1985 (MCMLXXXV) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1985th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 985th year of the 2nd millennium, the 85th year of the 20th century, and the 6th year of the 1980s decade. The year 1985 was designated as the International Youth Year by the United Nations.
Music in Focus
The biggest British musical event of 1985 was the Live Aid concert in London’s Wembley Stadium on 13 July. Held to follow up the previous year’s charity record “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, the biggest-selling single ever at the time, popular acts such as The Who, U2 and Queen performed in front of an estimated audience of 1.9 billion viewers. It raised £150 million to help famine in Ethiopia, and a similar event would happen 20 years later in 2005, with Live 8.
After the huge success of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, several more charity songs reached number 1 this year. USA for Africa, inspired by Band Aid, released “We Are the World”, a song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, while David Bowie and Mick Jagger released a cover of “Dancing In The Street”, the music video being premiered at Live Aid and all proceeds going to the charity. In May, a fire at a football stadium in Bradford killed 56 people, and supergroup The Crowd released a charity cover of popular football anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in tribute.
British rock band Dire Straits released their album Brothers in Arms in May, one of the first ever albums to be released on compact disc and the format’s first million-seller. It went on to become the UK’s best-selling album of the entire decade and remains one of the top ten best-selling albums of all time in the UK. Four singles were released from the album, including the UK number 4 hit and US number 1 “Money for Nothing”, which referenced American music channel MTV and had a groundbreaking video featuring early computer-generated imagery. When a European version of MTV launched in 1987, it was the first video ever played on the channel.
Jennifer Rush entered the top 75 in June with the power ballad “The Power of Love”, which remained in the chart for months without entering the top 40. When it finally did in September, it quickly hit number 1, where it remained for five weeks and was the biggest selling single of the year. It sold over a million copies, however it would be the last single of the decade to do so, and there would not be another million-seller until 1991.
Many songs this year competed for the Christmas number one single, and the entire top 3 from 1984 re-entered the chart this year; Paul McCartney’s “We All Stand Together” at number 32, Wham!’s “Last Christmas” at number 6, and Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” at number 3. There were also attempts from Bruce Springsteen with a cover of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”, and ventriloquist Keith Harris released a cover of “White Christmas” with his green puppet Orville the Duck.
However, the Christmas number one went to Shakin’ Stevens with the song “Merry Christmas Everyone”. It had been intended to be released in 1984, but was kept back a year due to the Band Aid charity single. Still a widely known Christmas song in the 21st century, it re-entered the chart in Christmas 2007 on downloads alone, at number 22.
John Rutter, hitherto best known for his popular modern carols, acknowledged his classical roots with his Requiem, which was premièred in October in Sacramento, California. Less than eight months earlier, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem had its première in New York. Paul Miles-Kingston, the boy soprano who won a silver disc for his recording of the “Pie Jesu” from that work, became Head Chorister of Winchester Cathedral in the same year. The prolific Peter Maxwell Davies (who had moved to Orkney in 1971) produced one of his most popular works, An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise, notable for featuring the bagpipes as a lead instrument. Veteran Welsh composer Daniel Jones, produced his 12th symphony, at the age of 73, whilst 80-year-old Michael Tippett began work on his last opera, New Year.
