“It had to be electric, and it had to be red”, Mark Knopfler tells Redbeard about his very first guitar in this week’s classic rock interview focusing on the 35th anniversary of the debut Dire Straits release. Knopfler then proceeds to tell, in detail that betrays his English literature professor day job which he held before committing full time to his South London-based band of starving musicians, how as a boy he became enamored with New Orleans boogie woogie courtesy of his Uncle Kingsley, then discovered American country blues from seeing Steve Phillips perform (they would later team up as the Notting Hillbillies when Knopfler retired the Dire Straits franchise).
When the first Dire Straits album quietly came out in 1978 containing “Down to the Waterline”,”Southbound Again”,”Water of Love”,”In the Gallery”, the subsequently oft-covered“Setting Me Up”, and the Cinderella story of that year,“Sultans of Swing”, the Knopfler compositions and the melancholy musical soundscapes contained within could not have been more in stark contrast to the brash, loud, and snotty London punk rock bands which had been grabbing all of the headlines. With his distinctive out-of-phase Stratocaster guitar sound and Dylanesque lyrics delivered in a husky half-spoken half-sung baritone, Mark Knopfler, his brother David, bass player John Illsley, and original drummer Pick Withers navigated Dire Straits into the rapids of worldwide fame.
Mark Knopfler’s first double album of new material, Privateering, is finally out in America, and fans are in luck as the multiple Grammy winner is performing some select dates next month at Long Beach 10/23, Las Vegas 10/25, the intimate Wiltern in Los Angeles 10/26, and a two-night stand at Oakland’s Fox Theater 10/27-28. –Redbeard