Gear on one of the first Dire Straits gigs on the Clapham Common bandstand

Posted on 10 CommentsPosted in Amps, Dire Straits/ Mark Knopfler live pictures and videos, Effects, Guitars, Mark Knopfler gear, Misc

As promised in the comments on one of the last articles, I tried to find all pictures of one of Dire Straits’ first gigs – the one at the summer party for Charlie Gilett’s Honky Tonk Radio Show, on the Clapham Common bandstand, September 10, 1977. Unfortunately there are only 4 pictures it seems, not 5 or 6 as I hoped (the one on the sleeve of the Honky Tonk Demos compilation turned out  to be the same as the one in Michael Oldfield’s book about Dire Straits).

First the two pictures from the Vibrolux article again:


Knopfler is tuning his # 68354 Strat here (the ’61 with rosewood fingerboard), plugged into the brown Vibrolux. You cannot really see what the amp next to it is, but my guess is a blackface Fender Concert Amp, the same you can see in this article of this blog. I suspect it was borrowed from Mark’s Notting Hillbilly friend Brendan Croker. On the right side you can see the neck of another guitar: Mark’s ’59 Gibson Les Paul Special. The bass amp seems to be a …, well, a weird amp ;).

Picture number two:


John Illsley already has his Precision bass, and David seems to play the black Telecaster Thinline that Mark plays on Water of Love in later concerts. Both the picture above and this let us assume that David plays the Tele through the Concert amp, but theoretically it is possible that Mark plays through both of these amps (just like in the Roundhouse, January 29, 1978), and that David plays through an amp outside the picture, e.g. on the left side of these amps. There is absolutely no evidence for it, just a vague feeling …

The following picture is the one from the Michael Oldfield book. Meanwhile it  turned out that it is cropped  in the English version of the book,  while the French version includes a full-size version of the same pic (Thank you for sending me the pic, Jean-Francois) . The difference is just some mere 15 %  at the right side, but these 15 % just show an essential detail: the backside of the Strat.


… and a zoom:


Unfortunately you cannot really find any new information about the early Dire Straits Strat here, the resolution of this black/white picture pretends us from seeing any interesting details. I am almost sure that this is the same Strat as in the pictures above (the # 68354, which probably still was bare wood finish here), and that Mark plays the Les Paul Special. A lot of cables on the floor, why not some effect device never seen before which would finally tell us why Mark’s guitar sounded so beefy, warm and fat on some of these old recordings? Well, dream on…

… and here the fourth picture:


… and a zoom into it:


I can imagine that it is taken just some seconds before or after the one before, so I think he plays that Gibson on both pictures. Note that pedal: a colorsound. This can be a volume pedal, but more likely it is a wah or rather wah/volume (most of the colorsounds you find are this combination). They came in different colors, like yellow, blue, silver, purple, etc. It is a bit noisy but sounds really fine otherwise, it has its own character, like most good wahs have. I even  remember reading somewhere that Mark used a wah on this or the very first gig they did on a lawn before their house in Deptford, London.


Some other bands that played on this summer party gig were the Darts and Rico. In the evening of the same day Dire Straits played in the Hope & Anchor pub in Islington.

The photographer of all these pics is Andra Nelki.

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Gear on Dire Straits’ first TV appearance at Old Grey Whiste Test

Posted on 13 CommentsPosted in Amps, Dire Straits/ Mark Knopfler live pictures and videos, Effects, Guitars, Mark Knopfler gear

I recently watched the video clips of Dire Straits performing Sultans of Swing and Lions live on the British Old Grey Whistle Test again.  It is one of the earliest videos that exist, recorded in Manchester on May 15, 1978, about three months after the first CD.

