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'. 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 and Theatres. Both Tommy and Maureen had residencies at local Dance halls but the chances of getting more work were slim. Maureen was offered work in Blackpool and in her mind she had set her sights on the famous resort as a new base. So she made the trip over. On her return to Dublin Mrs. Nolan retold her story to her husband and insisted he see it for himself. A second trip was hastily arranged, this time she was accompanied by her husband, Tommy. The two of them realised the potential for work in the town was huge. With it's dozens of Theatres, Showbars, Cabaret lounges and Working Men's Clubs. Tommy was imprerssed. Soon after the whole family relocated to the UK. (Minus Anne who was in hospital for months with a leg condition) Work was plentiful, but Tommy Nolan did take a day job to supplement his earnings. Very quickly singing work came flooding in. As a pre taster of Summer Seasons to come, they went onto complete three Summer Shows at Blackpool's 'Brunswick Club'the family even secured a Summer long run at the town's 'Central Club' where they starred with a pre fame Freddie Starr in 1971.
The Working Men's Club scene was so popular in Blackpool that concert secretaries would host audition nights and block book artists rather than have single auditions. The season in Blackpool is the longest in the UK and in the early 1970's ran from Easter until the beginning of November. The 'Sweethearts of Song' were quickly replaced though 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 instant success that the act was now 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". Denise enjoyed singing big ballad numbers. Seeing an eleven year old take on Bassey and Cilla Black nmbers ws impressive. They even learned Eurovision winning songs "Non Ho L'eta and Apres Toi from 1964 qnd 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 the family's 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 was, until a couple of years ago, played on the ground's PA system before each match. 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 collections. They have become rare over the years as they were made in limited quanities. They certainly didn't trouble 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. She was legendary within the family for her tantrums if 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, that 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 fact was that The Singing Nolans, as the act was now called, were spotted during an unscheduled Christmas Day booking. The family always spent Christmas Day together without any work. The hotel called as they had been let down by their planned booking. Tommy said they would only work if they were played a staggering £80. Within the hour the hotel called back and agreed to the fee. Tommy had be now stettled in his chair and decided he wasn't going to go. However Maureen 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 and hesitantly Tommy Nolan signed the contract in the presence of Lawyers. Several of the Sisters were not old enough to sign for themselves, but Anne went on to state that if he hadn't signed for the younger children that She, Denise and Maureen would have gone of thier own accord anyway. The family relocated to London, first of all staying in Joe Lewis' London home. There they experienced a house in 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 with the Brothers 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 Drs. Surgery. Bernie and Linda finished their schooling at Clark's School For Girls in Ilford. Whilst Coleen split her time mainly staying in Blackpool at her Aunty's. She had a horse, which saw the start of something that has remained a passion of hers since. She did not see a future in showbusiness at all.
Shortly after arriving in London, the Nolan family had to begin work. 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 were 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 a polish to their act. Stewart Morris was recruited 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 had even been responsible for producing the entire Eurovision when it was held in the UK. Alongside Morris was Nigel Lythgoe, the esteemed choreographer. Lythgoe put the girls through their paces with full 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, and he was famed for telling Kym Marsh that she was fat after her Christmas break. For up tempo songs Nigel produced sharp dance routines and ballads were choreographed with slick arm movements or gentle sways in unison. The services of musical arranger John Coleman and Conductor Alyn Ainsworth were sought. Between them, Coleman and Ainsworth 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. Today's would be pop stars employ specially gifted stylists to create a look tor their proteges. The Nolan Sisters were not so fortunate. Their stylist was Earle's wife Daphne. Described 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 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 stage and off stage as well. Some of the outfits for stage pleased the girls. Their first stage outfit was a red cat suit with the letters "NS" emblazened with diamonte. 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.
Above: The initial Nolan Sisters wardrobe (Clcik each picture for full size image)
These stalwarts of the industry were to prove vital to the act's success. Morris, initailly, had been highly critical of the Nolan Sisters' act. He found fault with their presentation, their harmonies and the chat between numbers. Within six months he and the other members of his team had sharpened the act to such an extent that he was able to report back to the 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 in the BBC, but he had seen potential in the girls. It had been him, however, who had not seen the same potential in their parents. He very quickly insisted that Hanover Grand retire them from the act, thus leaving the stage free for the Nolan Sisters. 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 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 several of the gigs were good too. Their Father, still based largely in Blackpool was technically still their 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 also restricted how many TV appearances and live engagements they could undertake. Coleen was invited to London for certain TV appearances that would follow. The limits up to 12 years old were very strict and slightly less so on performers aged 12-15. On this 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. Morris brought chart topping star Cliff Richard in to see the Sisters' show one night as the two were looking for guests on his, yet to air, TV show 'It's Cliff'. Cliff'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 where rehearsals began in ernest. After the day's work they went to London to appear on stage at the London Room.