Number 1 Singles in 1985
|Date||Artist/s||Title||Label||Weeks At #1|
|19th January||Foreigner||I Want To Know What Love Is||Atlantic||3|
|9th February||Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickson||I Know Him So Well||RCA||4|
|9th March||Dead Or Alive||You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)||Epic||4|
|23rd March||Philip Bailey & Phil Collins||Easy Lover||CBS/ Virgin||4|
|20th April||USA For Africa||We Are The World||CBS||2|
|4th May||Phiyllis Nelson||Move Closer||Carrere||1|
|11th May||Paul Hardcastle||19||Chrysalis||5|
|15th June||The Crowd||You’ll Never Walk Alone||Spartan||2|
|29th June||Sister Sledge||Frankie||Atlantic||4|
|27th July||Eurythmics||There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)||RCA||1|
|3rd August||Madonna||Into The Groove||Sire||4|
|31st August||UB40 With Chrissie Hynde||I Got You Babe||Dep Int’l||1|
|7th September||David Bowie & Mick Jagger||Dancing In The Street||EMI America||5|
|5th October||Midge Ure||If I Was||Chrysalis||1|
|12th October||Jennifer Rush||The Power Of Love||CBS||5|
|16th November||Feargal Sharkey||A Good Heart||Virgin||2|
|30th November||Wham!||I’m Your Man||Epic||2|
|14th December||Whitney Houston||Saving All My Love For You||Arista||2|
|28th December||Shakin’ Stevens||Merry Christmas Everyone||Epic||2|
Best selling Singles of 1985
|Position||Artist/s||Title||Highest Position||Weeks At #1|
|1||Jennifer Rush||The Power Of Love||1||5|
|2||Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickson||I Know Him So Well||1||4|
|3||Madonna||Into The Groove||1||4|
|6||David Bowie & Mick Jagger||Dancing In The Street||1||4|
|7||Phylis Nelson||Move Closer||1||1|
|8||A-Ha||Take On Me||2||n/a|
|9||Feargal Sharkey||A Good Heart||1||1|
|10||Foreigner||I Want To Know What Love Is||1||3|
Best selling Albums of 1985
|1||Dire Straits||Brothers In Arms|
|2||Phil Collins||No Jacket Required|
|3||Madonna||Like A Virgin|
|4||Bruce Springsteen||Born In The USA|
|5||Tears For Fears||Songs From The Big Chair|
|6||Various Artists||Now That’s What I Call Music 6|
|7||Various Artists||Now The Christmas Album|
|8||Various Artists||Now That’s What I Call Music 5|
|9||Paul Young||Secret Of Association|
|10||Various Artists||The Hits Album 2|
Movies in 1985
- A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
- A View to a Kill (1985)
- Cocoon (1985)
- Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
- Fletch (1985)
- Out of Africa (1985)
- The Goonies (1985)
- Rambo: First Blood Part 2 (1985)
- Rocky 4 (1985)
- St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)
- Secret Admirer (1985)
- The Color Purple (1985)
Television in 1985
- 1 January –
- 2 January – Channel 4 begins airing the acclaimed series A Woman of Substance, a miniseries based on the novel of the same name by Barbara Taylor Bradford. The series airs over three consecutive nights.
- 3–6 January – The UK’s last VHF 405-line television transmitters close down.
- 4 January – Channel 4 achieves its highest ever audience as 13.8 million viewers tune in for the final part of the mini-series A Woman of Substance.
- 7 January – The BBC ends its experiment with afternoon broadcasting and from this date afternoon Pages from Ceefax is shown on BBC1 between the end of lunchtime programmes and the start of children’s programmes and on BBC2 Ceefax pages are shown continuously between 9am and 5.25pm apart from when Daytime on Two is in season and when sporting events are being shown.
- 11 January – BBC2 debuts Victoria Wood as Seen on TV.
- 18 January – Debut of The Practice, a twice-weekly medical drama intended to become Granada‘s second soap produced for the ITV network. But viewing figures are not as healthy as had been hoped, and the series first run ends in May. It returns for a second series in 1986 before being axed.
- 20 January – American television sitcom The Cosby Show is broadcast in the United Kingdom for the first time.
- 23 January – A debate in the House of Lords is televised for the first time.
- January – Thames Television makes a deal with international distributors for US production company Lorimar to purchase the UK broadcasting rights for US drama Dallas, thus taking it from the BBC and breaking a gentlemen’s agreement between the BBC and ITV not to poach each other’s imported shows. Thames have paid £55,000 per episode compared to the £29,000 paid by the BBC. The deal is condemned by both the BBC and other ITV companies, who fear the BBC will poach their imports in retaliation, and push up prices. In response to the Thames deal, the BBC plan to delay transmission of the episodes they already have so that they will clash with the episodes being shown by Thames. Ultimately, however, pressure from several ITV companies (especially Yorkshire Television) to the Independent Broadcasting Authority forces Thames to sell the series back to the BBC at a loss. The controversy leads to the resignation of Thames managing director Bryan Cowgill, who feels the board have not supported him; he leaves the company in July.[
- 4 February – US detective drama Miami Vice makes its British television debut on BBC1, with the feature-length episode “Brother’s Keeper“.
- 12 February – Debut of Television, a thirteen part Granada documentary series narrated by Ian Holm that explores the history of television.
