In Focus 1989

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1989 (MCMLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1989th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 989th year of the 2nd millennium, the 89th year of the 20th century, and the 10th and last year of the 1980s decade.

1989 was a turning point in political history because a wave of revolutions swept the Eastern Bloc in Europe, starting in Poland and Hungary, with experiments in power sharing, coming to a head with the opening of the Berlin Wall in November, and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, embracing the overthrow of the communist dictatorship in Romania in December, and ending in December 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Collectively known as the Revolutions of 1989.

It was the year of the first Brazilian presidential elections in 29 years, since the end of the military government in 1985 which commanded the country for more than twenty years, and marked the redemocratization process’s final point.

F. W. de Klerk was elected in South Africa, and his regime gradually dismantled the Apartheid system over the next five years, culminating with the 1994 election that brought jailed ANC leader Nelson Mandela to power.

In contrast, the year saw the violent suppression of mass political protest in China, in June. The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 ended with a military crackdown resulting in the deaths of a number of protesters.

The first commercial Internet service providers surfaced in this year,[1][2] as well as the first written proposal for the World Wide Web and New Zealand, Japan and Australia’s first Internet connections. The first babies born after preimplantation genetic diagnosis were conceived in late 1989, starting the era of designer babies.

1989 marked the beginning of the current Heisei period in Japan. It is also the latest year, when written in Roman numerals, to have an L.


Music in Focus


The very beginning of the year saw compilation albums excluded from the UK Albums Chart, and spun off into the new UK Compilations Chart from the week commencing 8 January 1989. Albums such as the Now series had regularly dominated the chart since 1983, with often up to 4 of the Number 1s each year being hit compilations. Now 13 was knocked off the top spot of the albums chart as a result of this new implementation.

In the UK Singles Chart, eighteen singles reached number one. The first was a duet between teen idols Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, “Especially for You”, which had narrowly missed out on being 1988’s Christmas number one single. The two would continue their success throughout the year, with Minogue getting her third number one single; “Hand on Your Heart” in May followed by “Wouldn’t Change a Thing” which peaked at No.2 in August, “Never Too Late” peaked at No.4 in October, and then her second number one album, Enjoy Yourself came in November. Donovan fared even better getting two number one singles (“Too Many Broken Hearts” in March, and “Sealed With a Kiss” in June) and one album (Ten Good Reasons in May). The two enjoyed a highly publicised romance throughout the year until Minogue ended the relationship and began dating Michael Hutchence from the band INXS.

Like many artists this year, Minogue and Donovan were produced by Stock Aitken Waterman, who were at the peak of their popularity in 1989. This year saw the production team re-launch Donna Summer’s ailing career, and she scored her first Top 10 hit for 10 years with “This Time I Know it’s For Real” which made Number 3 and followed it up with two more Top 20 hits (“I Don’t Wanna Get Hurt” and “Love’s About To Change My Heart”) all from her album “Another Place and Time”, written and produced entirely by the trio. Also, The Reynolds Girls and Sonia both got the Stock Aitken Waterman treatment with their top 10 singles “I’d Rather Jack” by the much derided The Reynolds Girls, which reached No.8 in March, and “You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You” by Sonia which got to No.1 in July. Big Fun kick-started their short-lived pop career with a Stock Aitken Waterman produced cover of “Blame it on the Boogie” which got to No.5.

After a break the previous year, Madonna returned to Number 1 for the sixth time in March with “Like a Prayer”, though the music video caused controversy. Her album, from which this was the title track, also topped the charts and became one of her most critically acclaimed worldwide. The single was followed by 3 further Top 5 hits in 1989; “Express Yourself” (No.5), “Cherish” (No.3) and “Dear Jessie” which peaked at No.5 over the Christmas period, becoming a big seller, selling over 250,000 copies.

