I guess most of you know the the Dire Straits concert at the Nelon Mandela 70th birthday tribute concert in Wembley Stadium, 1988, and have probably – just like me – watched the video of it many times. I at least have never noticed that on this gig Mark has two output jacks on the famous National Style-O, have you?
One of the two, the one with the lower output jack, is definitely the Ashworth pickup (AJ21) he already had during the Brothers in Arms era, just compare the look and position of the cable to the famous CD cover picture. The Ashworth is a passive piezo element pickup.
About the other we have no information yet. We can see that that the cable runs under the string holder, probably then it goes through a hole in the ‘chicken feet’ on the resonator plate into the guitar body, where the resonator itself rests. We can only speculate what it is exactly: I see mainly two possibilities, one is another pickup that is attached to the resonator cone, or a little microphone. Many acoustic guitar pickup systems use a combination of a microphone and a pickup, like the L.R. Baggs that is used in Mark’s Martins.
Well, it does not matter too much for the sound on this concert because it seems it was not in use here; I can see a plug in only one of the two output jacks. But it shows that Mark always tried out new stuff to improve his guitar sound.
With the following video I was trying to demonstrate the basic sound difference between a vintage Schecter Dream Machine and a ‘traditional’ Strat.
The Dream Machine is from about 1980, it has a Koa body and a one-piece Pau Ferro neck. The three pickups in the brass pickguard are the tapped F500T’s. It has s a hardtail brass bridge.
The Strat is a 1983 Japanese vintage Squier Stratocaster, unmodified.
Of course the amp & effects settings are 100% identical for both guitars. Also they both have new strings of the same brand and gauge (Fender 09 – 40). Each of the three pickups on the Schecter can be switched to the ‘normal’ coil (tapped) or the overwound (full) coil but I will only use the tapped pickup positions of Schecter in this video, as these are more comaparable to the Fender pickup sound.
Beside the sound difference, note that there is less hum and noises with the Schecter as the metal pickguard and the copper tape around the pickup coil provide a better shielding.
In 1980, shortly before recording the Making Movies album, Mark Knopfler got several Schecter Dream Machines. It was a sunburst Schecter Strat (serial number S8136) that was used at least on the song Tunnel of Love and that was stolen from the boot of a car near the band’s rehearsal room in Greenwich soon after.
There are only a few pictures of this guitar available. They are all from the same photo session with photographer Adrian Boot, and only two of these are in colour. One of these two pictures was on a cover of the Greek ‘Pop Rok’ magazine from December 1980, and medium quality scans of the cover could be found on various sources in the web.
I recently got hold of a copy of this magazine. It features a 3.5 pages story/interview with a live picture from summer 1979 plus various press kit pictures of the Making Movies album.
As Adrian allowed me to use detail parts of his pictures for our ‘scientific purposes’ here in this blog, I can show the guitar itself at full resolution here:
From this view we can see the pickguard and the neck very well but unfortunately hardly anything of the two tone sunburst and the beautiful flame of the birch body. We cannot see the bridge completely, neither. In fact there is not one picture at all available that shows whether this guitar has a tremolo or a hardtail bridge (!). I’d guess it is the tremolo version like Mark’s other Schecter Strats all are but who knows.
The pickup screws and (probably) the six bridge screws are nickel while the pickguard screws seem to be gold, also gold Kluson tuners and brass strap buttons. The nut is brass, as on all Schecter Dream Machines (brass hardware was essential for their hardware philosophy). The neck is what was called ‘figured maple’ in the Schecter catalogue, in this case flamed birdseye maple. However, the flame and the birdseyes are less prominent than e.g. on Mark’s red Schecter Strat. Note the dots on the neck surface, all of Mark’s other Dream Machines are dotless.
The guitar strap in this pictures looks similar to the black Music Man strap that Mark had in the late 70ies, but it is not a Music Man strap.