'It's Cliff' was a huge success, with audiences of eighteen million. Overnight the act had become a household name. They began to be recognised in the street. They loved the attention. Coleen meanwhile headed back to Blackpool and her pony.
In an instant their profile had emerged, and bookings came flooding in. They had been groomed for TV, and their style suited the style of TV variety shows. They were competent singers, looked attractive on TV and not difficult to work with. The Cliff Richard show also brought 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 18th Century Europe. The green was, seemingly, chosen to reflect thier Irishness. Nevertheless Coleen aged 9 was wearing the same outfit that 23 year old was wearing! Other costumes appeared, from pink romper suits to 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."
It's Cliff - 1973 with Cliff Richard & Pearly Gates.
The work load was heavy and it was clear that someone was earning a great deal more than they themselves were earning. This was something that would come to a head in later years. Stewart Morris was still very much "hands on" with The Nolan Sisters. He was working with Hanover Grand to give them bookings on TV and elsewhere. No doubt he was paid a considerable fee, but he was arguably responsible for much of their early sucesses. Morris displayed so much faith in The Nolan Sisters that he even gave them their biggest career boost to date when he secured the girl's place as support act to Frank Sinatra on the European leg of his 1975 tour. Playing at first class venues all over Europe. Competition for the tour 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. They were to open the show each night for him for half an hour. They brought along a small band and were able to use Sinatra's orchestra that came complete with a 33 piece string section. 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 told her "Not to worry honey, it happens." After each show they were rewarded by being able to see him perform from the wings. Sinatra was complimentary of 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 singles on the Target label. They had appeared on 'The Vera Lynn Show' 'The Les Dawson Show' 'The Harry Seacombe Show' and even starred alongside Basil Brush where they sang their single '(Wont You) Make A Little Sunshine Shine'. The following year the Sisters appeared in an eight week Summer Season show at Eastbourne with Ronnie Corbett and Janet Brown. That year also saw them accompany Rolf Harris as his support act on his South African tour. The Sisters began recording more tracks for the EMI subsidiary 'Target Records'. Altogether a total of nine singles were released, sadly, none of them charted inside the top 40. Figures show that if the charts were compiled as they are now with a top 100 songs then the records would have been minor hits. This might also mean that they could have had more of a chance to promote them and increase their sales. Sadly this was not to be. The singles had hit writers such as Roger Cook and Harry Greenaway who had secured huge chart success for other artistes. The singles were given general releases and the lack of chart success did bother The Nolan Sisters. Their disappointment was relatively short lived when in 1978 the Sisters recorded 20 Giant Hits'. The album was recorded, within a week! The project emerged after market research was carried out to find the 20 most popular songs of the day. The album, heavily promoted with TV advertising 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 already achieved sales of £300,000. Their contract, once more, sadly, meant they were not entitled to royalties. They also crossed the Atlantic for a series of shows as support act to Englebert Humperdink in New York.
In New York, supporting Engelbert Humperdinck (Click to enlarge)
Denise had decided that she wanted to leave the act and once the promotion for '20 Giant Hits' was completed she left. She had said that if the act would suffer, she would stay. But it was agreed that she would leave. Her swansong was a week long engagement with frankie Valli at London's Palladium Theatre. Tommy was looking at the Nolans management structure and wondered if they would be better off if he were to once again manage them. The contract however was for five years, and they had worked only four of them. The contract was indeed to be broken. The two parties had to haggle over the amount but a settlement was eventually reached. This severely dented the family bank balance but it meant that Tommy was once again steering the act. The music industry is extemely tough and Tommy did seem out of his depth with some of the harsher aspects of the negotiations. Initially, the Sisters had been willilng to sign very unfavourable contracts. Although success was achieved, it was at a heavy financial price. One startling fact came when they were presented with bills for their costumes for the intervening years 1974-78. The very costumes they had hated. They had assumed they were being paid for by their management, as they were salaried. It emerged that the contract had stated that everything that was purchased to promote the Nolan Sisters was to be paid by the Nolan Sisters. When they heard the news, they took great delight in cutting them to pieces.
They had built up a significant reputation in the industry as reliable workers and good box office so securing work would not be difficult. Denise's departure would be a big loss to the group and the Sisters would miss her very much. Denise had been a significant contributor to the vocal performance 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 Denise's 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. On a lighter note, 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 Aftrica 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 acclaimed Irish Brother vocal act 'The Bachelors' and comedian Billy Dainty.
