The Year in Music: 1986

The Year in Music: 1986

Only at its mid-point, 2016 has already demonstrated how much incredible music can come out in the span of a year. And over that same period we’ve been able to celebrate the 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 year anniversaries of some of our still cherished albums from years past. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking back at specific years in music celebrating decade anniversaries (1966, 1976, 1986, 1996, 2006) by sharing our definitive playlist for each. Each playlist – a carefully curated mix of approximately 100 hits, singles and album cuts we’ve found worthy of inclusion – gives you a historical snapshot of a 12-month window in popular music. For the sake of historical coherence, these do not necessarily reflect the top charts of the year, but rather the official release dates. Bring on the nostalgia!

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1986

Lieutenant Maverick Mitchell felt the need for speed, Nintendo launched the Legend of Zelda, Iran-Contra turned into a nasty affair, Challenger disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean and the Chernobyl disaster affected millions in the USSR and Europe. Oh, and Rock ‘n’ Roll was institutionalized with its first class of Hall of Fame inductees, including Elvis, James Brown, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly.

But 1986 was also about new music, and a lot of it. Huge ’80s superstars like Madonna, Prince, Bon Jovi, Genesis, Queen and Janet Jackson all released essential albums this year. Hip-hop was starting to peak above the surface above underground with newcomers like Run-D.M.C. and Beastie Boys, while alternative college radio favorites like The Smiths and R.E.M. were just about to break big.

Often mocked for its glossy synth-laced productions, the mid 1980s was not only a rich playground for various kinds of music, it left us with some truly memorable tunes, as we showcase on this playlist.

Best-Selling Album: Whitney Houston by Whitney Houston
Longest No. 1 Single: “That’s What Friends Are For” by Dionne and Friends (4 weeks)
Grammy – Album of the Year: No Jacket Required by Phil Collins
Grammy – Song of the Year: “We Are The World” by USA for Africa
Groups Formed: The Afghan Whigs, Boards of Canada, Cypress Hill, Green Day, N.W.A., No Doubt, Sebadoh, The Vaselines
Groups Disbanded: Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Electric Light Orchestra, Men at Work, (Prince &) The Revolution, Weather Report, Wham!
Deaths: Richard Manuel of The Band, O’Kelly Isley of The Isley Brothers, Benny Goodman, Cliff Burton of Metallica, Kate Wolf
Top-Grossing Film: Top Gun
World Leaders: Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth II, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Francois Mitterrand
Historical Benchmarks:
- Disintegration of NASA’s Challenger space shuttle
- Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown
- 5,000,000 at least join hands from coast to coast for Hands Across America
- Microsoft Corp. holds its initial public offering, Pixar Animation opens shop
Best-Selling Book: Bill Cosby’s Fatherhood and Stephen King’s It
TIME’s Person of the Year: Corazon C. Aquino, prominent leader of the Philippines’ People Power Revolution who was then elected President

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