Brazilan rosewood and German authorities

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Misc, Vintage guitars

Brazilian rosewood is one of the greatest woods for fingerboards. Unfortunately this tropical tree – Dalbergia nigra – is  on the CITES list of endangered species so that strict restriction were put on trading this wood in 1992, the reason why Brazilian rosewood was found on many vintage guitars but hardly on new guitars (which often use Indian rosewood as a substitute).


Carrying such a vintage guitar on a tour requires a lot of different papers – acording to German authorities

 Vintage Guitar Show cancelled

Germany’s biggest vintage guitar show which was planned for the coming weekend (November 3/4) has been cancelled for legal reasons that have to do with this wood. What happened? German authorities (the Bundesamt für Naturschutz) released an anouncement (German language) about Brazilian rosewood last year that explicitely explains how to deal with any items, like guitars, that contain parts of this wood: if you want to travel with such a guitar from e.g. the US into the EU, you need a paper from the US authorities that allows exporting, and another one from German authorities that allows importing it. This is true for new instruments (which makes sense), but also for any instruments that were built before this wood was added to the CITES list (1992). It also requires another special paper (Vermarkungsbescheinigung) to display such an instrument in public on a non-private event.

This means: if you are an amateur musician and own such a guitar, you are not allowed to play it on a local gig in a pub, or to display it on a guitar show, theoretically not even to play it in a youtube video that includes advertizing, unless you have such a paper from the authorities.

This paper however requires a (sometimes expensive) certificate that your guitar was produced before 1992, and that you bought it before this date. If you bought it after 1992, you need papers that prove when and where the guitar was imported into the EU. If you bought it in e.g. 2005 on ebay, you might not got such papers from the seller, who also maybe had bought it from somwhere else without these papers, and you cannot prove legitimacy of the EU import.

This theoretically also applies to touring bands. Mark Knopfler’s Les Pauls, his ’61 Strat, his sunburst Telecaster, some of his Pensas and Pensa Suhrs, and possibly some of his Martins, have fingerboards of Brazilian rosewood. If after the US leg of a tour he continues the tour in the EU, the customs office might insist on an export paper from the US, an import paper from the EU, plus the licence to use it in public, and this for each guitar. If he does not have these papers, they might confiscate the guitar, or finally even destroy the wonderful 1958 Les Paul  “due to public interest”.

This has not happened to any touring artist yet (and hopefully never will), but it has been officially confirmed that this is law (or at least the way German authorities interprete some EU laws), and it is thus a theoretical threat for any musician.

Violin confiscated

The following however has happened, and it shows the way  German authorities can act: A Japanese star violin player carried a violin worth about 7.6 million Euros on a tour. German customs insisted on her paying 19% VAT (about 1.4 million Euros) to get the instrument into the EU, and this although it was clear that she did not want to sell it there but to play it on a classical concert (the violin was not even hers but a loan of some cultural institution). The violin was confiscated. It took an argument between the Japanese and German government to get it back some time later.

It is good to control trading with endangered species, and thus to protect the rain forest, but it is crazy to make playing an instrument illegal which you might have for years and that was built when the wood was legally available everywhere, unless you can provide a bunch of  difficult to get papers.

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Clips from Guitar Stories

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

Update: Soon after Sky Arts aired  Guitar Stories, the full video appeared on youtube:



As most fans will already know,   Sky Arts 1 will broadcast Guitar Stories on October 16 at 10pm  (some more info on Guitar Stories’ facebook page). Presented by John Illsley, Mark talks about his most important guitars.

In addition to the first trailer, a few more preview clips appeared recently which I put together for you here:


Clips 1 – 4:
The National Style-O

1961 Fender Stratocaster

Hofner V2

Another clip, with the 1958 Les Paul, cannot be embedded. You can watch it directly on youtube.

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Talking Heads live in 1978 – Encores with Mark Knopfler and John Illsley

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It is always a nice surprise to see “historic” pictures or recordings appear from the very early Dire Straits era. This time no pictures but a recording from the Talking Heads tour in early 1978  – to be precise ,  from February 5 at the Greyhound Croydon. This was the last gig of the Talking Heads tour on which Dire Straits were the support band, 5 days after the gig in Leeds which is – with the exception of the song Eastbound Train that was recorded live in 1977 and released as b-side of the Sultans of Swing single –  the first existing Dire Straits live recording.

On this Talking Heads recording, Mark appeared on two encore songs It seems a third one – Gloria – was played on that concerts but it is missing on the recording, too bad. John Illsley also appeared on one of the two. So it is really a very early diamond that was dug out (the full recording is available at the Spanish City tracker – thank you guys for your great work over there).

The first song with Mark is called I’m Not In Love. Unfortunately he is rather low in the mix, and as it as an audience recording )of course …) plus the fact that Talking Heads already had two guitar players on stage, it is hard to identify what exactly he is playing, and what the other two guitar players. The bright rhythm guitar should be David Byrne, but the second guitarist Jerry Harrison has a similar sound and makes identifying a bit difficult.

Here is an excerpt of the song I’m Not In Love, the first solo you hear is probably Mark (as said very low in the mix), while the second solo (starting at 0:50) might be Jerry Harrison. Another solo, starting at 1:56, is IMHO Mark again.

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The second song is Psycho Killer (one of their hits, so you might know this one). Interestingly it was played before on that concert, and then again as an encore with Mark and John Illsley. Comparing both versions makes it easier to tell what is Mark – probably the guitar parts that were not there in the first version (in which we hear also a guitar solo, but much louder). I think Mark’s solo starts around 0:40, while another guitarist plays the riff starting at 1:00. Then Mark plays the licks and solo parts during the rest of the song.

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Talking Heads on stage a few weeks later (May 1978)

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