In late 1989, U2 and BB King crossed paths a number of times with David Bowie and Reeves Gabrels in Sydney.
Bowie and Reeves were working on Tin Machine II in Sydney while U2 and BB King were playing 29 dates across Australia and New Zealand. At one stage, U2 had to reschedule a number of Sydney shows as Bono had lost his
Reeves Gabrels explains:
Every night they played, we hung out – if not at their shows then at the hotel afterwards.
REEVES GABRELS (Tin Machine and Bowie guitarist):
I remember one night sitting there at a table of BB King, Bono and David....
....it was at a time when James Brown was in jail.
fair amount of alcohol had been consumed and the three of them decided
to write a letter to James.
I was the one whose penmanship was still
intact so I was the ‘court stenographer’ – I was the one making sure
that everyone’s sentiments were clearly stated and that the letter made
The U2 Australia web page sheds some light on the end of tour party that included David Bowie. The date of this party would presumably have been November 19, 1989.
MARCUS SCHINTLER (Weddings, Parties, Anything):
We met David Bowie at the end of tour party.
I was playing pool with our agent and somehow we ended up playing doubles with David and a friend of his.
I got to spend some time chatting with him and he was a lovely bloke.
I said we might put out a rumour that he was going to do a couple of songs with us at our next Sydney show and he was happy for me to run with that. Of course I didn’t. You’d be pretty unhappy if you’d turned up to see David Bowie and he didn’t play.
Niall Geoghegan, Marcus Schintler and David Bowie interrupt a game of pool for a happy snap. Picture from the U2 Australia website.
NIALL GEOGHEGAN (Weddings, Parties, Anything):
David Bowie was in Sydney recording an album with Tin Machine at the time. Marcus Schintler and I ended up playing three games of pool (doubles) with him and a female friend.
The Edge saw Bowie was there and got up to jam with some band members and Stan Armstrong (part of the Weddings Parties Anything crew) and they started playing Suffragette City.
Richard Burgman, The Edge, Stan Armstrong and Mark Wallace play some tunes at the end of tour party. Picture from the U2 Australia website.
As I had been playing pool with Bowie, I approached him pleading for him to get up on stage with them, but he said that he had been chastised by the Musician’s Union of Australia earlier that week when he sang live briefly somewhere else.
As his visa only allowed him to be in Australia for recording purposes, he was not allowed to perform live. Unfortunately for us all, he stuck to his guns and didn’t get up with The Edge and the WPA guys, but it was fun watching The Edge playing a few songs with those guys anyway.
David Bowie, Peter Lawler (bassist for Weddings, Parties, Anything) and BB King at the end of tour party. Picture from the U2 Australia website.
MICK THOMAS (Weddings, Parties, Anything):
[David Bowie was] a good guy. We played pool and hung out. No pretense from our perspective.
We couldn’t seem to play enough [pool] in those days and I get the feeling U2’s management had decided it was a good way for them to connect with other people and recapture some of the social life of a normal rock band they might have missed in their quick, early ascent to fame.
[U2] went out and played in various Sydney pubs from memory. They weren’t that good (at pool). Marcus, our drummer, pantsed The Edge and he was a good sport and dropped his strides"
Read the full Weddings, Parties and Anything interview here.
Weddings Parties Anything vocalist Mick Thomas, The Edge and Big Pig vocalist Sherine Abeyratne at the Lovetown end of tour party in Sydney. Picture from the U2 Australia website.