Above:The 1978 Summer show brochure and poster (Click to enlarge)
Denise had agreed to stay with the group whilst the '20 Giant Hits' was being promoted. 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 like Linda. The front cover featured the number '20' on a plith with the legend Giant Hits' scribed on it. The Sisters and the look alike draped themselves over it. The show wwas taken from afar 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 feature 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. With Denise,they also appeared, as her swnsong, with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons as mentioned, but 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!
1978 Royal Variety Performance
The Nolan Sisters were selected to sing a possible entry for the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest. The catchy tune "Harry My Honolulu Lover" was rehearsed to perfection. Just before the girls took to the stage at London's Royal Albert Hall early in 1979. Disaster struck when a technician's strike resulted in the judges and audience not being able to see them perform 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 70's trade unions became involved. No one dared cross the picket line and chaos ensued. The show was cancelled, the audience sent home and acts sent to hotels. The audience at home heard the songs on tape. Judges were to vote on the songs that they too had 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 lack Lace song 'Mary Ann' went on to have the dubious distinction of gaining 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 recently secured a deal with Epic Records. At this time, Tommy had taken over as the girl's manager once more. He had negotiated with several record labels, most notably Epic and Warner Brothers. Epic had been selected as they had wanted to market the Nolans as young pop stars. Ben Findon, Mike Myers and Robert Puzey were a highly respected songwriting team who had penned most of the hits for The Dooleys and Billy Ocean. They were recruited to create the first Epic album for them
The eponymous "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. Other than 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. Robert Puzey happened to comment shortly after that, had 'Spirit Body and Soul' been released after 'Dancing' it would have, he believes, had more of an impact on the charts than it did, as the album's first release. The Girls were booked for a three month Summer Season at Cleethorpes. The show was a record breaker, smashing all box office records, leaving the girls with very little free time. As they had to appear twice nightly in Cleethorpes they could not travel to London to lay vocals down for the album. That had been decided to be released as quickly as possible on the back of their recent sucesses. 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.
The first Epic single to be released - 'Spirit Body And Soul', actually 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. The second release however went onto become the Nolans signature tune and stormed the charts Worldwide. Anne, Maureen Bernie and Linda - 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 when 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. They had by now, recruited a full time musical director previously, a luxury they had never had since leaving Hanover Grand. Two singles had been recorded and released as pre tasters for the forthcoming album. 'Don't Make Waves' featuring Anne and Bernie on lead, peaked just outside the top ten at number twelve and 'Gotta Pull Myself Together' went top ten in the Summer reaching as high as number nine. The Summer show at Blackpool drew to a close in October 1980 and 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 joing the group full time until March 1981. But she was able to participate in a lot more work. Anne, by now pregnant, left the act to become a full time housewife and Mum. She had also decided she would run the now, ever expanding, Nolans 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 they were about to undertake. and 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 off 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.
Following their success in Japan which had surprised everyone, most of all the Nolans, 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!
In concert in Japan
They also 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 once more to Japan to take part in the 1981 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". More notable is 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. They then recorded two more 30 minute specials 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 were scheduled to release two more singles, thei 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. 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 preaclampsia 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 whole family reunited for the Russell Harty TV show.
The tour commenced in 1982 and Amy went on tour too. Looked after, as ever, by her devoted Grandmother, Maureen. 'Dragonfly' This had 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. 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 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
The single "Dressed To Kill" - A firm fan favourite.
1983 saw the Nolans enter the charts again however, 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, EpicCBS, 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.
The Young & Moody Band
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' Whislt 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. Comedy ensued when they recorded the TV commercial they were told they would have boyfriends. When the Sisters replied that they did in fact have boyfriends, the producers told the ladies "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. One 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 colever just clipped the faces from the "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" album and put 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 decided they 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 1950'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 for 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 denied a release with a now industry standard picture cover. It was not released as a 12" and no alrenative remixes were made. Something many artists were now taking for granted. There was not a single TV appearance on the back of the release. There It receieved virtually no airplay and sank without a trace. There is no doubt that in the pre internet days the only was the public en masse 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 a 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 to food poisoning they enjoyed the experience. They played at huge venues in Soviet states that are now known as Estonia, Russia, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Goergia, Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine. The tour of Russia 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 beofre 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." 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 show stopper. Soviet audiences were treated to excerpts from the 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' Album - some of their own hits and the all conquering 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart'. Their final song '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 Sister sto their home town of Blackpool for a Summer Season at the town's recently reopened Grand Theatre. A trend was settiing in that the Sisters would appear in Summer Shows, then Panto with a tour starring them and a comedy act for the latter part of the year, before starting the process again. 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. with 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 with her Siblings children taking a central 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 with Anne's eldest daughter, Amy now at school it was perfect 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 daughters when they woke up. The music industry had started to change. Girl group Bananarama had enjoyed a long 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) and had enjoyed minor success with breaking artists. When Bananarama joined PWL they enjoyed their most successful period of hits to date. 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 having repeated monster hits. Even seasoned artists who's chart careers had stalled such as Donna Summer and Cliff Richard were back, high in the charts. The girls' management enquired about getting them in PWL's studios to release 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 appreared 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 post PWL 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 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 recorded a special for RTE television at that time which was transmitted live. In more recent years the single has been credited as a chart hit, registering an 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.
