With the festival celebrating its quarter century this year, (albeit in a number of different guises), we thought at Gaylife towers, that we’d take a trip back 25 years to 1990 and have a look what was happening in the world in the year that saw the birth of what we now know as MANCHESTER PRIDE….
Probably the most prolific event of 1990 was the departure of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Months of unease amongst the public came to a head with the infamous poll tax riots earlier in the summer. Saddled with a clear lack of confidence from her own Conservative Party cabinet, the iron lady admitted defeat and resigned in November.
Her then chancellor and eventual successor, John Major made proposals to Europe about the possible launch of a European currency called the ‘Ecu’, which would run alongside states own national currencies. The idea was squashed by Europe as nonsense.
Earlier in the summer the world was shocked when Iraqi forces invaded neighbouring Kuwait due to a disagreement about Kuwait’s over production of oil sourced from the Rumaila oil field. Unease from the watching west would lead to the first Gulf War early in 1991 when the Iraqi forces would go on to destroy over 500 oil wells releasing 1000s of gallons into the sea and causing an environmental disaster.
Here in Manchester, inmates seized control of Strangeways Prison – and kept control for 25 days before being overthrown by riot police.
In happier news, the deconstruction of The Berlin Wall began in June 1990, reuniting East and West for the first time in almost 30 years. The wall had been built in 1961 by communist-run East Germany to prevent defectors from travelling over the border to capitalist-run West Germany. By October the reuniting of the countries would be complete.
Nelson Mandela was released from captivity in South Africa after being held prisoner by the state for 28 years. He was initially jailed in 1962 for conspiring to overthrow the government. Upon his release he would go on to become the first ever Black President of the country in a fully representative democratic election.
On television we were first introduced to ‘Mr Bean’, ‘Have I Got News For You’, ‘You’ve Been Framed’ and ‘Stars In Their Eyes’. We said goodbye to ‘Opportunity Knocks’, ‘Juke Box Jury’ and ‘Blankety Blank’ and we celebrated 30 years of Coronation Street.
Author Rahl Dahl (Charlie and the Choclate Factory), actress Greta Garbo, and creator of The Muppets, Jim Henson all passed away. Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), ‘Glee’ star Chris Colfer and actress Emma Watson were born in 1990.
The music world seemed to leap out of its pop induced 80s cycle, and Manchester was right there at the forefront of the emerging ‘Madchester’ rave/indie scene. The Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses muscled their way to the top of their game and brought a sense of cool back to the city with hits including ‘Kinky Affro’, ‘One Love’ and the now infamous ‘Step On.’
The queen of the gays was busy setting out her stall for the next 25 years in 1990, ditching her goody-two-shoes image for a sexier look and dancier sound. Yup, in May Kylie released the iconic ‘Better the devil you know’, bizarrely showcasing it to the world on the BBC Saturday morning kids magazine show ‘Going Live’.
Meanwhile, fresh from her monster hit ‘Vogue’, released in the spring, another gay icon, Madonna arrived on UK soil in the summer of 1990, bringing with her the legendary ‘Blonde Ambition Tour’. Of course, not one to shy away from controversy Madonna shocked the great British public, by using variations of the word “Fuck” 21 times in 3 minutes during her second performance at Wembley Stadium, as the show was being broadcast live on Radio 1. This resulted in Madonna being banned from ever performing live on the BBC again. The ban would not be lifted until 2005.
The act to sell more singles than anyone else in 1990 was New Kids on the Block, with their biggest hit ‘Tonight’ reaching number 3 in September. The top selling single overall was a re-release of the 70s smash hit ‘Unchained Melody’ by The Righteous Brothers. The track gained attention by being featured heavily in the movie ‘Ghost’ – which we’ll come to later on. The years biggest selling album ‘But Seriously’ from Phil Collins, also helped the singer to sell more albums overall than any other artist in 1990, with another release ‘Serious Hits Live’ arriving in the autumn.
The UK’s top ten biggest selling single’s of 1990 were….
1 Unchained Melody
The Righteous Brothers
2 Nothing Compare 2 U
3 Sacrifice / Healing Hands
4 Ice Ice Baby
6 Show Me Heaven
7 Dub Be Good To Me
9 World In Motion
New Order & The England Squad
10 The Power
The must have plaything of 1990 bought with it a merchandising extravaganza! The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, had their own animated TV series, number 1 hit single ‘Turtle Power’ and an array of toys, games and accessories. The brand would turnover profit of over 30 million dollars by the end of the year.
At the box office, 1990 was Julia Roberts’ year. Mega hit Pretty Woman smashed attendance records around the globe and turned the virtual unknown actress into a superstar overnight. The movie also starring Richard Gere, was not without it’s critics though. Brat pack star Molly Ringwald turned down Roberts’ role of Vivian, as did Sandra Bullock due to the content and the fact that neither wished to play a prostitute.
Pretty Woman would not be the biggest box office hit of 1990 though. In September, sleeper hit ‘Ghost’ hit the big screen. Starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg (who won an Academy Award for her trouble), Ghost tells the tale of a couple happily in love until Swayze is mugged and murdered on a New York Street. The film pulled at heart strings the world over and would go on to achieve the UK’s highest ever box office take at the time.
Other notable hits in 1990 included ‘Dick Tracy’ starring Warren Beatty and a not-too-bad-at-all-actually performance from Madonna as Breathless Mahoney. The much anticipated sequels to Die Hard and Gremlins hit the screen and the world took a first time glimpse of Macaulay Culkin in ‘Home Alone’.
Despite appearing in a catalogue of other films and TV series, Johnny Depp’s performance in 1990’s ‘Edward Scissorhands’ raised eyebrows and was a clear sign of things to come.
As far as LGBT issues go, 1990 was a dark year, with the exception of Manchester Pride’s launch. However, in July, following a spate of hate-crime murders including those of Christopher Schliach, Henry Bright, William Dalziel and actor Michael Boothe, hundreds of lesbians and gay men marched from the park where Boothe had been killed to Ealing town hall and held a candlelit vigil. The demonstration led to the formation of OutRage, who called for the police to start protecting gay men. In September, lesbian and gay police officers established the Lesbian and Gay Police Association.
Justin Fashanu became the first professional footballer to come out in the press, he would subsequently commit suicide.