A History of Pop Music Albums – 1986

A History of Pop Music Albums – 1986

Featured Album: Paul Simon – Graceland

This is a series of articles looking at albums from 1960 to whatever year we end up in.

I will select a featured album for each year and the link for the whole album, Plus list the songs on it.

As before, it is not just about the songs and tunes, it is very much about memories, and good ones, I hope.

Not everyone will like my choices of course, and you may remember some from each particular year that you feel should have been included, so do please post a link to the song.

In 1986 we made the decision to leave the Army.  Eldest son was just over 7 and been to several schools from home and then places posted to in the Army, we also had a 5-year-old and another on the way.  Boarding school did not appeal to us, so I put in my one years notice and they very kindly gave me a posting back to the UK, in fact back to sunny Tidworth.  I was put into RHQ (Regimental Headquarters), and interesting year, mainly looking after courts martial, any formal hearing such as when a soldier goes AWOL, plus all the WO’s and Sergeants annual reports.  A most fascinating year.  In the news I remember Derek Hatton being kicked out and the announcement of the Channel Tunnel was going to built at long last.

The featured album for 1986 is Graceland. It is the seventh solo studio album by American singer-songwriter Paul Simon. It was produced by Simon, engineered by Roy Halee and released on August 25, 1986, by Warner Bros. Records.

In the early 1980s, Simon’s relationship with his former musical partner Art Garfunkel had deteriorated, his marriage to actress Carrie Fisher had collapsed, and his previous record, Hearts and Bones (1983), had been a commercial failure. In 1984, after a period of depression, Simon became fascinated by a bootleg cassette of mbaqanga, South African street music. He and Halee visited Johannesburg, where they spent two weeks recording with South African musicians. Further recordings were held in the United States, with guest musicians including Linda Ronstadt, the Everly Brothers, Louisiana band Good Rockin’ Dopsie and the Twisters, and Mexican-American band Los Lobos.

Graceland features an eclectic mixture of genres, including pop, rock, a cappella, zydeco, isicathamiya and mbaqanga. Simon wrote songs inspired by the recordings made in Johannesburg, collaborating with African and American artists. He received criticism for breaking the cultural boycott of South Africa because of its policy of apartheid. Following its completion, Simon toured alongside South African musicians, performing their music and songs from Graceland.

Graceland became Simon’s most successful studio album and his highest-charting album in over a decade; it is estimated to have sold up to 16 million copies worldwide.

Track listing

All tracks are written by Paul Simon, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. The Boy in the Bubble Forere Motloheloa, Simon 3:59
2. Graceland 4:48
3. “I Know What I Know” General MD Shirinda, Simon 3:13
4. “Gumboots” Lulu Masilela, Jonhjon Mkhalali, Simon 2:44
5. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes Joseph Shabalala, Simon 5:45
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. You Can Call Me Al 4:39
2. Under African Skies 3:37
3. Homeless Shabalala, Simon 3:48
4. “Crazy Love, Vol. II” 4:18
5. “That Was Your Mother” 2:52
6. “All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints” 3:15

More writings on this album here:  Graceland
So, on we go with 1986:

The top 10 sellers for 1986 are below, not the best of years, a very poor decade really.

The Top 10 Albums with a You Tube hyperlink on the title:

Top Tip: Right-click and open in new tab

Top Albums of 1986
   1 Madonna True Blue
   2 Dire Straits Brothers In Arms
   3 Various artists (EMI/Virgin) Now, That’s What I Call Music 8
   4 Paul Simon Graceland
   5 Whitney Houston Whitney Houston
   6 Various artist (Virgin/EMI) Now, That’s What I Call Music 7
   7 A-Ha Hunting High And Low
   8 Queen A Kind Of Magic
   9 Eurythmics Revenge
   10 Five Star Silk And Steel

Brothers in Arms still near the top. Never really liked Madonna that much, nor Whitney Houston.  Queen of course could easily be a featured album. Some classic tracks including One Vision and Who wants to live Forever.  The only albums I bought (apart from Dire Straits) was Queen of course, then the Eurythmics, as Annie is probably the finest female singer of all time.  But Graceland I picked up on a visit to an American PI shop in Germany, and I really did play it to death, and still listen to it regularly.

Again, I really could not find many albums I rated for the year. The only one of those selected below that I did buy was The Housemartins.

Run-D.M.C. – Raising Hell – I almost bought this, as it has the excellent “Walk This Way” on it, the remainder is not to my taste though.

UB40 – Rat in the Kitchen – Not to everyone’s taste, but I liked them.

Europe – The Final Countdown – A classic and not a bad band either.

Elvis Costello – King of America – Not a big fan, but he did do some good stuff.

The Housemartins – London 0 Hull 4 – I like their stuff a lot. Very listenable.

Siouxsie and the Banshees – Tinderbox – Proper musicians these.  I remember a special on BFBS radio, and I think Tommy Vance.

Erasure – Wonderland – Would not be Friday without a touch of gheyness.


As you know I like to review your “tunes” that you post.

*Note. Anyone scoring a Morrissey (lowest score possible) will be reported and blocked.

Hat tips to: these give the top 100 selling charts for each year.

http://www.everyhit.com/chart1.html   these give the top 10 songs for each year.

https://www.youtube.com/  you know them.

Next Time: 1987.  Will it get better?  Forecast: (Sorry, it gets even worse)

Featured image: “paul simon, graceland,” by badgreeb RECORDS – art -photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

© Phil the ex test manager 2021