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  Sultans of Swing  

*Robert Sandall : "Your first hit, 'Sultans of Swing', was, I suppose, a sort of romantic portrait of a South London pub. How did that song come to you?" 
*Mark Knopfler :  "I've always been attracted to people who can find a way expressing themselves in tough circumstances. You, know, it's always spoken to me as a theme somehow, but the sympathy goes out to them - doesn't matter whether it's 'Sultans of Swings' or 'Les Boys' or somebody who's just painting a city garden or something. It's a kind of liberating thing, you know, when things are on top of you. Music's always been that way to me, in that it's always a source of comfort to me." 
*Robert Sandall : "You started yourselves in pubs and clubs, and actually 'Sultans' was a hit in Europe, Australia and the States before it was a hit in the UK." 
*Mark Knopfler : "You've got to get used to playing to an audience which is maybe a little bit smaller than the band. I remember going up to Dundee University and the Entertainment Secretary had booked us to play there but he booked us after term had finished and everybody had gone home for the holidays. We played to about 7 people, but we really enjoyed it - we invited them all into the dressing room for a drink afterwards (laughter). I think we used to get gabbed on appreciatively by punks in places like the Hope and Anchor. I always enjoyed the club thing, actually, and we ended up getting a residency at most of these places. We would do about 4 or 5 nights and ended up with one at the Marquee Club which I recall quite well because it was so packed that they got about 1000 people in there. We got 105, I think it was, for doing the gig and the PA had cost us 100 so we just got some beer in with the rest (laughter). 
*Robert Sandall: "And, 'Sultans' was a kind of tribute to bands who didn't go onto have the success you did, but loved playing." 
*Mark Knopfler : "It was a little deserted pub in Deptford where we were all living at the time - the pub was semi-deserted and the band were down at heel and it was just playing these Dixie standards of Louis Armstrong things, the way they always do. They're an interesting make up, those kind of bands in that they're blokes who do all sorts of things, aren't they? They're postmen, they're draughtsmen, whatever, quantity surveyors, teachers, different things and they were expressing themselves. I mean that's one thing that struck me that whatever I might have felt about it they were expressing themselves and when the guys said "Thank you very much", you know, "We are the Sultans of Swing", there was something really funny about it to me because Sultans, they absolutely weren't. You know they were rather tired little blokes in pullovers (laughter at end)." 

  Lady Writer   

*Robert Sandall: "The track 'Lady Writer' was released as a single - what, who, is that song about ? 
*Mark Knopfler : "Oh, I just saw some woman talking on the television. It's absolutely what it says, she was just talking on the television. I mean, I think I was starting to realise then that I could write about anything that I felt like, that I wanted to write about. I think that again, there are things that influenced Dylan, probably a strong influence where you can write about anything you want in a popular song. So a lot of my songs were, and are, just experiments and, you make all your mistakes in public, of course, and that's the way it works." 

  Romeo and Juliet  

*Robert Sandall : "One of your most romantic songs is 'Romeo and Juliet'. Is it a personal song for you?" 
*Mark Knopfler : "Well, actually I was living in Camberwell (laughter) at the time with Romeo and Juliet and I was actually sitting on a floor - I didn't have any furniture and I'd moved down the road from Deptford and I remember just writing that just sitting on the floor. Basically, pretty desperately in need of furniture. I remember thinking that the Romeo figure was a figure of fun because there's always a time, when you've been dropped by a girlfriend, or something. But there's always a time afterwards when you laugh about it, you know. And I just bore that in mind, the tragic figure of Romeo, if you like, was a figure of fun. It was a semi-tongue-in-cheek thing, you know."  thing, you know." 

  Tunnel of Love   

*Robert Sandall : "Another of the, I suppose, best remembered tracks from Making Movies was 'Tunnel of Love'." 
*Mark Knopfler : "Yeah, again it was making some cross-references between New York, Rockaway Beach and Whitley Bay in England where I used to go when I was a kid. A place called Cullercoates - I'd sit on the beach and play and make sandcastles and run around and, the Fairground was there, which they called the Spanish City because it was exotic. You know it had these white towers that looked like minerets and I thought it was a fantastic place. There was also a big fairground that comes, and still does, to the town moor in Newcastle every year. That's the biggest fair in Europe and that had an endless fascination, too. I just loved the whole deal, you know, it spoke to me, the smell, the diesel, the macho thing of the guys that operated the dodgems and the waltzers, you know. I used to think that was great. The life that I was living though which was touring and working hard with the band and everything, must have been similar to being rocketed around on one of these rides, rattling and cracking, around the place. What else can I remember about it? There was a Skater's Waltz which I can remember singing on the beach in Cullercoates and its starts with a tune which I used to gargle in the back of my throat trying to imitate a sort of Wurlitzer sound that played the Skater's Waltz. I probably wrote that and put that together over a long period of time in London and New York which was the same as all the songs on that record I think. You know we put a lot of hours into each one so it might take a couple of countries to get the thing done. Some songs write themselves pretty quickly. Other songs take a while. There is no formulMK : 