- 18 February – BBC1 undergoes a major relaunch. At 5.35 p.m., the legendary mechanical “mirror globe” ident, in use in varying forms since 1969, is seen for the last time in regular rotation on national BBC1. Its replacement, the COW (Computer Originated World, a computer generated globe) debuts at 7pm. On the same day, computer-generated graphics replace magnetic weather maps on all BBC forecasts, and Terry Wogan‘s eponymous talk show is relaunched as a thrice-weekly live primetime programme. EastEnders launches the following day.
- 19 February – EastEnders, the BBC1 soap opera, goes on air.[
- 17 March – BBC2 begins a two-part presentation of The Executioner’s Song, a film about the life of killer Gary Gilmore, who demanded the implementation of his death sentence for two murders he committed in Utah. The second part of the film is shown on 24 March.
- 19 March – BBC1 begins showing The Day the Universe Changed, a ten-part series in which science historian James Burke looks at how advances in science and technology have shaped western society over the last five centuries.
- 29 March – Play School is shown in the afternoon for the final time.
- 30 March – Doctor Who goes on an unexpected hiatus following the broadcast of part 2 of Revelation of the Daleks due to a dispute between the show’s staff and BBC controller Michael Grade, a notorious detractor of the show; Doctor Who would resume airing the following year.
- 31 March – BBC1 begins airing a season of films directed by Francis Ford Coppola, beginning with the Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now, a film inspired by the Joseph Conrad novella Heart of Darkness. This is the first showing of Apocalypse Now on British television.[
- 28 April – The World Snooker Championship Final between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis draws BBC2‘s highest ever rating of 18.5 million viewers.
- 5 May – As part of the VE Day 40th anniversary celebrations, ITV airs A Royal Celebration: 40 Years Of Peace, featuring the music of British artists such as Lonnie Donegan, Paul Jones, Brian Poole, Joe Brown, Wayne Fontana, Marty Wilde, and Cliff Richard.
- 8 May – The 40th anniversary of VE Day is marked by a service of remembrance at Westminster Abbey attended by politicians and members of the Royal family; the event is broadcast on television.[
- 11 May – A fire breaks out at the Valley Parade stadium in Bradford during a football match between Bradford City and Lincoln City. The match is being recorded by Yorkshire Television for transmission on their Sunday afternoon regional football show The Big Match the following day. Coverage of the fire is transmitted minutes after the event on the live ITV Saturday afternoon sports programme World of Sport. BBC’s Grandstand also transmits live coverage of the fire.
- 29 May – Heysel Stadium Disaster televised live by BBC1; at the European Cup final in Brussels, Belgium, between Liverpool and Juventus, 39 Juventus fans are killed when a wall collapses during a riot at the Heysel Stadium.
- 5 June – The first episode of Bulman airs.
- 4 July – Debut of Tandoori Nights, a sitcom about rival Indian restaurants in London’s Brick Lane starring Saeed Jaffrey, and Channel 4’s first Asian comedy.
- 6 July – For the first time ever on British television, US sitcom Family Ties starts airing on Channel 4.
- 7 July – Debut on BBC1 of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Years, a series that looks at the music and events of a particular year, starting with 1956.
- 13 July – Live Aid pop concerts are held in Philadelphia and London and televised around the world. Over £50 million is raised for famine relief in Ethiopia.
- 14 July – Watchdog launches as a stand-alone programme having previously been a segment within teatime news magazine programmes Nationwide and Sixty Minutes.
- 27 July – BBC2 airs “Blues Night”, an Arena special dedicated to the Blues, and featuring artists from the genre, including Sonny Boy Williamson, B. B. King, Blind John Davis, and Big Bill Broonzy.
- 30 July – Debut of the pop music culture series No Limits on BBC2.
- 31 July –
- The BBC announces it has pulled At the Edge of the Troubles, a documentary in the Real Lives strand in which filmmaker Vincent Hanna secured an interview with Sinn Féin‘s Martin McGuinness and his wife. The announcement leads to a one-day strike by members of the National Union of Journalists, and the eventual overturning of the ban. A slightly edited version of the programme is shown in October. The controversy damages the Director-Generalship of Alasdair Milne, who eventually resigns from the post in 1987.
- The War Game, made for the BBC‘s The Wednesday Play strand in 1965 but banned from broadcast at the time, is finally shown on television as part of BBC2’s After the Bomb season.[
- August – After a series of high-profile football hooliganism and a dispute between the Football League and the broadcasters over revenue, televised league football is missing from British screens until the second half of the season. The Charity Shield and international games are the only matches screened.
