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The Nolans

The Nolans
Origin Blackpool, England
Genres Pop
Years active 1974–2005, 2009
Labels Epic, Teichiku
Website .com.nolansisterswww
Past members Maureen Nolan
Anne Nolan
Bernie Nolan
Coleen Nolan
Linda Nolan
Denise Nolan
Amy Wilson
Julia Duckworth

The Nolans are an Irish-English girl group who formed in 1974 as The Nolan Sisters, before changing their name in 1980. They are best known for their hit single "I'm In the Mood for Dancing". Released in December 1979, the song reached number three in the UK in February 1980 and topped the Japanese charts in November 1980.

Five of the sisters, Anne, Denise, Maureen, Linda and Bernie, became regular guest performers on numerous television shows in the UK in the 1970s and supported Frank Sinatra on his 1975 European tour. Denise left for a solo career in 1978 and youngest sister Coleen, who had previously made occasional appearances (including appearing in the I'm In the Mood for Dancing video), became a full-time member in 1980, replacing Anne. Between 1979 and 1982, the group had seven UK top 20 hits, including "Gotta Pull Myself Together" (1980) "Who's Gonna Rock You" (1980), "Attention to Me" (1981) and "Chemistry" (1981). They were particularly successful in Japan and won the 1981 Tokyo Music Festival with the song "Sexy Music".

Anne returned to the group in 1982, before Linda left in 1983. The group won a Japanese Grammy (Tokubetsu Kikaku Shō) in 1992. Coleen, then Bernie, both left the group and from 1995 Anne and Maureen continued as a duo, before recruiting Julia Duckworth and Anne's daughter, Amy Wilson in 2000. The group disbanded in 2005, with Maureen Nolan having been a permanent member for 31 years. The sisters have pursued varying solo careers in acting, music and television presenting. In 2009, Maureen, Linda, Bernie and Coleen Nolan, reformed for a 25-date concert tour of the UK and Ireland, spawning an album and DVD.


  • History 1
    • 1962–74: Early career 1.1
    • 1974–78: The Nolan Sisters 1.2
    • 1978–84: Chart success 1.3
    • 1984–2005: New labels and line-ups 1.4
    • Solo Careers, Reformation and death of Bernie Nolan: 2009–present 1.5
  • Discography 2
    • The Singing Nolans 2.1
    • The Nolans (Known as the Nolan Sisters 1974–1979) 2.2
    • Singles 2.3
    • Albums 2.4
  • Members 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


1962–74: Early career

Tommy (1925–1998) and Maureen Nolan (1926–2007), who had both worked as singers in Ireland,[1] moved their family from Dublin to Blackpool in 1962, and launched a family singing group, the Singing Nolans, in 1963.[2] The original line-up comprised the parents, sons Tommy (born 1949) and Brian (born 1955), and daughters Anne (born 12 November 1950),[2] Denise (born 9 April 1952),[3] Maureen (born 14 June 1954),[2] Linda (born 23 February 1959)[2] and Bernadette ('Bernie', 17 October 1960 – 4 July 2013).[2]

The family performed even as the five girls all went to school at Blackpool's St Catherine's Catholic Secondary School. The Nolans also attended the Cardinal Wiseman School in Greenford, West London.[4] As well as performing frequently on the northern club circuit,[5] The Singing Nolans recorded an album, The Singing Nolans, a single "Blackpool" – which was a song about their local football club, Blackpool F.C., and is still used on match days at Bloomfield Road – and the EP "Silent Night" for the Nevis label in 1972.[6]

The girls' father Tommy died of liver cancer[7] in 1998.[8] The Nolans' mother Maureen Nolan died in Blackpool aged 81[9] on 30 December 2007[10] after suffering from Alzheimer's disease.[11] Anne Nolan released her autobiography Anne's Song on 27 March 2008.[12] In the book, co-written with Richard Barber,[5] Anne said she had been repeatedly sexually abused by her father,[1][5][8] from the age of 11 until she was 15 or 16.[13] In April 2009, Coleen said that her father was violent to her, Anne and their mother.[14]