  Private Investigation  

*Robert Sandall : "In the days when we used to talk about LPs, 'Telegraph Road' was on the same side as a track called 'Private Investigations'. I've heard this was inspired by the Los Angeles crime writer, Raymond Chandler." 
*Mark Knopfler : "I sort of equated with it a Chandleresque thing, just from reading the idea of exhaustion and, what have you got at the end of it all? Nothing, really. You know, the thing that you love a lot which is music, can also hurt you a lot. With music, the highs are really high so the lows can be pretty low. The California that's portrayed by Chandler is really pretty bankrupt in terms of its morals and it seems that it's a world where there's not a lot of trust, where different things go on and so on and so forth. And I suppose that's what it is, that you find out certain things about what your doing. The music business, for example, which is a completely different thing from music. But it's also just part of growing up. Childish things falling away from you." 
*Robert Sandall : "It is rather a cynical track" 
*Mark Knopfler : "Well, I think that a certain amount of cynicism creeps in. You know, this is not just sort of ooh, wow, I'm touring America and by the time a few other things have crept in - life and knowing, paying the price for making dreams come true. Well, in fact, before that, long before that, around say an album time, actually getting used to the idea that some people actually knew who you were. It all struck me as odd, 'cause when you are a little bit conscious of the fact that some of the world is looking at you now. And that's not necessarily the most comfortable feeling in the world." 

  Twisting by The Pool  

*Robert Sandall : "The next thing that you recorded was a much more joyously up-tempo sort of tribute to rock n'roll, the 'Twisting by the Pool' EP." 
*Mark Knopfler : "I suppose with that it's just a reaction from that 'Love Over Gold' kind of period where it was quite a worked on record. I wanted to do something that just took a day, or took as long as it took to play it and that's when I went and did an EP with the group that just took a day to record and it sounds like it - that's all it was. I was also in love with an Everly Brothers EP. Later on, the Everlys, recorded a song that I wrote and it was a great thrill to play it with them on stage once in Tennessee. They were a huge influence on me when I was a kid. And of course, I've found the more you go back into music, you learn who influenced them, not that many people in England have heard of the Wilbur BrotheRS : There's a bit of Bo Diddley in there as well in Don - Don's a tremendous whacker of the guitar, he really whacked that rhythm." 

  Love Over Gold (Live)  

*Robert Sandall : "This live version of 'Love Over Gold' - do you actually remember the performance ?" 
*Mark Knopfler : "It was probably one of the Hammersmith Odeon ones and I think we were doing some sort of a residency there for a few nights running and we had a mobile come in. That's probably what it was because I think I stopped playing it after that period. I think I stopped playing a lot of them after that, I mean, you always do, you must move on. You just want to play something else." 
*Robert Sandall : "What's 'Love Over Gold' about ?" 
*Mark Knopfler : "'Love Over Gold' - there was just some graffiti that was on the wall in Deptford really that stuck in my mind when we were living in this condemned estate. Someone had written "Love Over Gold" on the wall as an idea and it stuck with me and then there was a girl I knew who seemed to be living 2 feet away from a accident all the time and she gave me the idea she was living on the kind of an edge. She would go crashing through a door, instead of (laughter) walking through it. It just got me thinking you know."

  So Far Away    

*Robert Sandall : "One of the most touching songs, I think, that Dire Straits recorded is 'So Far Away'. It's on the 'Brothers In Arms' album. A very simple, romantic, in the everyday sense, song." 
*Mark Knopfler : "Yeah, that's another thing really about touring, and recording, that if you are a working musician, you're away a long time and you end up writing those kinds of things quite a lot. They are songs about dislocation and separation and so on and so forth. A lot of my favourite songs have been about that anyway, I mean by other writers, so I suppose its a theme that stays with you." 

