Magazine article The Spectator

Master Craftsman

Magazine article The Spectator

Master Craftsman

Article excerpt

You can always spot the contented pop star. Broad smile, slightly puffier cheeks than before, even tan, flecks of grey at the temples, not many photos of them on their new album. Well, if you were a contented pop star, would you want to give the game away? Misery and gloom are widely respected in rock circles, but happiness just winds everyone up. Radiohead's Thom Yorke reacted to global megastardom and the glazed adoration of millions by sinking into a three-year depression. Poor lamb. But if you like being rich, and loved, and able to do exactly what you want for the rest of your life, it's wise to keep quiet about it. People don't forgive such things.

Mark Knopfler's photograph appears only once on Walking To Philadelphia (Mercury) and even in that. he looks as though he'd prefer to be somewhere else. Yet anyone who saw him on Parkinson a few weeks ago will have noticed all the physical manifestations of middle-aged comfort, the rewards of a life lived far from rock star excess. Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms made his fortune, destroyed his reputation forever and allowed him to pursue his own musical path, regardless of changes in public taste.

I listened to Brothers In Arms the other day: it's technically brilliant but rather an arid piece of work, easier to admire than to love. His three albums since have been much better. The last Dire Straits album, On Every Street, reintroduced the blues and country influences that had informed the group's earliest work. Knopfler's first solo album, Golden Heart, while over long (74 minutes) and occasionally overwrought (an awful song about Imelda Marcos), included some of his best songwriting yet. Now, a mere four years of large dinners and long holidays later, comes Walking To Philadelphia, which is more of the same, only better. It seems odd to say it, but 15 years after his greatest popular success, Knopfler seems finally to be hitting his creative stride.

Maybe it's contentment that is responsible. On Every Street was obviously his way of preparing for a solo career, even if he didn't feel he was ready quite yet. With Golden Heart I suspect he was trying too hard. It's said that the whole album was recorded three times with three different bands in three different countries - crack session players in Nashville, Donal Lunny's fiddle-and-bodhran mob in Dublin, gnarled pub rockers in London. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.