Home Decades 1990s 1990


Poll Tax riots. March 1990


01 – David Dinkins is sworn in as New York City’s first black mayor.

02 – World population passes five billion. In 1960 it was three billion.

03 – Manuel Noriega surrenders to US forces in Panama, ten days after taking refuge in the Vatican’s diplomatic mission.

07 – The leaning tower of Pisa in Italy is closed to the public when an increase in ‘leaning’ raises fears for the safety of visitors.

08 – Veteran gap-toothed British comedy actor Terry-Thomas dies.

10 – Media giants Warner Communications and Time Inc. complete a $14 billion merger. The new company, Time Warner, is now the world’s largest entertainment company.

12Bob Dylan starts the new decade with a small club date at Toads, New Haven, Connecticut, where he plays a set lasting no less than four hours.

17 – Legendary songwriting team Carole King and Gerry Goffin are inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

18 – Mayor Marion Barry of Washington DC is arrested by FBI agents after being videotaped smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room. He will serve six months.

18 – Mel Appleby of Mel & Kim dies from pneumonia. She is 22 and has been suffering from a rare form of cancer for the past three years.

21 – The first MTV Unplugged show is broadcast, featuring UK band Squeeze, Elliot Easton of The Cars and female singer Syd Straw.

25 – Veteran actress Ava Gardner dies.

25  – Severe storms across Europe leave 100 people dead, 47 of them in the UK. Among the hundreds of people injured by falling trees and masonry is Gordon Kaye, star of the BBC’s ‘Allo ‘Allo sitcom. He is critically ill in hospital after a plank for an advertising board was blown through his car windscreen in west London.

30Bob Dylan receives France’s highest cultural honour, Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

31 – After 14 years of negotiation, the first McDonalds restaurant opens in Russia, serving 30,000 people on opening day. Situated in Pushkin Square, Moscow, it is also the biggest (and soon the busiest) McDonalds in the world.


02 – The President of South Africa FW de Klerk lifts the 30-year ban on the African National Congress (ANC), the leading anti-apartheid group.

06 – After sustaining injuries when crashing his Harley Davidson into a car, singer Billy Idol undergoes surgery in Los Angeles.

07 – Soviet leaders agree to free elections, surrendering the Communist Party’s 72-year power monopoly.

08 – Singer Del Shannon dies of self-inflicted gunshot wounds at home in Santa Clarita, Los Angeles.

11Nelson Mandela is released after 27 years in Victor-Verster Prison in South Africa. He immediately resumes leadership of the ANC and leads multi-party negotiations to achieve the first multi-racial elections in the country.

16Ike Turner is sentenced to four years in prison on cocaine charges.

26 – Cornell Gunter of The Coasters is murdered in Las Vegas, at the age of 53.


06 – The Soviet parliament approves a law that gives private citizens the right to own the means of production: they can now buy property and start businesses.

09 – Police seal off Brixton in south London after another night of protest against the Conservative government’s imposition of what has been dubbed the ‘Poll Tax‘.

10 – American Jennifer Capriati, aged just 13 years and 11 months, becomes the youngest player ever to reach the final of a professional tennis tournament in Florida.

15Mikhail Gorbachev is elected Executive President of the USSR.

15 – Farzad Bazoft, a journalist for The Observer, is hanged in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, after being convicted of spying for Israel while working on a news story about an explosion at a weapons complex 30 miles (48km) south of the capital.

18 – East Germany holds its first free elections since the state was formed after World War II.

20 – Singer Gloria Estefan’s back is broken when a tractor rams her tour bus during a freak snowstorm outside Scranton, Pennsylvania.

24 – In the wake of his widely-reported anti-Jewish remarks, Professor Griff of rap band Public Enemy announces his departure from the group.

25 – After being ejected from the Happy Land Social Club in the Bronx, NY, Julio Gonzalez spills petrol on the entrance and sets it on fire. The ensuing conflagration kills 87 people, and Gonzalez is given 25 years-to-life in prison.

31 – 200,000 people join a demonstration in central London against the government’s new ‘Poll Tax’. The demonstration starts off peacefully until a group of around 3,000 protesters launches a violent attack on the police. 113 people are injured and 340 are arrested in “The Battle of Trafalgar” – the largest civil disturbance seen in the British capital in the 20th Century.


01 – Britain’s longest prison riot begins, at HMP Strangeways in Manchester. The riot lasts for 25 days and two men die. The repair bill tops £55 million. The riots spread to other prisons and a public inquiry, led by Lord Woolf, recommends major reform to the prison service.

09 – Decades of Communist rule come to an end with the first free elections in Hungary and the newly formed Hungarian Democratic Forum forming a new government.

