Feb 10

Popular ’86

FT + Popular/75 comments • 2,226 views

AND ABOUT BLOODY TIME. Finally finished 1986 – I know there’ve been slower years but this one really has dragged – thanks for yr patience. Here’s a poll, and add your usual lists, reminiscences, discussions of the year etc in the comments box. As ever this is where YOU get your chance to say which tracks you’d have given 6 out of 10 or more to.

Which of the Number Ones of 1986 Would You Have Given 6 Or More To?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

Loading ... Loading ...

My highest marks this year were 9s for “West End Girls” and “Papa Don’t Preach”, my lowest a brace of 1s for Nick Berry and the Horned Beast of County Wexford.


1 2 All
  1. 26
    Billy Smart on 3 Feb 2010 #

    Here is the ‘phantom’ number one of 1986, that topped the NME chart, but not the BBC one;

    David Bowie – Absolute Beginners (1 week)

  2. 27
    Tom on 3 Feb 2010 #

    That would have been a decent shout for an 8+

  3. 28
    Mark M on 4 Feb 2010 #

    Re 5/19/21 etc – what we’re talking about here might the ‘real hip hop’ argument, which runs roughly: hip hop was invented in the Bronx by DJs cutting up bits of old funk, rock, whatever, and then you had somebody rapping over the top. This is followed by rap on vinyl (Sugarhill Gang et al), which is essentially a discofied distortion of Kool Herc’s invention. Then Run DMC do Sucker MCs, and proper hip hop is recorded for the first time, and everything else flows on from that, so that you get a great rupture with, say, The Show representing the end of one era and Roxanne’s Revenge the start of the next.

    It’s obviously a horribly, horribly flawed theory, but it draws some strength from the fact that plenty of people who liked Rapper’s Delight White Lines would’ve been deeply bewildered by PSK or Rock The Bells – it’s a somewhat different beast, isn’t it?

  4. 29
    Mark M on 4 Feb 2010 #

    No doubt it’s a product of having been 15/16 in 1986, but god I love so much of this stuff, from the Soup Dragons to Gwen Guthrie, BAD to Schoolly, Cameo to the Band of Holy Joy… and I much prefer the two Elvis Costello albums from this year to his earlier, more revered work.

  5. 30
    Billy Smart on 4 Feb 2010 #

    Koo! E=Mc2 – What an absolutely FANTASTIC record. So much more than a list song, more a love song about the power of imagination.

  6. 31
    swanstep on 4 Feb 2010 #

    Woo, these broader lists for 1986 make it look pretty darned good: on the one hand Elvis C. going great guns, Smiths regnant and Bragg in his pomp, and on the other hand Prince, Cameo, Run DMC, and Janet Jackson. Sundry others too of course and the great thrash-metal that isn’t on any of the lists…But put it all together, and there are a hell of a lot of keepers that I still listen to a lot, and that have really been part of pop’s DNA ever since. Word Up, Greetings to the New Brunette, Tokyo Storm Warning, Kiss, There’s a Light, Master of Puppets, Walk this Way, Venus FTW.

  7. 32
    taDOW on 4 Feb 2010 #

    voted 6 on uk list – falco, psb, jackie wilson, madonna (pdp), a-ha, berlin (probably rank them in that order)

    would’ve voted 16(!) on the us list – falco, prince, madonna (ltt), bananarama, janet, bangles woulda gotten 8 or higher

  8. 33
    taDOW on 4 Feb 2010 #

    love the face giving proper respect to michael mcdonald’s ‘sweet freedom’

  9. 34
    Lex on 4 Feb 2010 #

    I’ve just realised that Prince has never had a UK No 1 – what the actual fuck! (And neither has Janet Jackson! UK public what were you playing at.)

  10. 35
    glue_factory on 4 Feb 2010 #

    Re:20, my perception is that although early house had advocates in certain djs and journalists (Jazzy M, Simon Witter…) the average style-mag reading, DM and MA-1 wearing club-goer, and probably many of the Face’s other journalists, were very much passing it over in favour of rare-groove and whatever the latest release on Def Jam was. I’d imagine the list reflects that.

