That holy trinity of pop anecdotage, Paul Gambaccini, Tim Rice and Jonathan Rice, have this to say about 1986 in their book Guinness Hits Of The 1980s:
“Any objective observer would have to concede that 1986 was not one of the best years of the decade for popular music.”
The evidence, for them, is that “none of its hit singles, not even the year’s number one by the Communards, ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, figured in the top 20 best-sellers of the decade.”
Tsk. Typical. It’s all a matter of numbers and statistics for those three. Might it actually be the case that 1986 was…the best year from the 1980s for pop singles?
‘Kiss’, ‘Ask’, ‘Levi Stubbs’ Tears’, ‘You Can Call Me Al’, ‘E=MC2’, ‘Think For A Minute’, ‘Fall On Me’, ‘Suburbia’, ‘Cut Me Down’, ‘Live To Tell’, ‘World Shut Your Mouth’, ‘Digging Your Scene’, ‘Manic Monday’, ‘Venus’, ‘Have You Ever Had It Blue?’, ‘Absolute Beginners’ and the best number one of the year, ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’ – just some of the ace songs dismissed out of hand by the grumbling trio. They go on to claim:
“One good measure of the weakness of the singles market was that none of the records that became number one in 1986 stayed there for more than four weeks.”
Well, quite. Anyway, in the words of Ian MacDonald, let those with ears, let them hear. Or in the words of Macca in his not-a-smash-hit from 1986, ‘Press’: Oklahoma was never like this – but was it ever like this?