Entrevistas

Sultans of Swing

*Robert Sandall : «Your first hit, ‘Sultans of Swing’, was, I suppose, a sort of romantic portrait of a South London pub. How did that song come to you?»

*Mark Knopfler:  «I’ve always been attracted to people who can find a way expressing themselves in tough circumstances. You, know, it’s always spoken to me as a theme somehow, but the sympathy goes out to them – doesn’t matter whether it’s ‘Sultans of Swings’ or ‘Les Boys’ or somebody who’s just painting a city garden or something. It’s a kind of liberating thing, you know, when things are on top of you. Music’s always been that way to me, in that it’s always a source of comfort to me.»

Traducción

*Robert Sandall: «Su primer éxito, ‘Sultanes del Swing’, fue, supongo, una especie de retrato romántico de un pub del sur de Londres. ¿Cómo te llegó esa canción?»

*Mark Knopfler:  Siempre me han atraído las personas que pueden encontrar la manera de expresarse en circunstancias difíciles. Sabes, siempre me ha hablado como un tema de alguna manera, pero la simpatía está con ellos, no importa si son ‘Sultans of Swings’ o ‘Les Boys’ o alguien que solo está pintando un jardín de la ciudad o algo así. Es una especie de cosa liberadora, ya sabes, cuando las cosas están encima de ti. La música siempre ha sido así para mí, en el sentido de que siempre es una fuente de consuelo para mí.

*Robert
Sandall : «You started yourselves in pubs and clubs, and actually ‘Sultans’ was a hit in Europe, Australia and the States before it was a hit in the UK.»
*Mark Knopfler: «You’ve got to get used to playing to an audience which is maybe a little bit smaller than the band. I remember going up to Dundee University and the Entertainment Secretary had booked us to play there but he booked us after term had finished and everybody had gone home for the holidays. We played to about 7 people, but we really enjoyed it – we invited them all into the dressing room for a drink afterwards (laughter). I think we used to get gabbed on appreciatively by punks in places like the Hope and Anchor. I always enjoyed the club thing, actually, and we ended up getting a residency at most of these places. We would do about 4 or 5 nights and ended up with one at the Marquee Club which I recall quite well because it was so packed that they got about 1000 people in there. We got £105, I think it was, for doing the gig and the PA had cost us £100 so we just got some beer in with the rest (laughter).

Traducción

Sandall: «Empezaron en pubs y clubes, y en realidad ‘Sultanes’ fue un éxito en Europa, Australia y Estados Unidos antes de que fuera un éxito en el Reino Unido.»

*Mark Knopfler: «Tenéis que acostumbraros a tocar para un público que es quizás un poco más pequeño que la banda. Recuerdo que fui a la Universidad de Dundee y el Secretario de Entretenimiento nos reservó para tocar allí pero nos reservó después de que el trimestre terminara y todo el mundo se fuera a casa por las vacaciones. Tocamos para unas 7 personas, pero realmente lo disfrutamos – los invitamos a todos al camerino para tomar una copa después (risas). Creo que los punks de lugares como Hope y Anchor solían hablarnos con aprecio. Siempre me gustó lo del club, en realidad, y terminamos consiguiendo una residencia en la mayoría de estos lugares. Hicimos unas 4 o 5 noches y terminamos con una en el Marquee Club, que recuerdo muy bien porque estaba tan lleno que tenían unas 1000 personas allí. Conseguimos 105 libras, creo que fue, por hacer el concierto y el PA nos había costado 100 libras, así que sólo conseguimos un poco de cerveza con el resto (risas).

*Robert Sandall: «And, ‘Sultans’ was a kind of tribute to bands who didn’t go onto have the success you did, but loved playing.»
*Mark Knopfler : «It was a little deserted pub in Deptford where we were all living at the time – the pub was semi-deserted and the band were down at heel and it was just playing these Dixie standards of Louis Armstrong things, the way they always do. They’re an interesting make up, those kind of bands in that they’re blokes who do all sorts of things, aren’t they? They’re postmen, they’re draughtsmen, whatever, quantity surveyors, teachers, different things and they were expressing themselves. I mean that’s one thing that struck me that whatever I might have felt about it they were expressing themselves and when the guys said «Thank you very much», you know, «We are the Sultans of Swing», there was something really funny about it to me because Sultans, they absolutely weren’t. You know they were rather tired little blokes in pullovers (laughter at end).»

Traducción

*Robert Sandall: «Y, ‘Sultanes’ fue una especie de tributo a las bandas que no tuvieron el éxito que tú tuviste, pero que amaban tocar.»