1974–78: The Nolan Sisters

In 1974, the daughters began performing as the Nolan Sisters.[2] They made their television debut on Cliff Richard's TV show, singing "Stuck on You". The line-up included youngest sister Coleen (born 12 March 1965).[15] Coleen sang lead on their debut single "But I Do" released on EMI records in 1974. They began regular appearances on variety and comedy shows, including Summertime Special, The Morecambe & Wise Show and The Two Ronnies.[5] In 1975, the five elder sisters supported Frank Sinatra on a European tour and Rolf Harris in South Africa.[16] Due to her age, Coleen would not become a full-time member of the band until 1980.

Following the 1974 single on EMI, they released several more non charting singles on Target Records between 1975 and 1977,[6] several of which were composed by Roger Greenaway.[17] A 1977 eponymous album on the Hanover Grand label was sold only at the London Club Room in Drury Lane, and is ranked by price guides as the most collectible UK release by the group.[6][18]

1978–84: Chart success

Their chart breakthrough came in 1978 with the covers album 20 Giant Hits on Target, which reached No.3 in the UK.[19] That year, they also supported Engelbert Humperdinck on a US tour,[2] and Denise left the group to pursue a solo career.[2]

In 1979, the group participated in the UK Eurovision selection contest A Song For Europe.[2] Their track "Harry My Honolulu Lover" was considered the favourite before the contest, but ultimately placed fourth, with Black Lace going on to represent the UK.[2] A lightning strike by BBC technicians minutes before the broadcast led to the cancellation of the show. Instead, the regional juries had to make their decisions based on audio tapes of the songs.[20] The group had been booked to promote the song on many BBC shows, leading to speculation that it had been taken for granted they would win the competition. One booking was representing the BBC at the 25th Anniversary celebrations for the Eurovision network, which was staged in Montreaux, Switzerland, in April 1979.

After signing with CBS subsidiary Epic Records in 1979, the group enjoyed their greatest period of commercial success. Although their debut release – the failed UK Eurovision entry "Harry, My Honolulu Lover" – did not chart, their second Epic single "Spirit, Body and Soul" released in September, reached number 34.[21] In December 1979, the group released the disco-flavoured single "I'm In the Mood for Dancing", which became their best-known tune[22] and biggest hit. It reached number 3 in the UK,[21] number 2 in their native Ireland[23] and number 1 in Japan,[2] a rare event for a Western act; the single eventually sold more than 600,000 copies in Japan.[24] The song, like the majority of The Nolans' hit singles, was written by Ben Findon, Mike Myers and Robert Puzey.[25]

The self-titled album Nolan Sisters, which featured the first two charting Epic singles, eventually reached Nº15 in the UK.[19] Although still not an official member of the group, the youngest member of the family, Coleen, appeared on the cover of the album and in the video for "I'm In the Mood for Dancing". In early 1980, the group changed its name from The Nolan Sisters to The Nolans.[2] Coleen released one solo single on Target in 1978,[6] a song about Prince Andrew's status as a teen idol,.[17]

The group's 1980 album Making Waves peaked at number 11 but had the longest UK album chart run of their career (33 weeks)[19] Singles from the album included "Don't Make Waves" released April 1980 (UK number 12,[21] Ireland number 5);[23] "Gotta Pull Myself Together" released September 1980 (UK number 9,[21] Ireland number 8) [23] and "Who's Gonna Rock You" released November 1980 (co-written by Billy Ocean, UK number 12,[21] Ireland number 14).[23] It was around the time of the release of "Gotta Pull Myself Together" that the line-up changed. Following her marriage, Anne left the group and Coleen became an official member (Anne appears on the UK single sleeve, while It's Coleen who appears in the music video). "Gotta Pull Myself Together" also became the group's first Australian hit, reaching number 3 in 1981;[26] its parent album reached AU Nº10[26] The last UK single release from Making Waves was "Attention To Me" released in March 1981 (UK number 9,[21] Ireland number 5,[23] Australia number 94).[26]

