Article 10

Rock On

Money for Nothing : Mark Knopfler Born: Aug 12th 1949

(Published in Times of India, Pune on 11th August, 2001)

I n the late seventies, the world of music was engulfed in the jungle of punk and disco. A reaction to the melodious bluesy songs of the Rock artistes of the earlier days, Punk was the music of the rebellious youth who asserted their individuality with raucous clutter. On the other hand, there was the safe terrain of Disco enjoyed by the more straight-laced folk, people who would prefer not to rock the boat! In the middle of this amazing contradiction, an album was released that was to herald the arrival of the most important British guitarist to enter the world of music after Clapton. This album's well-crafted songwriting and skilled playing unexpectedly appealed to over seven million record buyers and lo behold, Mark Knopfler and the Dire Straits had arrived and were here to stay!

Trained to become an English teacher, Mark and his brother David formed the band "Dire Straits" in August 1977. Appropriately named after their financial status, the band slowly began to develop a following after their numerous club gigs in London. The release of 'Sultans of Swing' in 1978 became the turning point in the lives of these young musicians and propelled the band to international stardom. The nimble fingers of the magician Mark had worked its magic on the millions starved of feel and subtlety and a musician was born who would influence the lives of millions of people through his music and voice.

For guitar enthusiasts in Pune, and there seem to be quite a few of them considering the emails I get, here are some interesting insights. Born left handed, Mark plays his guitar with his right hand and this is one of the secrets of his unmistakable sound. The strong hand on the neck results in his ability to pull or bend three strings all at the same time quite easily and he can get a great vibrato. Also, unlike most guitarists, he does not play with a pick and uses his thumb and first two fingers, giving him great phrasing possibilities. His style is instantly recognizable, even to non-players and he is definitely one the finest electric guitar players around whose playing is as wide ranging as it gets. From the crystal clean twang of 'Sultans Of Swing' to the swampy fuzz of 'Money For Nothing' and beyond!

Following the laid-back style of his gurus J .J. Cale and Buddy Holly, Mark and the band were soon on their way to collaborate with almost all their heroes. Bob Dylan asked Mark to play with him and so did Chet Atkins and Eric Clapton. By the middle of the eighties, Dire Straits had reached stadium gig status but it was the release of "Brothers in Arms" in '85 with the amazing 'Money for Nothing' and its startling video images and homegrown Rock and Roll philosophy that truly pushed the band to its greatest height.

Unfortunately, "what goes up, must come down" and the expected downfall followed as the pressures of stardom saw Mark withdrawing from the band leading to rumors of a split with the band. The personality of Mark Knopfler has overwhelmed the band where his solo albums has the same sound and feel of his band efforts. Yet the band continued in fits and starts with Mark, interspersing "Dire Straits" with his production and soundtrack jobs. Still the difference between the two had blurred to non-recognition. At most, the softer side of Mark would dominate his solo efforts. Recently Mark has released his latest solo album called "Sailing to Philadelphia" and is on a world tour playing to packed halls all over. As he approaches his 52nd birthday, he continues to excite thousands of his adoring fans with his skillful guitar playing, honest singing and above all his sincerity to the music he loves. Thank God, Mark changed his mind about entering the teaching profession. Never has the loss of an English teacher done so much for the music-loving world!

Rock on!

Nandu Bhende











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