The Sultan of Swing

I watched a documentary about Mark Knopfler a while back. It was interesting listening to him talk although to be honest he was a boring enough sort of fella in a Northern Geordie sort of way. Now that the headband and curly hair has gone he reminds me a bit of Brian Robson, the Man Utd player. I reckon if he couldn’t play the geetar in that fingerpickin style no-one would be too bothered with him. As it is though he far knows his way round the frets.

He was talking about the stories behind his songs which is always an interesting topic. As interesting was the insights he gave on the actual playing of the tunes. This ranged from the unique distorted sound of Money for Nothing to the fluent guitar-punctuated Brothers in Arms. He explained how he tuned his National Steel bodied to a chord for Romeo and Juliet and described his intentions for the Romeo character – someone he described as a bit of a bollix. My words I would add, not his.

He talked about the duets he recorded with Emmylou Harris and in particular the song If This is Goodbye which was inspired by and drew on the voicemail messages left for their loved ones by the people stranded in the Twin Towers. The poignancy of the messages is not diminished in any way by the excellent duet. Likewise Brothers in Arms drew on the experiences during the Falklands and as one of my favourite songs I have to separate the dancer from the dance on this occasion.

Knopfler also exlained how every time he plays Sultans of Swing he has to ensure he plays the deedlie deedlie deedlie dee solo at the end or the punters feel short changed. As the successful bandleader of Dire Straits is it any surprise that he knows that giving the people what they want is the key to success.

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