    Although to me there’s very much a continuum between this era of house and what would happen later on, I find that for a lot of people, modern-dance music only really begins in 88. This is bourne out by all the articles that begin with Ibiza and Acid House, or even by the fact that I don’t seem to have ever really heard anything like Move Your Body by Marshall Jefferson, House Nation or our next bunny-embargoed track in a club. I’m not if that’s because people genuinely don’t like this stuff (too slow!) or there’s another reason for it.

    All of which is probably a discussion for the next number 1 and not here :-)

  11. 36
    Tom on 4 Feb 2010 #

    #34 er yes he has – have another look at 1994.

  12. 37
    Lex on 4 Feb 2010 #

    Oh yeah, I actually remember that one too – weirdly Everyhit doesn’t bring it up, I guess that’s when he was using the symbol.

  13. 38
    wichita lineman on 4 Feb 2010 #

    Yes, everyhit lists it as (symbol) I think

  14. 39
    swanstep on 4 Feb 2010 #

    Well done UK public tho’ for getting Prince’s brilliant but v. naughty Sexy MF to #4 in 1992. That track blew the roof off the joint at parties in the US as I recall, but I don’t remember hearing it on the radio. Checking now, I see it didn’t go top 40 in the US, and it actually did worse on the rnb charts than on the general ones!

  15. 40
    Tom on 4 Feb 2010 #

    Not sure there’s ever been as big a voting gap between the top record and the rest here.

    Lurkers be hatin’ George Michael though!

  16. 41
    Erithian on 4 Feb 2010 #

    And, sadly , for the last time I noted down this particular list off the radio, Radio 1’s list of the top 30 best sellers of the year:

    1 Don’t Leave Me This Way
    2 Every Loser Wins (incredibly)
    3 I Want To Wake Up With You
    4 Living Doll
    5 Ch(a)in Reaction
    6 The Lady in Red
    7 When The Going Gets Tough The Tough Get Going
    8 Papa Don’t Preach
    9 Take My Breath Away
    10 So Macho – Sinitta (2)
    11 True Blue
    12 A Different Corner
    13 Rock Me Amadeus
    14 We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off – Jermaine Stewart (2)
    15 Spirit in the Sky
    16 The Final Countdown
    17 Reet Petite
    18 Rain or Shine – Five Star (2)
    19 Caravan of Love
    20 The Chicken Song
    21 The Sun Always Shines On TV
    22 On My Own – Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald (2)
    23 Walk Like An Egyptian – Bangles (3)
    24 In The Army Now – Status Quo (2)
    25 Lessons in Love – Level 42 (3)
    26 The Glory of Love – Peter Cetera (3)
    27 The Edge of Heaven
    28 Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel (4)
    29 All I Ask Of You – Cliff Richard & Sarah Brightman (3)
    30 Touch Me (I Want Your Body) – Samantha Fox (3)

  17. 42
    thefatgit on 4 Feb 2010 #

    16 and 24 on that list both covered by Laibach.

  18. 43
    Steve Mannion on 4 Feb 2010 #

    I was stunned when I first saw The Face ’86 tunes list last year with The Source included, then found out the whole story behind ‘You Got The Love’. Remarkable and a pity it just missed the top spot 4 years later (a slightly different version tho it may have been).

  19. 44
    thefatgit on 4 Feb 2010 #

    @43…yes the song has been around for quite a long time. Candi Staton recorded the original gospel track some years before. The backtrack was a lift from Electra’s “Feels Good(Carrots and Beets)”, (a track cited as a major influence on the shape of early house music) which I believe was a mainstay of the Italo Disco scene. The version which charted around ’91 was mixed by DJ Eren (although the credits go to The Source on the record).

  20. 45
    Steve Mannion on 4 Feb 2010 #

    to clarify, this was the ’86 version as listed by The Face right?


    I remember they actually started playing this version on Capital just after the Eren remix hit charts.

    But Frankie Knuckles (or was it Paul Simpson?) put the acapella over ‘Your Love’ in 88/89?


    Before the DJ Eren mix surfaced a year or two later. Followed by numerous inferior versions thereafter.

