Mark Knopfler celebrates his 72nd birthday today. The acclaimed guitarist, singer-songwriter, producer and composer was born on August 12, 1949 in Glasgow, Scotland but grew up in Blyth near Newcastle in England. Mark’s early influences included his uncle along with Shadows guitarist Hank Marvin. Knopfler pined after a red Fender Stratocaster like his hero Marvin but settled for a cheaper Hofner. He would soon get the guitar and also perform with his hero.
After graduating from the University of Leeds and working as a college lecturer for three years, Mark founded the legendary rock band Dire Straits in London in 1977 with his brother guitarist David Knopfler, bassist John Illsley and drummer Pick Withers. Although their debut single, “Sultans Of Swing,” found success, the four members of the band had been working by day and honing their chops in London clubs by night along with Withers being a session musician for Gerry Rafferty and others throughout the ‘70s. In ‘77, the band shopped around a demo which included “Sultans Of Swing,” and although they were turned down a few times the song eventually caught the ear of a BBC DJ named Charlie Gillet who began spinning the record on his BBC Radio London program Honky Tonk.
The traction of “Sultans,” which began to steadily climb the charts, led to the band signing with the Vertigo division of Phonogram Inc. and cutting their 1978 self-titled debut with producer Muff Winwood (Steve Winwood’s brother). The band began to tour, opening for Talking Heads, and a re-released “Sultans of Swing” began to scale the charts in the UK peaking at No. 8. This led to the band inking a deal with Warner Bros. and a subsequent tour of North America which shot “Sultans” into the Top 5 in the U.S. Bob Dylan caught the band in Los Angeles and invited Knopfler and Withers to record with him. Dire Straits had hit the big time.
The band’s star would continue to rise with subsequent albums and they achieved astronomical success with their May 1985 record Brothers In Arms, which included the smash MTV hit “Money For Nothing” as well other signature songs like “So Far Away,” “Walk Of Life” and more. On July 10, 1985 at the height of their fame Dire Straits performed at the legendary Wembley Arena in London.
The band had seen some personnel changes and only contained original members guitarist Mark Knopfler and bassist John Illsley. The lineup was rounded out by keyboardists Alan Clark and Guy Fletcher, guitarist Jack Sonni, drummer Terry Williams and saxophonist Chris White.
The ‘85 Wembley set saw Dire Straits sticking largely to material from Brothers in Arms — including the aforementioned “Money For Nothing” and “Walk Of Life” along with the title track — and their landmark 1980 album Making Movies, including classics from the latter like “Romeo And Juliet and “Tunnel Of Love.” The band also included “Sultans” and welcomed guitarist Nils Lofgren on “Solid Rock.” The set closes with Knopfler’s “Going Home: Theme of the Local Hero,” which features Mark’s real-life guitar hero Hank Marvin.
To celebrate Mark Knopfler’s birthday, watch him perform with Dire Straits from Wembley in 1985 below via the JamBase Live Video Archive for this edition of Throwback Thursday:
Dire Straits at Wembley Arena
- Ride Across the River
- Expresso Love
- So Far Away
- Romeo and Juliet
- Private Investigations
- Sultans of Swing
- Why Worry
- Walk of Life
- Two Young Lovers
- The Man’s Too Strong
- Money for Nothing
- Tunnel of Love
- Brothers in Arms
- Solid Rock
- Going Home: Theme of the Local Hero