in Spain that November. The book made it to the top five in the Times national book charts. A paperback release followed in early 2009. Maureen continued her successful run of work throughout 2008 with roles after Mum's the Word she completed a six month run with the national tour of Footloose. In January 2009 she rejoined Blood Brothers for the UK national tour.
A private argument had seen several of the Sisters estranged for some time. Anne had a minor argument with Coleen's husband. This saw Coleen take the side of her partner. Denise then joined the arguement in defence of her Sister. Eventually Anne and Coleen were reconciled. But when Coleen announced her wedding plans and they didn't include Denise, the argument flared up again leaving relations in a desperate state.
It was announced during Autumn 2009 that a Nolans reunion tour was to take place - minus Anne and Denise. To say Anne was devastated when it was revealed that the line up would not include her was an understatement. She gave her side of the story to the press. None of this line up, with the exception of Maureen had sung under the Nolans banner for several years with Linda being out of the group for 26 years she said. The group went on the publicity trail, promoting the tour devised by Universal Records and Live Nation with major contributions from Coleen and her manager who had helped organise the tour. They claimed that the record company only wanted the four Nolans who has the most success, and that the tour was to mark the 30th anniversary of "I'm In The Mood For Dancing". Anne poured scorn on this claim by pointing out Coleen hadn't recorded that song or promoted it at the time because she wasn't old enough. She went on to point out that Coleen joined the act in 1981 officially when she was 16. She also stated that of all their hits in their entire career she was only absent on 4 of them and one album. Denise too released a statement and defiantly stuck up for Anne. The tour went ahead leaving fans divided. Many were overjoyed at the concert, whilst several long standing fans stayed away in protest. The tour was a huge success however. Concerts were sold out and a DVD of the Manchester show made the top 5 in the live DVD list. An album, In the mood again was released, with covers of diva anthems featured in the live show and remakes of Nolans' hits . It had been recorded in great haste and not all the girls were present at each recording session. Maureen recorded her part of I Don't Feel Like Dancing quite a while after Linda had laid hers down. It was a minor chart success reaching number 22 in the album charts. The end of the year saw Coleen and Maureen appear on the hit TV show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Their appearance on the celebrity version of the show raised £32,000 for their chosen charities, Alzheimer's Care and the Niemann Pick organisation.
Bernie followed the Nolans tour by appearing in the second series of Popstar to Opera Star she was runner up in the show which saw Darius Danesh crowned as winner. In fact Bernie had led the field for the whole series until the final show where less than 1% of the vote split the two. During filming Bernie had noticed a lump in her breast. Her fears were realised when she became the third Sister to be diagnosed with breast cancer. She went public with the news and even appeared with a bald head on many TV shows after the chemotherapy took away her hair. She had shaved her hair when it began to fall out in patches.
Coleen's son Jake took a short role in ITV's Emmerdale this year. Jake and his older Brother Shane also have recorded songs and worked together as a pop/rock group. In 2009 Anne's youngest daughter and her partner Steve had a Son - Vinny, who constantly amazes everyone with his personality. They married in 2012. Maureen became a Grandmother for the second time when Sienna was born in 2010. She already was a Grandmother to Ava. Danny clearly loves Fatherhood, he had a third son in 2015 - Roma. Maureen was married in late 2010 to her long term partner Richie. The two tied the knot in a luxury hotel in Spain. The wedding was covered by OK magazine who made a feature of the event. As a new decade began Anne and Denise made a fresh attempt at building bridges. They decided that they would write to all four of their estranged Sisters and offer to be civil to each other. Maureen and Bernie immediately replied allowing for a fragile reconcilliation to take place. Bernie's cancer trauma seemed to be at a close at the end of 2010 when, following her mastectomy and subsequent reconstruction she was able to attend her eldest Sister Anne's 60th birthday party in November. She declared to the press at the end of the year that she had beaten the disease. She also announced she was to star in the UK National tour of the hit comedy play Calendar Girls. Maureen toured the UK in the stage play Naked Truth throughout much of 2010 before returning to the West End for a three months stint, in Blood Brothers. Linda undertook Panto at Worthing, whilst Denise headed to Bridlington where she topped the bill in Snow White. The show broke records and consolidated her position as one of the UK's most sought after Panto baddies. Denise returned to the town in May 2011 for a one off concert of her Magic Of Judy Garland show. Coleen released two novels in 2010 and a new book written by Bernie, Maureen, Linda and Coleen entitled Survivors was released in April 2011.