  21. 46
    wichita lineman on 4 Feb 2010 #

    Speaking of Italy, those 1986 no.1s:

    Arcadia – Election Day
    A-Ha – Take On Me
    Via Verdi – Diamond
    Eros Ramazzotti – Adesso Tu
    Joe Cocker – You Can Leave Your Hat On
    Madonna – Live To Tell (10 weeks)
    Tracy Spencer – Run To Me
    Madonna – Papa Don’t Preach
    Spagna – Easy Lady
    Gianna Nannini – Bello e Impossibile
    Duran Duran – Notorious
    Europe – The Final Countdown

  22. 47
    Steve Mannion on 4 Feb 2010 #

    ‘Easy Lady’ is actually not bad. I’ve not heard the other Italians in there (er, not including Madonna).

  23. 48
    AndyPandy on 4 Feb 2010 #

    Back pre-1988 although your mainstream High street discos played a bit of out and out pop music a lot of the stuff played even in these places (at least since the days of disco) was dance-y stuff you’d never hear on the radio (aside from the pirates) and either didn’t feature in the charts at all or only in the positions 41-75.With the occasional track on the back of club play only and despite the radio ‘embargo’emerging to become a big pop hit.

    In 1986/87 house was originally just looked on as a more starkly electronic version of the disco-ey funk that you’d hear in the average mainstream club surrounding the blatant pop.

    Some of the more adventurous djs in the specialist funk/soul/hiphop clubs would drop a bit and it started to appear amongst the standard stuff on the pirates too. Although Jazzy M had the first house only show other tracks could still be heard on more old style shows occasionally. But if you wanted to hear it in a club environment you just went to you mainstream club and you could guarantee hearing something like “Jack Your Body”, or something by Raze, Nitro Deluxe, Jack n Chill, House Engineers etc.

    But by mid-1987 after the initial influx of house hits it did begin to look like as far as the UK was concerned it had just been the latest dance craze – now on the wane.

    It was only the a certain set of circumstances the next year that made it the progenitor of so much more.

    Paradoxically despite my point above about mainstream clubs.
    1986/87 was also the time when in this country Afro-Caribbeans still made up a significant proportion of its listeners (via the pirates and inner city blacks dominated clubs) – I had first hand experience of this through a black bloke I worked with at the time who used to go on about “Let’s Get Brutal” when I still knew it only as the commercial UK 12 inch I had called “This Brutal House” (bloody hell did I think that one was an extreme track at the time!).

    Aside from a few djs and an influx with Hardcore for some reason British blacks were virtually uninterested by the time Acid House started in 1988.

  24. 49
    swanstep on 5 Feb 2010 #

    @Andypandy. My sense at the time was that House was just too minimalist, not musical enough for most people. If you specifically liked being part of underground scenes that would never grow then it was for you (and for no one else) was the basic vibe. A lot of people, myself included, quite liked the more ‘ominous’ end of House (Adonis ‘No way back’, Hercules “7 ways’) because of the extra attention it gave the vocals, but the mega-trendy House clubs and parties of 1987 seemed to go out of their way to not play this stuff, and instead played only the most monotonous things for hours. If you were there in a group, it was simply a nightmare – the least adventurous person would throw a fit if they had to listen to this s**t for more than 5 minutes. You know the drill. The early House wave burned a lot of people like this in my experience. A certain sort of club music didn’t want interlopers, and the interlopers took the hint… Vaguely relatedly, I’ve found this mix-tape blog fantastic for filling in my own (vast!) gaps in dance/club music knowledge (i.e., wanna get a basic backgrounder on ambient jungle? on happy hard-core? And so on. It’s there.).

  25. 50
    LondonLee on 5 Feb 2010 #

    My preference was for the other end of the House spectrum, the more blatantly disco stuff I guess you’d call it – ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ blew me away but I never really loved ‘Baby Wants A Ride’ and, as you said, a lot of those really early Trax releases were very primitive.

  26. 51
    swanstep on 5 Feb 2010 #

    Here’s the useful mixtape blog link again (working this time I hope).

  27. 52
    thefatgit on 5 Feb 2010 #

    swanstep…what a great site! I shall be dipping in regularly.