  Money For Nothing  

*Robert Sandall: (General Q on 'Brothers In Arms', their greatest selling album): "'Brothers In Arms' sold 25 million copies - when you were recording it, did you have any sense that you would unleash a blockbuster?" 
*Mark Knopfler : "Oh, absolutely not, I mean of course not, my goodness, It was another record but I was looking forward to making it. In fact in the end the stuff that we used was recorded over a very short period of time. There were a couple of things on it, moments on it when I remember thinking "blimey, that's not bad." One of them was Guy's keyboard part on 'Money For Nothing'. I remember I kept thinking, this needs something else, it needs something else and Guy came up with a great wobbly sound - sort of an "ee awing" sound on 'Money For Nothing' and I thought that's kind of good, I like that." 
*Robert Sandall : "What's Sting doing on the beginning of this track?" 
*Mark Knopfler : "The Police were doing an advert on MTV at the time - all these artists were appearing on there saying "I want my MTV" - that's how MTV were advertising themselves at that time. The Police had a song called 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' which had the melody "do, do, do, do, do, do, do" and I figured that would go with "I want my MTV" - I wanted to put that on the front because I imagined this little boy in his bedroom with his MTV going into this dreamworld with his notes. Then I wanted a camera to rush across country from out of his bedroom and take him into this world of the imagination because I think MTV is a great source of imagination for kids. They live inside that. With us it was the radio." 
*Robert Sandall : "'Money For Nothing' was reputedly based on an overheard conversation." 
*Mark Knopfler : "Yeah, I was in New York in one of the big appliance shops. Basically, the layout was quite simple, the kitchen display unit in the front, the table and chairs and drawers and everything were all there in the shop window. Then you go inside and they had rows of microwaves and all the rest of it and at the back there were big walls of TVs all turned to MTV. It was like a stage set because there was this big Joe Six Pack figure with his checked shirt and he had a barrel of some sort - he had been pulling boxes of something through the back door and he was holding forth to an audience of one or two about the performances on MTV. But the kind of stuff he was saying was so classic that I just managed to eavesdrop for a couple of minutes and then I went and got this piece of paper and started writing down the lines of things he was saying. Lines like, "That ain't working" and all that, and "Maybe get a blister on your finger", made me laugh. He said all that stuff and "What's that, Hawaiian noises?", so in a sense it was just a piece of reporting. But again, it's one of those things when you are aware that the situation has possibilities to create something." 

  Brothers in Arms  

*Robert Sandall : "The title track 'Brother In Arms' - what was the inspiration there?" 
*Mark Knopfler : "A phrase will stay with you for a while, you're not necessarily sure why, and it was the time of the Falklands War. My late father said at the time that it was ironic...the Russians being Brothers In Arms with this Fascist Argentinean Government - 'Brothers In Arms', he just used it then. The absurdity of it seems to stay in the mind." 
*Robert Sandall : "The tracks on this album seem to have a lot of space and atmosphere, almost as if you're shooting holes through the arrangement." 
*Mark Knopfler : "With the whole of that album, with the exception of 'Money For Nothing' and 'Walk of Life', I was trying to keep drums off all the songs. I was fed up with the sound of snare drums at that point in my life. I didn't want to have them on anything, and I was still experimenting so I think they're the only two songs with snare on them. With 'Brothers In Arms' I was trying to do something with Claves or crossed stick sounds and there the engineers were talking about how long it took to get a drum sound, days and all of this baloney you know...I've never had any patience with all that. I've always loved the combination of Gibson Les Pauls and string sounds, because the guitars are so powerful sounding, the strings are a contrast with it." 

  Walk of Life  

*Robert Sandall : "'Walk of Life' is another of the best-loved Dire Straits tunes, and a song which we are sometimes led to believe you didn't want to include on the album?" 
*Mark Knopfler : "Oh, no, WE did, we always wanted it. The engineer didn't, the co-producer, Neil, didn't want to have it in there...maybe he thought it was too lightweight. We all loved it. I got the idea from a photograph actually, a friend of John's took a singer down in a tunnel with his face against a wall to try and make his voice louder, and a boy with a guitar, just a rockabilly boy. I've always been attracted to that street-singer figure, it has a sort of Cajun influence. It was actually recorded by some Cajun artists afterwards, an accordion took the organ part." 
*Robert Sandall : "You use American influences in a number of your songs. What was 'Calling Elvis' all about?" 
*Mark Knopfler : "Just a pretty light thing that I turned into a kind of obsessive song. I got the idea from someone who was saying, talking about his sister, It's "like calling Elvis, trying to get hold of him", and these days with answering machines, it is a bit like that sometimes - an answering machine talking to another answering machine." 