Maureen toured throughout 2010 /11 in shows as diverse as the Eva Cassidy Story - Footloose and Girls Behind later in the year she joined Sister Linda in a production of Jack & The Beanstalk at the Shaw Theatre in London. The show's producer disappeared days before rehearsals were due to start, leaving the cast bemused. Salvation came when the theatre itself took over production, after the Panto Maureen was once again approached by Bill Kenwright and returned to Blood Brothers, this time she took second billing to superstar Marti Pellow who Maureen noted was "Gorgeous to look at and fabulous to work with" She left the show in Summer 2012 and appeared in Panto in Redditch. Coleen surprised many by entering the Celebrity Big Brother House that year. Coleen has been a fan of the intensely invasive show for many years. She stayed in the programme avoiding eviction until the final where she was placed second to Julian Clary. During the show Coleen clashed repeatedly with Julie Goodyear who's scheming was exposed towards the end of the show. The public were fully aware of Julie's malevolence but the housemates were not. Eventually one by one the housemates discovered what Julie had done and they confronted her. Coleen had suffered a meltdown in the house and was relieved to find the anger of the housemates to her was misplaced.
Anne had impressed a lot of people with her candid style and honesty in her book. She was invited to record an album throughout the early part of 2012. She was able to have a hands on appraoch to the album, this allowed her to arrange a medley of her own and take part in production duties. She was invited by Save The Children to support their Bangladesh Clinics For Babies campaign that year. Anne released a single When I Need You' and offered half of the royalties to the good cause. Her album is sold well and was an Amazon hit. Denise has been a familiar face on the Jazz scene for years and enjoyed working at the Sands Venue Blackpool as a regular in 2011 and 2012. She was involved with several shows at the venue. Where she worked with such Soap stars Shobna Gulaty (Sunita: Coronation Street) Andrew Lancel (Frank Foster: Coronation Street, Neil Manson: The Bill) Richard Shelton (Dr.Adam Forsythe: Emmerdale) Natalie Anderson (Alicia Gallagher: Emmerdale) Graham Hawley (John Stape in Coronation Street) Liam O'Brien (Ethan Blake - Emmerdale) as well as many others from the Soap World - Denise met another accomplishment in 2011 when she topped the bill on a charity variety show - starring allongside Gareth Gates and Rose Marie. That night she doubled up by going straight to the Sands where she received a standing ovation from a full house with more than a hundred soap stars present. 2012 saw her in Broxbourne with X Factor finalist John Wilding and BBC's prankster Ross Lee, Bernie took much of 2011 off to recharge her batteries following her cancer treatment. She had worked through her cancer treatment and fulfilled commitments by completing panto in Dunstable and touring with Calendar Girls. Now, however, she needed a rest. She had a belated 50th Birthday party and took plenty of time off to recuperate before joining the National Tour of Chicago with Ali Bastian, Stefan Booth and Tupule Dorgu. Fans were to be in with a chance to see the girls in their farewell tour, scheduled for February and March of 2013. Dates had been announced and Bernie, Maureen, Linda and Coleen were to take part. However Bernie announced to a stunned World that her cancer had returned and that it was now incurable. She insisted that it was treatable and was taking medication to ensure that it was kept at bay. She starred in Panto in Eastbourne that year, but had to pull out when she found that her precious voice had been stolen by the cruel diesease. Bernie released her autobiography that Spring and it topped the sales and download charts selling more than 20,000 copies. She was too ill to write the last Chapter and so her Husband, Steve Doneathy, completed it for her. Bernie had, in between, taken a trip to Blackpool and was taken ill. She was admitted to the Town's hospice and everyone believed Bernie would not make it through the next few hours. In typical Bernie style though, just two weeks later, she returned to her home in Weybridge to spend her final days at home with her family. She was horrified to find that whilst away, thieves had broken in to her home and had stolen jewellery and had damaged treasured belongings. In her last few months Bernie made sure she spent time with all her family and even managed to get out of the house almost every day for fresh air or a light meal. Sadly Bernie lost her battle against cancer on July 4th 2013. She was with all her Sisters and Brothers. Bernie was brought home to Blackpool and her funeral was attended by 500 mourners who attended a specially arranged service at the town's Grand Theatre. Bernie arranged the entire day herself. She chose music, wrote a letter to be read to the assembled friends and family and even had live performances screened in the theatre. The Grand arranged for speakers to relay the service outside to the several thousand members of the public who lined to streets to say their final farewell to the local girl who conquered the World. The public who had gathered outside brought comfort to the family, secure in the knowledge that she was loved by the townsfolk. In a poignent turn of events all remaining Sisters had put their differences to one side. It may well be a delicate road for full reconcilliation but still all the family are working towards this.
