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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Mark Knopfler’s Morley Volume Pedal

Posted on 26 CommentsPosted in Effects, Mark Knopfler gear

After the other article about Knopfler’s Ernie Ball volume pedal, this time I want to feature the volume pedal he played before, which means during the Dire Straits days until the end of the Making Movies tour in 1981. The pedal I am talking about is the silver Morley Volume Pedal.

Morley made a whole range of effect foot pedals, including a very popular wha-wha or even models with built-in flanger or delay. All of these could be used as simple volume pedal as well. Knopfler’s model, simply called “VOL”, was just the ordinary volume pedal.

The unique thing about those Morleys was that they did not use a poti  but a photo resistor instead. The advantage: potis tend to make noise after some years of usage, the photo resistor will not, no matter how much you use or even misuse it (dusty or smoky stages, humidity etc.)

What sounds rather complicated was in reality an extremely simple circuit: a small bulb  – the one behind the red jewel light that is also used as power indicator – shines on a photo resistor (LCR) which lets the guitar signal pass as long as it receives light. When you roll back the pedal, a piece of black cloth is pushed between the bulb and the photo resistor which reduces the volume of the guitar accordingly. That’s all! Well, the simple ideas are often the best

The bulb (right) shines on the LCR (center), if this is not covered by the cloth

As the bulb needs electric power, the pedal is powered via mains line voltage, no external 9V adaptor like modern pedals! Since the power indicator bulb is part of the circuit, it means when it blows the pedal is dead. Fortunately replacing the bulb is simple and cheap.

The pedal way is extremely long. This means you can control the volume precisely, but you have to move your feet quite a lot. You get used to this, I have no problems with it. You can adjust how quickly or slowly the pedal reacts with a screw that changes the position of that black cloth. And you can adjust how easily the pedal moves with the two screws that hold the pedal. The whole thing is very stable, you can rest your foot with a lot of weight on it without problems.

One thing that is remarkable is that the pedal changes the sound, even when pushed down completely (full volume). This is due to the – compared with other guitar gear – extremely low input impedance which dampens the resonance peak of any passive guitar pick-up. It sweetens the sound of a Stratocaster pick-up. Without it that Dire Straits sound would definitely have been harsher.

Vintage Morley on stock in our shop !

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