*Mark Knopfler: «Era un pequeño pub desierto en Deptford donde todos vivíamos en ese momento – el pub estaba semi-desierto y la banda estaba en el talón y sólo tocaba estos estándares Dixie de Louis Armstrong, como siempre lo hacen. Son un maquillaje interesante, ese tipo de bandas en las que son tipos que hacen todo tipo de cosas, ¿no? Son carteros, dibujantes, lo que sea, aparejadores, profesores, cosas diferentes y se expresan. Quiero decir que es una cosa que me llamó la atención que cualquier cosa que yo pudiera haber sentido al respecto se estaban expresando y cuando los chicos dijeron «Muchas gracias», ya sabes, «Somos los Sultanes del Swing», había algo realmente divertido para mí porque los Sultanes, no lo eran en absoluto. Ya sabes que eran unos tipos cansados con jerseys (risas al final)».

Lady Writer

*Robert Sandall: «The track ‘Lady Writer’ was released as a single – what, who, is that song about ?
*Mark Knopfler : «Oh, I just saw some woman talking on the television. It’s absolutely what it says, she was just talking on the television. I mean, I think I was starting to realise then that I could write about anything that I felt like, that I wanted to write about. I think that again, there are things that influenced Dylan, probably a strong influence where you can write about anything you want in a popular song. So a lot of my songs were, and are, just experiments and, you make all your mistakes in public, of course, and that’s the way it works.»

Traducción

*Robert Sandall: «La canción ‘Lady Writer’ fue lanzada como un single – ¿de qué, quién, es esa canción?

*Mark Knopfler: «Oh, acabo de ver a una mujer hablando en la televisión. Es absolutamente lo que dice, ella sólo estaba hablando en la televisión. Quiero decir, creo que empezaba a darme cuenta entonces de que podía escribir sobre cualquier cosa que me apeteciera, sobre lo que quisiera escribir. Creo que, de nuevo, hay cosas que influyeron en Dylan, probablemente una fuerte influencia en la que puedes escribir sobre cualquier cosa que quieras en una canción popular. Así que muchas de mis canciones eran, y son, sólo experimentos y, cometes todos tus errores en público, por supuesto, y así es como funciona».

Romeo and Juliet

*Robert Sandall : «One of your most romantic songs is ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Is it a personal song for you?»
*Mark Knopfler : «Well, actually I was living in Camberwell (laughter) at the time with Romeo and Juliet and I was actually sitting on a floor – I didn’t have any furniture and I’d moved down the road from Deptford and I remember just writing that just sitting on the floor. Basically, pretty desperately in need of furniture. I remember thinking that the Romeo figure was a figure of fun because there’s always a time, when you’ve been dropped by a girlfriend, or something. But there’s always a time afterwards when you laugh about it, you know. And I just bore that in mind, the tragic figure of Romeo, if you like, was a figure of fun. It was a semi-tongue-in-cheek thing, you know.»  thing, you know.»

Traducción

*Robert Sandall: «Una de sus canciones más románticas es ‘Romeo y Julieta’. ¿Es una canción personal para ti?» *Mark Knopfler: «Bueno, en realidad estaba viviendo en Camberwell (risas) en ese momento con Romeo y Julieta y en realidad estaba sentado en el suelo – no tenía muebles y me había mudado por el camino desde Deptford y recuerdo que sólo escribí eso sentado en el suelo. Básicamente, bastante desesperadamente necesitado de muebles. Recuerdo que pensé que la figura de Romeo era una figura de diversión porque siempre hay un momento, cuando te ha dejado caer una novia, o algo así. Pero siempre hay un momento después cuando te ríes de ello, ya sabes. Y lo tuve en cuenta, la trágica figura de Romeo, si quieres, era una figura divertida. Era una cosa semi-lengua-en-la-mejilla, ya sabes.» cosa, ya sabes.»

Tunnel of Love

*Robert Sandall : «Another of the, I suppose, best remembered tracks from Making Movies was ‘Tunnel of Love’.»
*Mark Knopfler : «Yeah, again it was making some cross-references between New York, Rockaway Beach and Whitley Bay in England where I used to go when I was a kid. A place called Cullercoates – I’d sit on the beach and play and make sandcastles and run around and, the Fairground was there, which they called the Spanish City because it was exotic. You know it had these white towers that looked like minerets and I thought it was a fantastic place. There was also a big fairground that comes, and still does, to the town moor in Newcastle every year. That’s the biggest fair in Europe and that had an endless fascination, too. I just loved the whole deal, you know, it spoke to me, the smell, the diesel, the macho thing of the guys that operated the dodgems and the waltzers, you know. I used to think that was great. The life that I was living though which was touring and working hard with the band and everything, must have been similar to being rocketed around on one of these rides, rattling and cracking, around the place. What else can I remember about it? There was a Skater’s Waltz which I can remember singing on the beach in Cullercoates and its starts with a tune which I used to gargle in the back of my throat trying to imitate a sort of Wurlitzer sound that played the Skater’s Waltz. I probably wrote that and put that together over a long period of time in London and New York which was the same as all the songs on that record I think. You know we put a lot of hours into each one so it might take a couple of countries to get the thing done. Some songs write themselves pretty quickly. Other songs take a while. There is no formulMK :

Traducción

*Robert Sandall: «Otro de los temas, supongo, más recordados de Making Movies fue ‘Tunnel of Love’.»

