The Queen Is Dead Lifes Rich Pageant Licensed to Ill Skylarking
Raising Hell Parade Graceland EVOL

By some measures, 1986 may be the most '80s year of the decade. Sure, Michael Jackson was absent from the charts but his impact could not be denied, nor could his little sister Janet who had one of the year's defining albums in Control. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis gave Control a Minneapolis flavor just as Prince continued to mine the Paisley Underground for inspiration on his decidedly weird Parade. Counteracting this neo-psychedelia -- also apparent on the gorgeous Skylarking by XTC -- was the rise of Americana in the form of debut albums by Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle and hip-hop breaking into the mainstream via Run-D.M.C.'s Raising Hell and Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill. American Underground began to inch its way into the mainstream through Hüsker Dü signing to Warner and R.E.M. working with John Mellencamp producer Don Gehman, and MTV still kicked out plenty of one-hit wonders like the deliciously weird Baltimora and his "Tarzan Boy," all of which gives us plenty of reasons to love 1986.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine [Spotify]
Sometimes when I think of 1986 all that comes to mind is Lionel Richie's "Dancing on the Ceiling" but that's an anomaly in a year filled with great albums and, especially, great singles. I had more than I could fit into the confines of this AllMusic list and some of the spillover (but not all, due to various licensing restrictions) is on the accompanying Spotify list.

The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead
Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill
R.E.M. - Lifes Rich Pageant
Prince and the Revolution - Parade
Paul Simon - Graceland
XTC - Skylarking
Run-D.M.C. - Raising Hell
Steve Winwood - Back in the High Life
David & David - Boomtown
Dwight Yoakam - Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.
The Costello Show - King of America
Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Blood & Chocolate
Crowded House - Crowded House
Sonic Youth - EVOL
Peter Gabriel - So
Smithereens - Especially for You
Madonna – True Blue
Hüsker Dü - Candy Apple Grey
Steve Earle - Guitar Town
Janet Jackson - Control
They Might Be Giants - They Might Be Giants

Prince and the Revolution - "Kiss"
Pet Shop Boys - "West End Girls"
The Smiths - "Panic"
Bangles - "Manic Monday"
Run-D.M.C. – "Walk This Way"
The Smithereens - "Behind the Wall of Sleep"
Georgia Satellites - "Keep Your Hands to Yourself"
Paul McCartney - "Press"
Eurythmics - "Missionary Man"
Alex Chilton - "No Sex"
Robert Palmer - "Addicted to Love"
LL Cool J - "Rock the Bells"
Scritti Politti – "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)"
Beastie Boys - "Fight for Your Right (To Party)"
The Smiths - "Ask"
Crowded House - "World Where You Live"
AC/DC - "Who Made Who"
Cameo - "Word Up!"
Peter Gabriel - "Sledgehammer"
Eric B. & Rakim - "Eric B. Is President"
Don Williams - "Heartbeat in the Darkness"
Daryl Hall - "Dreamtime"
Steve Winwood - "Higher Love"
Primal Scream - "Velocity Girl"
The Rainmakers - "Downstream"

All the good music of 1986 may not make up for "Dancing on the Ceiling."

John Bush
David J - Crocodile Tears and the Velvet Cosh
Peter Murphy - Should the World Fail to Fall Apart
R.E.M. - Lifes Rich Pageant
The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead
They Might Be Giants - They Might Be Giants
Love and Rockets - Express
XTC - Skylarking
The Chameleons - Strange Times
New Order - Brotherhood
The Fall - Bend Sinister
The Housemartins - London 0 Hull 4
Pet Shop Boys - Please
Talk Talk - The Colour of Spring
Big Black - Atomizer
Billy Bragg - Talking with the Taxman About Poetry
Felt - Forever Breathes the Lonely Word
The Flaming Lips - Hear It Is
This Mortal Coil - Filigree & Shadow
Janet Jackson - Control
Skinny Puppy - Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse

Peter Murphy - "The Light Pours Out of Me"
Skinny Puppy - "Dig It/The Choke (Re-Grip)"
The Chameleons - "Mad Jack"
David J - "Too Clever by Half"
Love and Rockets - "It Could Be Sunshine"
Pet Shop Boys - "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)"
New Order - "Bizarre Love Triangle"
R.E.M. - "Fall on Me"
The Housemartins - "Happy Hour"
They Might Be Giants - "Youth Culture Killed My Dog"
Shop Assistants - "Safety Net"
The Wedding Present - "Felicity"
Crowded House - "Don't Dream It's Over"
The Smiths - "Cemetry Gates"
The Smiths - "Ask"
The Flaming Lips - "With You"
Big Black - "Kerosene"
The Fall - "Living Too Late"
Talk Talk - "Life's What You Make It"
This Mortal Coil - "Tarantula"