May saw The Christians, Holly Johnson, Paul McCartney, Gerry Marsden and producers Stock Aitken Waterman reach No. 1 with a charity cover of the Gerry & The Pacemakers song “Ferry Cross the Mersey”, released in aid of the Hillsborough disaster the previous month. The original reached number 8 in 1964.

Two sounds dominated the Summer and Autumn. The first came from Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers, where several old songs from the 1940s to 1960s were joined together to create a megamix, with ‘Jive Bunny’ (an animated rabbit) featuring in the music videos. “Swing the Mood” topped the charts for five weeks from July, “That’s What I Like” for three weeks in October, and “Let’s Party” for one week in December. Unlike the first two, the latter sampled Christmas songs from the 1970s and 1980s. Jive Bunny became the third artist ever to have their first three singles reach number one, after Gerry & The Pacemakers and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

The second was the italo house sound of Black Box, whose “Ride On Time” was the biggest-selling single of the year, and, at six weeks, spent the longest time at number one. Though the song heavily sampled Loleatta Holloway’s “Love Sensation” from 1980, the music video featured a different singer miming to Holloway’s vocals. This prompted legal action, so later pressings of the single featured a different singer – the then little-known Heather Small, who later went on to massive fame as the lead single of M People in the 1990s. The same production team behind Black Box also reached No.9 under the group name Starlight with the hit single “Numero Uno”. The italio house sound continued with Top 10s from Mixmaster “Grand Piano” and FPI Project went to No.9 with their version of “Going Back to mMy Roots/Rich in Paradise”.

Along with italo, the House music genre was still going strong in 1989. Inner City released numerous house hits during the year which all entered the Top 40, the biggest being “Good Life”, which reached No.4 in January. Coldcut introduced Lisa Stansfield with her debut single “People Hold On”, which reached No.11 in May and stayed in the Top 75 for 9 weeks. This was followed by her first solo hit, “This Is The Right Time” which hit No.13, but in October, she made it all the way to the top with “All Around The World” which stayed at No.1 for two weeks.

The Rebel MC created a second wave house craze in October 1989 with his No.2 hit “Street Tuff”, and from Belgium, genre-defining Technotronic stormed to No.2 in November with their huge debut hit “Pump Up The Jam”. Like Black Box, there was minor controversy over who was the actual singer of the track. The label officially credited French model Felly as the vocalist (who also appeared in the video), however, it was in fact American rapper Ya Kid K providing all the vocals. A third scandal involving credited vocalists also continued this year with the duo Milli Vanilli who hit the headlines when it was revealed that neither of them had performed vocals on any of their debut singles, including this year’s No.2 smash from November, “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You”.

The teen-sensations of 1988, Bros, lost momentum and a band member this year, so a new boyband took their title and from the United States came New Kids on the Block and they soon became the latest pop sensations in Britain. Their debut single “Hangin’ Tough” initially stalled early in the summer, but it was the follow-up “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” that went straight in at No. 1 in the Autumn. It would stay there for three weeks, paving the way for a re-release of “Hangin’ Tough” in January 1990, and the multi-platinum success of their debut album of the same name.

The year’s Christmas number 1 single, and, indeed, the final number 1 of the 1980s, went to a new version of 1984’s Christmas number 1 “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. Unsurprisingly, it was produced by Stock Aitken Waterman, Band Aid II, like the original Band Aid, featured numerous famous music stars of the day, including both Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan giving them the credit as appearing on both the first and last number one singles of the year. Donovan would also achieve the honour of the biggest selling album of the year with his “Ten Good Reasons” album going multi-platinum before the end of the year.

One of the highlights of the Proms was the première of John Tavener’s The Protecting Veil, performed by Steven Isserlis and the London Symphony Orchestra. Two new works by John McCabe were also premièred during the year: Sam Variations for violin, viola, cello, doublebass and piano, commissioned and performed by the Schubert Ensemble of London, and String Quartet No 5, performed by the Gabrieli Quartet at the Fishguard Festival. A choral work by McCabe’s, Proud Songsters, was written to celebrate the 70th birthday of Stephen Wilkinson.

