I still remember that day. As Greil Marcus said, those were the days, like already in 1965-67, when you were afraid of entering a record shop because you knew how many good albums you could find and buy. So it was a 1978 afternoon when I entered my local record shop, and the guy, as soon as he saw me, started to yell: “Check this, check this! Great music!”. What the fuck is that, I thought, another Sex Pistols look-a-like band? I wasn’t much into the music of those days, punk music they called it, honestly, the Clash were something I would discover only one year later, with the magnificent London Calling album. But yes, every day there was a new band to check. So I asked to listen to it, and soon as the notes of the very first Dire Straits album came out from the speakers, I knew that something special was in that album and in that band.
Almost 30 years later, I finally had the chance to meet the leader of the band, now a solo artist with some wonderful solo albums behind him and a new one coming out in September: Mark Knopfler.
I’m sitting in front of this almost 60 year-old man, dressed in black with green sunglasses, and you can’t help but notice the tons of charisma coming out of him, something I noticed only once in my life, ten years ago, when I met Robbie Robertson.
He is a great cool guy, a funny one too, and in the end we get so well that he even asks me if I know some cool small club in my town where he can come and play next September. When I tell him that my then 14 year-old wife saw him in concert with the Dire Straits, the very first time they came to Italy in 1979, he just smiles and asks: “Did she have a good time?”.
But, like Robbie Robertson, Mark Knopfler was with a certain Bob Dylan during a very special moment. In fact, he recorded with him what I consider Bob Dylan’s best song after Like a Rolling Stone. The song is Blind Willie McTell, and when I ask Mark if he was surprised when that masterpiece wasn’t included in the album the two recorded together (Infidels), he just laughes and says: “No. I already knew what kind of person Bob Dylan is”.
He also tells me that a third still not circulating version of the song was recorded, just Dylan on piano and himself on electric guitar. Wow. Could you send me a copy, Mark?
About that song, he said that “With a song like that, which is such a great song, the old St. James Infirmary song, it doesn’t matter what instrumentation you use, because it’s a great construction, and a fantastic conception. It wouldn’t make any difference. You could have a concertina and a trumpet and it would be great”.
Knopfler first saw Bob Dylan in concert in Newcastle, UK, his hometown, in 1966, during the legendary first Dylan electric tour: “I was so involved when I saw him that night. I was already a Bob fan. I remained a Bob fan and I will always be a Bob fan”.
Do you need to ask him something more?