  28. 53
    glue_factory on 5 Feb 2010 #

    Thanks swanstep/Londonlee/Andypandy, although I was a big fan of this era of stuff, I was a shy, non-club-going, 17-year old, listening to my House Sound Of Chicago box set in my bedroom, somewhat divorced from how the music was enjoyed/consumed in the wider world. It’s interesting to get a bigger picture.

  29. 54
    rob on 5 Feb 2010 #

    Don’t know where else to post this, but just wanted to say, Tom, that I just read your latest Poptimist piece. Another brilliant piece of writing. Great stuff.


  30. 55
    Tom on 5 Feb 2010 #

    Thanks Rob!

    Loving the house discussion on here – I was really hoping to spark a bit more with the next entry but it’s not going to happen this side of next week, I’m afraid: I’m writing a conference paper, already overdue, and it’s slow going…

  31. 56
    Rory on 11 Feb 2010 #

    Here were Australia’s number ones for 1986, some of which were UK hits in 1985 and one which arrived here in 1987.

    Midnight Oil, Species Deceases (EP), 6 weeks (2 in 1986)
    Starship, “We Built This City”, 2 weeks
    Whitney Houston, “Saving All My Love for You”, 2 weeks
    Feargal Sharkey, “A Good Heart”, 2 weeks
    Dionne Warwick with Gladys Knight, Elton John & Stevie Wonder, “That’s What Friends Are For”, 1 week
    Billy Ocean, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going”, 6 weeks
    Diana Ross, “Chain Reaction”, 3 weeks
    Cliff Richard and The Young Ones, “Living Doll”, 6 weeks
    Robert Palmer, “Addicted to Love”, 2 weeks
    Samantha Fox, “Touch Me (I Want Your Body)”, 3 weeks
    Whitney Houston, “Greatest Love of All”, 1 week
    Madonna, “Papa Don’t Preach”, 6 weeks
    Bananarama, “Venus”, 7 weeks
    John Farnham, “You’re the Voice”, 7 weeks
    Pseudo Echo, “Funkytown”, 7 weeks (2 in 1986)

    Robert Palmer, Bananarama and John Farnham are the most noteworthy differences, and Samantha Fox’s single could also have made for a good Popular discussion around ’80s tabloids and the page three phenomenon. (One of our local record reviewers at the time: “Why does Samantha Fox want my body? She seems to have a perfectly adequate one of her own.”)

    But if I were to name one single that encapsulated 1986 for me it would be the Waterboys’ “The Whole of the Moon”, which was first released in late 1985 in the UK and reached number 12 in Australia in 1986. It instantly brings back memories of sitting in the Sound Lounge of the student union during my first year at uni, a place where I discovered all sorts of weird stuff in its tape collection. (A lot of ’70s prog, mainly, which mercifully didn’t take.) The twelve-inch singles of that and Midnight Oil’s “The Dead Heart” were two treasured purchases that year.

    That “The Whole of the Moon” wouldn’t chart strongly in the UK until five years later says something about how out-of-step my tastes were becoming with your and our charts. Apart from the Pet Shop Boys, a-ha and “Living Doll”, I don’t own any of the 1986 UK number ones (“Papa Don’t Preach” might be buried on a tape from a friend somewhere, but Madonna has largely been a blind spot for me, with one or two exceptions). Nonetheless, I seem to have given 6 or more to eight of them – all of those plus George Michael, Falco, Berlin and Jackie Wilson – which seems too generous for what felt like a dud year at the top, then and now.

  32. 57
    Erithian on 11 Feb 2010 #

    Was “The Whole Of The Moon” the only hit record to refer (albeit obliquely and in one line) to the appearance of Halley’s Comet? Halley (or rather Haley) and Comets are resonant names in pop for obvious reasons, but the real Halley’s Comet itself put in an appearance in the skies in early 1986 (and won’t be back until 2061, thanks Wiki).

  33. 58
    Tom on 11 Feb 2010 #

    “The Whole Of The Moon” – and that whole album – was definitely the breakout hit of 1986 at my new school: about the only contemporary record to cut through the Dylan and ELP (!!??:):)) the older boys played.

    I quite like TWOTM but have always found the Waterboys a bit too wide-eyed.