8 January – Compilation albums are moved from the UK Albums Chart into the new UK Compilation Chart.
14 January – Paul McCartney releases Снова в СССР (Back in the USSR) exclusively in the USSR.
9 April – The Rolling Stones' Bill Wyman announces that he will marry 19-year-old Mandy Smith, his girlfriend for six years.
23 July – Former Beatle Ringo Starr forms his own band named Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band.


Number 1 Singles in 1989


DateArtist/sTitleLabelWeeks At #1
7th JanuaryKylie Minogue & Jason DonovanEspecially For YouPWL3
28th JanuaryMarc Almond & Gene PitneySomethings Gotten Hold Of My Heart4
25th FebruarySimple MindsBelfast ChildVirgin2
11th MarchJason DonovanToo Many Broken HeartsPWL2
25th MarchMadonnaLike A PrayerSire3
15th AprilBanglesEternal Flame4
13th MayKylie MinogueHand On Your HeartPWL1
20th MayFerry AidFerry ‘.Cross The Mersey3
10th JuneJason DonovanSealed With A KissPWL2
24th JuneSoul 2 Soul Featuring Caron WheelerBack To Life (However Do You Want Me)4
22nd JulySoniaYou’ll Never Stop Me Loving YouPWL2
5th AugustJive BunnySwing The Mood5
9th SeptemberBlack BoxRide On Time6
21st OctoberJive BunnyThat’s What I Like3
11th NovemberLisa StansfieldAll Around The World2
25th NovemberNew Kids On The BlockYou got It (The Right Stuff)3
16th DecemberJive BunnyLet’s Party1
23rd DecemberBand Aid 2Do They Know It’s ChristmasPWL3


Best selling Singles of 1989


PositionArtist/sTitleHighest PositionWeeks At #1
1Black BoxRide On Time15
2Jive Bunny & The MastermixersSwing The Mood15
3BanglesEternal Flame14
4Jason DonovanToo Many Broken Hearts12
5Soul 2 SoulBack To Life14
6Marc Almond & Gene PitneySomethings Gotten hold Of My Heart14
7Jive Bunny & The MastermixersThat’s What I Like13
8TechnotronicPump Up The Jam2n/a
9Band Aid 2Do They Know It’s Christmas13
10MadonnaLike A Prayer13


Best selling Albums of 1989


1Jason DonovanTen Good Reasons
2Simply RedA New Flame
3Phil Collins?But Seriously
4Gloria EstefanAnything For You
5Gloria EstefanCuts Both Ways
6Kylie MinogueEnjoy Yourself
7MadonnaLike A Prayer
8Fine Young CannibalsThe Raw And The Cooked
9Tina TurnerForeign Affair
10Chris ReaThe Road To Hell


Movies of 1989



Television of 1989




  • February – Anglia and Central Television reschedule Emmerdale Farm to 7 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • 5 February – The world’s first commercial DBS system, Sky Television, goes on air.
  • 11 February – Australian soap Home and Away makes its British television debut on ITV.
  • 12 February – ITV launches its Find a Family campaign to find permanent homes for youngsters in care.
  • 13 February – The ITV national weather bulletin is launched.
  • 14 February – Debut of Channel 4‘s Out on Tuesday, the UK’s first weekly magazine programme for gay and lesbian viewers. Later changing its name to Out, the programme aired for four series before being axed in 1992.
  • 23 February – Some 23 million viewers tune in to watch the exit of the hugely popular character Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) from EastEnders. Grantham filmed his final scenes in the show in the autumn of 1988 but his exit was delayed into 1989 to avoid the show suffering the double blow of losing Den so soon after his former wife Angie (Anita Dobson) exited in April 1988. The character falls into a canal after being shot, but the character’s exact fate is left unconfirmed.
  • 25 February – The long-awaited WBA Heavyweight title fight between Britain’s Frank Bruno and America’s Mike Tyson is held at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. Because of the time difference between Britain and the United States, the fight is televised in the UK in the early hours of 26 February. Tyson wins after the referee stops the bout in the fifth round.


