British songwriter and guitarist Mark Knopfler (August 12, 1949) was the lead guitarist and singer for Dire Straits, which he co-founded with his younger brother David in 1977. The band has sold more than 120 million records.
Dire Straits recorded six albums, including Brothers in Arms (1985), one of the best-selling albums in history. The band broke up in 1995, and Knopfler recorded nine solo albums.
In The Gallery
Knopfler’s best solos begin with the classic image of the man playing his red and white Fender Strat at the live version of In The Gallery, this time at the Rockpalast in Cologne, Germany. Knopfler’s first solo starts at around 3 minutes and 20 seconds while the second, in a very funk version, starts at around five.
Down to the Waterline
The song that begins with the immortal lines “Sweet Surrender at the Pier” was inspired by one of Knopfler’s early romantic encounters on the River Tyne. The bandleader’s smooth and elegant fingerpicking solo starts at 2 minutes 30 seconds and lasts for almost a minute. The song was included in the demo the band sent to Charlie Gillett, which led to Dire Straits’ first recording contract; it’s not hard to see why it had an immediate impact.
The fan-favorite Single Handed Sailor is about the ship Gypsy Moth and the 20th-century sailor Sir Francis Chichester, who was the first person to sail the world solo from west to east. The song is 4’42 “long and Knopfler’s standout solo starts playing at 2’48,” – and sails all the way into the song’s sunset.
Solid Rock was never released as a single, but appeared on all Dire Straits live performances. The 3’20 “tune includes two Knopfler solos with the first rock piece kicking off the song. The second solo starts at 1’40” and only lasts about 15 seconds, but it lands perfectly and contributes to the song being unforgettable.
Speedway At Nazaret
The lyrics initially appear to be about a racing season, the Indy 500, but a bit listen reveals that the song can be understood as a metaphor for life.
Knopfler’s solo begins at 3 ‘, about the middle of the song, and he watches it go by, sometimes accompanied by a violin, until the end.
Brothers In Arms
This moody and thoughtful song was written during the Falklands War, which was a controversial conflict between Argentina and Great Britain that resulted in hundreds of deaths and in which Great Britain reclaimed the islands. The song tells the story of a soldier who dies slowly on the battlefield but is comforted by his “brothers in arms.” Knopfler’s brooding solo starts around 5 ‘and perfectly reflects the mood of the song. In one of the live versions at Meistersaal, Berlin, on September 10, 2007, Knopfler can be seen playing his 90-second solo on a Gibson Les Paul Standard.
It Never Rains
The 8-minute song It Never Rains deals with romantic and financial problems. On the album version, Knopfler’s huge solo kicks in to lift the song to about 4’45 “, starts to rock, and never stops.
Tunnel of Love
This 8+ minute song refers specifically to Knopfler’s visit to the Whitley Bay Fair. The song was written exclusively by the Dire Straits singer, whose first 3’45 “solo is followed by a longer, more sentimental 6 ‘piece. Despite the song’s apparent commercial appeal, the single had, surprisingly, few sales.
Telegraph Road is a major 70-mile north-south highway in Michigan, and Knopfler’s 14-minute song reflects this journey, which he once made on the Dire Straits tour bus. Aside from the physical aspects of the journey, Knopfler uses the song to reflect on America’s journey, from the early pioneers who built the country through “churches and trains” to a story about unemployment and the decline of one man. Knopfler’s first solo starts around 6 ‘but the last epic, from 9’40 “, has an almost cinematic quality. In one of the live versions of the Dire Straits song, Knopfler can be seen playing his National Style O Resonator guitar from 1937.
Sultans Of Swing
Sultans of Swing is an incredible song that also contains Knopfler’s most famous solo on his Fender Stratocaster from around 3’20 “, and then an outstanding finger picking, from around 5 ‘to’ fade. ‘ inspired by a visit to a London pub in the mid-70s, where Knopfler saw a band in distress that called themselves The Sultans of Swing. The fact is that musicians with financial problems, who are full of dreams but playing to a woefully small and often disinterested audience is an experience many can relate strongly to. In one of the live versions Knopfler can be seen playing his Signature Pensa Custom MKI; like many of his solos, he does not play a lightning fast, but knows what to play, when to play it, and how to beautifully communicate strong emotions. The song helped spark a bidding war between different record labels, and became the first single. from the band. The rest, as they say, is history.