Being a man, I can’t help but flick through the TV channels on the remote control. I think it comes from believing that I might be missing something. It drives my wife crazy, but I maintain that it servers a purpose, and can cite numerous examples of where it has paid off. Such as the time that I flicked onto the first minute of the French comedy Heartbreaker. Even my wife, who lets say is less than enthusiastic about most French films (Jean de Florette being the exception), had to admit that it was a great movie. It was during a similar flicking spree last Sunday that I came across the start of a BBC4 documentary on Mark Knopfler.
I was a massive fan of Dire Straits as young teenager. Even at the time I realized that this wasn’t necessarily the coolest band to be following. We had the album Money for Nothing which was a greatest hits compilation released in 1988. I was particularly taken with Telegraph road, which looking back on now I notice features the piano quite heavily. Another favourite was Romeo and Juliet which Knopfler is still very fond of, citing his family holidays in Cullercoats and Whitley bay as the inspiration. But the standout track for me was Brother in Arms.
Whenever I hear the song I am transported back to a family holiday in Plockton on the west coast of Scotland. The opening lines “These mist covered mountains, are a home now for me” were playing one day in our car, whilst the mist was rolling down off the mountains opposite the village (you get a lot of misty days on the west coast of Scotland). This image returns to my mind, every time I hear the song. I just love the haunting start to the song. In the documentary Mark explains how the song was written from the perspective of a mortally wounded soldier. He also recalls an encounter with a group of tankies, who related the tale of them lining up all their tanks in the desert after the end of the 1st Gulf war and blasting out the tune on them all. I remember the song being a forces favourite from my own service days.
Mark also revealed that the song still features in his playlist. The documentary was really interesting, as I didn’t know anything about him. Apparently he has sold over 120 million albums, but he was shown in Barcelona on the day of the concert sat unnoticed outside a café next to the venue which had a huge poster of his face. I liked the idea that he had no interest in reforming Dire Straits to cash in on a nostalgia tour, as seems to be popular at the moment with aging bands. Since breaking up the band in 1995 he has gone back to his folk roots, and is completely happy with his life and career. One of my favourite of his post-Dire Straits days is Sailing to Philadelphia.
If you didn’t get to see the program, and are in the UK it is still available to listen to until the early hours of Thursday 7th Feb on BBC iplayer (Mark Knopfler – A life in Songs. I would urge you to check it out. My wife, who was never a Dire Straits fan, really enjoyed it.
Watching the program really made me want to play Brothers in Arms. I never fancied learning the guitar but now that I’m learning the piano, I had a quick look online for sheet music, but didn’t quite find anything. Then on Friday I found a PVG copy of Money for Nothing in a Bristol Oxfam bookshop for £2.99. I have yet to master the piece, but I leave you with a video of someone else playing their own arrangement of it for solo piano. This is much more complicated than the stripped back version I have in my book, but it is a great performance.