1986 (MCMLXXXVI) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1986th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 986th year of the 2nd millennium, the 86th year of the 20th century, and the 7th year of the 1980s decade. The year 1986 was designated as the International Year of Peace by the United Nations.
Music in Focus
The first number 1 single of 1986 was the breakthrough hit for London synthpop duo the Pet Shop Boys. Their song “West End Girls” had climbed the charts during late 1985 and reached number 1 for two weeks in January. They would have three more top 20 hits this year as well as two top 20 albums, and were still reaching the top 10 in 2006, twenty years later. Another popular synthpop duo this year were Erasure, with their song “Sometimes” reaching number two in the autumn; this success would be followed by many more hits throughout the decade.
After four successful years, the band Wham! split up in the spring. Made up of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, they finished with a farewell concert at Wembley Stadium, a greatest hits album The Final which reached number 2, and the single “The Edge of Heaven”, their fourth and final number 1. George Michael also reached number 1 this year with a solo release, A Different Corner, and went on to have a highly successful solo career.
The formation of the charity Comic Relief provided an unusual song from Cliff Richard, a singer with several huge hits in the 1950s and ’60s. He teamed up with the cast of the popular sitcom The Young Ones (itself named after a Richard song) for a new version of his 1959 single “Living Doll”, half sung by Richard and half shouted by the Young Ones cast. With proceeds going to the charity, it reached number one for three weeks and was Richard’s first number 1 of the decade. Another novelty number one was “The Chicken Song”, sung by the cast of satirical puppet show Spitting Image. With lyrics such as “Hold a chicken in the air, stick a deckchair up your nose” it was intended as a parody of novelty holiday songs which were popular at the time, and also topped the chart for three weeks.
American singer Madonna had the biggest-selling album of the year with “True Blue”. All singles released from it made the top five, including the number 1s “Papa Don’t Preach”, “True Blue”, and “La Isla Bonita” which topped the chart the year after. The biggest-selling single of the year went to The Communards, with a hi-NRG cover of the disco song “Don’t Leave Me This Way”. The band included singer Jimmy Somerville who had previously enjoyed success with Bronski Beat, and later started a solo career.
The Christmas number one single was something of a surprise, a re-issue of Jackie Wilson’s 1957 single “Reet Petite”. Wilson had died in 1984, but the song been re-issued after being used in a television advert for Levi’s, with a new video made of a Claymation version of Wilson. Having first been released 29 years earlier, it broke the record for the longest time between a single being released and it hitting number 1, a record that would last until 2005 when Tony Christie’s 1971 song “(Is This the Way to) Amarillo” topped the chart.
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment was founded in London by a group of period music enthusiasts, going on to become one of the UK’s leading orchestras. Harrison Birtwistle’s innovative opera, The Mask of Orpheus, was premièred in London, to great critical acclaim. Michael Nyman also came up with a new opera, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, a chamber work with a minimalist score.
January - The Adrian Boult Hall is opened at Birmingham Conservatoire by the Duchess of Gloucester. 15 March – "Heartbeat '86", a charity concert for the Birmingham Children's Hospital, is held at the NEC. Performers include Roy Wood, UB40, The Moody Blues, Electric Light Orchestra and Robert Plant. George Harrison makes a surprise appearance playing Johnny B. Goode with everyone at the end of the show. 11 April - The fastest top 10 chart music show The Chart Show debuts on television on Channel 4. 7 June - Queen start The Magic Tour which becomes their final tour with all original members and also their most successful tour. 27 October - Michael Nyman's chamber opera The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is premiered at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London.