Heather Phares
Howard Ashman - Little Shop of Horrors
Angelo Badalamenti - Blue Velvet
Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill
Cocteau Twins - Victorialand
The Fall - Bend Sinister
Felt - Forever Breathes the Lonely Word
Peter Gabriel - So
Madonna - True Blue
New Order - Brotherhood
Pet Shop Boys - Please
Prince and the Revolution - Parade
Pussy Galore - Exile on Main Street
R.E.M. - Lifes Rich Pageant
Run-D.M.C. - Raising Hell
The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead
Sonic Youth - EVOL
They Might Be Giants - They Might Be Giants
Throwing Muses - Throwing Muses
XTC - Skylarking
Yo La Tengo - Ride the Tiger

The Art of Noise - "Paranoimia"
The Bangles - "Manic Monday"
Crowded House - "Don't Dream It's Over"
Doug E. Fresh & the Get Fresh Crew - "The Show"/La-Di-Da-Di"
The Human League - "Human"
Janet Jackson - "Nasty"
The Jets - "Crush on You"
Madonna - "True Blue"
Eddie Money - "Take Me Home Tonight"
New Order - "Bizarre Love Triangle"
Nu Shooz - "I Can't Wait"
The Outfield - "Your Love"
The Pet Shop Boys - "West End Girls"
The Pretenders - "Don't Get Me Wrong"
Prince and the Revolution - "Kiss"
Stacey Q. - "Two of Hearts"
Run-D.M.C. - "You Be Illin'"
Siouxsie & the Banshees - "Cities in Dust"
Steve Winwood - "Higher Love"
Stevie Wonder - "Go Home"

Tim Sendra
The Chills - Kaleidoscope World
The Church - Heyday
Died Pretty - Free Dirt
Felt - Forever Breathes The Lonely Word
Felt - Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads to Death
The Go-Betweens - Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express
Len Bright Combo - Len Bright Combo Present the Len Bright Combo by The Len Bright Combo
The Triffids - Born Sandy Devotional
New Order - Brotherhood
Spacemen 3 - Sound of Confusion

Jonathan Ball [Spotify]
Love and Rockets - Express
R.E.M. - Lifes Rich Pageant
Hüsker Dü - Candy Apple Grey
Sonic Youth - EVOL
The Church - Heyday
Crowded House - Crowded House
This Mortal Coil - Filigree & Shadow
Budd/Fraser/Guthrie/Raymonde - The Moon and the Melodies
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Your Funeral…My Trial
Public Image Ltd. - Album
The Mission U.K. - God's Own Medicine
Paul Simon - Graceland
Motorhead - Orgasmatron
Megadeth - Peace Sells…But Who's Buying?
Spacemen 3 - Sound of Confusion
Samhain - November Coming Fire

Love and Rockets - "Yin and Yang (The Flowerpot Man)"
Hüsker Dü - "Don't Want to Know if You Are Lonely"
David Lee Roth - "Yankee Rose"
INXS - "What You Need"
INXS - "Listen Like Thieves"
Crowded House - "World Where You Live"
The Fabulous Thunderbirds - "Tuff Enuff"
The Rolling Stones - "One Hit to the Body"
David Lee Roth - "Goin' Crazy!"
Bon Jovi - "Wanted Dead or Alive"
Bananarama - "Venus"
David & David - "Welcome to the Boomtown"
Double - "The Captain of Her Heart"
Robert Palmer - "Addicted to Love"
Run-D.M.C. - "Walk This Way"
The Blow Monkeys - "Digging Your Scene"
The Call - "I Still Believe"
Doctor and the Medics - "Spirit in the Sky"
James Brown - "Living in America"
Paul Simon - "You Can Call Me Al"
Queen - "One Vision"
Iggy Pop - "Real Wild Child (Wild One)"

Chrysta Cherrie [Spotify]
As someone who was a bit on the young side to appreciate the pop potential of 1986, this list represents gems in college rock, jazz, punk and elsewhere that I discovered later in life.

Billy Bang - Live at Carlos 1
Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill
Felt - Forever Breathes the Lonely Word
Last Exit - Last Exit
Arthur Russell - World of Echo
Salem 66 - Frequency and Urgency
Sonic Youth - EVOL
Throwing Muses - Throwing Muses
Volcano Suns - All-Night Lotus Party
XTC - Skylarking

David Jeffries
African Head Charge - Off the Beaten Track
Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force - Planet Rock: The Album
Bad Brains - I Against I
Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill
Big Audio Dynamite - No. 10, Upping St.
Cameo - Word Up!
Clan of Xymox - Medusa
Half Pint - Victory
Loose Ends - Zagora
Ministry - Twitch
Prince and the Revolution - Parade
Public Image Ltd. - Album
Revolting Cocks - Big Sexy Land
The Rolling Stones - Dirty Work
Run-D.M.C. - Raising Hell
Severed Heads - Come Visit the Big Bigot with Dead Eyes Opened
Sigue Sigue Sputnik - Flaunt It
The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead
Swans - Holy Money
Yello - 1980-1985: The New Mix in One Go