"Sexy Music", also featured on Making Waves, won the grand prize at the 1981 Tokyo Music Festival,[27] and was subsequently released as a single in Japan. This became the group's third number 1 on the Japanese Import chart – following "I'm In the Mood for Dancing" and "Gotta Pull Myself Together".[28] During 1981, Coleen and Linda contributed vocals to the Young and Moody Band,[2] which scored a UK number 63 hit with "Don't Do That".[29]

Another 1981 single "Chemistry" released in August (UK number 15,[21] IE Nº11,[23] AU Nº51)[26] was drawn from the album Portrait. This would become the group's second Top 10 UK album, reaching number 7 in 1982[19] (Australia number 54),[26] and was also the source of their final UK Top 20 single "Don't Love Me Too Hard" released February 1982 (UK number 14,[21] Ireland number Nº17).[23] A third single from the album "Crashing Down" was released in May 1982. Anne rejoined the group in late 1982, making it a five-piece line up.[2]

The 1982 compilation album Altogether reached UK number 52,[19] but the accompanying single, "Dragonfly", failed to chart. In 1983, the group was rocked by a minor scandal when their new single, "Dressed to Kill" was removed from the chart due to allegations of chart rigging. The group had released the single with a limited edition poster, exclusive to shops which registered chart sales.[30] Later in the year, Linda left the group to pursue a solo career. At the time, she was nicknamed the "Naughty Nolan"[31] due to risque publicity photos.[2] The resulting four-woman line up of Bernie, Anne, Maureen and Coleen was stable until 1994.[2]

The covers album Girls Just Wanna Have Fun was released on Towerbell Records in 1984 and reached number 39.[19] The Nolans also achieved success in Europe and New Zealand.

1984–2005: New labels and line-ups

In 1986, the group performed on a stadium tour of Russia.[16] 1986 also saw the release of the LP "Tenderly", which was an album of standards. They appeared in the second episode of the 1987 comedy series Filthy Rich & Catflap, playing themselves in a blackmail plot and performing "I'm In the Mood for Dancing".[32] A 1989 re-recording of the same song reached No. 99, and another version reached No. 51 in 1995.[33]

The Nolans remained popular in Japan, signing a six-album deal there in 1987.[16] They recorded several new albums purely for the Japanese market, usually featuring English language covers of Japanese pop hits.[16] Releases on Teichiku Records during this period included Playback Part 2, entirely comprising covers of songs originally performed by Japanese singer Momoe Yamaguchi;[34] Tidal Wave;[35] Rock And Rolling Idol; Hottest Place on Earth; and Lost Lonely Beaches.

In 1991 they became the first Irish group to be awarded the 33rd Japan Record Awards Kikaku Sho (Prize for Planning) for best foreign recording artist. Compilations of their Japanese material, often featuring remixes and some featuring other artists as well, were regularly released throughout the 1990s and 2000s in Japan, while several budget-priced compilations of their Epic-era material (sometimes re-recorded) appeared in the UK.

Coleen, who had married performer Shane Richie in 1990,[36] and was now a mother of two, quit the group in 1994.[2] In 1995, longstanding lead singer Bernie left to pursue an acting career; Anne and Maureen continued as a two-piece version of The Nolans.[2] A re-recorded version of "I'm In the Mood for Dancing", released on the Living Beat label, reached No. 51 in the UK in 1995.[21]

From 2000, the line-up consisted of Maureen and Anne, together with Anne's daughter Amy and unrelated singer Julia Duckworth, and concentrated on live appearances,[37] often at venues such as Butlins holiday camps and bingo halls.[1] The group disbanded in 2005,[37] with Maureen Nolan having been a member for 31 consecutive years.