Sultans of Swing


Let’s have a look at the gear we can see in this clip. Knopfler plays his red maple neck Fender (# 80470) with the greenish pickguard that originally belongs  on his other red Strat (click here for more info). The black volume knob is missing, just like on all pictures from early ’78. He had the brown guitar strap on all pictures before late October 1979, an easy way to tell the year an old Dire Straits picture is from. The intro and the middle solo of Lions are played with the middle pick-up it seems, the verses and Sultans of Swing with bridge & middle pick-ups.

The amp is a silverface Fender Twin Reverb, probably the same he played with a Marshall cab on the two videos  from middle 1978 (a playback of Sultans of Swing and Wild West End from June 12, and Sultans of Swing in the Revolver show, July 9.) He actually had the Twin until October 1978 when he replaced it with the Music Man HD 130 212 .  David plays a Twin, too. There is another guitar amp: a small Peavey backstage amp, on the left side of the stage near the bass amp. I have no idea what it is intended for. On the mentioned playback videos of Sultans of Swing and Wild West End you can see it there as well (note that although these are only playback, the stage is properly built up with all their normal  gear it seems, maybe for the next day’s gig, Sheffield, June 13).

Knopfler definitely uses the Morley volume pedal here. And the green MXR analog delay can be seen on the right side of the microphone stand at the beginning of Sultans of Swing. What is strange however it that at the beginning of Lions Knopfler taps with his right foot on two effects it seems, first the MXR right of the microphone stand, then on something left of it (but right of the Morley). I have no idea what this is, but this article seems related here. Maybe a compressor or some boost?

The sound on both clips is fat and warm with some distortion. If you have ever played a silverface Twin this is a bit surprising because the Twin is rather associated with a crsip, cristal clear sound.

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Two interesting live clips of Dire Straits Six Blade Knife

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in Dire Straits/ Mark Knopfler live pictures and videos, Misc

Jean-Francois wrote in a comment:

I didn`t know where to post this :
Somme years ago, I remember you talked on mKnews forum about Six blade Knife on 17/02/1979 in Cologne that has a longer solo in the middle than usual.
I`ve never heard it. It would be very nice from you if you could send it to me, or at least put it on your blog.
Also, I`ve never heard Six blade Knife from Split 85, but read great reviews about it (T.Molin or JVT). I know it isn`t complete, but I`m very curious to hear how it sounds.
Could you do to me(or to us) this favour please ?

No problem, here are audio clips from both. The first is from Cologne, February 17, 1979 – one day after the Rockpalast TV show. This was a radio broadcast for “WDR Nachtmusik” on Germany’s radio station WDR2. The broadcast was about 55 minutes and was recorded at the “Große Sendesaal” at WDR’s headquarter in Cologne – a room that had been well-known for radio concerts for some decades. Unfortunately they had some problems with hum from the lights so they decided to play without a proper light show (there was just a small audience).

I am not sure if it has to do with the right timing to fill exactly the given time frame, but Mark played the solo in the middle of Six Blade Knife longer than he normally did, and they started What’s the matter with you Baby differently (with a longer drum intro, something they did also in Rotterdam 1978 – another radio show).

There are a few different versions of this show around. There was a vinyl bootleg by the La Salle label which has the intro of Down to the Waterline but the last two songs are missing (a vinly LP only allowed about 45 minutes).The sound is alright but there are audible variations of the tape speed – in German we say “leiern”.

A few years later this concert was re-broadcasted and I recorded it myself on a tape cassette. The sound was good, but it was without the intro of Down to the Waterline and the last verse of Southbound Again. When I got my first CD writer, I made a CD-R from this tape and added the intro of the vinyl bootleg. I think this is still the version that is around among fans who collect bootleg recordings.

I also had a tape with the complete show (but in worse sound quality) that also had the end of Southbound Again, but this tape has disappeared somehow, I have not seen it for many years but I still believe it must be somewhere here.

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The other Six Blade Knife clip is from Split, former Yugoslavia, April 25, 1985. This was the beginning of the Brothers in Arms show. They soon dropped the song so there are no further recordings of this different version. Unfortunately we only have an incomplete clip of it.

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