  Heavy Fuel    

*Robert Sandall : "'Heavy Fuel' - this is another song which has a very strong sort of earthly American flavour." 
*Mark Knopfler : "If you are spending a long time in the States, the sheer enormity of the consumer culture starts to hit you hard, it really does. I think that is was the growth of that side, of the Burger lifestyle in England, that was starting to become so very apparent. At the end of the Thatcher years, the product was the kind of people who were really materialistic and greedy. the idea in business that you'd do anything, you'd fight dirty. It's based on the Martin Amis book, 'Money - John Self', a character he paints with a line from the book, "running on heavy fuel" - that's where I got the ideMK : I get a lot of my ideas from books."

  On Every Street  

*Robert Sandall : "So - 'On Every Street' - in some ways my favourite Dire Straits album, I'm not quite sure why, because it's not the one that most people talk about, but it's got some, some of my favourite tracks, I mean the title track for example, I find very moving. What's it about?" 
*Mark Knopfler : "I think it's about the fact that we're capable of holding an idea, an just trying to stay true to it, looking for something that you can't really find. And also, wondering why you're doing it. I think there's a line in there "I don't know why it is I'm still on the case." 
*Robert Sandall : "And I love the long instrumental codMK :" 
*Mark Knopfler : "Yeah, I think George Martin was in the studio at the time. He said 'Puccini did that I think' (Chuckle). I love George." 

Your Latest Trick (Live)    

*Robert Sandall : "What may be one of Dire Straits' lasting most legacies is the sax line from 'Your Latest Trick'." 
*Mark Knopfler : "The sax line, it's a funny thing, it just absolutely seemed to have to be there. Mike Brecker played it, Chris White played it on tour a lot and, a little bit afterwards, Chris told me that everytime he went into his brass shop to get new reeds there might be somebody there playing it. I always thought that was funny, because when you go into guitar shops it was often 'Stairway To Heaven' that kids would play, and I never thought I'd ever be responsible for what people would play in a music shop...that it would turn out to be a saxaphone line." 
*Robert Sandall : "There's a live version here of 'Your Latest Trick'. That song?" 
*Mark Knopfler : "That is again from living in New York. If you've lived there for a while, which I did, or part of the time anyway, you start to breathe-in the city really. The garbage trucks are like these great monsters that roar through the early hours of the night. I'd be coming home from the studio - I was doing long hours then - and I'd come home late at night. I'd ride on a bicycle flat out down the Avenue back home down to the Village, and you'd see these things about the city, roaring, just like great beasts. I think I got the idea from some literature somewhere, I don't remember what it was, but the idea of a "trick" has a number of possibilities. I like the idea of songs that have a number of possibilities, people do different things with them. Its really just playing with ideas...with that song, to be honest, I don't think that I was being specific about anything, it was just carrying on the ideMK : With some songs, you've started, so you finish, and it's really amazing. If you do section A, section B, can start dictating itself - it really just seems that ought to be there - and then C, and so on and so forth. It's a mysterious thing really that you're turning into, but you have to respect it in a way. You have to let the thing go where it wants to go, and you can't necessarily always force the issue - you finish it off and sign it." 

 

   Wild Theme - Local Hero 

*Robert Sandall : "I'm not quite sure of the chronology here but something which we obviously must mention because it's become one of Dire Straits' best remembered tunes, even though it wasn't exactly a Dire Straits piece in the first place, was the theme to Local Hero - the film - in which you did explore your interest in Celtic music." 
*Mark Knopfler : "I think with having grown up in the North you do absorb some of that stuff - I remember Scottish music in Glasgow, and I remember all those Tyneside songs very well. And I think there's the lyricism in these, I've always been very attracted by those sort of melodies anyway." 
*Robert Sandall : Segue: insert musical break from 'Local Hero' theme. 
*Mark Knopfler : "Some of the stuff I write, to me it's just like a scene, from a story. Sometimes you see the thing from a camera point of view, you're trying to tell it the way a camera would. You see shots, you know close-ups and wides, and all the rest of it. It's really just going from one crisis to the next until the whole thing's done. Because I always approach anything confidently like that, like a film...I always think it's beyond me. It actually really is, and I sort of blag my way through the thing, 'til it's done. But with the sort of players that I have, I really think we could take almost anything on, because they help me out so much." 


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