In Focus 1987

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1987 (MCMLXXXVII) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1987th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 987th year of the 2nd millennium, the 87th year of the 20th century, and the 8th year of the 1980s decade.


Music in Focus


The start of the year saw an important milestone in electronic dance music, when Steve “Silk” Hurley’s song “Jack Your Body” became the first house music track to reach number 1 in the UK charts. This was despite Hurley refusing to promote the song, and the 12-inch single technically breaking chart rules as it was longer than the allowed 25-minute play time. House music had been steadily growing in popularity since it started underground in the early 1980s, and another number 1 would follow in September, the huge selling “Pump Up The Volume” by British act M|A|R|R|S which was one of the top ten biggest selling songs of the year.

For most of the 1980s, the main musical format in the charts was the gramophone record, with songs being released on both 7-inch and 12-inch vinyl singles. However, in 1987 two new formats started to appear. The first was the digital CD single, where songs are put on a Compact Disc. These were first made eligible for the UK Singles Chart this year, and the first number 1 to be released as a CD single was Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” released in May. The second was the cassette single where the song is released on an audio tape – the BPI began recording their sales this year, but they would not become eligible until 1989. Both formats would dominate the chart throughout the 1990s.

Synthpop bands Pet Shop Boys and Erasure continued their success from their breakthrough year in 1986, with the Pet Shop Boys achieving their second number 1 single (“It’s a Sin”) in the summer, and two more top ten singles with “What Have I Done to Deserve This?”, a collaboration with Dusty Springfield, which peaked at number 2, and “Rent”, which peaked at number 8. Their album “Actually” also sold well and peaked at number 2. Erasure’s album The Circus was their first charting album and peaked at number 6, and had two top 10 hits this year with the eponymous title track and “Victim of Love”, as well as the number 12 charting “It Doesn’t Have to Be” and their big hit from the previous year, “Sometimes”. Both bands would continue to have huge success into the early 1990s.

The sound of producers Stock Aitken Waterman continued to grow in popularity, as they moved from their previous Hi-NRG sound to one more pop-based. It gave them big hits with girl group Bananarama, with their song “Love in the First Degree” becoming their biggest hit ever when it peaked at number 3, and American singer Sinitta with “Toy Boy”, the successful No.4 followup to the big selling song “So Macho” from 1986. They also achieved two number one’s, one being girl duo Mel and Kim’s “Respectable”, and created a huge star with the baritone-voiced singer Rick Astley. In 1987 he had a number one album with “Whenever You Need Somebody”, and several high charting singles including the title track and the biggest selling single of the year, his number 1 breakthrough song “Never Gonna Give You Up”.

Madonna continued her long run of Top Ten hits throughout the year, scoring two number one’s, “La Isla Bonita” in April and “Who’s That Girl” in July; the former was her third number one single from the multi-million selling album True Blue and the latter was taken from the film of the same name in which Madonna herself starred. Although the film was critically panned, the soundtrack album hit a respectable No.4 and generated two more Top 10 hits for Madonna; “Causing a Commotion” (No.4, September) and “The Look of Love” (No.9, December).

Soul singer Ben E. King got a surprise number 1 with a re-release of 1961’s “Stand by Me”, which was used in an advert for Levi Jeans. Long running band The Bee Gees also got their first number 1 of the decade with “You Win Again”, their fifth overall in a 20-year career, and Michael Jackson released the multi-million selling “Bad” which as of 2008 is one of the top ten highest selling albums in UK chart history. It spawned the number 1 single “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” (a duet with Siedah Garrett), the number 3 title track and the number 3 “The Way You Make Me Feel”. The year also saw George Michael launch his solo career post-Wham! with the album “Faith” and its title track, which reached number 2.