- 1 August – The nuclear war docudrama Threads is repeated on BBC2 as part of the After the Bomb series.[
- 13 August – ITV airs the US intergalactic whodunit Murder in Space. The film is shown without the ending, and a competition held for viewers to identify the murderer(s). The film’s concluding 30 minutes are shown a few weeks later, with a studio of contestants eliminated one by one until the winner correctly solves the mystery. There is a prize of £10,000.
- 30 August –
- Debut of Granada’s ill-fated “continuing drama series”, Albion Market. The series – set in a market in Salford and intended as a companion for Coronation Street – is panned by critics and suffers from poor ratings. It is axed a year later.
- The weekday lunchtime Financial Report, broadcast on BBC1 in London and the south east, is broadcast for the final time ahead of the launch of a lunchtime regional news bulletin for viewers in the BBC South East region.
- 1 September – Debut of the drama series Howards’ Way on BBC1.
- 2 September – A regional news bulletin is broadcast after the Nine O’Clock News for the first time.
- 3 September – BBC1’s EastEnders moves from 7.00pm to 7.30pm to avoid clashing with ITV’s Emmerdale Farm, which airs in the 7.00pm timeslot on Tuesdays and Thursdays in many ITV regions.
- 7 September – The American sci-fi adventure series Otherworld makes its British television debut in the HTV region. The series is aired by the Anglia, Border, Central, Grampian and Granada regions from 2 November 1985, with most other companies starting to screen it in 1986 (the exception being Thames/LWT which never aired it).
- 9 September – Children’s BBC premieres on BBC1.[
- 10 September – ITV airs the Wales vs Scotland World Cup qualifier from Cardiff‘s Ninian Park. The match – played against the backdrop of escalating football hooliganism – is notable for the death of Scotland manager Jock Stein, who collapsed shortly before Scotland secured their place in the 1986 FIFA World Cup.
- 15 September – ITV airs Murder in Space: The Solution, in which the puzzle of the sci-fi murder mystery is finally solved.
- 28 September – After 20 years ITV‘s Saturday afternoon sports programme World of Sport is aired for the last time.
- 2 October – The Times reports that Thames Television have paid the BBC £300,000 in compensation to make up for the additional costs it paid for new episodes of Dallas.
- 3 October – Roland Rat, the puppet rodent who saved an ailing TV-am in 1983 transfers to the BBC. Commenting on the move, he says, “I saved TV-am and now I’m here to save the BBC.”
- 5 October – The first weekend horse racing is shown on Channel 4.
- 28 October – A documentary in ITV’s World in Action series casts doubt on evidence used to convict the Birmingham Six of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings.[
- 11 November – The 1,000th episode of Emmerdale Farm, which airs the following day, is celebrated with a special lunch attended by Princess Michael of Kent. Not recognising any of the cast members she later admits that she never watches the show.
- 14 November – A special edition of Tomorrow’s World examines how effective the proposed Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) might be at destroying any nuclear weapons launched at the United States.[
6 December – BBC1 airs John Lennon: A Journey in the Life, an Everyman special marking the fifth anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. The programme includes archive footage of Lennon, dramatisations of parts of his life, and contributions from some of his friends. 9 December – 25th anniversary of the first episode of Coronation Street.25 December –
- Christmas Day highlights on BBC1 include the premiere of Jim Henson‘s Muppet Babies, and a Wogan special in which Terry Wogan travels to Denver to meet the actors who portray members of the Carrington family from US soap Dynasty. Roland Rat also appears in the Christmas Day schedule with Roland’s Yuletide Binge, a general entertainment programme featuring guests including Russell Grant, Frankie Howerd, Jan Leeming, Ian McCaskill, Beryl Reid, and Valerie Singleton.
- Minder on the Orient Express, a feature-length episode of the television series Minder, receives its UK television debut as the highlight of ITV’s Christmas Day schedule.[
26 December –
- Boxing Day highlights on BBC1 include Tenko Reunion, a feature-length episode of Tenko that reunites the cast in a story set five years after the original series.[
- Boxing Day highlights on ITV include the British television premiere of the 1982 political thriller Who Dares Wins, starring Lewis Collins, Judy Davis, Edward Woodward, and Richard Widmark.
31 December – New Year’s Eve highlights on BBC1 include Gone with the Wind, The Magnificent Seven, and a version of Terence Ratigan‘s The Browning Version with Ian Holm, while Terry Wogan welcomes in 1986 from BBC Television Centre.