Bridge on the Dire Straits Stratocaster: Japanese or Original?

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Guitars

You probably know the discussion started by John Suhr about the originality of Mark Knopfler red Dire Straits Stratocaster (the one with the maple neck, not the 1961 Strat with the rosewood fingerboard). John Suhr worked on Mark’s guitars in the early 80ies and stated that this guitar was not an original vintage Fender but a ‘fake’, probably a Japanese copy.

I always used to be a bit uncertain what to think about this. John Suhr is of course a great guitar expert who makes wonderful guitars but this does not automatically imply to be an expert on vintage Fenders, especially not back then when information was generally harder to get than it is now, it was of course pre-internet era, and even books on this topic were rare or simply non existent yet. And mind that of course Mark’s guitar was – if it was a vintage Fender – not in an original state: new body finish, new neck finish, new fender decal, new fingerboard, new pickguard,…

In this blog post I will show you a part of the guitar which – to my knowledge – cannot be a copy: the tremolo bridge.

80470-bridge-2

In the picture (from early 1978, Mark got the guitar in 1977) you can see a few details that in my opinion are not possible for any Japanese copy parts from the 70ies. Let’s start with the red arrows: here you can see a part of two of the three screws that hold the tremolo block to the bridge plate on any Fender vintage style tremolo. Well, this does not sound like any spectacular detail but I’d say most Japanese bridges were die-cast one-piece tremolos, similar to the Fender tremolos from the 70ies. All the ones by Tokai or Greco at least were.

There were a few two-piece constructions, I have one on a crappy Japanese copy myself. But on all of these that I found so far, the string spacing is different, almost three millimeters (1/8 “) less (52 mm compared to 55mm). If this was the case on Mark’s guitar, the strings would run differently (blue arrows) across the pole pieces of the bridge pickup (this is Mark’s original 1961 pickguard from his 1961 Stratocaster, with the original pickups). Also the base plates of the Japanese bridges are not as wide, due to the narrower string spacing. There would be a bigger gap between the bridge and the pickguard (green arrow).

These is enough reason for me to claim that this bridge is not a Japanese copy! Before you say, well, maybe it is a Chinese, Corean or European copy part… forget it, in the 70ies there were no copies from other Asian countries except Japan, and the few European copies of this time were not even close to a Fender bridge. They did not have the vintage-style bent string saddles etc. And what about American replacement parts? – Well, these were the 70ies, you could not buy any replacement parts except the ones by Schecter, and possibly Mighty Mite. These however were not close Fender copies but ‘improved designs’ with the more solid saddles, typically of brass, and hard to get in England about that time (Schecter’s first English distributor Chandler Guitars started in 1979).

I still might be wrong but I doubt it: show me a non-Fender bridge like this to prove me wrong!

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Playing some riffs, licks & solo from Dire Straits – Setting me up

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in MK guitar style and licks

Today I was just sitting around and playing bits and pieces of Setting me up from the first Dire Straits album. As the camera and recording gear was still in place from the last video, I spontanously decided to film a short sequence.

It is not really a performance of the song in the sense of playing the right pieces in the proper order but rather some jamming with myself within the groove of the song. In such a situation I usually play a mix of original licks from both the studio version and numerous live versions which I have somewhere in my head, plus some improvisation, so it is not an authentic version of the original. Still there are many riffs you will recognize from the record and might be interested to see how I play them.

The guitar is my 1983 Squier Strat from the first Japanese vintage series. These are really great guitars with a nice sound. Unfortunately they are getting rare, especially the fiesta red ones, and prices have started to rise considerably.

I replaced the original pickguard with a Sultans pickguard with the VFS-1 pickups. Here I am playing the bridge pickup in the tapped position. The guitar has 008 strings and is tuned to open A.

I did not use an amp but played into a portable PCM recorder, and added some basic effects (reverb, compression, dealy… plus some slight phasing) in the recording software. This approach is just for convenience, as I don’t have to mess around this way with the amp settings, mic positions etc.

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Dire Straits pictures by Adrian Boot

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Dire Straits/ Mark Knopfler live pictures and videos, Guitars, Mark Knopfler gear

Adrian Boot is one of Britain’s best-known music photographers. You might know his name  from  pictures in magazines  (e.g. in NME or Melody Maker) or books – e.g. from the Dire Straits book by Michael Oldfield  which features a lot of his pictures.

ZB3006_168257_0199While searching the web for unknown Dire Straits pictures, I recently found a website – urbanimage.tv – which has about 65 pictures of Dire Straits / Mark Knopfler by Adrian Boot. I have seen many of them before but I was surprised to also  find many which I did not know. As you know I am always investigating on all aspects of Mark’s gear – especially the gear used in the old days of Dire Straits. So I was pleased about some pictures from their rehearsal room that e.g. showed Mark’s 1961 Fender Strat from the back (5 tremolo springs, more details about this in one of the next blog posts), or some of the stolen sunburst Schecter Strat (it seems Adrian’s pictures from this photo session are in fact the only ones that exist of this guitar).

Dire StraitsYou can buy the pictures there, for personal or commercial use. Prices for personal use depend on the resolution, and are 10, 20, or 30 GBP. As I was hoping to find some new details, and being also curious about what is possible to see at the highest resolution of a professional photo, I decided to buy one. After paying with Paypal, you can immediately download the picture in a size of 2,500 pixels, and you will get a link to the full resolution picture (the resolution displayed below each pictures) in an email a bit later.

It is really fascinating how good the quality of such a picture is compared to the versions we see in a magazine. I was almost able to read the serial number of the guitar (at least if you already know it, for some reason the 68354 rather looked a bit like 68345 to me).

Personal use includes the right to print a picture (your favoured picture as a poster on your wall), use it as screen saver, or in the classroom etc. The price for a commercial licence is of course higher and depends on many aspects, like the place and type of your company, picture size, duration, and purpose.

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