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1986 in British music

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1986 in British music

This is a summary of 1986 in music in the United Kingdom, including the official charts from that year.



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.
  • Best-selling singles

    Based on sales from 30 December 1985 to 3 January 1987.

    Best-selling albums

    Based on sales from 29 December 1985 to 3 January 1987.


    Classical music: new works

  • Malcolm Arnold - Symphony No. 9
  • Harrison Birtwistle - Earth Dances
  • Arthur Butterworth - Symphony No. 4
  • Andrew Downes - The Marshes of Glynn
  • Alun Hoddinott - Concerto for Orchestra
  • Arwel Hughes - Gloria Patri
  • Daniel Jones - Cello Concerto
  • Opera

  • Harrison Birtwistle - Yan Tan Tethera
  • Michael Nyman - The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat
  • Musical films

  • Shanghai Surprise, starring Madonna
  • Births

  • 6 January - Alex Turner, singer, musician, (Arctic Monkeys), (The Last Shadow Puppets)
  • 21 February - Charlotte Church, singer
  • 12 March - Danny Jones, singer, (McFly)
  • 23 April - Laura Mvula, singer
  • 7 May - Matt Helders, drummer, (Arctic Monkeys)
  • 14 July - Dan Smith, singer-songwriter (Bastille)
  • 21 July - Rebecca Ferguson, singer-songwriter
  • 21 September - Faris Badwan, singer, (The Horrors)
  • 20 November — Oliver Sykes, heavy metal vocalist (Bring Me the Horizon)
  • Deaths

  • 4 January - Phil Lynott, singer, musician, (Thin Lizzy), 36 (overdose)
  • 27 January - Ken Moule, jazz pianist, 60
  • 14 February - Edmund Rubbra, composer, 84
  • 3 April - Peter Pears, operatic tenor and partner of Benjamin Britten, 75
  • 25 April - Fred Hunt, jazz pianist, 62
  • 3 June - Anna Neagle, actress, singer and dancer, 81
  • 26 June - William Lovelock, composer, 86
  • 6 November - Eddie Thompson, jazz pianist, 61
  • 16 December - Maurice Handford, horn player and conductor, 57
  • date unknown
  • Myers Foggin, pianist and conductor, 77
  • Mark Lubbock, conductor and composer
  • Arthur Rosebery, pianist and singer
  • BRIT Awards

    The 1986 BRIT Awards winners were:

  • Best British producer: Dave Stewart
  • Best international solo artist: Bruce Springsteen
  • British Album: Phil Collins - No Jacket Required
  • British female solo artist: Annie Lennox
  • British group: Dire Straits
  • British male solo artist: Phil Collins
  • British Single: Tears for Fears - "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"
  • British Video: Paul Young - "Everytime You Go Away"
  • Best British Newcomer: Go West
  • International group: Huey Lewis and the News
  • Outstanding contribution: Wham! and Elton John (Joint Winners)
  • References

    1986 in British music Wikipedia

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