11 – Customs officers in the UK seize the barrel of a massive gun on a ship bound for Iraq. The length of the barrel is 40 metres (130 feet) which would make it the largest gun in the world with a range of approximately 600 miles (965 kilometres). Investigations reveal the gun is part of “Project Babylon”, the brainchild of Canadian Dr Gerald Bull, who is assassinated shortly before the parts are discovered.

12James Brown is released from his South Carolina jail cell on work furlough after serving 15 months of a six-year sentence for aggravated assault.

13 – The Soviet Union finally admits to and apologises for the murder of thousands of imprisoned Polish officers in the Katyn Forest during World War II. The massacre was previously blamed on the Nazis.

15 – Screen legend Greta Garbo dies in a New York hospital, aged 84.

16Nelson Mandela appears at Wembley Stadium in London as part of the Nelson Mandela Birthday Tribute Concert featuring Neil Young, Simple Minds, Aswad and others.

22 – The 20th anniversary of Earth Day is celebrated worldwide with 200 million people in 140 countries participating in tree-planting, recycling and other earth-friendly events.

25 – The Hubble Space Telescope is launched from the Space Shuttle. The telescope is the size of a railway carriage and has taken 20 years to build at a cost of $1.55 billion.


15 – Vincent Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Doctor Gachet” is sold for $82.5 million, setting a new world record.

16 – Entertainer Sammy Davis Jr passes away in Los Angeles as a result of throat cancer, aged 64.

16Muppets creator Jim Henson passes away in New York.

16 – Christian Brando, the 32-year-old son of actor Marlon Brando, is arrested for murder by Los Angeles police. He is accused of putting a bullet through the head of Dag Drollet, the young French boyfriend of Christian’s 20-year-old half-sister, Cheyenne. The young Brando claims it was an accident.

19 – UK Agriculture Minister John Gummer feeds a hamburger to his five-year-old daughter in front of the world’s media, in an effort to counter rumours about the spread of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) – referred to in the press as “mad cow disease”.

20 – The Hubble Space Telescope sends back its first photographs. Within weeks of its launch, a defect in the telescope’s mirror is discovered, resulting in blurry images. The problem is not repaired until 1993.

21 – Mafia-linked record company boss Morris Levy dies of cancer in Ghent, New York. He was the owner of such labels as Roulette, Rama and Tico.

22 – Microsoft releases Windows 3.0, featuring more advanced graphics and an improved user interface. It goes on to sell over 10 million copies in the next two years.

26 – Angie Bowie begins a legal suit against her former husband David Bowie, seeking to lighten his wallet by $56m.

27The Stone Roses perform at Spike Island, Widnes


02 – Actor Rex Harrison dies in New York.

08 – Football World Cup kicks off in Italy. West Germany meets Argentina in the final, winning 1-0, with Argentina’s Pedro Monzon becoming the first player ever to be sent off in a World Cup Final.

10 – Bulgaria’s former Communist Party wins the country’s first free elections in more than four decades.

11Olivia Newton-John becomes a United Nations environmental ambassador.

21 – An earthquake hits an area north-west of Tehran in Iran causing 40,000 fatalities and making half a million homeless.

25 – The US Supreme Court upholds a court verdict that an individual has the right to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment. This comes just three weeks after Dr Jack Kevorkian lets a terminally ill woman, Janet Adkins, use his “suicide machine”.

30 – The US National Academy of Science announces that the AIDS epidemic is not levelling off, but rather spreading to new groups including black and Hispanic women.


01 – East and West Germany merge currency and economies, paving the way for full reunification.

02 – Representatives of the Italian Catholic Church announce they will attempt to halt Madonna‘s concerts in Rome because of her inappropriate use of crucifixes and other sacred symbols.

10Mikhail Gorbachev wins re-election as the leader of the Soviet Communist Party.

12 Boris Yeltsin resigns from the Soviet Communist Party. Days later, tens of thousands of demonstrators gather beside the walls of the Kremlin to voice their opposition to the Soviet Communist Party.

16Judas Priest go on trial in Reno, Nevada, accused of placing subliminal messages on their Stained Class album and causing two teenage fans to shoot themselves, one fatally.

18 – Patricia Cahill, 17, and Karen Smith, 18, from the Midlands are arrested for drug smuggling in Thailand. The two were in possession of nearly 70lb (32kg) of powdered heroin with a street value of about £4m hidden in shampoo bottles and coffee and biscuit tins. Both girls are found guilty and serve three years in prison before being given a royal pardon after pressure from the British Government.

25 – Comedienne Roseanne Barr sings the US National Anthem in San Diego before a baseball game and is booed for her performance.