  • 2 March –
    • First transmission of My Brother David, an edition of the BBC2 schools series Scene in which Simon Scarboro talks about the life of his brother, David Scarboro, who originally played the EastEnders character Mark Fowler, and who fell to his death from Beachy Head in 1988. The programme is repeated again on 19 June for a general audience as part of BBC2’s DEF II strand.
    • After much publicity, a two-minute advert for Pepsi featuring Madonna‘s single “Like a Prayer” is shown during a commercial break on ITV, 12 minutes into The Bill.
  • 6 March – Debut of the three-part ITV drama Winners and Losers starring Leslie Grantham; the series is Grantham’s first post-EastEnders role.
  • 10 March – On the second Red Nose Day, BBC1 airs the eight hour telethon, A Night of Comic Relief 2.
  • 15 March – BBC1 airs John’s Not Mad, an edition of the QED documentary strand that shadowed John Davidson, a 15-year-old from Galashiels in Scotland, with severe Tourette syndrome. The film explores John’s life in terms of his family and the close-knit community around him, and how they all cope with a misunderstood condition.
  • 31 March – The last Oracle on View transmission takes place on Channel 4.





  • 10 July –
    • The first edition of the music magazine programme The O-Zone airs on BBC1.
    • ITV introduces a second daily showing of Home and Away.
  • 12 July – A special edition of Question Time from Paris, France, is the last to be chaired by Robin Day. Panellists on the programme are Leon Brittan, Chantal Cuer, Denis Healey and Yvette Roudy.
  • 19 July – The BBC programme Panorama accuses Shirley Porter, Conservative Leader of Westminster City Council, of gerrymandering.
  • 25 July – ITV airs “Don’t Like Mondays”, an episode of The Bill featuring a storyline in which several characters are caught up in a bank robbery. The episode sees the exit of PC Pete Ramsey (played by Nick Reding), who is shot in the chest by one of the robbers while protecting a colleague. The fate of the character is left unresolved.
  • 30 July – Sky Channel is rebranded as Sky One, and confines its broadcasting to Britain and Ireland.


  • 18–20 August – Michael Aspel presents Murder Weekend, a five-part televised murder mystery for ITV. The series, devised and written by Joy Swift sees celebrities attempting to solve a murder, with viewers also invited to identify the suspect.
  • 25 August – Rupert Murdoch delivers the MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival in which he launches an attack on the narrow elitism within the British television industry.
  • 27 August – Launch date of the first Marcopolo Satellite, which will serve as a platform for British Satellite Broadcasting.
  • 28 August–3 September – BBC1 airs News ’39, a week of news-style programmes presented by Sue Lawley, marking the 50th anniversary of the start of World War II. Each edition is presented in news bulletin format, reporting on events as if they were occurring in the present.