The race for the Christmas number one single had many contenders this year. Rick Astley released a cover of “When I Fall In Love”, and the 1956 Nat King Cole version was re-released at the same time, while ‘Mel & Kim’ released a cover of “Rocking Around The Christmas Tree” – however, this referred to comedian Mel Smith and singer Kim Wilde rather than the girl group of the same name, proceeds went to the charity Comic Relief. A very popular Christmas song released this year was a collaboration with Irish band The Pogues and singer Kirsty MacColl, with the song “Fairytale of New York”. With its bitter tale about the breakup of two lovers, it was very different from other Christmas songs around.

In the end, it was the Pet Shop Boys who had the Christmas number one of 1987, with their cover of Elvis Presley’s “Always on My Mind”. The Pogues peaked at number 2 and has been re-issued several times since, reaching the top 10 in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

In the world of classical music, Nicholas Maw’s new work Odyssey made an impact, and veteran composer Malcolm Arnold produced his Salute to Thomas Merritt, Op. 98, whilst Michael Nyman and Judith Weir both brought new operas to the stage. The BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition was won by Italian soprano Valeria Esposito, and the Lieder prize was introduced into the competition for the first time.

9 March - The career that would end in an infamous appearance at The Brit awards and the burning of a million pounds began with The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu releasing their debut single, "All You Need Is Love".
9 May – Ireland's Johnny Logan wins the Eurovision Song Contest, held in Brussels, Belgium, with the song "Hold Me Now", making him the first artist to win the contest twice. The UK's entry, "Only the Light" by Rikki, finishes in 13th place.
1 August - Dave Stewart of Eurythmics and Siobhan Fahey of Bananarama are married in Normandy, France.


Number 1 Singles in 1987


DateArtist/sTitleLabelWeeks At #1
24th JanuarySteve ‘Silk’ HurleyJack Your BodyDJ Int’l2
7th FebruaryAretha Franklin & George MichaelI Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)Epic2
21st FebruaryBen E KingStand By MeAtlantic3
14th MarchBoy GeorgeEverything I OwnVirgin2
4th AprilFerry AidLet It BeSun3
25th AprilMadonnaLa Isla BonitaSire2
9th MayStarshipNothings Gonna Stop Us NowGrunt4
6th JuneWhitney HoustonI Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)Arista2
20th JuneFirmStar Trekkin’Bark2
4th JulyPet Shop BoysIt’s A SinParlophone3
25th JulyMadonnaWho’s That GirlSire1
1st AugustLos LobosLa BambaSlash2
15th AugustMichael Jackson & Siedah GarrettI Just Can’t Stop Loving YouEpic2
29th AugustRick AstleyNever Gonna Give You UPRCA5
3rd OctoberM A R R SPump Up The Volume4AD2
17th OctoberBee GeesYou Win AgainWarner Bros4
14th NovemberT’PauChina In Your HandSiren5
19th DecemberPet Shop BoysAlways On My MindParlophone4


Best selling Singles of 1987


PositionArtist/sTitleHighest PositionWeeks At #1
1Rick AstleyNever Gonna Give You Up15
2StarshipNothings Gonna Stop Us Now14
3Whitney HoustonI Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)12
4Bee GeesYou Win Again14
5T’PauChina In Your Hand15
6Mel & KimRespectable11
7Ben E KingStand By Me13
8Pet Shop BoysIt’s A Sin13
9M A R R SPump Up The Volume12
10The FirmStar Trekkin’12


Best selling Albums of 1987


1Michael JacksonBad
2U2The Joshua Tree
3Whitney HoustonWhitney
4Various ArtistsNow That’s What I Call Music 10
5Fleetwood MacTango In The Night
6Various ArtistsThe Hits Album 6
7Rick AstleyWhenever You Need Somebody
8T’PauBridge Of Spies
9Original SoundtrackThe Phantom Of The Opera
10Level 42Running In The Family