*Mark Knopfler : «Sí, de nuevo estaba haciendo algunas referencias cruzadas entre Nueva York, Rockaway Beach y Whitley Bay en Inglaterra donde solía ir cuando era niño. Un lugar llamado Cullercoates – me sentaba en la playa y jugaba y hacía castillos de arena y corría por ahí y, el recinto ferial estaba allí, que llamaban la Ciudad Española porque era exótica. Tenía unas torres blancas que parecían minaretes y me pareció un lugar fantástico. También había un gran recinto ferial que viene, y sigue viniendo, al páramo de la ciudad de Newcastle cada año. Es la mayor feria de Europa y también tenía una fascinación interminable. Me encantaba todo el asunto, ya sabes, me hablaba, el olor, el diesel, la cosa machista de los tipos que manejaban los dodgems y los valsers, ya sabes. Solía pensar que era genial. La vida que vivía, que era ir de gira y trabajar duro con la banda y todo eso, debe haber sido similar a ser lanzado en uno de estos paseos, traqueteando y chasqueando, por todo el lugar. ¿Qué más puedo recordar de eso? Había un Vals del Patinador que recuerdo haber cantado en la playa en Cullercoates y comienza con una melodía que solía hacer gárgaras en la parte posterior de mi garganta tratando de imitar una especie de sonido Wurlitzer que tocaba el Vals del Patinador. Probablemente escribí eso y lo armé durante un largo período de tiempo en Londres y Nueva York, que era el mismo que todas las canciones de ese disco, creo. Sabes que le dedicamos muchas horas a cada una, así que puede que nos lleve un par de países hacerla. Algunas canciones se escriben solas bastante rápido. Otras canciones toman un tiempo. No hay ninguna fórmula MK :

Private Investigation

*Robert Sandall : «In the days when we used to talk about LPs, ‘Telegraph Road’ was on the same side as a track called ‘Private Investigations’. I’ve heard this was inspired by the Los Angeles crime writer, Raymond Chandler.»
*Mark Knopfler : «I sort of equated with it a Chandleresque thing, just from reading the idea of exhaustion and, what have you got at the end of it all? Nothing, really. You know, the thing that you love a lot which is music, can also hurt you a lot. With music, the highs are really high so the lows can be pretty low. The California that’s portrayed by Chandler is really pretty bankrupt in terms of its morals and it seems that it’s a world where there’s not a lot of trust, where different things go on and so on and so forth. And I suppose that’s what it is, that you find out certain things about what your doing. The music business, for example, which is a completely different thing from music. But it’s also just part of growing up. Childish things falling away from you.»
*Robert Sandall : «It is rather a cynical track»
*Mark Knopfler : «Well, I think that a certain amount of cynicism creeps in. You know, this is not just sort of ooh, wow, I’m touring America and by the time a few other things have crept in – life and knowing, paying the price for making dreams come true. Well, in fact, before that, long before that, around say an album time, actually getting used to the idea that some people actually knew who you were. It all struck me as odd, ‘cause when you are a little bit conscious of the fact that some of the world is looking at you now. And that’s not necessarily the most comfortable feeling in the world.»

Traducción

*Robert Sandall: «En los días en que hablábamos de los LPs, ‘Telegraph Road’ estaba en el mismo lado que una pista llamada ‘Investigaciones Privadas’. He oído que está inspirado en el escritor de crímenes de Los Ángeles, Raymond Chandler.»

*Mark Knopfler: «Lo equiparé con una especie de cosa chandleresca, sólo por leer la idea de agotamiento y, ¿qué tienes al final de todo? Nada, en realidad. Sabes, lo que más te gusta, que es la música, también puede hacerte mucho daño. Con la música, los altos son muy altos, así que los bajos pueden ser bastante bajos. La California que retrata Chandler está bastante en bancarrota en términos de moralidad y parece que es un mundo en el que no hay mucha confianza, donde las cosas son diferentes y así sucesivamente. Y supongo que eso es lo que es, que descubres ciertas cosas sobre lo que haces. El negocio de la música, por ejemplo, que es una cosa completamente diferente de la música. Pero también es parte del crecimiento. Cosas infantiles que se alejan de ti.»

