“There’s two days missing from my life. Apparently, we had a really good time!” That time The Cure's Robert Smith went on a two-day bender with David Bowie's guitarist, then offered him a job

Robert Smith and Reeves Gabrels at Bowie's 50th birthday gig, 1997
(Image credit: Getty Images)

David Bowie threw himself the 50th birthday party to end all 50th birthday parties in January, 1997, when he staged a show at New York’s Madison Square Garden at which he was joined by a dazzling array of special guests for a once-in-a-lifetime journey through his incredible back catalogue.

The evening saw Bowie share the stage with Smashing Pumpkins Billy Corgan, The Cure's Robert Smith, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, Foo Fighters, Lou Reed and more, and the celebrations also ended up having an unintended effect on The Cure’s long-term line-up.

Bowie’s Musical Director at the time was Reeves Gabrels, his former Tin Machine bandmate, and it fell upon the Staten Island-born guitarist to make sure each guest joining Bowie onstage had learned their parts ahead of time. Not everyone got the personal touch that he afforded to Robert Smith, however, as Gabrels told this writer in 2021, recalling that the pair ended up going on a three-day drinking bender in New York.

We'll let the man himself pick up the tale…

“Robert [Smith] was the last one that I got together with," Gabrels explained. "He came into New York on the Wednesday evening, we got together, we were talking, went through the songs and it was pretty obvious he had done his homework. He was spot on.”

Rather than congratulate themselves on a good night’s work , shake hands and head off to get some solid beauty sleep ahead of rehearsals for the star-studded, prestigious gig which had brought them together, the two musicians instead decided to hit the town together.

“We decided to go out to get a drink," recalled Gabrels, somewhat underplaying the events to come. "The next thing I remember, it's Friday, early afternoon and we're sitting in the lobby of the hotel we were staying in, and we both looked at each other and said, ‘I think we should go to bed now, it’s time for us to get some rest before rehearsals.’ And so he went back to his room and I went back to mine and then late Saturday morning, we got on a tour bus that took us to New Haven to do rehearsals. There’s two days missing from my life. Apparently, we had a really good time!”

They may not remember the specifics of this epic bonding session, but the pair obviously got on incredibly well, to the point where,15 years later, Smith would invite Gabrels to become The Cure's guitarist, a position the American musician still holds today. We wouldn't necessarily recommend that you try to steer your next job interview towards a 48-hour sesh with your prospective boss, but if it happens, stay positive, because, undoubtedly, trust, respect and the ability to get on it without a second thought can be seen as admirable qualities even outside the music industry, we've heard. 

Just don't blame us if things go tits up, okay? Cheers.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.