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How we made: the Nolan Sisters on I’m In the Mood For Dancing | Music


Maureen Nolan, vocals

We did 10 years in working men’s clubs as children before we were famous. I remember my sister Bernie singing Where Is Love? from Oliver! in Hull while an absolute free-for-all was breaking out in the crowd. She was only eight, but never looked scared. That was how we were brought up. The show must go on.

We’d already had mild chart success in 1979 with Spirit, Body and Soul. Then our producer, Ben Findon, played us something he’d been working on called I’m in the Mood for Dancing. We were into Sinatra and a cappella. I remember thinking: “That’s nice.” And then, of course, we spent the rest of our lives doing those “Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!” harmonies.

Dancing was big in our family. Our cousins were all champion Irish dancers. But, you know, Irish people generally – any excuse for a party, singing and dancing! Growing up in Blackpool, we lived in the discos. Even now, at my ripe old age, I’ll dance until my feet fall off.

The song reminds people of a time when they were young and carefree. The mood is right there in the lyrics: “I’m in the mood for dancing, romancing, I’m giving it all tonight.” It’s a happy song, about hoping to meet Mr or Miss Right at a club. We recorded the backing vocals first, then added things as we went along, like a jigsaw. Bernie was chosen to sing the lead. I remember Ben taking her through her paces. It sounds like an easy pop song, but the vocal range is massive. You can end up in trouble with that song.

The sisters’ 1975 lineup … Anne, Linda, Denise, Maureen and Bernie.

The sisters’ 1975 lineup … Anne, Linda, Denise, Maureen and Bernie. Photograph: Dezo Hoffman/Rex /Shutterstock

Singing it now feels bittersweet. On our reunion tour in 2009, Bernie had yet to become ill [she died of breast cancer in 2013]. She smashed it every night and it’ll always be her song. For more recent TV performances, we decided Coleen would sing the lead. Those are big shoes to fill, but she smashed it. I’ve sung the lead over the years, in panto, with different dance routines, in different keys. I never get tired of it.

The song reached No 3 in the UK. But in 1980, it reached No 1 in Japan. Going there was crazy. We came off an 18-hour flight, exhausted, looking a mess, and there were four TV stations waiting at the airport. When we took the bullet train, we needed the army to protect us. We thought we were working hard in England, but in Japan, we’d do 22 radio shows and four TV shows a day. People say now: “Oh, when you look at Little Mix, I bet you wish you were up there.” We don’t, actually. We know how much of their private lives they’re sacrificing.

We didn’t make much money from the song. But somebody did – we sold 10 million records in Japan alone. But none of us are bitter. We’ve certainly felt the love. After we finished singing it on that reunion tour, there’d be this roar. I’d think: “Please, somebody bottle this feeling.”

Bob Puzey, co-writer

Bob Puzey songwriter and producer

Gorgeous day … Bob Puzey. Photograph: Amazon UK

I once read that Agatha Christie’s daughter would say to her: “You’re an author.” And she’d say: “No, it’s just a hobby.” It was the same with me. I was working as a window-cleaner when I met someone in the music industry. I ended up writing a track for Billy Ocean’s debut album in 1976. But I carried on cleaning windows. I’d be out there every morning, in the dark, in the winter. I only stopped after Ben Findon offered me a contract to write songs.

I lived on the eighth floor of a tower block that looked over Leyton Orient football ground in London. One beautiful Sunday morning, I was stood out on the balcony and thought: “I want to write a song that lives up to this gorgeous day.” I started strumming my guitar – and I’m in the Mood For Dancing came through as if it already existed.

I’d never even seen the girls. This was the dark old days – there wasn’t Google. But I had a vision of them in my head and I tailored the lyric to have a woman’s perspective. Obviously, a guy wouldn’t say: “I’m in the mood for dancing, romancing / I’m in the mood for chancing.” I mean, guys are taking a chance all the time, aren’t they? But for girls, it’s a big thing.

I was knocked out by the Nolans’ performance. I remember lying in bed and hearing the postman whistling it. That was when I first thought: “I’m a successful songwriter.” Someone once told me there was something spiritual about the song, that it will cheer anybody up and get them on the dancefloor. And that’s what we need right now.

The Nolans Go Cruising is on Quest Red and is available on dplay. Bob Puzey’s The Story Behind I’m in the Mood For Dancing is released later this year; his ebook, Use Your Brain to Elongate Your Cell-By-Date, is available now.

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