Movies in 1987



Television in 1987



  • 1 January – New Year’s Day highlights on BBC1 include the British television premiere of Local Hero, and the classic film To Have and Have Not.
  • 2 January – British television premiere of the supernatural horror Poltergeist on BBC1.
  • 3 January – Closedowns reappear on Yorkshire Television when its experiment with 24-hour television is put on hiatus. The channel does continue with into-the-night broadcasts however by becoming the second ITV region to launch a Jobfinder service, broadcasting for an hour after closedown.
  • 5 January – EastEnders is sold to Australia and goes to air on Australian television on ABC along with In Sickness and In Health.
  • 12 January – The five-part Australian World War I drama Anzacs makes its British television debut on BBC1.
  • 16 January – The Zircon affair becomes public knowledge when The Guardian reports that the government ordered the BBC to shelve a documentary in the Secret Society series about the Zircon satellite. Two days later documentary maker Duncan Campbell is subject to an injunction preventing him from discussing or writing about the programme’s content, but subsequently writes an article about the episode for the New Statesman.
  • 29 January – Alasdair Milne is sacked by the newly appointed Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors, Marmaduke Hussey. He is replaced by a senior BBC accountant, Michael Checkland.


  • 5 February – Princess Anne appears on sports quiz A Question of Sport, a matter of weeks after team captain Emlyn Hughes famously mistook a picture of her on a horse for jockey John Reid. The episode gains a record audience of 19 million viewers.
  • 21 February – An apparently inebriated Oliver Reed appears on the ITV chat show Aspel & Company, where he stumbles and lurches around the set.
  • 24 February – The sitcom Hardwicke House makes its debut on ITV. The series is badly received by critics and viewers and is cancelled after just two episodes (the second broadcast the following evening). The remaining five episodes of the series have never been transmitted.
  • 26 February – Michael Checkland succeeds Alasdair Milne as Director-General of the BBC.
  • 27 February – The BBC and independent television begins a week of programming aimed at educating people about the AIDS virus. Highlights include AIDS – The Facts on BBC1, a short programme of facts and figures covering frequently asked questions about the disease, and First AIDS, an ITV comedy-sketch programme produced by London Weekend Television and featuring Mike Smith, Jonathan Ross and Emma Freud.



  • 6 April – Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends one of the long running children’s television series in Britain goes to air in Australia for the very first time on ABC.
  • 9 April – BBC1 premieres a new animated series called The Adventures of Spot based on the books by Eric Hill and narrated by Paul Nicholas.
  • 24 April – The Channel 4 music series The Tube is shown for the final time.
  • 25 April –
    • The Australian soap opera Prisoner: Cell Block H makes its debut on Central Television in the Midlands. This is believed by many viewers to be the series debut on British television, but in fact it had been running in the Yorkshire region since 1984. Central were the first region to conclude the series, however, in December 1991.
    • Central becomes the first station to keep its transmitters on air all night when it launches More Central. Programmes are shown into the early hours with the rest of the night filled by its Jobfinder service, which airs from closedown until the start of TV-am.
    • US prime time sitcom ALF gets its first broadcasting on television screens in the UK on ITV.
  • 26 April –
    • Channel 4’s The Tube airs for the last time after five series.
    • After more than 30 years, the final edition of Asian Magazine is broadcast on BBC1.
  • 28 April – After nearly ten years on air, the final edition of the weekly magazine programme aimed at Asian women, Gharbar is broadcast. Both programmes are to be replaced by a new programme later in the year.


  • 1 May – Launch of the late night discussion programme After Dark, airing on Channel 4.
  • 3 May – The first of two series of groundbreaking youth television show Network 7 starts airing on Channel 4. The programme is shown live at Sunday lunchtime.
  • 9 May – Ireland’s Johnny Logan wins the 1987 Eurovision Song Contest with “Hold Me Now“.
  • 10 May – ITV airs Escape from Sobibor, a made-for-television film telling the story of the mass escape from the Sobibór extermination camp during World War II, the most successful uprising by Jewish prisoners of German extermination camps.
  • 22 May–20 June – BBC TV broadcasts coverage of the first Rugby World Cup from Australia and New Zealand. This is the only time that the BBC has screened the tournament.