*Robert Sandall: «Es más bien una pista cínica»

*Mark Knopfler: «Bueno, creo que una cierta cantidad de cinismo se arrastra. Ya sabes, esto no es sólo una especie de ooh, wow, estoy de gira por América y por el momento algunas otras cosas se han deslizado en – la vida y el conocimiento, pagando el precio de hacer los sueños realidad. Bueno, de hecho, antes de eso, mucho antes de eso, por ejemplo en la época de un álbum, acostumbrándome a la idea de que algunas personas realmente sabían quién eras. Todo me pareció extraño, porque cuando eres un poco consciente del hecho de que parte del mundo te está mirando ahora. Y esa no es necesariamente la sensación más cómoda del mundo».

Twisting by The Pool

*Robert Sandall : «The next thing that you recorded was a much more joyously up-tempo sort of tribute to rock n’roll, the ‘Twisting by the Pool’ EP.»
*Mark Knopfler : «I suppose with that it’s just a reaction from that ‘Love Over Gold’ kind of period where it was quite a worked on record. I wanted to do something that just took a day, or took as long as it took to play it and that’s when I went and did an EP with the group that just took a day to record and it sounds like it – that’s all it was. I was also in love with an Everly Brothers EP. Later on, the Everlys, recorded a song that I wrote and it was a great thrill to play it with them on stage once in Tennessee. They were a huge influence on me when I was a kid. And of course, I’ve found the more you go back into music, you learn who influenced them, not that many people in England have heard of the Wilbur BrotheRS : There’s a bit of Bo Diddley in there as well in Don – Don’s a tremendous whacker of the guitar, he really whacked that rhythm.»

Traducción

*Robert Sandall: «Lo siguiente que grabaste fue un homenaje mucho más alegremente up-tempo al rock n’roll, el EP ‘Twisting by the Pool’.»

*Mark Knopfler: «Supongo que es una reacción de ese período de ‘Love Over Gold’ en el que se trabajó bastante en el disco. Quería hacer algo que me llevara un día, o el tiempo que fuera necesario para tocarlo y fue entonces cuando fui e hice un EP con el grupo que se tomó un día para grabar y suena como tal – eso es todo lo que fue. También estaba enamorado de un EP de los Everly Brothers. Más tarde, los Everlys grabaron una canción que escribí y fue una gran emoción tocarla con ellos en el escenario una vez en Tennessee. Fueron una gran influencia para mí cuando era niño. Y por supuesto, he descubierto que cuanto más te vuelves a la música, aprendes quién les influyó, no es que mucha gente en Inglaterra haya oído hablar de los Wilbur BrotheRS : Hay un poco de Bo Diddley en Don. Don es un gran guitarrista, realmente le dio a ese ritmo.»

 
 
Love Over Gold (Live)

*Robert Sandall : «This live version of ‘Love Over Gold’ – do you actually remember the performance ?»
*Mark Knopfler : «It was probably one of the Hammersmith Odeon ones and I think we were doing some sort of a residency there for a few nights running and we had a mobile come in. That’s probably what it was because I think I stopped playing it after that period. I think I stopped playing a lot of them after that, I mean, you always do, you must move on. You just want to play something else.»
*Robert Sandall : «What’s ‘Love Over Gold’ about ?»
*Mark Knopfler : «‘Love Over Gold’ – there was just some graffiti that was on the wall in Deptford really that stuck in my mind when we were living in this condemned estate. Someone had written «Love Over Gold» on the wall as an idea and it stuck with me and then there was a girl I knew who seemed to be living 2 feet away from a accident all the time and she gave me the idea she was living on the kind of an edge. She would go crashing through a door, instead of (laughter) walking through it. It just got me thinking you know.»

So Far Away

*Robert Sandall : «One of the most touching songs, I think, that Dire Straits recorded is ‘So Far Away’. It’s on the ‘Brothers In Arms’ album. A very simple, romantic, in the everyday sense, song.»
*Mark Knopfler : «Yeah, that’s another thing really about touring, and recording, that if you are a working musician, you’re away a long time and you end up writing those kinds of things quite a lot. They are songs about dislocation and separation and so on and so forth. A lot of my favourite songs have been about that anyway, I mean by other writers, so I suppose its a theme that stays with you.»