  34. 59
    Tom on 11 Feb 2010 #

    Blimey 17 votes for Chris De Burgh!

  35. 60
    Rory on 11 Feb 2010 #

    Obliquely indeed, Erithian. A couple of pages about Halley’s-related songs here and here, for some definition of “hit”. Shinedown’s “Second Chance” seems the biggest, but arrived 22 years late.

    Re the Waterboys, I didn’t get much further than the single either; the parent album is okay, but Fisherman’s Blues didn’t really float my boat.

  36. 61
    Billy Smart on 11 Feb 2010 #

    ‘Halley’s Comet’ by Chas & Dave sadly failed to trouble the Top 100 in 1986. Which is probably why I’ve never heard it.

  37. 62
    swanstep on 13 Feb 2010 #

    The Smiths released Meat Is Murder 25 years ago today (14 February 1986). Stereogum has a story. ‘Well I wonder’ gets the most attention from reminiscers…

  38. 63
    Rory on 13 Feb 2010 #

    Um, one for the Popular ’85 thread, swanstep?

  39. 64
    swanstep on 14 Feb 2010 #

    @Rory. Oops, yes you are right: released 14 February *1985*. I won’t bother reposting.

    Note that the 25th ann. of the release of the Go-betweens’ Tallulah must be sometime in the next few weeks. That record had a nuclear impact on a generation of smartie undergrads down under…

  40. 65
    swanstep on 14 Feb 2010 #

    Whoops again! In-Popular-time, it’s the 25th ann. of Tallulah’s release in the next few weeks. In the real world that would of course be in 2012. I’ll shut up now.

  41. 66
    Billy Smart on 9 May 2010 #

    NME readers’ poll for 1986;

    1. The Smiths – Panic
    2. Prince – Kisss
    3. The The – Heartland
    4. The Smiths – Ask
    5. Billy Bragg – Levi Stubbs’ Tears
    6. The Housemartins – Happy Hour
    7. The Jesus & Mary Chain – Some Candy Talking
    8. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – I Want You
    9. Sonic Youth – Into The Groovey
    10. The Age Of Chance – Kiss
    11. The Shop Assistants – Safety Net
    12. Cameo – Word Up
    13. The Smiths – Bigmouth Strikes Again
    14. The Fall – Mr Pharmacist
    15. Primal Scream – Velocity Girl
    16. PiL – Rise
    17. Julian Cope – World Shut Your Mouth
    18. Run DMC – Walk This Way
    19. Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
    20. The Weather Prophets – Almost Prayed

  42. 67
    Billy Smart on 9 May 2010 #

    Melody Maker readers’ poll for 1986;

    1. The Smiths – Panic
    2. The Mission – Serpent’s Kiss
    3. The Jesus & Mary Chain – Some Candy Talking
    4. Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
    5. Prince – Kiss
    6. The Housemartins – Happy Hour
    7. BAD – E=MC2
    8. The Smiths – Bigmouth Strikes Again
    9. The Age Of Chance – Kiss
    10. Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer

  43. 68
    Rory on 11 May 2010 #

    Can we haz Popular ’87 poll?

  44. 69
    Billy Smart on 11 May 2010 #


    - but not linked to other Popular posts…

  45. 70
    admin on 11 May 2010 #

    “not linked to other Popular posts”

    yikes. fixed

  46. 71
    weej on 15 Feb 2014 #

    ITV Chart Show end-of-year special

    Best New Act – The Housemartins – Happy Hour
    Best Video Of The Year – Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
    Best Foreign Video – Prince – Kiss
    Worst Video of The Year – Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Rage Hard
    Indie Chart – The Smiths – Panic
    Heavy Metal/Rock Chart – Bon Jovi – You Give Love A Bad Name
    Network Album Chart – Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms
    Network Singles – Nick Berry – Every Loser Wins

  47. 72
    punctum on 15 Aug 2014 #

    TPL gets to 1986.

  48. 73
    punctum on 25 Aug 2014 #

    “Oh, how the ghost of the Western world clings”; TPL update.

  49. 74
    punctum on 26 Aug 2014 #

    TPL returns, slightly reluctantly, to Peter Gabriel.

1 2 All

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page