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

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.

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

  1. Hello Ingoraven,greetings from Kosovo.I am a big fan of Mark Knopfler and I came across this blog this morning,I tell you it’s Fantastic.Can you please show us some acoustic sounds using MK’s technique,or something from his solo albums like Devil Baby for example.Thank you very much,I have subscribed to you via RSS so keep uploading.

  2. In the other post I said it must be a Dynacomp, but if it happens to be a grey box and not a red one, it can still be a Ross compressor… what do you think? Turning up the level on those can surely give enough boost to make the Twin break up a bit. Or he pulled out two power tubes, to bring down the power to around 40 Watts, then he could turn it up fully.

  3. The orange squeezer is sometimes said to be used, maybe he put it into a floor box, the original design in the “plug box” is not that handy I think.

  4. I don’t believe that Knopler did anything out of the ordinary with he’s gear in those days (I have the impression that he is not a “technician” really)and I think it’s too early in his career for having tech. guys around him doing all these tricks. I was wondering if it could be a switch for the amp (reverb on, bright on, vibrato off, etc etc)?

  5. All of these ideas seem possible, and i’ve always heard the idea that he uses a compressor, usually a dynacomp is what they say, but who knows. Not even Mark as he says he can’t really remember what he always used or tried out.

  6. Great blog!!! Probably he engages the reverb footswitch I have the impression tha he had a more “deep” sound and a little spring buzz can be heard when he depressed the switch.

  7. How do you distinguish the two pickguard without the black knob ?
    To me, this black knob was the only way to know which pickguard it was.

    I know that the 68354 one is greenish, but the color of old pictures is note always acurate, so it’s hard to tell.
    I’ve seen there’s a little damage (slot) above the vis of the neck PU on the 68354 , but I can’t see clearly if there’s is one also on the 80470 white pickguard.

    So, how are you sure that it is the 68354 one on this vidéos ?

  8. @comment 5:
    I agree, but John Illsley was said to be the technical guy in the band, he surely could have built the orange squeezer or something into some box.

    @comment 6:
    who says he played a dynacomp, never heard or read so

    @comment 7:
    I think he always had some reverb and no tremolo, I don’t hear changes concerning these

    @comment 8:
    I know because of a) the colour (greenish) b) the position of the volume poti (safest way!)

  9. I just meant that on alot of guitar blogs and players that i’ve asked have said that he used some compressors and they thought that a dynacomp was resonable because it was one of the earliest compressors, but all of this isn’t necessarily true. I’m in the belief somewhat that he just used amp and guitar and configured the tone with the guitar and the volume pedal and delay.

  10. about greenish pickguards :
    do you know if there are several hues of greenish ? (like there are serveral hues for body colors) ?

    I ask this because the pickguard of the white strat used on STP looks more green to the one on the 68354, and I think they are both from the same era (61-62 ?)

  11. Yes, they all look different, some are even blueish. This has to do with ageing effects, like the exposure to light etc. However, these nitro pickguards were greenish even when they were new, as some Fender catalogue pictures clearly show. In 1965 they were replaced with white plastic guards.

  12. i don’t know much about effects but when he taps two things could he possibly just be turning one off and the other on?

  13. Regarding the Lions. I think Mark just simply turned of the orange squezzer and turned on the delay( MXR ).

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