Anne was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, as was Linda in 2006.[31] As part of her treatment, Linda had a breast removed.[38]Bernie was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2010,[39] but successfully fought the disease until it later returned.

Solo Careers, Reformation and death of Bernie Nolan: 2009–present

Most of the sisters have continued to work in show business, pursuing careers in acting, musical theatre, pantomime and touring.[22] As an actress, Bernie had prominent TV roles in Brookside and The Bill,[22] and toured in several stage shows, including the adaptation of the movie Flashdance in 2008.[40] Coleen has mostly worked as a television presenter, hosting This Morning briefly in 2001[41] and appearing regularly as a panellist on Loose Women since 2000.

Four of the sisters – Bernie, Denise, Linda, and Maureen – have played the role of Mrs Johnstone in the musical Blood Brothers.[42] Both Maureen and Bernie have performed in productions of the comedy Mum's The Word, and they toured together in the show in 2008.[43]

Linda performed in the role of Maggie May at Blackpool's Central Pier for 10 years, clocking up more than 1,000 performances[44] and toured with Prisoner Cell Block H – The Musical.[45] Denise released one solo single on Pye in 1979 and two on Mercury in 1982.[6] She has frequently performed a Judy Garland tribute show.[46] Anne stopped performing and took up an office job,[16] but has since resumed her singing career. In 2012 she released her debut solo album "Just One Voice".

The Nolans reunited as a five-piece (Anne, Bernie, Coleen, Linda and Maureen) for one-off performances of "I'm In the Mood for Dancing" first for BBC One's All Time Greatest Party Songs, hosted by Tess Daly, which aired on 17 December 2005[47] and again on 9 August 2007 on Loose Women,[48] but dismissed any immediate prospect of a full-scale reunion,[49] a stance Anne echoed in 2008.[16]

The Nolans announced in June 2009 that they were reforming for a UK and Ireland tour. Four members – Coleen, Bernie, Linda and Maureen – undertook the tour, in October and November 2009. The two other sisters, Anne and Denise, were not involved.

Coleen said she had instigated the reformation after speaking to her manager. She explained: "We've been approached before over the last four or five years but it has never felt like the right time and the right people being involved, and this time it was like 'let's just do it once more". The sisters performed their hits and several classic diva-type songs.[50]

The reunion however sparked a split in the family as Anne has appeared in the press stating that she has been excluded from the tour despite being a long-serving member of the group.[51] She has also issued a statement on her official website, which includes the comment: "they are not my sisters anymore".[52] Denise also issued a statement in support of Anne, claiming that the real reason for the reunion was due to some of the sisters being in financial difficulty.[53] The other four sisters claimed that the decision was made by Universal Music, who sponsored the tour, due to this being the line-up that enjoyed the most success back in the early 1980s.[51] Bernie and Maureen later made amends with Anne and Denise, but Bernie stated that she didn't think there would ever be a reconciliation with them and Coleen and Linda.[54]

The Nolans released a new album, I'm in the Mood Again, on 28 September 2009, which reached No.22 in the UK album charts, their highest charting album for 27 years. A live DVD was released on 9 November 2009. 2011 saw the release of an autobiography Survivors: Our Story.

In September 2012, a farewell tour was announced, to take place from 15 February to 14 March 2013. The line-up would be the same as for the 2009 tour.[55] On 28 October it was announced that the 2013 Farewell Tour had been postponed as a result of Bernie's breast cancer resurgence.[56][57] Early in 2013, the tour was cancelled completely.[58] Bernie Nolan succumbed to metastatic cancer on 4 July 2013, her cancer having spread to her brain, lungs, liver and bones.[59] Since then, Linda has said she and the remaining sisters have talked about going ahead with their tour sometime soon, and also mentioned that they will bring rehearsal footage of Bernie with them as they perform onstage. [60]


The Singing Nolans

Year Format Title UK Charts Label
1972 Single "Blackpool" Nevis
EP Silent Night (EP)
Album The Singing Nolans