Number 1 Singles in 1986
|11th January||Pet Shop Boys||West End Girls||Parlophone||2|
|25th January||A-Ha||The Sun Always Shines On TV||Warner Bros||2|
|8th February||Billy Ocean||When The Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going)||Jive||4|
|8th March||Diana Ross||Chain Reaction||Capitol||3|
|29th March||Cliff Richard & The Young Ones||Living Doll||WEA||3|
|19th April||George Michael||A Different Corner||Epic||3|
|10th May||Falco||Rock Me Amadeus||A&M||1|
|17th May||Spitting Image||The Chicken Song||Virgin||3|
|7th June||Dr & The Medics||Spirit In The Sky||IRS/ MCA||3|
|28th June||Wham!||The Edge Of Heaven||Epic||2|
|12th July||Madonna||Papa Don’t Preach||Sire||3|
|2nd August||Chris De Burgh||The Lady In Red||A&M||3|
|23rd August||Boris Gardner||I Want To Wake Up With You||Revue/ Creole||3|
|13th September||Communards||Don’t Leave Me This Way||London||4|
|11th October||Madonna||True Blue||Sire||1|
|18th October||Nick Berry||Every Loser Wins||BBC||3|
|8th November||Berlin||Take My Breath Away||CBS||4|
|6th December||Europe||The Final Countdown||Epic||2|
|20th December||Housemartins||Caravan Of Love||GO! Discs||1|
|27th December||Jackie Wilson||Reet Petite||SMP||4|
Best selling Singles of 1986
|Position||Artist/s||Title||Highest Position||Weeks At #1|
|1||Communards||Don’t Leave Me This Way||1||4|
|2||Nick Berry||Every Loser Wins||1||3|
|3||Boris Gardiner||I Want To Wake Up With You||1||3|
|4||Cliff Richard & The Young Ones||Living Doll||1||3|
|5||Diana Ross||Chain Reaction||1||3|
|6||Chris De Burgh||Lady In Red||1||3|
|7||Billy Ocean||When The Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going)||1||4|
|8||Berlin||Take My Breath Away||1||4|
|9||Madonna||Papa Don’t Preach||1||3|
|10||Sinitta||So Macho/ Cruising||3||n/a|
Best Selling Albums of 1986
|2||Dire Straits||Brothers In Arms|
|3||Various Artists||Now That’s What I Call Music 8|
|5||Whitney Houston||Whitney Houston|
|6||Various Artists||Now That’s What I Call Music 7|
|7||A-Ha||Hunting High And Low|
|8||Queen||A Kind Of Magic|
|10||Five Star||Silk And Steel|
Movies of 1986
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
- Full Metal Jacket (1986)
- Highlander (1986)
- Platoon (1986)
- Pretty in Pink (1986)
- Rad! (1986)
- Raw Deal (1986)
- Short Circuit (1986)
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
- The Color of Money (1986)
- The Money Pit (1986)
Television in 1986
- 1 January – New Year’s Day highlights on BBC1 include a Paul Young concert simulcast with BBC Radio 1, and the British television premieres of Clash of the Titans and Rocky II.
- 2 January – A special edition of Tomorrow’s World travels back a century to discover the latest developments in science and technology from 1886.
- 4 January – Televised football returns to British television after the contractual dispute from the previous year is resolved.
- 17 January – BBC1 airs a feature-length episode of US soap Dynasty that sets up the storyline ready for the spin-off series Dynasty II: The Colbys, which begins on 24 January.
- 19 January – Debut of the Screen Two film The Silent Twins, a drama based on the true story of June and Jennifer Gibbons, identical twin sisters known as the “Silent Twins” because they refuse to speak to anyone but each other.
- 24 January – British television debut of Dynasty II: The Colbys on BBC1.
- 28 January – NASA‘s Space Shuttle Challenger spacecraft disintegrates. Pictures from CNN in the United States (owned by Turner Broadcasting System, then owners of American superstation WTBS), are aired in countries around the world.
- 19 February – BBC1 airs Round Britain Whizz, an edition of the science series Q.E.D.. The 30 minute programme consists of a sped up flight around the coastline of Great Britain with guest appearances from geologists and TV personalities including Patrick Moore, David Bellamy and Terry Wogan telling the viewer about the geology and natural history of certain areas.
- February – Channel 4 launches animated teletext graphics as part of 4-Tel On View.
- 10 March – The first advert for a sanitary towel is broadcast on British television, on Channel 4.
- 30 March – BBC2 airs the TWO ident, which is used until 1991.
- 1 April –
- All commercial activities of the BBC are now handled by BBC Enterprises Ltd.
- As part of the BBC’s Drugwatch campaign, BBC1 airs It’s Not Just Zammo, a Newsround special presented by John Craven and Nick Ross that seeks to warn younger viewers about the dangers of using drugs. The programme follows a recent drug abuse storyline in Grange Hill involving the character Zammo McGuire (played by Lee MacDonald), and features the launch of a version of the anti-drugs song “Just Say No” recorded by members of the Grange Hill cast. The song goes on to reach the top ten of the UK Singles Chart, while members of the cast are invited to the White House to meet First Lady Nancy Reagan, who founded the Just Say No campaign.
