Mark Knopfler has just had his 67th birthday, that is 45 years he’s been in the music scene with Dire Straits and as a solo artist.
When I got in touch with him in 2006, I thought that was when the con-men part of Knopfler and Illsley’s characters had started, because obviously they didn’t want to share either the money their friendship, or their experiences with me.
In fact it had started in 1979 when Bob Dylan had heard the music and the lyrics of the Dire Straits album, Bobs a wordsmith a poet and he’d heard something he liked.
I’d been into Dylan from the early sixties, he spoke of things I could relate with, times were hard, but Bob said they were changing, and my mates who all played the guitar did there damnedest to imitate the music he played while I vamped on the harmonica, and tried to get them interested in my poetry and lyrics. But who could compete in verse with Bob Dylan, and being a poet is like a seer looking into the future, and your always looking for people who share that gift.
So what happened when Mark Knopfler got the invite from Dylan to meet him, it wasn’t because like him Knopfler’s a Jew, it was because he liked what he’d heard on the Dire Straits album, and thought he’d found another writer and seer. So did Knopfler come clean and tell Bob Dylan that he hadn’t written the lyrics but he could probably get in touch with Robert Marshal the guy who had. Not on your life the conman took the great man on and probably like all the times he was asked about that album, he acted the quiet man n0t wanting any praise for the gift of having such a talent to write such great lyrics.
Their was however one bit of reality that came out of the meeting with Bob Dylan, Dave Pick Withers who also was obviously conned into believing Mark Knopfler had written the lyrics on the Dire Straits album, got the job of drumming on Dylan’s Slow Train album, while Illsley and Knopfler just continued to be a couple of Sultans of Swing.