The Infinite Jukebox: The Nolans’ ‘Gotta Pull Myself Together’


Imagine being a music enthusiast in his early twenties back in 1979, especially one who has a bent towards Punk/New Wave. Every week, it seemed, something fresh, new and energetic was coming out via the John Peel Show, still five nights weekly. Slowly, but surely and increasingly, these records are getting into the Top 40 and the bands are getting onto Top of the Pops. Every time one does, I get smugger and smugger at work, because each one that does vindicates me and my belief in this music, which not a single person I work with shares with me.
Now imagine me, one Saturday morning in summer, waking up to bright sunshine with nothing planned. Rather than lounge in bed, I wandered down to the TV lounges, one each for BBC1 and ITV. Both are pretty much deserted: who watches Saturday morning TV apart from me?
But this is the era in which ITV offers the anarchic and frequently hilarious TISWAS, with Lenny Henry at his most surreal, and besides, Sally James is always worth an appreciative stare or two or more.
The downside of this is that TISWAS often includes popular pop, usually in the form of videos, i.e., the daily dross of Radio 1 and the weekly dross of Top of the Pops. Like, on this Saturday morning in question, The Nolans’ latest single, ‘Gotta Pull Myself Together’.
Now never let it be said that there is nothing to be enjoyed in looking at the Nolan Sisters, here in their video dressed in bright yellow and performing some dance moves. Listening to the Nolans singing is altogether a different matter: I simply loathed ‘I’m in the Mood for Dancing’ to the point of overwhelming prejudice. But I’m sat in a big lounge capable of holding up to fifty people and there’s only me and the TV and, to put it bluntly, there’s bugger all to do until something better.
So I found myself having to listen to the song as well as look at the fit Irish birds.
It was something of a revelation. The single was already in the chart and I’d heard it a dozen times or more but listening to the radio was always an adjunct to doing something else and it was exceedingly simple to tune out anything you weren’t bothered with. That wasn’t an option now. And having to listen to the song, I discovered that it had a good, solid beat, a propulsive sound, a strong pop sensibility and, god help me, good close harmony singing.
It was nothing like ‘I’m in the Mood for Dancing’. It was good. To my horror, I discovered I liked it.
If I recall correctly, there were BBC strike issues that summer that took Top of the Pops off the air for some weeks, so there were no performances to watch, and no repeats of the video, just the usual daily airplays on Radio Trent, with my ear attuned to the song’s appearance just as much as it was for The Buzzcocks, The Undertones and Elvis Costello.
It’s horrible the tricks your ears can play on you.
It wasn’t just this single. I bought myself a second hand copy of it, plus several of the following ones (as long as they had picture sleeves) which I found myself enjoying as perfectly good pop. A couple of years later, back in Manchester, I even shame-facedly bought a ticket to see The Nolans live at the Free Trade Hall. By this time, elder sister Anne had rejoined the act and, perhaps because she was the oldest, the music was reverting back towards cabaret stuff and away from the crisp, effective pop of that brief spell.
The worst of it was that this was the second of two gigs I attended on successive nights, and I enjoyed this one better. The one on Monday was the first time I’d seen my favourite band of the time live. They were New Order and it was the only rotten performance I ever saw from them, but the juxtaposition was unwelcome.
As time moved forward, more and more people started to recognise Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Nolan as the fine singer she was. Hers is the lead vocal on ‘Gotta pull myself together’ and most of the pop singles that surrounded it, so I don’t feel too bad about this unexpected and unwelcome musical diversion I took. I haven’t listened to the song in years, and the thing that reminded me of it now was a piece on the recording of ‘I’m in the Mood for Dancing’. Still can’t stand that, but this song is still a great single. And the video…

2 thoughts on “The Infinite Jukebox: The Nolans’ ‘Gotta Pull Myself Together’

  1. There’s no need for me to magine being a music enthusiast in his early twenties back in 1979, especially one who has a bent towards Punk/New Wave, because that is exactly what I was. I fully endorse your praise for Tiswas and, yes, I like The Nolans.

    Apologies if you already know this but, through meeting on Top Of The Pops, The Nolans were friends with Motorhead, and even recorded a single with them. You can read about it, and see the video, at https://dangerousminds.net/comments/that_time_lemmy_recorded_a_single_with_the_not_so_squeaky_clean_nolan_siste

    1. Nice to know I’m not the only one, David.

      As for the Motorhead connection, I knew that Lemmy knew and got on very well with Linda Nolan (I once read a very dirty story he told about her where he left out the punchline, which was easy to work out), but if I ever knew they’d recorded together, I’d forgotten it. I shall have to check that out.

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