The Nolans (Known as the Nolan Sisters 1974–1979)


Year Title Peak
1974 "But I Do"[6] - -
1975 "Make a Little Sunshine Shine"[6] - -
NR NR Target
1976 "Rain"[6] - NR NR NR
"Thanks for Calling"[6] - NR NR NR
"When You Are a King"[6] - NR NR NR
1977 "Love Transformation"[6] - NR NR NR
"Love Bandit"[6] - NR NR NR
1978 "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue"[6] - NR NR NR
1979 "Harry, My Honolulu Lover" - NR - - Epic
"Spirit, Body and Soul" 34 NR - -
"I'm In the Mood for Dancing" 3 1
2 43
500,000+ 673,850
1980 "Don't Make Waves" 12 NR 5 -
"Gotta Pull Myself Together" 9 9 8 3
250,000+ 302,460
"Who's Gonna Rock You" 12 21
14 - 87,650
1981 "Attention to Me" 9 NR 5 94 250,000+
"Sexy Music" NR 7 NR NR 270,160
"Chemistry" 15 23 11 51 77,160
1982 "Don't Love Me Too Hard" 14 61
17 - 18,480
"Crashing Down" - 86 - - 2,660
"Dragonfly" - - - -
1983 "Dressed to Kill" - NR - -
1985 "Goodbye Nothin' to Say"[65] - - - - Towerbell
1986 "Let's Spend the Night Together" - - - - Spartan
1989 "I'm in the Mood for Dancin' 89 (re-recording)" 99[33] - - - BCM
1991 "Rock and Rolling Idol"[66] NR - NR NR Teichiku
"Take Me All"[67] NR - NR NR
"Tidal Wave"[68] NR - NR NR
1992 "Mother Earth"[69] NR - NR NR
1995 "I'm In the Mood for Dancing (re-recording)" 51 - - - Living Beat

NR = not released in that country. Dash indicates did not chart in that country.


Year Title UK
UK sales Japan sales
1978 20 Giant Hits 3 38
100,000+ 17,370 Target
1979 Nolan Sisters 15 3 100,000+ 156,020 Epic
The Nolan Sisters (10-inch edition w/ 6 tracks) NR 12 56,190 
1980 Making Waves 11 1 100,000+ 550,800
1981 Sexy Music (compilation LP) NR 2 541,930
All About The Nolans (2-LP box set) NR 30 58,290
Don't Love Me Too Hard
(earlier release of Portrait for Japanese market)
NR 47 41,230
1982 Portrait 7 NR 100,000+
Altogether 52 - 60,000+
1983 Harmony (compilation LP) - - - Everest/Premier
1984 Girls Just Wanna Have Fun 39 - 60,000+ Towerbell
1986 Tenderly - - - Spartan
1991 Playback Part 2[34] NR 77 12,000 Teichiku
Tidal Wave[35] NR 99 3,000
Rock and Rolling Idol NR 88 15,000
1992 Graduation (The Nolans & Friends) NR -
Hottest Place on Earth NR -
Lost Lonely Beaches NR -
New Music Pops in Japan (The Nolans & Friends) NR -
1997 New Best Hits and More (includes 5 new tracks) NR -
2006 The Singles Collection (includes bonus DVD) NR 88
2009 In the Mood Again 22 - Universal

NR = not released in that country. Dash indicates did not chart in that country.


  • Maureen Nolan (1974-2005, 2009)
  • Anne Nolan (1974-1980, 1982-2005)
  • Bernie Nolan (1974-1995, 2009)
  • Coleen Nolan (1980-1994, 2009)
  • Linda Nolan (1974-1983, 2009)
  • Denise Nolan (1974-1978)
  • Amy Wilson (2000-2005)[71]
  • Julia Duckworth (2000-2005)


  • Coleen made occasional appearances in the 1970s, but did not become a full-time member until 1980.
  • Maureen is the only member of the group to have been part of every line-up.