As 2013 progressed, the family had to deal with their loss and grieve. However. Maureen rejoined Blood Brothers for the Autumn National Tour and starred in Panto in Carlisle. Anne continues to record and has been working with the original writer of I'm In The Mood For Dancing, Robert Puzey. Her second single You've Heard The Wrong Story was released in 2014 and recieved considerable airpay. It was a download success and had been viewed on Youtube thousands of times. Denise still enjoys her selective work and Coleen is a regular contributor to the Daily Mirror as their resident Agony Aunt.
2014 started the year with a bang for Linda. She agreed to take part in Channel 5's Celebrity Big Brother the daunting challenge saw her share a house with other celebrities in total isolation from the outside World for up to three weeks. As one by one the celebrities are evicted by public vote. It was not good news from Linda's point of view as she was joined in the house by eventual winner, Jim Davidson. The two did not get on very well. Clever editing highlighted this and Linda says that "I was seen as a moaning old bitch all the time, when in fact, most of the time I was having a great time." Linda was voted off midway, but took comfort from the fact that she hadn't been nominated by her fellow housemates and had been put up for eviction by a twist devised by the show. Coleen returned to the panel of Loose Women and Maureen completed a successful panto at Carlisle before heading on the road for 2014 with Blood Brothers UK National Tour. Anne then filmed a documentary for Irish television charting her extraordinary life. Denise took part in the documentary then went on to star in 2014 in The Good Old Days a variety show in the south of England, where she topped the bill and was received with great acclaim. There was talk in late 2014 of a Nolans tour which would feature Bernie on giant video screens. Something that has since been ruled out. Anne completed the year when she took part in a musical in Stoke called What's all the fuss about with Nicky Evans.
In late 2014 Maureen announced that she would head to Ipswich for her Pantomime that year whilst Denise went to Lowestoft. Linda returned to Panto as a solo star at St. Helens. It was a welcome break for Linda who had thrown herself into charity work with gusto. She recently completed a 13 mile midnight walk for breast care charities. Linda has been involved with several charities recently and has been made a patron of many. As have Denise and Anne. Maureen once more returned to Blood Brothers in early 2015. Whilst Anne agreed to take part in two movies. There are more talks underway for a musical project involving Denise. A lot of the demo music has been recorded, now the writers have to try to find funding, very difficult in this current climate. Later that year Anne and Linda joined John Barrowman on a Celebrity version of the TV Quiz 'Pressure Pad' . In March 2015 Coleen celebrated her 50th Birthday with a party at the Radisson Hotel at Manchester Airport. She was joined by her family and friends. Denise was offered one musical and one play. Both of which she rejected. Later in the year Denise decided not to take part in Panto, preferring to spend the time with friends and family. Maureen joined the UK National tour of Footloose in late 2015 alongside Gareth Gates. She had decided to take a break from Blood Brothers. In the Autumn Linda joined Menopause The Musical she starred alongside the X Factor's Mary Byrne, Eurovision winner Niabh Kavannagh and Sue Collins from the Nualas for an Ireland wide tour. The production was a smash hit selling out in every venue it played. Anne went back into the studio to record a Christmas single which was heavily played on radio and Anne enjoyed the promotional work that accompanied it, once more it was a download hit. Her plans to release a single in 2016 were confirmed when she released 'Why' a duo with Country and Western star, Gary Curtis. Linda went out on the road again, this time in the UK where she starred, once again, in Menopause The Musical on a full UK national tour. Later in the year she managed to fit in a two week musical Rumpy Pumpy in Oxford and London.
RECENT PICTURE GALLERY
2016 saw more success for Coleen. She was promoted to be one of the main achor presenters on ITV's Loose Women the company's flagship lunchtime show. As well as that, she was co presenter alongside Amanda Holden in Give Pets A Home. Coleen declared that her marriage was on the rocks and would work to find a solution, while her husband Ray Fensome was away touring with Rick Astley. He subsequently returned and Coleen said she was still working at her marriage. Fensome is no longer employed by Rick Astey. Channel 5 started it's 2017 Celebrity Big Brother with an All Stars version of the show. All of the contestants had been entrants in previous years. Coleen was invited to take part once more and readily accepted. Coleen once again had a meltdown under the relentless pressure of the show. She was voted by the public as 'least trustworthy' and 'two faced'. The accusation hurt her and the feeling of paranoia intensified with her not knowing what was happening in the real world. However, she was popular with her housemates and avoided nomination. Celebrity cleaner Kim Woodburn was hateful to most housemates, Coleen included. With Coleen concluding that Kim was "vile". Despite many heated rows in the house, Coleen went on to win the show. She said it made her miss her husband. Kim stated after the show ended that Coleen was not a worthy winner. Upon her return home she failed to talk to her husband and the matter was not resolved. She took a week off work in February to see if she could finally sort things out.