  • 1 September – The first ITV generic look is introduced.
  • 3 September – BBC1 broadcasts the television film Bomber Harris, a drama based on the life of Arthur Harris, and starring John Thaw in the epinimus role.
  • 10 September – BBC1 debuts Screen One, an anthology of one off dramas. The first film is One Way Out, directed by Mick Ford, and starring Bob Peck, Denis Lawson, Samantha Bond and Enn Reitel.
  • 13 September – The BBC is accused of censorship after banning an interview with Simon Hayward, a former Captain of the Life Guards who spent several years in a Swedish prison after a drug smuggling conviction, just hours before he is due to appear on the Wogan show. The decision, taken by BBC1 Controller Jonathan Powell followed protests from several MPs. The BBC says the subject is not appropriate for a family programme, but will be discussed on other shows.
  • 14 September –
    • Peter Sissons takes over as presenter of Question Time as the series returns after its summer break.
    • For the first time ever, children’s stop motion animated series Postman Pat is transmitted on television in Ireland on Network 2 as part of Dempsey’s Den. Animated series for preschoolers The Adventures of Spot also begins airing on Network 2 on the same day and month with an Irish language being dubbed called Echtrai Bhrain.
  • 25 September – BBC2 airs The Interrogation of John, Malcolm McKay‘s 1987 screenplay, starring Dennis Quilley, Bill Paterson and Michael Fitzgerald. The film, about the police questioning of a murder suspect and first shown in 1987, now forms the first of a three-part series titled A Wanted Man, which further develops the story. The second part of the trilogy, The Secret, airs on 27 September, while Shoreland concludes the series on 28 September.
  • 26 September – Debut of Capital City, a series about investment bankers produced by Euston Films for Thames Television. Thames spend an estimated £500,000 to run newspaper and billboard advertisements to promote the series’ launch, believed at the time to be the largest advertising spend for a program in the history of ITV. Full-page advertisements are taken in six national newspapers including the Financial Times, The Times and The Independent, promoting Shane-Longman, the fictitious company of the series, and featuring images of cast members in character.



  • 1 November – ITV airs One Day in the Life of Television, a documentary filmed by 50 camera crews looking behind-the-scenes of British television on 1 November 1988.
  • 2 November – The final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, “Goodbyeee” is broadcast on BBC1. With one of the most moving endings ever seen on British television, it is broadcast nine days before Armistice Day.
  • 9 November – The last episode of Emmerdale Farm to air under its original title.
  • 14 November – Yorkshire Television soap Emmerdale Farm changes its name to Emmerdale after 17 years.
  • 16 November – Debut of Tony Robinson‘s well known children’s comedy series Maid Marian and Her Merry Men.
  • 19 November–26 November – Prince Caspian becomes the second Narnia book to be aired as a television serial by the BBC in two parts.
  • 21 November – Television coverage of proceedings in the House of Commons begins.
  • 22 November – The Stone Roses are invited to appear on BBC2’s The Late Show. During their performance the electricity is cut off by noise limiting circuitry, prompting singer Ian Brown to shout “Amateurs, amateurs” as presenter Tracey MacLeod tries to link into the next item.
  • 25 November – Helen Sharman is selected as the first Britain to travel into space in a live programme aired by ITV. She was one of 13,000 people to apply for the chance to become an astronaut after responding to a radio advertisement, and journeys to the Mir space station in 1991.


3 December–24 December – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, another Narnia story, is aired as a four-part serial by the BBC.

4 December – ITV airs the 3000th episode of Coronation Street.

6 December – The last episode of the 26-year original run of Doctor Who, Part 3 of Survival, is broadcast on BBC1. The show would not resume regular airing for 16 years, with the only new material during this time being an American telemovie in 1996.

8 December – Alan Bradley (Mark Eden) is fatally run over by a Blackpool tram on Coronation Street, getting the programme’s biggest ever audience at almost 27 million viewers, a record that remains to this day.

24 December – ITV airs the original television film adaptation of Susan Hill‘s novella The Woman in Black.

25 December –

26 December – Boxing Day highlights on ITV include the network television premieres of Return of the Jedi and Ruthless People.

29 December – Deirdre Barlow confronts her husband Ken on Coronation Street before throwing him out, ending their decade-long television marriage.

31 December –

  • BBC1 says goodbye to the 1980s with Clive James on the 80s, a special two-hour programme reviewing the decade.
  • BBC2 has its own review of the 1980s, with The Late Show Eighties, featuring highlights of 1980s rock music.
  • Animated television special Granpa based on a book by veteran English children’s author and illustrator John Burningham and produced by John Coates and directed by Dianne Jackson best for working on the British animated Christmas special The Snowman is shown on Channel 4 at 6:30 pm.


  • The controversial Broadcasting Bill is introduced into Parliament by the Government. It will pave the way for the deregulation of commercial television.
  • A hearing at the Appeal Court upholds the broadcasting ban.

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