Classic Singers 8 – Mark Knopfler
November 28, 2013 3 Comments
So, people of my vintage will know Mark Knopfler, he is best known as lead singer of Dire Straits, for a time the biggest band in the world. In 1978 Sultans of Swing sent them into the Top 10 in the UK charts and the album Dire Straits followed suit. The next album Communique didn’t produce any hit singles but made No 5 in the charts. I think this is a great album. What followed after this were more hit albums Making Movies, Love Over Gold (reached No. 1), the live album Alchemy, and then the monster, Brothers in Arms. These albums brought in more sophisticated production and contained some of the more well-known tracks like Romeo and Juliet, Tunnel of Love, Private Investigations, Brothers in Arms and Walk of Life. A little known EP was also released in 1983 called ExtendedancEPlay which contained Twisting by the Pool. This contains one of my favourite tracks, more of that later.
Mark Knopfler then went on to the Notting Hillbillies, a country/folk band and released an album Missing, Presumed Having a Good Time. I like this album, it’s gentle on the ears and very laid back. I even did a rendition of the track Working on the Railroad when called upon to sing by the locals on a trip through Mongolia. It was easy to remember! He also composed soundtracks for the films Local Hero and Cal. He also wrote Private Dancer¸ a hit for Tina Turner.
After a brief resurrection of Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler went solo with his first album Golden Heart in 1996, and has been going ever since, working with numerous artists including EmmyLou Harris, with whom he collaborated on the album All the Roadrunning. I am a real fan of some of his solo work, as he tell stories in the songs – and Mark Knopfler’s song writing has always been thoughtful and of good quality. Sometimes I don’t think he gets enough recognition for that.
Anyhow, onto the songs. I struggled to choose only five, as usual, and they’r probably not the ones you’d expect, but here goes:
1. Follow Me Home, from Communique is one of my favourites. It has a lovely beach feel to it. It ebbs and flows like waves washing along the shore. The sultry feel of a Caribbean island infuses the sound. I can feel the humidity, the sensuality. And why wouldn’t it, it was recorded in the Caribbean at Nassau in the Bahamas which probably influenced the ‘vibe’. It’s a little bit dark too and strangely hypnotic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhOPK3KVP0g
2. Badges, Posters, Stickers & T-shirts. What? I hear you ask. Well this was off the ExtendedanceEPlay EP. I love it. It’s a jazzy song and was the b-side of Private Investigations in the UK. I don’t think Mark Knopfler has done anything else like this, and that is a shame. The foot-tapping insistence of this track just takes you along with some great piano and drums to complete the jazz feel. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SwfTlQAVhs
3. Private Investigations – If you ever want a soundtrack for reading Raymond Chandler or Mickey Spillane novels, this is it. It was a big hit in the UK (No. 2) in 1982; the downtrodden, underpaid, private eye comes through in spades. The guitar work is sublime. It’s dark, brooding, and there’s a feeling of futility in the lyrics heading towards a lose-lose result for the investigator and all involved, but that doesn’t matter; there are always expenses to claim and some whisky to drink. It makes me think of Phillip Marlowe. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxS-ICzjO6I
4. 5:15am – this is from 2004 off Shangri-la, one of Mark Knopfler’s solo albums. It’s a great story, set in the 1960s about a chancer who is found dead in his car one morning. It is not, perhaps, as complex musically as some of MKs work, but I love the story-telling, something that he has done more of in his solo career. I also think that this song brings out his voice better than voice than many other songs. For me, this is a song that flows along smoothly and is a pleasure to listen to. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnrPq6ejZmg
5. Monteleone – This is a gentle song off the album Get Lucky (2009) that had me with the use of strings in the intro. It’s all about making a mandolin, a story of woodworking that brings out the love the instrument-maker has for his craft. Not a lot more to say, but it’s a smooth, and soothing ride; the sort of song that makes you stop what you are doing to listen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFKGtCfc6cQ