 

Money For Nothing

*Robert Sandall: (General Q on ‘Brothers In Arms’, their greatest selling album): «‘Brothers In Arms’ sold 25 million copies – when you were recording it, did you have any sense that you would unleash a blockbuster?»
*Mark Knopfler : «Oh, absolutely not, I mean of course not, my goodness, It was another record but I was looking forward to making it. In fact in the end the stuff that we used was recorded over a very short period of time. There were a couple of things on it, moments on it when I remember thinking «blimey, that’s not bad.» One of them was Guy’s keyboard part on ‘Money For Nothing’. I remember I kept thinking, this needs something else, it needs something else and Guy came up with a great wobbly sound – sort of an «ee awing» sound on ‘Money For Nothing’ and I thought that’s kind of good, I like that.»
*Robert Sandall : «What’s Sting doing on the beginning of this track?»
*Mark Knopfler : «The Police were doing an advert on MTV at the time – all these artists were appearing on there saying «I want my MTV» – that’s how MTV were advertising themselves at that time. The Police had a song called ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ which had the melody «do, do, do, do, do, do, do» and I figured that would go with «I want my MTV» – I wanted to put that on the front because I imagined this little boy in his bedroom with his MTV going into this dreamworld with his notes. Then I wanted a camera to rush across country from out of his bedroom and take him into this world of the imagination because I think MTV is a great source of imagination for kids. They live inside that. With us it was the radio.»
*Robert Sandall : «‘Money For Nothing’ was reputedly based on an overheard conversation.»
*Mark Knopfler : «Yeah, I was in New York in one of the big appliance shops. Basically, the layout was quite simple, the kitchen display unit in the front, the table and chairs and drawers and everything were all there in the shop window. Then you go inside and they had rows of microwaves and all the rest of it and at the back there were big walls of TVs all turned to MTV. It was like a stage set because there was this big Joe Six Pack figure with his checked shirt and he had a barrel of some sort – he had been pulling boxes of something through the back door and he was holding forth to an audience of one or two about the performances on MTV. But the kind of stuff he was saying was so classic that I just managed to eavesdrop for a couple of minutes and then I went and got this piece of paper and started writing down the lines of things he was saying. Lines like, «That ain’t working» and all that, and «Maybe get a blister on your finger», made me laugh. He said all that stuff and «What’s that, Hawaiian noises?», so in a sense it was just a piece of reporting. But again, it’s one of those things when you are aware that the situation has possibilities to create something.»

 

Brothers in Arms

*Robert Sandall : «The title track ‘Brother In Arms’ – what was the inspiration there?»
*Mark Knopfler : «A phrase will stay with you for a while, you’re not necessarily sure why, and it was the time of the Falklands War. My late father said at the time that it was ironic…the Russians being Brothers In Arms with this Fascist Argentinean Government – ‘Brothers In Arms’, he just used it then. The absurdity of it seems to stay in the mind.»
*Robert Sandall : «The tracks on this album seem to have a lot of space and atmosphere, almost as if you’re shooting holes through the arrangement.»
*Mark Knopfler : «With the whole of that album, with the exception of ‘Money For Nothing’ and ‘Walk of Life’, I was trying to keep drums off all the songs. I was fed up with the sound of snare drums at that point in my life. I didn’t want to have them on anything, and I was still experimenting so I think they’re the only two songs with snare on them. With ‘Brothers In Arms’ I was trying to do something with Claves or crossed stick sounds and there the engineers were talking about how long it took to get a drum sound, days and all of this baloney you know…I’ve never had any patience with all that. I’ve always loved the combination of Gibson Les Pauls and string sounds, because the guitars are so powerful sounding, the strings are a contrast with it.»

Walk of Life

*Robert Sandall : «‘Walk of Life’ is another of the best-loved Dire Straits tunes, and a song which we are sometimes led to believe you didn’t want to include on the album?»
*Mark Knopfler : «Oh, no, WE did, we always wanted it. The engineer didn’t, the co-producer, Neil, didn’t want to have it in there…maybe he thought it was too lightweight. We all loved it. I got the idea from a photograph actually, a friend of John’s took a singer down in a tunnel with his face against a wall to try and make his voice louder, and a boy with a guitar, just a rockabilly boy. I’ve always been attracted to that street-singer figure, it has a sort of Cajun influence. It was actually recorded by some Cajun artists afterwards, an accordion took the organ part.»
*Robert Sandall : «You use American influences in a number of your songs. What was ‘Calling Elvis’ all about?»
*Mark Knopfler : «Just a pretty light thing that I turned into a kind of obsessive song. I got the idea from someone who was saying, talking about his sister, It’s «like calling Elvis, trying to get hold of him», and these days with answering machines, it is a bit like that sometimes – an answering machine talking to another answering machine.»

