January 18 – Eric Clapton plays the first of eighteen shows in a three week span at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
January 21 – MTV’s Unplugged is broadcast for the first time, on cable television, with British band Squeeze.
February 6 – Billy Idol is involved in a serious motorcycle accident, resulting in several broken bones. Idol had been scheduled to have a major role in Oliver Stone’s film The Doors, but due to his injuries, the role was reduced almost to a bit part. Bob Marley’s birthday is a national holiday in Jamaica for the first time.
February 14 – 50,000 fans watch The Rolling Stones play the first of 10 concerts at Tokyo’s Korakuen Dome, the beginning of the Stones’ first ever tour of Japan. The group was originally scheduled to perform there in 1973 but a drug conviction prevented Mick Jagger from obtaining a visa at the time.
February 16 – Ike Turner is sentenced to 4 years in prison for possession of cocaine.
February 24 – The Byrds (Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and David Crosby) reunite, for the first time in 25 years, to perform at a Los Angeles tribute to Roy Orbison. The three are joined unexpectedly on stage by Bob Dylan, who sings “Mr. Tambourine Man” with the band.
March 15 – MCA Inc. purchases Geffen Records for over $550 million in stock. Under the agreement, David Geffen will continue to run the record company through an employment contract.
March 16 – Flea and Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers are arrested and charged for an incident two days earlier at a performance in Daytona Beach during MTV’s spring break coverage, in which they allegedly sexually assaulted and verbally abused a female audience member after jumping from the stage. They are released on $2,000 bail.
March 20 – Gloria Estefan’s tour bus is involved in an accident. Estefan suffers several broken bones in her back.
March 25 – Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee is arrested for allegedly exposing his backside during a performance in Augusta, Georgia.
March 28 – The Go-Go’s reunite to play a benefit concert for the California Environmental Protection Act. They play several more reunion shows later in the year.
April 4 – Gloria Estefan returns to Miami, Florida after undergoing back surgery following the March 20 accident.
April 6 – Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee suffers a mild concussion after falling off of scaffolding above his elevated drum kit during a performance in New Haven, Connecticut.
April 7 – Neil Young, Elton John, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Guns N’ Roses and Jackson Browne perform at Farm Aid IV in Indiana. John dedicates “Candle in the Wind” to AIDS patient Ryan White during his performance. White dies later that evening.
April 16 – A massive tribute concert is held at Wembley Stadium for recently freed anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela, who appears in a pre-taped 45-minute speech at the event. Performers include Anita Baker, Tracy Chapman, Peter Gabriel, The Neville Brothers and Neil Young. The event is broadcast to 61 countries around the world.
April 24 – Janet Jackson is honoured with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
April 25 – Jimi Hendrix’s Fender Stratocaster, on which he performed his famous version of the “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock, is auctioned off in London for $295,000.
April 27 – Axl Rose marries model Erin Everly, daughter of singer Don Everly, in a Las Vegas ceremony. Divorce papers are filed on May 24, then withdrawn, then filed again in October.
May 6 – Valery Leontiev show “It seems to me that I have not lived” in the Olympic Stadium.
May 18 – The Rolling Stones open their Urban Jungle European tour in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
May 27 – The Stone Roses stage a legendary concert at Spike Island, Cheshire.
May 29 – In Canada, Toronto police threaten to arrest Madonna if she performs her simulated masturbation scene during her performance of “Like a Virgin” on her Blond Ambition Tour. Madonna refuses to change her show, and the police decide not to press charges, later denying that they had ever threatened to do so (a claim refuted by footage captured during the filming of Madonna’s 1991 documentary Truth or Dare). At the Eurovision Young Musicians Competition 1990 finals, held at the Musikverein in Vienna, Austria, pianist Nick van Oosterum of the Netherlands takes first place.
June 10 – members of rap group 2 Live Crew are arrested and charged with obscenity after a performance in a Hollywood, Florida nightclub..
June 30 – Knebworth 1990, a one-off festival at Knebworth Park, England in support of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy. Participating musicians had all been winners of the Silver Clef Award. The acts included headliners Pink Floyd, Genesis, Robert Plant, Elton John, Dire Straits, Status Quo, Eric Clapton and others.
July 7 – The Three Tenors give their first concert, at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.
