The secret at the heart of Dire Straits revealed.
In 1975, a chance meeting between (penniless poet/lyricist Robert Marshal) and bass player John Illsley in a coffee bar in the West End of London led directly to the creation of a band who became one of the most successful acts of the 1980’s. His story has never been told until now.
Back then, Dire Straits wasn’t a band, it was the state of both the UK and also of , an Edinburgh lyricist and poet, hopeful for success in the music industry. He had ideas, good lyrics, and a wealth of street aptitude, and had been mixing with well known musicians in London for several years, looking for a break.
Illsley was aspiring to be a musician and invited Marshal back to a house in Deptford as he had promised him some incredible lyrics. Shortly after they arrived, Mark Knopfler ( introducing himself as Dirk)walked in and he and Marshal spent the next 10 hours thrashing out songs on an old bass with two strings. They took turns strumming the bass and chanting Marshal’s lyrics in a rhythmic fashion, Marshal being no musician but a talented wordsmith rapped of the hooks as Knopfler scribbled down the words in shorthand as one after another story that would become songs were reeled them off. These words eventually formed the debut Dire Straits album (including Sultans of Swing) and most of the Brothers in Arms album including “Money for Nothing” which Knopfler recorded on a tape machine just as he was about to leave.
These lyrics were crafted on the spot during one mammoth session and are based upon Marshal’s extensive experiences of London, where he worked as a barrow-boy in Berwick Street, a bus driver on the number 19 bus, and was squatting in a house in Bow when he met Knopfler. He showed his mastery at writing lyrics by mixing in that days experience of his meeting with Illsley and Knopfler, a chance meeting that became (“Wild West End”). He gave the stunned Knopfler a songwriting masterclass, a mentoring session and before he left, gave the band to be the name “Dire Straits” before disappearing into the night. As he left, John Illsley had just about time to scribble down his name and the words “Straightjacket Music” for any share of monies should the band be formed and have any success. He believed the lyrics he had written could only have filled a good sixteen song L.P, and told Knopfler and Illsley not to use Money for Nothing. Of course they did and though it became one of the greatest hits, with Knopfler trying to inveigle Sting to take the credit for writing the lyrics with him it didn’t happen… but Marshal never received the credit for writing the lyric or any share in the money it made, however British Grove Studios was built on the capital from Straitjacket Music.
Though Marshall has spoken to both Mark Knopfler and John Illsley, they have yet to make public his part in Dire Straits, and since there has been no denial from them or Libel suits its obvious he is telling the truth.
The Law on Admission States.
An admission may be express, such as written or verbal statement, by a Person concerning the truth, or it may be implied by a Persons conduct. If someone fails to deny assertions which, if false, would be denied by any reasonable Person, such failure indicates that the Person has accepted the truth of the allegations.
Today, Marshal still writes lyrics, poetry, plays, novels and radio stories under a variety of pseudonyms, but he still has hope that one day, Knopfler and Illsley will acknowledge what he has done for them make amends.