MK guitar style and licks

Mark Knopfler playing with a pick in 1979

While Mark Knopfler is strongly associated with playing fingerstyle, we know he always used a pick occasionally as well. Before he started Dire Straits, he did a lot of fingerpicking-  e.g. on his National resonator guitar – but also used a pick much more than he did later. With his band before Dire Straits – the Cafe Racers – he mainly played with a pick on his 1959 Gibson Les Paul Special.

With Dire Straits, he used a pick on the song Expresso Love in 1980 and later, but in fact he used one before for Twisting by the pool which was played live in late 1979. I recently found the first pictures showing a pick on stage in 1979. It was pinched behind the pickguard through most parts of the concert it seems (several pictures of the gig were available). The gig should be Ney York, Palladium, September 11 [wow, a famous date together with the right place!!].

The only time I have seen a pick here
The only time I have seen a pick here

A pick on Bernadette?

I wonder why he did it this way, and why we have never seen a pick there on other late 1979 pictures or videos. Maybe he used it not only on Twisting but on another song? A good candidate might be Bernadette which was only played on that US tour I think (a song composed and sung by David Knopfler). I listened to it again (there are three recordings with this song), and yes, it might be a pick (at least no clear finger-style techniques or sounds on this one).

Decide for yourself (let us know with the comment function): pick or fingers?

3 thoughts on “Mark Knopfler playing with a pick in 1979

  1. Ah yes Mark playing with a pick instead of fingers.
    it has always been a curiosity for me to know exactly which parts/songs were played that way.

    As for this recording (it sound better than Boston is it another gig ?) I’d say that the riff sounds pick, but the solo sounds fingers especially the rake at 1:44, but well, it could also sound pick…arrgh not sure

    idem for In my car from Boston : the main riff/rhyhtm pattern sounds pick for much power, and then the solo sounds fingers.

    Even Portobello belle (from boston) : David starts the rhyhtm, and then Mark plays a sort of riff which sounds (a little bit) pick….but not the solo

    Maybe that’s why his pick was pinched behind the pickguard : in order to take it during some parts, but not for an entire song ?
    like Chris Rea did with a strip of tape on the body. I saw him live in 91, on “let’s dance”, he was playing the rhythm riff with fingers, and took the pick for the solo”
    Maybe Mark did something like that in late 79 ? (but in reverse)

    On dortmund 80, the pick was scotched on the mic handle, and he takes it for the news outro.

    the pick pinched behind the pickguard : I guess several guitarists do that, but the first that comes to mind are the 2 of Status Quo : several picks pinched behind the pickguard of the telecasters.

    another question : on the pics above the tremolo arm seems to be floating, while on Rockpalast or Chorus it was more “tight” , “serried”

  2. >As for this recording (it sound better than Boston is it another gig ?)
    It is the same (listen for the first “missing” vocal line). It seems to be the version I created in the 90ies, I think I denoised it, EQ’ed it and speed-corrected it (the silver bootleg CD was way out of tune)

    >> especially the rake at 1:44, but well, it could also sound pick…arrgh not sure
    dito, my first and second though also

    >>idem for In my car from Boston : the main riff/rhyhtm pattern sounds pick for much powe
    It seems In my Car was not played on the gig the picture is from (Single Handed Sailor instead)

    >>On dortmund 80, the pick was scotched on the mic handle, and he takes it for the news outro.
    And for Expresso Love which was played but not included on the TV broadcast

    1. thanks for the precisions.
      and what about the tremolo arm ?
      it’s rare to see it this way, although I saw another pic like that on the gear database, but most of the time it was “straight”

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