  • 9 June – Debut of the Tyne Tees produced chart show The Roxy, presented by David Jensen and Kevin Sharkey. The programme is intended as a stablemate for the Independent radio hit parade The Network Chart Show, following a similar format to the BBC’s Top of the Pops, but its Newcastle-upon-Tyne location impinges on its ability to secure live performances. The show also suffers from poor ratings because it does not have a regular slot on the ITV network, and is cancelled in April 1988.
  • 11–12 June – Coverage of the results of the 1987 General Election is broadcast both on BBC1 and ITV.
  • 19 June – Debut of The Grand Knockout Tournament, an It’s a Knockout special featuring members of the British Royal Family alongside sporting and other celebrities. Also known as It’s a Royal Knockout, the event attracts much media derision and is deemed to have been a failure, although it raised £1 million for charity.
  • 22 June – The BBC’s lunchtime children’s programme moves from BBC1 to BBC2. It is shown slightly earlier, at 1.20pm.
  • 29 June – Schools programmes are broadcast on ITV for the last time.


  • 5 July – Watching, Jim Hitchmough‘s comedy about a mismatched couple, and starring Paul Bown and Emma Wray, debuts on ITV.
  • 20 July – ITV’s lunchtime news programme moves to a 12.30pm slot. Consequently, News at One ends after eleven years on air.
  • 25 July – The first edition of a new weekly programme for the Asian community, Network East, is broadcast. It replaces Asian Magazine and Gharbar, which had ended three months earlier.


  • 17 August – Thames/LWT begin 24-hour broadcasting. Anglia also begins 24-hour transmissions at around the same time.
  • 20 August – In the wake of the previous day’s Hungerford massacre in which 16 people were shot dead by gun enthusiast Michael Ryan, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 pull several forthcoming films and programmes containing violence from their schedules. Among them are the 1966 western Nevada Smith, an episode of The Professionals and the 1982 post-apocalyptic film Battletruck. A showing of First Blood is also cancelled.


  • 7 September –
  • 14 September – After 30 years on ITV, ITV Schools moves to Channel 4, allowing ITV to concentrate on building a fully commercial daytime schedule. Consequently, Channel 4’s weekday programming begins at 9.30am (12noon when schools programmes are not being shown).
  • 21 September – As part of Channel 4’s expanded weekday broadcast hours, the first edition of a weekday business and financial news programme Business Daily is broadcast.
  • 26 September – Debut of Going Live!, a Saturday morning magazine show, broadcast on BBC1, and presented by Phillip Schofield and Sarah Greene.
  • 30 September – BBC2 debuts Malcolm McKay‘s screenplay The Interrogation of John, a film concerning the police questioning of a potential murder suspect. Starring Dennis Quilley, Bill Paterson and Michael Fitzgerald, it later forms the first of a three-part series titled A Wanted Man, which further develops the story and airs in 1989.


  • 12 October – BBC1 debuts Going for Gold, a general knowledge quiz presented by Henry Kelly in which contestants from fourteen different European countries compete to become series champion. The winner of the first series, Daphne Hudson (later Daphne Fowler), receives ringside tickets at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, and goes on to become a familiar face on television after appearing in a number of other quizzes, including Fifteen to One and Eggheads.
  • 15 October – During a weather forecast, BBC meteorologist Michael Fish reports “Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way; well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t, but having said that, actually, the weather will become very windy, but most of the strong winds, incidentally, will be down over Spain and across into France.”. Hours later, Britain is hit by the worst storm for 284 years. Fish later drew criticism for the comments, but has since claimed that they referred to Florida, USA, and were linked to a news story immediately preceding the weather bulletin, but had been so widely repeated out of context that the British public remains convinced that he was referring to the approaching storm.
  • 16 October – As a result of the Great Storm of 1987, electrical power to TV-am‘s studios is lost and an emergency programme has to be transmitted from facilities at Thames Television‘s Euston Road centre using reports from TV-am’s own crews and those of ITN, TSW and TVS. The BBC’s Breakfast Time, which would usually come from Lime Grove and was able to broadcast as the studios were without power, as was most of BBC Television Centre at Wood Lane. The early part of the programme was broadcast from the continuity suite at TV Centre usually used for Children’s BBC presentation as this area had generator support, before a larger studio was able to be brought into use.
  • 17 October – First showing on British television of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone on BBC1. This is the first of three films based on Stephen King works to receive their British television debut over three consecutive Saturdays.
  • 24 October – First showing on British television of Stephen King’s Cujo on BBC1.
  • 29 October – British television premiere of the popular Spanish animated television series Around the World with Willy Fog. The 26-part series concludes on 28 April 1988.
  • 30 October – The first edition of Channel 4’s flagship current affairs documentary series Dispatches is broadcast.
  • 31 October – British television premiere of the anthology film, Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye on BBC1.