 

Heavy Fuel

*Robert Sandall : «‘Heavy Fuel’ – this is another song which has a very strong sort of earthly American flavour.»
*Mark Knopfler : «If you are spending a long time in the States, the sheer enormity of the consumer culture starts to hit you hard, it really does. I think that is was the growth of that side, of the Burger lifestyle in England, that was starting to become so very apparent. At the end of the Thatcher years, the product was the kind of people who were really materialistic and greedy. the idea in business that you’d do anything, you’d fight dirty. It’s based on the Martin Amis book, ‘Money – John Self’, a character he paints with a line from the book, «running on heavy fuel» – that’s where I got the ideMK : I get a lot of my ideas from books.»

 

On Every Street

*Robert Sandall : «So – ‘On Every Street’ – in some ways my favourite Dire Straits album, I’m not quite sure why, because it’s not the one that most people talk about, but it’s got some, some of my favourite tracks, I mean the title track for example, I find very moving. What’s it about?»
*Mark Knopfler : «I think it’s about the fact that we’re capable of holding an idea, an just trying to stay true to it, looking for something that you can’t really find. And also, wondering why you’re doing it. I think there’s a line in there «I don’t know why it is I’m still on the case.»
*Robert Sandall : «And I love the long instrumental codMK :»
*Mark Knopfler : «Yeah, I think George Martin was in the studio at the time. He said ‘Puccini did that I think’ (Chuckle). I love George.»

Your Latest Trick (Live)

*Robert Sandall : «What may be one of Dire Straits’ lasting most legacies is the sax line from ‘Your Latest Trick’.»
*Mark Knopfler : «The sax line, it’s a funny thing, it just absolutely seemed to have to be there. Mike Brecker played it, Chris White played it on tour a lot and, a little bit afterwards, Chris told me that everytime he went into his brass shop to get new reeds there might be somebody there playing it. I always thought that was funny, because when you go into guitar shops it was often ‘Stairway To Heaven’ that kids would play, and I never thought I’d ever be responsible for what people would play in a music shop…that it would turn out to be a saxaphone line.»
*Robert Sandall : «There’s a live version here of ‘Your Latest Trick’. That song?»
*Mark Knopfler : «That is again from living in New York. If you’ve lived there for a while, which I did, or part of the time anyway, you start to breathe-in the city really. The garbage trucks are like these great monsters that roar through the early hours of the night. I’d be coming home from the studio – I was doing long hours then – and I’d come home late at night. I’d ride on a bicycle flat out down the Avenue back home down to the Village, and you’d see these things about the city, roaring, just like great beasts. I think I got the idea from some literature somewhere, I don’t remember what it was, but the idea of a «trick» has a number of possibilities. I like the idea of songs that have a number of possibilities, people do different things with them. Its really just playing with ideas…with that song, to be honest, I don’t think that I was being specific about anything, it was just carrying on the ideMK : With some songs, you’ve started, so you finish, and it’s really amazing. If you do section A, section B, can start dictating itself – it really just seems that ought to be there – and then C, and so on and so forth. It’s a mysterious thing really that you’re turning into, but you have to respect it in a way. You have to let the thing go where it wants to go, and you can’t necessarily always force the issue – you finish it off and sign it.»

 

 Wild Theme – Local Hero

*Robert Sandall : «I’m not quite sure of the chronology here but something which we obviously must mention because it’s become one of Dire Straits’ best remembered tunes, even though it wasn’t exactly a Dire Straits piece in the first place, was the theme to Local Hero – the film – in which you did explore your interest in Celtic music.»
*Mark Knopfler : «I think with having grown up in the North you do absorb some of that stuff – I remember Scottish music in Glasgow, and I remember all those Tyneside songs very well. And I think there’s the lyricism in these, I’ve always been very attracted by those sort of melodies anyway.»
*Robert Sandall : Segue: insert musical break from ‘Local Hero’ theme.
*Mark Knopfler : «Some of the stuff I write, to me it’s just like a scene, from a story. Sometimes you see the thing from a camera point of view, you’re trying to tell it the way a camera would. You see shots, you know close-ups and wides, and all the rest of it. It’s really just going from one crisis to the next until the whole thing’s done. Because I always approach anything confidently like that, like a film…I always think it’s beyond me. It actually really is, and I sort of blag my way through the thing, ‘til it’s done. But with the sort of players that I have, I really think we could take almost anything on, because they help me out so much.»

 

 

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Darling Pretty

«Well in fact I recorded a song in America, and then went back to Ireland to get the beginning, because I wanted to hear it recorded, hear the melody played that way anyway, so then there was some other music that was there and then I just chopped it off, so at the moment there’s just this intro which is with the whistle and harp and accordion and the fabulous Donal Lunny on bazouki and Sean Keane on violin, and again it’s the same set-up except this time it had Derek Bell from the Chieftains, and there’s there’s just that, plays the melody and then dives into the same tune but done rock ‘n’ roll band style, so it makes a kind of a link between whatever these links are supposed to be between.»