Andy Kellman [Spotify]
Throwing Muses - Throwing Muses
Janet Jackson - Control
Sonic Youth - EVOL
Big Black - Atomizer
Talk Talk - The Colour of Spring
Prince and the Revolution - Parade
Loose Ends - Zagora
Run-D.M.C. - Raising Hell
Jon Hassell - Power Spot
Arthur Russell - World of Echo

Mr. Fingers - "Washing Machine"/"Can You Feel It"
Jamie Principle - "Your Love"
Adonis - "No Way Back"
Cherrelle with Alexander O'Neal - "Saturday Love"
Midnight Star - "Midas Touch"
52nd Street - "Tell Me (How It Feels)"
Master C & J - "Dub Love"
Eric B. & Rakim - "Eric B. Is President"
Ultramagnetic MC's - "Ego Trippin'"
Sleezy D - "I've Lost Control"

Jason Lymangrover
Agent Orange - This Is the Voice
Bad Brains - I Against I
Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill
Big Black - Atomizer
Cinderella - Night Songs
David Lee Roth - Eat Em & Smile
Depeche Mode - Black Celebration
Felt - Forever Breathes The Lonely Word
Genesis - Invisible Touch
Love and Rockets - Express
Metallica - Master Of Puppets
Moving Targets - Burning in Water
Prince and the Revolution - Parade
R.E.M. - Lifes Rich Pageant
Ratt - Dancing Undercover
Run-D.M.C. - Raising Hell
Sigue Sigue Sputnik - Flaunt It
Paul Simon - Graceland
The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead
XTC - Skylarking

The Bangles - "Manic Monday"
Cameo - "Word Up!"
Crowded House – "Don't Dream it's Over"
Dag Nasty – "Circles"
Descendents – "Cheer"
Doug E. Fresh & the Get Fresh Crew - "The Show"/"La-Di-Da-Di"
Eric B. & Rakim - "Eric B. Is President"
Janet Jackson - "When I Think of You"
Killing Joke - "Adorations"
Madonna - "Live to Tell"
Midnight Star - "Midas Touch"
New Order – "Bizarre Love Triangle"
Nu Shooz – "I Can't Wait"
Oran "Juice" Jones – "The Rain"
Public Image Ltd. – "Rise"
Shop Assistants - "Safety Net"
Sly Fox - "Let's Go All the Way"
They Might Be Giants - "Don't Let's Start"
Timex Social Club - "Rumors"
Zapp - "Computer Love"

James Christopher Monger
Metallica - Master of Puppets
Slayer - Reign in Blood
Megadeth - Peace Sells…But Who's Buying?
XTC - Skylarking
R.E.M. - Lifes Rich Pageant
Love and Rockets - Express
Robyn Hitchcock - Invisible Hitchcock
The Tannahill Weavers - Land of Light
Paul Simon - Graceland
Iron Maiden - Somewhere in Time
Public Image Ltd. - Album
Violent Femmes - The Blind Leading the Naked
Samhain - November-Coming-Fire
Joe Jackson - Big World
Enya - Enya
Van Halen - 5150
The Dead Milkmen - Eat Your Paisley!
The Damned - Anything
Queen - A Kind of Magic
Various Artists - The Indestructible Beat of Soweto, Vol. 1

Prince and the Revolution - "Mountains"
The Sisterhood - "Rain from Heaven"
Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians - "Airscape"
Beastie Boys - "Paul Revere"
AC/DC - "Who Made Who"
Fastway - "After Midnight"
Electric Light Orchestra - "Calling America"
Falco - "Rock Me Amadeus"
Sigue Sigue Sputnik - "Love Missile F1-11"
Talking Heads - "Wild Wild Life"
Crowded House - "Don't Dream It's Over"
The Smithereens - "Blood & Roses"
Bon Jovi - "Wanted Dead or Alive"
Pet Shop Boys - "West End Girls"
Peter Case - "Small Town Spree"
Georgia Satellites - "Battleship Chains"
World Party - "Ship of Fools"
The Pogues - "Rainy Night in Soho"
The Moody Blues - "Your Wildest Dreams"
The Smiths - "Bigmouth Strikes Again"

James Wilkinson
The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead
James - Stutter
Paul Simon - Graceland
R.E.M. - Lifes Rich Pageant
Steve Earle - Guitar Town
Felt - Forever Breathes the Lonely Word
The Creeps - Enjoy the Creeps
XTC - Skylarking
The Smithereens - Especially for You
The Jayhawks - The Jayhawks
Billy Bragg - Talking with the Taxman About Poetry
The Fall - Bend Sinister
Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Blood and Chocolate
Camper Van Beethoven - II & III
The Go-Betweens - Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express