26President Bush signs a landmark law forbidding discrimination against disabled persons in employment, public accommodations and transportation.

26Grateful Dead pianist Brent Mydland dies outside his home in Lafayette, California, from a morphine/cocaine overdose.


02 – Under orders from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Iraqi troops invade Kuwait. The United Nations and a majority of Arab nations immediately condemn the invasion and call for a withdrawal.

06 – The UN imposes sanctions against Iraq and invokes Article 51, the right to ‘individual or collective self-defence’, paving the way for military action.

07 – The United States dispatches troops, armour and aircraft to Saudi Arabia in order to protect the country against a possible offensive by Iraqi troops.

08Iraq annexes Kuwait.

09 – US forces begin arriving in Saudi Arabia as President Bush begins assembling a coalition of UN countries against Iraq.

10 – 12 out of 21 member nations of the Arab League vote to support US and UN actions against Iraq.

10 – The American Magellan spacecraft arrives at Venus after a 15-month journey. It is placed in an elliptical orbit around the planet’s poles and will begin mapping the surface, carrying on until 1994.

12 – Douglas Croskery, a British man attempting to escape from Iraqi-occupied Kuwait in a three-car convoy heading for Saudi Arabia is shot dead by Iraqi soldiers. He had been working in Kuwait for only a few weeks at the time of the Iraqi invasion.

13 – Soul star Curtis Mayfield is paralysed from the neck down when a lighting rig collapses on him at an outdoor show in Brooklyn, New York.

18 – The first shots are fired by the US in the Persian Gulf when the USS Reid – a guided missile frigate – fires rounds across the bow of an Iraqi oil tanker that refuses to alter its course.

22 – Angry smokers blockade a street in Moscow to protest about the summer-long cigarette shortage.

27 – Texan guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan dies in a freak helicopter crash after a concert in East Troy, Wisconsin. The 35-year old has only just made a comeback after long-term drink and drugs problems. Pilot error is blamed for the accident.

28 – Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein declares that Kuwait is now the 19th province of Iraq.

29 – The United Nations sets a deadline of 15 January for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait and authorises the use of “all necessary means” to enforce its ruling.


06 – Tom Fogerty, the former guitarist with Creedence Clearwater Revival, dies – aged 48 – at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was suffering from respiratory failure brought on by tuberculosis.

18 – Banker Charles H Keating is jailed in Los Angeles on criminal fraud charges concerning saving-and-loans.

25 – At the Dutchman rehearsal room in Seattle, Washington, a drummer named Dave Grohl auditions to join a band called Nirvana. He is successful.


03 – The former state of Communist East Germany joins the Federal Republic of Germany and Berlin is re-unified after 43 years of division.

15 – Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

18 – The city of Los Angeles declares today ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show Day’.

31 – Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses is arrested for hitting a neighbour with a bottle in a fight about the volume of his stereo.


02 – Sky and BSB merge to form BSkyB.

05President Bush signs a budget law intended to reduce the federal budget by $492 billion over the next five years. Despite his famous “Read my lips: No new taxes” promise during the 1988 campaign, the law includes $140 billion in new taxes.

06 – About 20% of the Universal Studios backlot in Southern California is destroyed after an arson attack.

09 – Mary Robinson becomes the first woman to be elected president of the Republic of Ireland.

10 – Chandra Shekhar is sworn in as India’s new prime minister.

12 – Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones is injured when he is hit by a car near London.

14The Who‘s Pete Townshend tells an interviewer that he is bisexual. He will later claim he was misquoted.

15President Bush signs the Clean Air Act of 1990 which updates and tightens air pollution standards for the first time since 1977.

22Margaret Thatcher resigns as UK Conservative party leader and prime minister after her Cabinet refuses to back her in a second round of leadership elections.

23 – Author Roald Dahl dies in an Oxford hospital.

25 – Lech Walesa wins Poland’s first free election and becomes president.

27John Major wins the second ballot for leadership of the Conservative party and becomes the new British prime minister.


01 – Engineers digging the Channel Tunnel break through, joining Britain to mainland Europe for the first time since the Ice Age.

09 – Slobodan Milošević becomes the president of Serbia, one of the republics making up the troubled state of Yugoslavia.

14 – After 30 years in exile, ANC president Oliver Tambo returns to South Africa.

15Rod Stewart marries blonde model Rachel Hunter in Beverly Hills, California.

26 – Romania expels ex-King Michael only 12 hours after he returns from 43 years of exile.

Also this year . . .

  • BSE begins to devastate British farming
  • Monica Seles wins the 1990 French Open at the age of 16
  • West Germany wins the World Cup, defeating Argentina 1-0 in the final (held in Rome)