In Focus 1986

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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.[1]
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.[2]
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 JanuaryPet Shop BoysWest End GirlsParlophone2
25th JanuaryA-HaThe Sun Always Shines On TVWarner Bros2
8th FebruaryBilly OceanWhen The Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going)Jive4
8th MarchDiana RossChain ReactionCapitol3
29th MarchCliff Richard & The Young OnesLiving DollWEA3
19th AprilGeorge MichaelA Different CornerEpic3
10th MayFalcoRock Me AmadeusA&M1
17th MaySpitting ImageThe Chicken SongVirgin3
7th JuneDr & The MedicsSpirit In The SkyIRS/ MCA3
28th JuneWham!The Edge Of HeavenEpic2
12th JulyMadonnaPapa Don’t PreachSire3
2nd AugustChris De BurghThe Lady In RedA&M3
23rd AugustBoris GardnerI Want To Wake Up With YouRevue/ Creole3
13th SeptemberCommunardsDon’t Leave Me This WayLondon4
11th OctoberMadonnaTrue BlueSire1
18th OctoberNick BerryEvery Loser WinsBBC3
8th NovemberBerlinTake My Breath AwayCBS4
6th DecemberEuropeThe Final CountdownEpic2
20th DecemberHousemartinsCaravan Of LoveGO! Discs1
27th DecemberJackie WilsonReet PetiteSMP4


Best selling Singles of 1986


PositionArtist/sTitleHighest PositionWeeks At #1
1CommunardsDon’t Leave Me This Way14
2Nick BerryEvery Loser Wins13
3Boris GardinerI Want To Wake Up With You13
4Cliff Richard & The Young OnesLiving Doll13
5Diana RossChain Reaction13
6Chris De BurghLady In Red13
7Billy OceanWhen The Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going)14
8BerlinTake My Breath Away14
9MadonnaPapa Don’t Preach13
10SinittaSo Macho/ Cruising3n/a


Best Selling Albums of 1986



1MadonnaTrue Blue
2Dire StraitsBrothers In Arms
3Various ArtistsNow That’s What I Call Music 8
4Paul SimonGraceland
5Whitney HoustonWhitney Houston
6Various ArtistsNow That’s What I Call Music 7
7A-HaHunting High And Low
8QueenA Kind Of Magic
10Five StarSilk And Steel


Movies of 1986



Television in 1986





  • 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 –
  • 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.






  • 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 –
  • 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.

7 December – Jack Rosenthal‘s original two-hour TV movie of London’s Burning, directed by Les Blair is broadcast on ITV. It returns for a full series in February 1988.

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.

11 December – The IBA announces that BSB has been awarded a fifteen-year franchise to operate a satellite television service in the UK.

13 December –

17 December – Ringo Starr narrates his last ever Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends stories which make up the second series finale, “Woolly Bear” and “Thomas & the Missing Christmas Tree”.

25 December –

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.

28 December – BBC1 begins a season of films starring Dustin Hoffman, starting with the British television premiere of Tootsie.

31 December – New Year’s Eve highlights on BBC1 include the British television premiere of the 1984 Australian animated film The Camel Boy, and Day After the Fair, a screenplay starring Hannah Gordon, Kenneth Haigh, Anna Massey and Martyn Stanbridge. Terry Wogan welcomes in the New Year from the BBC Television Theatre.

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