The critical consensus: 1986 was the worst music year of the decade, perhaps of any decade. But is that true?
There was certainly a vacuum between the end of New Pop/New Romanticism and the Rock Revival of ’87, exploited by one-hit-wonder merchants, TV soap actors, Europop poseurs, musical-theatre prima donnas, jazz puritans and Stock Aitken & Waterman puppets.
Also most pop records just didn’t sound good. The drums were too loud, the synths were garish, ‘slickness’ was the order of the day.
Perhaps nothing emphasised these factors as much as The Police’s disastrous comeback version of ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’.
But listen a little harder and 1986 seems like a watershed year for soul, house, go-go, art-metal, John Peel-endorsed indie and hip-hop. Synth-pop duos were back on the map, the NME C86 compilation was a lo-fi classic and there were a handful of groundbreaking jazz/rock albums too.
So here’s a case for the opposition: a selection of classic singles and albums from 1986. Not a bad old year after all.
Paul Simon: Graceland
Stump: Quirk Out
David Bowie: ‘Absolute Beginners’
Mantronix: Music Madness
Rosie Vela: ‘Magic Smile’
George Michael: ‘A Different Corner’
Eurythmics: ‘Thorn In My Side’
Al Jarreau: L Is For Lover
Duran Duran: ‘Skin Trade’
George Benson: ‘Shiver’
Chris Rea: On The Beach
Europe: ‘The Final Countdown’
David Sylvian: Gone To Earth
OMD: ‘Forever Live And Die’
The Real Roxanne: ‘Bang Zoom’
The The: Infected
Half Man Half Biscuit: ‘Dickie Davies Eyes’
Anita Baker: Rapture
Michael McDonald: ‘Sweet Freedom’
Talk Talk: The Colour Of Spring
Luther Vandross: Give Me The Reason
Pet Shop Boys: ‘Suburbia’
Chaka Khan: ‘Love Of A Lifetime’
Gabriel Yared: Betty Blue Original Soundtrack
The Pretenders: ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’
Janet Jackson: Control
Run DMC: Raising Hell
Beastie Boys: Licensed To Ill
Miles Davis: Tutu
Iggy Pop: Blah Blah Blah
Courtney Pine: Journey To The Urge Within
George Clinton: ‘Do Fries Go With That Shake’
Talking Heads: ‘Wild Wild Life’
Kurtis Blow/Trouble Funk: ‘I’m Chillin”
The Source ft. Candi Staton: ‘You Got The Love’
Gwen Guthrie: ‘Ain’t Nothing Going On But The Rent’
The Housemartins: ‘Happy Hour’
Peter Gabriel: So
Mike Stern: Upside Downside
Steps Ahead: Magnetic
It Bites: The Big Lad In The Windmill