  • 4–18 November – Damon and Debbie becomes the first ‘soap bubble’. It was a miniseries which took two characters from Brookside into new locations and their own story.
  • 5 November – Veteran television and radio presenter Eamonn Andrews best known for hosting programmes such as World of Sport, What’s My Line? and This Is Your Life dies following heart failure.
  • 11 November – BBC1 airs Paul Hamann’s documentary Fourteen Days in May, a film that recounts the final days before the execution of Edward Earl Johnson, an American prisoner convicted of rape and murder and imprisoned in the Mississippi State Penitentiary.
  • 17 November – Fireman Sam, a children’s television series about a fireman voiced and narrated by John Alderton, debuts on BBC1.
  • 22 November – Final edition of the 1987 run of Play Your Cards Right. The series disappeared from ITV after this date, not returning until March 1994.
  • 23 November – The TV-am strike begins after members of the technicians’ union the ACTT walk out in a dispute over the station’s ‘Caring Christmas Campaign’. What is meant to be a 24-hour stoppage continues for several months when staff are locked out by Managing Director Bruce Gyngell. TV-am is unable to broadcast Good Morning Britain, the regular format is replaced with shows such as Flipper, Batman and Happy Days. By December a skeleton service that sees non-technical staff operating cameras and Gyngell himself directing proceedings, begin to allow Good Morning Britain to start broadcasting again. The strikers are eventually sacked and replaced with non union staff. Viewing figures remain high throughout the disruption, which continues well into 1988, although normal programming gradually resumes. Other ITV stations later follow Gyngell’s example.
  • 25 November – BBC1 airs the first part of Desmond Wilcox‘s two-part documentary The Visit – Coma, a film about 11-year-old Connie, who was left in a coma after being hit by a taxi while on her way home from Christmas shopping in Glasgow. The film follows Connie’s journey as she begins the slow process of recovery. The second part of the documentary airs on 2 December.
  • 28 November – Ventriloquist Jimmy Tamley wins New Faces of ’87, coming just ahead of comedian Joe Pasquale, who is second.
  • November – Tyne Tees begins 24-hour broadcasting. It does so by launching a Jobfinder service which broadcasts each night from its usual close-down time until the start of TV-am at 6 am.


December – Thamesside TV, an unlicensed TV station set up by Thameside Radio, goes on air in the same city. There were only two known broadcasts in December 1987.

13 December – The Singing Detective is sold to Australia, where it is shown on ABC.

25 December –

31 December –

  • In an unusual move for a pre-recorded television series, the Chimes of Big Ben are integrated into an episode of EastEnders on BBC1. Character Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) brought a television into the bar of the Queen Vic, ‘watched’ the chimes in their entirety, and the episode resumed.
  • BBC2 airs a five hour Whistle Test special to welcome in 1988. The special, aired from 9.35pm on New Year’s Eve to 2.55am on New Year’s Day, takes a look back through the archives in what is the programme’s final outing. It will be three decades later in 2018 before a new edition of the programme is broadcast.

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