The Prisoners - "Whenever I'm Gone"
The Smiths - "Panic"
The Smiths - "Ask"
Camper Van Beethoven - "Take the Skinheads Bowling"
Felt - "Ballad of the Band"
The Stranglers - "Always the Sun"
The Optic Nerve - "Ain't That a Man"
Julian Cope - "World Shut Your Mouth"
James - "Chain Mail"
Hüsker Dü - "Don't Want to Know if You Are Lonely"
The Godfathers - "This Damn Nation"
The Green Telescope - Two by Two
That Petrol Emotion - "It's a Good Thing"
The Chameleons - "Tears"
Suzanne Vega - "Left of Center"

Matthew Garbutt [Spotify]
Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Blood and Chocolate
Hüsker Dü - Candy Apple Grey
Lyres - Lyres Lyres
Makin' Time - No Lumps of Fat or Gristle Guaranteed
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Kicking Against the Pricks
Pet Shop Boys - Please
Prince and the Revolution - Parade
Redskins - Neither Washington nor Moscow
Scientists - Weird Love
Shop Assistants - Will Anything Happen?
The Cramps - A Date with Elvis
The Delmonas - The Delmonas 5!
The Fall - Bend Sinister
The Go-Betweens - Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express
The Prisoners - In from the Cold
The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead
The Triffids - Born Sandy Devotional
Thee Mighty Caesars - Thee Caesars of Trash
Thee Mighty Caesars - Acropolis Now
Wayne Smith - Under Mi Sleng Teng

Adonis – "No Way Back"
BMX Bandits – "E102"
Gwen Guthrie – "Ain’t Nothin' Goin' on But the Rent"
Marshall Jefferson – "Move Your Body"
Nitro Deluxe – "This Brutal House"
Steve "Silk" Hurley – "Jack Your Body"
Tenor Saw – "Golden Hen"
The Fuzztones – "Bad News Travels Fast"
The Godfathers – "I Want Everything"
The Jesus and Mary Chain – "Some Candy Talking"
The June Brides – "This Town"
The Milkshakes – "Let Me Love You"
The Nashville Ramblers – "The Trains"
The Pastels – "Truck Train Tractor"
The Smiths – "Panic"
The Source/Candi Staton – "You Got the Love"
The Sting-Rays – "June Rhyme"
The Weather Prophets – "Almost Prayed"
Timex Social Club - "Rumors"
We've Got a Fuzzbox And We're Gonna Use It – "Love Is the Slug"

Aneet Nijjar
Big Black - Atomizer
Stan Ridgway - The Big Heat
Swans - Holy Money
The Wipers - Land of the Lost
Prince and the Revolution - Parade
The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead
Talking Heads - True Stories
Throwing Muses - Throwing Muses
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Kicking Against the Pricks
Paul Simon - Graceland
Pet Shop Boys - Please
New Order - Brotherhood
Run-D.M.C. - Raising Hell
Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill
Madonna - True Blue

Adonis – "No Way Back"
Nitro Deluxe – "This Brutal House"
Steve "Silk" Hurley – "Jack Your Body"
Marshall Jefferson – "Move Your Body"
Blaze – "Whatcha Gonna Do"
Farley "Jackmaster Funk" & Jesse Saunders - "Love Can't Turn Around"
Sleezy D – "I've Lost Control"
Master C & J – "When You Hold Me"
Mr. Fingers – "Washing Machine"/"Can You Feel It"
Robert Owens – "Bring Down the Walls"
Jungle Wonz – "The Jungle"
Virgo – "Free Yourself"
Gwen Guthrie – "Ain't Nothin' Goin' on But the Rent"
Oran "Juice" Jones – "The Rain"
Desireless – "Yoyage, Yoyage"
The Human League – "Human"
Peter Gabriel – "Sledgehammer"
Berlin – "Take My Breath Away"
Karen Finlay – "Tales of Taboo"
Channel One - "Technicolor"

Richard Wilson
Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force - Planet Rock: The Album
Bad Brains - I Against I
Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill
Doug E. Fresh & the Get Fresh Crew - Oh, My God!
Hüsker Dü - Candy Apple Grey
James - Stutter
Kool Moe Dee - Kool Moe Dee
L.A. Dream Team - Kings of the West Coast
Ministry - Twitch
Naked Raygun - All Rise
New Model Army - The Ghost of Cain
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Kicking Against the Pricks
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Your Funeral...My Trial
Run-D.M.C. - Raising Hell
SNFU - If You Swear You'll Catch No Fish
Sonic Youth - EVOL
Steady B - Bring the Beat Back
The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead
Yo La Tengo - Ride the Tiger

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