- 2 April – The first in-vision teletext service is seen on ITV when Central launches its Jobfinder service which broadcasts for one hour after the end of the day’s programming. Other regions launch their own Jobfinder service later in the 1980s.
- 9 May – BBC1 airs “Video Jukebox”, a special extended edition of its Omnibus arts programme telling the story of the rock video. The programme is presented by John Peel and John Walters.
- 11 May – Spitting Image‘s “The Chicken Song” reaches No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart, holding the position for three weeks.
- 21 May – A Very Peculiar Practice debuts on BBC2.
- 31 May–29 June – BBC and ITV provide coverage of the 1986 FIFA World Cup.
- 3 June – BBC1 begins airing a three-part dramatisation of the Jeffrey Archer novel Kane and Abel. Part Two is shown on 5 June, and Part Three on 6 June.
- 8 June – Brian Walden presents his final edition of London Weekend Television‘s political programme, Weekend World after nine years in the role.
- 15 June – Singer Helen Shapiro joins Granada’s Albion Market as hairdresser Viv Harker.
- 18 June – In Coronation Street the Rovers Return pub is gutted by fire with landlady Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear) trapped inside.
- 23 July –
- 24 July – BBC1 airs the opening ceremony from the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, which includes a 45 minute display produced by the BBC that celebrates the Spirit of Youth.
- 24 July–2 August – BBC Television broadcasts the 1986 Commonwealth Games and for the first time the Games are shown live and in full with around ten hours of live coverage each day.
- August – “Anyone Can Fall in Love“, a song performed by EastEnders actress Anita Dobson which gives words to the soap’s theme tune, is released as a single, and peaks at #4 on the UK Singles Chart.
- 5 August – Michael Cashman makes his EastEnders debut as Colin Russell, the soap’s first gay character.
- 9 August – The Yorkshire Television ITV region becomes the first UK terrestrial channel to broadcast 24 hours a day, initially simulcasting the cable and satellite music video channel Music Box throughout the night. The other ITV regions gradually switch to 24-hour television over the next two years.
- 24 August – Granada’s ill fated Albion Market airs for the last time.
- 26 August – In Emmerdale Farm, original character Pat Sugden dies after rolling her car down a hillside to avoid a flock of sheep.
- 30 August – BBC1 begins a run of films making their debut on British television, and under the banner of Saturday Night at the Movies. The first in the season is Harold Becker‘s 1981 drama Taps.
- 31 August –
- Debut of Alan Bleasdale‘s four-part World War I drama The Monocled Mutineer on BBC1. The series causes some controversy when some right-wing newspapers cite it as an example of what they believe to be a left-wing bias of the BBC.
- British television premiere of the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only on ITV.
- 2 September – Ahead of the launch of all-day television on BBC1, the weekly magazine programme for Asian women, Gharbar, transfers back to BBC2. The programme moves to a new day and new slot – 9 am on Tuesdays.
- 6 September –
- Part One of The Trial of a Time Lord is broadcast on BBC1, marking the return to air of Doctor Who after a 17-month hiatus.
- The first episode of medical drama Casualty airs on BBC1. Although an immediate success with viewers, the show attracts controversy because of its portrayal of an under-funded National Health Service, which is seen as a criticism of Margaret Thatcher‘s government.
- British television premiere of Stanley Donen‘s science-fiction thriller Saturn 3 on BBC1.
- 9 September – The last ever non-stop all-day BBC2 Ceefax transmission takes place.
- 14 September – Matthew Parris succeeds Brian Walden as presenter of Weekend World.
- 19 September – Central TV revives New Faces, a 1970s talent show produced by its predecessor, ATV. Styled as New Faces of ’86, it is presented by Marti Caine, a winner from the previous version.
- 20 September – British television premiere of Gordon Carroll‘s action thriller Blue Thunder on BBC1.
- 20–21 September – For the third and final time, BBC2 goes Rock Around the Clock.
- 27 September – BBC1 airs the British television premiere of Jay Sandrich‘s adventure Seems Like Old Times.
- September – For a brief period Channel 4 shows a red triangle at the start of, and during, films with adult themes.
- 4 October – BBC1 airs the British television premiere of Dick Lowry‘s adventure film Wet Gold.
- 11 October – British television premiere of Roger Spottiswoode‘s crime thriller The Pursuit of D. B. Cooper on BBC1.