July 14 – Jean Michel Jarre’s concert Paris la Defense attracts 2.5 million spectators.
July 21 – Roger Waters and numerous guest stars stage a performance of Pink Floyd’s The Wall in Berlin, Germany to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall eight months earlier. Scorpions, Cyndi Lauper, Thomas Dolby, Sinéad O’Connor, The Band and Bryan Adams are among the performers.
August 5 – Madonna ends her controversial Blond Ambition Tour in Nice, France.
August 13 – Curtis Mayfield is paralyzed from the neck down in an accident at an outdoor concert in Flatbush, Brooklyn, after stage lighting equipment collapses on top of him.
August 19 – Leonard Bernstein conducts his final performance at Tanglewood; he suffers a coughing fit in the middle of one piece which almost brings the concert to a premature end.
August 22 – James MacMillan’s symphonic piece The Confession of Isobel Gowdie premieres at The Proms in London.
August 24 – A judge rules that heavy metal band Judas Priest is not responsible for the actions of two Nevada youths who shot themselves, one fatally, after listening to the band’s music in December 1985. Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor sparks controversy when she refuses to play a concert at the Garden State Arts Center in New Jersey unless the venue refrains from its tradition of playing a recording of the American national anthem before the performance. O’Connor is heavily criticized and her music is dropped from a number of radio stations as a result.
August 27 – Guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan is killed in a helicopter crash following a concert at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin. He was 35.
September 4 – Walter Yetnikoff steps down after fifteen years as President of CBS Records.
September 11 – After a decade of performing in the Francophone world, Céline Dion makes her formal English-language debut in the United States with the release of her album Unison.
September 26 – The poorly received Cop Rock premieres on US television; it was TV’s only musical police drama.
October 9 – Leonard Bernstein announces his retirement from the conducting podium; he dies five days later.
October 20 – A Florida jury acquits 2 Live Crew of the obscenity charges stemming from a June 10 performance of their act known for its sexually explicit lyrics.
October 22 – Pearl Jam, then named “Mookie Blaylock”, play their first show as a band at the Off Ramp club in Seattle, Washington.
Fall – For the first time, Amy Grant and Gary Chapman hold a night of music at their Franklin, Tennessee Riverstone Farm, for local teenagers. Performers included Rich Mullins, Rick Elias, Charlie Peacock, Wes King and Michael W. Smith. The event becomes known as “The Loft”.
November 6 – Madonna releases her new single, “Justify My Love”. The accompanying music video is banned by MTV amid international controversy over its sexually explicit content.
November 21 – The Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger finally marries longtime girlfriend Jerry Hall in a traditional Hindu ceremony on the island of Bali, although the wedding’s legal bindingness is questionable.
November 27 – “Vocal” group Milli Vanilli admits to lip-synching hits such as “Girl You Know It’s True.” They later have their Grammy award revoked.
December 1 – ABC airs a television special accompanying the Red Hot + Blue benefit album in which contemporary pop performers reinterpret the songs of Cole Porter. The special includes video clips portraying the societal effects of AIDS.
December 3 – Following the banning of her “Justify My Love” music video by MTV, singer Madonna appears on Nightline to defend the video.
December 15 – Rod Stewart marries model Rachel Hunter.
December 31 – The nineteenth annual New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special airs on ABC, with appearances by The Beach Boys, Bell Biv DeVoe, The Kentucky Headhunters, Nelson, The O’Jays and Sweet Sensation.
Also in 1990
Guitarists: Dan Nilsson & Micke Bargstörm, Bassist: Martin Persson & Drummer: Rille Even, all quit Opeth who were the original members of the band. David Isberg, the only remaining original member hires Guitarists: Mikael Åkerfeldt (who applied for a bassist position even when the band already had bassist causing friction but ended up as a guitarist) Andreas Dimeo, Bassist: Nick Döring & Drummer: Anders Nordin.
Studio Fredman is built.
Sons of Kyuss change their name to Kyuss and add new members, except for guitarist Josh Homme.
After a hiatus of 7 years, rock group Styx reform to record a new album and tour without long-time guitarist Tommy Shaw, who was committed to Damn Yankees at the time.
Tapes of the original William Walton score for the 1969 film Battle of Britain are rediscovered, having been lost since the score was abandoned in favour of one by Ron Goodwin.