The girls were still enjoying TV work. In 1990 they appeared on Channel 4's new nightly TV chat show 'Jonathan Ross Tonight' shocking audiences by singing 'Panic' originally released by the Smiths, the anti establishment indie band. Their tongue in cheek version did prompt Smiths songs to write to them to say they were impresed at their version of the song. The 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.
For 1990 Summer season work and Pantomime was to remain bread and butter to the Sisters. They had started to undertake bookings in gay nightclubs using backing tracks, much to their consternation, and in particular that of Bernie who really resented not using a live band. Seasons had been undertaken in towns such as Blackpool, Skegness, Great Yarmouth and Bournemouth. Although the act had no records 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 when the producers in Japan had sent the 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 the vocal 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. 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 successful in Japan it was arranged that some of the later tracks were to 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, but the Japanese loved them. One album recieved 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 of Japan, where 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". As well as the tour they were invited to appear on many TV shows. Japanese TV had evolved and rather than just appearing on a big variety TV show they were now singing to backing tracks and one show even had erotic dancers around them. The SIsters refused to take part and only after heated arguments were they allowed to sing their song unemcumbered. 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 secured. There was still no Royalties payable to the artists, this was galling to them as '20 Giant Hits' was the only album available to UK audiences in CD format at the time.
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 released featuring newly recorded versions of their hits. The Universal Panasonic arrangement that The Nolans had secured would see them record and release an album for the UK market as a wholly new product. Mike Myers, and Ray Hedges had produced many of the Japanese albums and For the planned UK album The Nolans wanted Mike Myres and Ray Hedges back, and so they were asked write and to produce the tracks. The album was destined to have 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" The idea was then to select which ones would go on the album. Sadly, the album was never released which was a great upset to them. The album featured songs such as "Run To You" recorded originally by Bryan Adams. 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 Hazell Dean song '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 dance numbers 'What's Your Intention?' and a drum and bass song 'Could This Be'. the record company were, at the time considering releasing some of the tracks under a psudonym. One track, 'Somebody Loves You' was played anonymously in London clubs and had been well recieved. 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 but it's release was not forthcoming. Coleen had decided to leave the act at the end of 1993. The recorded album was still on hold. Her departure was not given any official statement. The fan club had been notified, but the story didn't make the press heavily. 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 1994 Season with the Grubleweeds, Duncan Norvelle and The Nolans
Although the album had still not been given a release date, record company officials wanted them to release a new single to see if there was enough interest in the act to release the album. The record company had a whole batch of new recordings available to chose from. They chose to ignore all but one. The Sisters felt that the previously unreleased tracks could have had newer remixes and a contempory sound as a come back single. The record company instead took the Nolans back into the studio to re record 'I'm In The Mood For Dancing' - Again! Altogether four versions were recorded. The white label record was sent to clubs, whose feedback would determine which version would be released as a 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, both the instantly recognisable duck quack! Reviews were not positive. 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 record company then shelved the project. However, most of the recordings were to surface as tracks on cut price CD's carrying the misnomer 'Best Of' and 'Disco Party Classics'. The Nolans had very little imput in the project. They had promoted the single, performing it on 'Live From The Lilydome' and Channel 4's 'Big Breakfast'. Coleen had even agreed to come out of etirement to complete the line up. 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 had 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 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, or Holiday Camps. Often the sound systems were less than adequate. They had always used a live band. All the Sisters preferred working with proper musicians. Sadly, costs were high and venues would not pay for supporting musicians. They had backing tracks made and although they were good quality ones with real instruments they did not come close to live players. In Bernie was not happy at all. All singers enjoy most of all having an audience in front of them who had come to watch the show. In cabaaret that 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 the case. She hated that people might not be actually watching the show. That they would talk or ignore them as they worked was painful for her in particular. Her departure was not shock to the group, but they had hoped she would stay, but her mind was up. 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 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 as a presenter, and 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 snapped up late in 1995 when she was able to announce that she had landed her first starring role in a 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 wning 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 and getting used to being on stage without her Sisters. She played in 'Godspell' and Maria in 'The Sound Of Music'. She continued in this way until Summer 1997. 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 in 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 was due to move into the role in London's West End at the Phoenix Theatre. The show hit Liverpool mid tour and she was spotted by casting staff who worked 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 and was due to star in the West En . Bernie's Blood Brothers departure 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. Making Denise the first Nolan to land the role as the regular full time leading lady. Linda was now established touring production. Whilst Denise set up home in the Phoenix theatre. It was confusing to many. After Maureen joined the show years later, Guinness awarded them a World Record for the most siblings starring in the same role in a professional production. They had 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 crave a musical career. After all she had been brought up in the shadow of show business. 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 a 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 - had been tested to it's fullest on the few sickness days 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 complet the run, she did so and enjoyed a rest after the show completed it's run.