Imelda

«‘Imelda’ is just another rock ‘n’ roll tune, what I call kind of a portrait job, same way as ‘Money For Nothing’ or ‘Sultans Of Swing’ or ‘Rudiger’, all of these tunes, they’re just songs about a type. ‘Imelda’ is really about a type, it’s always struck me as being pretty funny, just looking at the difference between Naomi Campbell in all of this gear and some other people that waddle in and out of the shops dressed from head to foot in it. So I really see it as a type, it’s always been a source of some astonishment to me I suppose, that somebody could be dressed head to foot in something that adds up to more than most people earn in a year. The ‘Imelda’ name does a lot really in one word in terms of a type.»

Golden Heart

«‘Golden Heart’ again was recorded pretty much all together, so I was thinking about maybe taking my guitar off and playing it again properly, but I had a feeling from the session, so I just left it. That’s … it’s always a very exciting thing when you can keep as much from the original session as possible on the record, and that’s really what happened- And it’s just a love song.»

 

No Can Do

«‘No Can Do’ is a little bit like ‘What’s the worst job you ever had?’ and in fact this, in fact the warehouse, was not the worst job I ever had, but came close to it. That started off more as a straight rap style of a thing, and it just, the more I played it back the less I liked it, and wanted to change it around into something else, so with the help of Guy and Chuck we chopped it up and made it into something else, and I just thought, I felt as though I hadn’t done justice to it musically so I wanted to just put more into it, I’d written it too quickly, and originally it went into a kind of country blues thing that again I just got rid of. Might want to do that on stage though, just extend it into this other thing. But it’s really about a time when I was frustrated and wanting to be a musician and not being able to, it was that period where there were a lot of people like me, in the warehouse as well there were musicians, as well as a lot of other unfortunate people, and it’s just really about that period, I suppose, and people have often written tunes about jobs that they did and really, that’s I suppose a rather bad attempt at doing the same thing, only it’s not as good as ‘Big Boss Man.»

 

Vic And Ray

«‘Vic And Ray’ is another portrait job of some paparazzi, but the lower end of the paparazzi spectrum, there is like a pecking order of paparazzi apparently, and I was just a little bit astonished that, always been mildly appalled that you could spend your entire life waiting around and stuff. And you think well, maybe they’ve got a mother in hospital that they’ve got to pay for or something, it’s a relevant thing, everybody’s got to earn a living. I suppose it’s just, I feel so lucky and fortunate to be doing what I do, and I suppose I feel sorry for them, that’s really honestly what it is, although I have respect for anybody that does a job well. But it’s the idea of a life, it seems if you’ve only got one life then you might try doing something creative or lasting with it, you know.»

 

Don’t You Get It

«Oh, ‘Don’t You Get It’ is really, it’s not about, even though it says ‘Don’t you get it, I don’t want to buy your car,’ it’s not about a car. It’s just the idea about buying an idea, it’s the idea of not wanting to go your way but wanting to go my way, and it just applies to so many things, you know. If the record company wants you to do something or other and you say ‘No, I don’t want to do that, I want to do it this way.’ And really, you could apply it to anything that you want, I think it’s important to be able to please yourself because I think if you can’t please yourself then you can’t please anybody.»

A Night In Summer Long Ago

«‘A Night In Summer Long Ago,’ I suppose that answers some genetic chip in me, I’ve always felt an affinity with old Celtic music and I suppose it was the first music that I heard in Newcastle, and borders music in Glasgow’ when I was very small, and when I was pretty small in Newcastle, it’s just always been part of my background, so when I’ve had to do things like ‘Local Hero’ or ‘Cal,’ I’ve never had a problem getting into that melodic area and making music that way. I just feel it’s an attractive way to play, or an interesting way to play, if you like, a love song, the idea that it’s, if it’s setting the scene that’s way, way, way in the past, that it can still be relevant to situations now. You know, a man has still got to put himself in front of a girl, boy puts himself in front of a girl and says ‘Can I have this dance?’. And the other thing about it is that the character in the song is still puzzled at the end at why this beautiful girl should want to have anything to do with him. So that feeling of being fortunate is still relevant. I was talking to a guy the other day and he said he feels very lucky to be with his girl every day and I said ‘Well, you’re a lucky guy,’ that’s exactly what the song’s about. I remember a keyboard player in Pat Metheny’s band, we were in the studio, a jazz musician, he was in one studio and we were in the other, this was about ten years ago and he said ‘Man, how do you get that stuff to sound that way, ‘Local Hero’, that stuff sounds like it’s a thousand years old.»