- 12 October – “Every Loser Wins” performed by the actor Nick Berry begins a three-week run at the top of the UK Singles Chart after featuring in recent episodes of EastEnders. The song was an instant hit on release and went on to win its writers an Ivor Novello Award.
- 14 October – BBC2 begins regular late afternoon programming by showing a film during the second half of the gap between the end of Daytime on Two and the start of the evening’s programmes.
- 15 October – Channel 4 starts weekend morning broadcasting with weekend transmissions now beginning at around 9:30 am.
- 16 October – The first two-hander episode of EastEnders, featuring Den and Angie Watts (Leslie Grantham and Anita Dobson), is aired by BBC1. The episode, in which Angie tells Den she has six months to live after he tells her he wants a divorce, was an experiment as the two-hander format had not been tried in a British soap before, but received well by viewers and critics.
- 17 October – BBC2 broadcasts a teatime news summary with subtitles for the last time. For the past three years this bulletin, which had been broadcast at around 5.25 pm, had been the first programme of the day (apart from educational programmes and sports coverage).
- 18 October – BBC1 airs the British television premiere of Peter Weir‘s romantic drama The Year of Living Dangerously.
- 24 October – Ahead of the launch of the BBC’s new daytime service, News After Noon is broadcast for the final time. The bulletin is replaced by a revamped lunchtime news programme One O’Clock News.
- 27 October –
- BBC One starts a full daytime television service. Before today, excluding special events coverage, BBC One had closed down at times during weekday mornings and afternoons, broadcasting trade test transmissions and, from May 1983, Pages From Ceefax. BBC Two also expands its programming hours, providing a full afternoon service for the first time but it wasn’t until the end of the decade that BBC Two was on air all day every day.
- As part of the new service, Australian soap Neighbours makes its British television debut on BBC1, a year after it was first aired in its homeland.
- 29 October – The Equalizer, a US crime drama series starring Edward Woodward makes its British television debut on ITV.
- 10 November – Breakfast Time is relaunched with a more formal news and current affairs format.
- 13 November – Self-employed hod carrier Michael Lush is killed during his first rehearsal for a live stunt planned for BBC1’s The Late, Late Breakfast Show. The stunt, called “Hang ’em High”, involved bungee jumping from an exploding box suspended from a 120 ft-high crane. The carabiner clip attaching his bungee rope to the crane sprang loose from its eyebolt during the jump, and he died instantly of multiple injuries. The 15 November edition of Breakfast Show is cancelled after presenter Noel Edmonds resigns, saying he does not “have the heart to carry on”.
- 15 November – British television premiere of Michael Chrichton‘s science fiction crime drama Looker on BBC1.
- 16 November – Dennis Potter‘s critically acclaimed television serial The Singing Detective makes its debut on BBC1.
6 December –
- Doctor Who concludes its The Trial of a Time Lord story arc with part 2 of “The Ultimate Foe“. This would mark the final televised appearance of Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor before he was abruptly fired from the role.
- British television premiere of Jack Smight‘s romantic comedy Loving Couples on BBC1.
8 December – Six weeks after launching its daytime service, BBC TV starts broadcasting hourly news summaries. Morning bulletins are shown on BBC1 and early afternoon bulletins (at 2pm, 3pm and 3.50pm) are shown on BBC2. Each bulletin is followed by a weather forecast.
13 December –
- Comedian Duggie Small wins New Faces of ’86.
- British television premiere of Don Coscarelli‘s fantasy adventure The Beastmaster on BBC1.
25 December –
- 30.15 million tune in to watch “Dirty” Dennis Watts hand wife Angie her divorce papers in EastEnders, making it the highest rated episode of any drama in British television history.
- ITV screens the British terrestrial television premiere of Never Say Never Again.
26 December – The Rainbow 30 minute Christmas special, Rainbow Christmas Show (aka The Colours of the Rainbow) is the highest ever rating episode of the show. It was thought that Rainbow would end following this episode, but Thames Television renewed the contract after good ratings.
31 December – New Year’s Eve highlights on BBC1 include the British television premiere of the 1984 Australian animated film The Camel Boy, and , a screenplay starring Hannah Gordon, Kenneth Haigh, Anna Massey and Martyn Stanbridge. Terry Wogan welcomes in the New Year from the BBC Television Theatre.