Denise claims she is in semi retirement. Her next outing was in London's Soho where she reprised her Magic Of Judy Garland show. The show is always well received. The show, in London's Soho was a complete sell out and the crowds gave her multiple ovations. Anne's daughter Alex gave birth to her second daughter Nevaeh. The webmaster of this website was invited to be God Father - something he cherishes. Amy has retired from show business to concentrate on bringing up her son, Ryder. Maureen's son Danny became a Father for the third time when Roma was born in 2016. Bernie's daughter is starting out in show business by joining amateur dramatics, most recently in Legally Blonde. In December 2016 Maureen was to star in a musical adapation of Great Expectations with Adam Rickett. She was play the part of Miss Haversham. At a very late stage the producers pulled the plug on the show. The Winter Gardens in Blackpool did tell the producers that the audiences in Blackpool are different to most other towns. The locals, out of season, tend to book show tickets late and this seems to have troubled the producers who were not willing to take the risk. The late cancellation was very disruptive to Maureen who could not secure a Panto at such late notice. It is testement to the changing times that companies can do this to artists without the company suffering any penalty. In any case she was able quite quickly to join the cast of Menopause The Musical in February 2017. Once more, the addage, "Keep it in the Family" seems to be apt, as she follows Linda in the role. Linda finished the year with a storming performance in Jack and The Beanstalk in Preston which saw her play the good fairy alongside Phil Walker. Denise took part in the Rat Pack Christmas Show with seasoned singers from TV's Soap Land. The roles of Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis were taken by the soap stars while Denise sang Judy Garland Christmas numbers. At the end of 2016 it was announced that Linda will star in Our House which is a comedy musical built around the music of Madness who had a string of hits in the 1980s. Maureen's busy schedule carried on when she finished Menopause The Musical and joined Footloose once more for it's late Summer run. She was also set to take the show on the Far East International leg of the tour. Sadly the political climate in the country at the time resulted in the production company making the decision not to take the show out. Early in 2017 Linda agreed to a telivised Face Lift carried out at a Harley Street clinic. She had been unhappy with her look and readily agreed to the proceedure. She was thriled with the result and premiered it on ITV's Loose Women. Meanwhile just a few weeks later all was not happy with Maureen, when it was reported that her marriage to Richie Hoyle had broken up. She gave interviews to press and TV .In March 2017 Linda was admitted to hospital after falling up the stairs at her Blackpool home. Initially she was informed that her hip had been fractured. Further investigation revealed that her breast cancer had returned and had infected her hip with a secondary tumour that had been spotted as a cyst. She stayed in hospital undergoing tests and resting. Later in the month she was transferred to Oswestry in Shropshire where a biopsy was carried out under general anaesthetc. It was confirmed at the time that although the cancer was not curable it was treatable. She will have to undergo treatment including radiotherapy and regular injections to keep her bones strong. Maureen joined Jake Quickenden and Jennifer Ellison at Blackpool Opera House in December 2017 in Peter Pan A Musical Adventure. She was excited to be back on home territory for the festive period. Anne decided to come out of retirement for the Panto Season, reprising her wicked queen role in two venues - Cannock and Colne. She wanted her Grandchildren, Vinny, Nevaeh and Ryder to see her in Pantomime. Coleen also is took part in Panto for the second time in recent years. She starred at Bradford alongside Billy Pearce as the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella. Denise was invited and accepted to take part in the UK tour of The Rat Pack Tribute The series of concerts takes place over the Autumn and Winter of 2017. She elected not to star in Panto in 2018. Linda was filming for a variety of TV projects that are lined up for the Autumn.
In 2018 Maureen announced that her marriage to Richie Hoyle had broken down. She threw herself into work and starred once more in Menopause The Musical on a full UK tour. Midway through the year she too underwent a facelift which was filmed for TV. She rejoins Menopause the Musical in 2019 after her Pantomime in Newcastle late in 2018. Anne has signed contracts for a second version of her autobiography. This will bring her fans up to date with the last 10 years of her life. The Press reported that it will upset people. She tooko part in a Summer Panto in 2010 as lead star playing the Faity Godmother in Jack and the Beanstalk in Bolton. Her hit book is to be turned into a musical. The show will feature 23 brand new songs written by Terry Bradford. Linda was to star in the ITV show Our Shirley Vaentine Summer in July 2018 but she withdrew as she is still undergoing treatment. However a saviour appeared in the Summer of 2018 when ITV expressed an interest in her joining the Loose Women panel as a regular. At the time of writng she has appeared on the show thre times and most recently without Coleen by her side. Coleen's marriage did in fact, break down and she announced that she was to divorce Ray Fensome. She has a string of projects lined up and a really bug one will be announce in September 2018. Denise is enjoying her semi retirement, but we on this site are determined that she get back on stage! You will have to watch this space.
The Nolans story is a long one. It is certain to continue.