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 at '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 'Come Back' submitted to the BBC to consider for A Song For Europe featured Bernie. 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 as 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 comapny 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 songwritig team chose Pop Idol entrant Jessica Garlick to to sing at the Song For Europe. 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. Berne's own version of the song was never released. The webmaster has hear 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 has 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 already 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 1960's 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 duo and 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 hat employed the girls extensively. They were to appear close to midnight and perform for an hour. Whiilst audiences anjoyed 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. Fortunately these shows were not the norm.
Each Nolan with the exception of Coleen also starred in Pantomimes 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 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 one. 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. Bobby Davro had been booked as a co- star. Posters adorned the theatres and the shows started as a triumph. The cast were shocked to find that the show's producer had fled leaving the cast without a salary. 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. The show was a major success. Her new found confidence 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 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. She had become the fourth Sister in the role. As mentioned earlier, this earned the Sisters a place in the Guinness Book Of World Records - as the most Siblings playing the same role in a professional productioon of the same show at different times. 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' as Anastasia, singing 'Not that kind of girl'. Linda, meanwhile was busy with 'Blood Brothers' and Denise was touring the UK with the show. She abruptly left the show and announced she was to tour once again with her 'The Magic Of Judy Garland' show. Whilst Denise continued to tour the country 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 'Blood Brothers' in 2004 and 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 number 39 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 was devastated when she was 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. That too was a massive hit in Japan. Universal Panasonic wanted a new version of the Japanese only album (Playback Part 2). Anne and Maureen went into the studion to add 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 was 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 of the last decade. 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'
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 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. The Nolans - this time would consist of Bernie, Maureen, Coleen and Linda - None of whom with the exception of Maureen had sung under the Nolans banner for several years with Linda being out of the line up for 26 years. The group went on the publicity trail, promoting the tour devised by Universal Records and Live Nation with major contributions from Coleen who's manager 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 the song or promoted it at the time because she wasn't old enough, going 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 only 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 chemothrapy took away her hair. She had shaved her hair when it began to fall out in patches. Linda had withdrawn from most work following the death of her husband. The tour had been the first major work she had undertaken since her husband had died of liver failure in 2008.
Coleen's son Jake took a short part in ITV's 'Emmerdale' this year. Jake and his older Brother Shane also have recorded songs and worked together as a pop/rock group. Anne's youngest daughter and her partner Steve have 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. 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 expeosed 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 uncurable. 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 belived 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 this year 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. Asone by one the celebrities are evicted by public voteIt 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 highlight 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 "That'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 ro 'Blood Brothers' in earl 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 the 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 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.
2016 saw no end to Coleen's stardom. She was, in effect, promoted on 'Loose Women' ITV's flagship lunchtime show. She is now one of the show's main anchors. 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 need to see if she could find a solution. While he was away touring with Rick Astley where he plays the guitar. 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 used the show as an opportunity to miss her husband and to work think s out in her head. Coleen once again had a meltdown under the relentless pressure of the show. She was voteb 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 popluar 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 any of the 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. It remains to be seen if that can happen
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. 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. 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 them 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 so 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 Wlaker. 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 Garland 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 will carry on when she finishes 'Menopause' and joins 'Footloose' once more. This time she will be taking on the Far East tour, seeing Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea. March of 2017 saw Linda admitted to hospital after falling up the stairs at her Blackpool home. Initially she was informed that her hip had been fractured. Further investigationo 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. At the time of writing it is not clear if she will be undergoing her hectic touring shcedule for the year.
The Nolans story is a long one. It is certain to continue.