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  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Larkin, Colin (1998). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music 3rd Edition Volume V: Louvin, Charlie-Paul, Clarence. London: Macmillan. p. 3969.  
  3. ^ Treasurer, Kim (1982). In The Mood For Stardom: The Nolans. Speldhurst: Midas Books. p. 20.  
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ a b c d Nolan, Anne (10 March 2008). "The monster in our family – I was sexually abused by my father, says Nolan Sisters star Anne". Daily Mail. Retrieved 7 April 2008. 
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  7. ^ Bernie Nolan: I'll fight breast cancer
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  9. ^ Stars gather for Nolan funeral
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  13. ^ The dark secret of Anne Nolan
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  15. ^ ="EPM"
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  17. ^ a b Treasurer, Kim (1982). In The Mood For Stardom: The Nolans. Speldhurst: Midas Books. p. 62.  
  18. ^ Hamlyn, Nick (2000). The Penguin Price Guide For Record & CD Collectors. London: Penguin. p. 722.  
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  20. ^ Treasurer, Kim (1982). In The Mood For Stardom: The Nolans. Speldhurst: Midas Books. p. 74.  
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Guinness World Records British Hit Singles 14th Edition. London: Guinness World Records. 2001. p. 338.  
  22. ^ a b c Mytton, Leigh (28 February 2003). "Nolan sister fits the bill". BBC News. Retrieved 31 March 2008. 
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  27. ^ Treasurer, Kim (1982). In The Mood For Stardom: The Nolans. Speldhurst: Midas Books. p. 95.  
  28. ^ Japanese Import Nº1s – 1980, 1981
  29. ^ Guinness World Records British Hit Singles 14th Edition. London: Guinness World Records. 2001. p. 482.  
  30. ^ Denise Nolan official website | "Dressed to Kill" Chart rigging allegation story
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  32. ^ Macdonald, Chrissie (2002). That's Anarchy!: The Story of a Revolution in the World of TV Comedy. Melbourne: Sid Hartha. pp. 129–130.  
  33. ^ a b "Chart Stats – The Nolans". Chart Stats. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 5 April 2008. 
  34. ^ a b "Nolans Playback Part 2 Japan CD ALBUM (123744)". Retrieved 31 March 2008. 
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  37. ^ a b " – Amy & Julia". Archived from the original on 19 February 2008. Retrieved 5 April 2008. 
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  39. ^ Bernie Nolan diagnosed with breast cancer
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  42. ^ name="BloodBrothers">"Willy Russell – Blood Brothers – The Actors". Retrieved 31 March 2008. 
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  47. ^ "All-Time Greatest Party Songs (2005)". Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
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  53. ^ "Denise Nolan – Statement – 27 June 2009". Denise Nolan Official Website. 27 June 2009. Retrieved 28 November 2009. 
  54. ^ Bernie and Coleen Nolan on Lorraine ITV1 28 March 2011
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  58. ^ BIC – The Nolans tour cancelled
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  65. ^ "Nolans Goodbye Nothin' To Say UK 7" RECORD (189376)". Retrieved 7 April 2008. 
  66. ^ "Nolans Rock & Rolling Idol Japan 3" CD SINGLE (176043)". Retrieved 23 April 2008. 
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  68. ^ "Nolans Tidal Wave Japan 3" CD SINGLE (2756)". Retrieved 23 April 2008. 
  69. ^ "Nolans Mother Earth Japan Promo 3" CD SINGLE (220926)". Retrieved 23 April 2008. 
  70. ^ a b "Yamachan Land (Archives of the Japanese record charts) – Albums Chart Daijiten – The Nolans" (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved 24 January 2008. 
  71. ^ "Amy & Julia". The Nolans Official Website. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 

External links

  • Official site
  • Official site
  • Official site
  • Official site
  • Official site
  • Official site
  • Denise Nolan's Official Site Official site
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