Cannibals

«Well, ‘Cannibals’ really comes from a combination of things, it’s a touch of tongue-in-cheek with the ‘Jungle Rock’ influence from listening to so many old rockabilly records, being in love with Chuck Berry and hearing shades of ‘Promised Land,’ which is one of my favourite ever songs, and I’ve always loved that area, you know, same as ‘You Never Can Tell,’ Chuck Berry was about the first person I ever saw live on a stage, I was about 15, Newcastle City Hall, and I was just in some kind of heaven – so there’s an influence there, it was before I’d really heard or studied cajun music really, but there’s an influence there, and it’s also bits of being a dad, and the sort of things that being a parent, and the sort of things that children say to you. And also my own dad said to me once when I woke up in the middle of the night, I must have said I was worried about cannibals and he said, ‘Well, once upon a time there were cannibals, now there are no cannibals any more, go back to sleep.’ So it’s just a combination of all kinds of junk. Well, again, with ‘Walk Of Life’ it’s the same thing, you hear a kind of cajun influenced thing happening except it wasn’t played on the accordion, it was more a farfisa thing, «Walk Of Life,’ but in fact ‘Walk Of Life’ was recorded by a cajun artist afterwards, Charles Mann had something of a cajun hit with it, I understand. It’s just an influence that’s there, it’s just my idea of bliss is going home and playing the Balfour Brothers or, you know, hearing ‘Promised Land’, I mean to me that’s just, you know ‘Promised Land’ would be the kind of song that if you were asked the question, ‘Is there a song you wish you’d written well that would be mine, you know – or, but on the other side, away from R&B, it would be something like ‘Raglan Road’, which a traditional melody, not ascribed to anybody, words by Pete Kavanagh, so there’s a combination going on with me and my idea of bliss is somewhere, I’ve said this before somewhere I think, but it’s really somewhere where the Delta meets the Tyne – often when I’m working with a group, with a band I’ll say ‘No thirds,’ which is the ‘me’ in the ‘do-me-so-do’ take the third out and you have something Celtic, there’s a drone, but with the blues that moving third place, there’s something about the meeting of black and white music that I just adore. Which I suppose has led to the joy that I get out of a lot of roots music, it’s to do with being brought up with folk music and then getting involved in the blues, and going back, ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50 and so on and so forth, so there’s a mixture, there’s just a glorious stew, for me.»

 

I’m The Fool

«‘I’m The Fool’ I like the sound of, I’m pleased that it came out the way it did, I have to thank Chuck I suppose for that, and Richard, we got good sound going with the acoustics and then took what I call the Jurassic Stratocaster, this Jurassic Strat that Paul Kennerley, a dear friend of mine, who’s an Englishman who writes songs, lives in Nashville and and he’d given me this Strat as a present, 1954, and I just plugged it in and played the solo on it. It just, to me I like the way it’s worked in terms of the texture and the idea, and the idea is as well that, just being genuinely sorry for something that you’ve done, just having to face up to it, you know.»

 

Je Suis Désolé

«‘Je Suis Désolé’ just follows the cajun thing, again just listening to a lot of cajun music I suppose and coming out with something of your own. Because that’s all we are, you know, we absorb and squeeze something and something else comes out that’s yours. And quite a few of the songs on the record seem to me to have, for some reason, have taken a moving theme, and this just ties up again with cajun music I suppose, and I was down in Louisiana recording some of this stuff, and it ended up being recorded in, this particular version ended up being recorded in Nashville but with the Louisiana musicians. Sonny Landreth, who I’d got to know quite well before, I’d been playing on his record down in Louisiana anyway, and we started to try and record this, and Steve Conn on accordion, who was in Sonny’s band then, and Michael Doucet, who’s a wonderful fiddle player from down that way who Kennerley turned me on to, and Billy Ware on triangle because you hear the triangle on this thing, that’s really a feature of cajun music, and I hope I’m not insulting people who know about the music, but that’s a very important part of it, and then Michael Rhodes and Eddie Bayers, who are the bass player and drummer, were in Nashville, so those guys came up and we just put it together up there. And it was fun playing with Sonny at the end of it because, you know, we managed to share some breaks going on out, because it was a good vibe and it was rocking, and it was a good mood so we just played out.»

 

Rüdiger

«‘Rüdiger’ is a German autograph hunter, he was there the first time that we went years ago and he’s there now, as far as I know’, that’s just, I wrote the song about 12 years ago, maybe more, I don’t know, maybe 15, and never could, never really wanted to put music to it, never could find music to it that worked and then I found it, and because it was just a good time for me, it just seemed as though it wanted to have a tune. So there you’ve got an ancient lyric, I never felt as though I had to change a word, so I didn’t, just for some reason, probably just because I was feeling good about things and feeling productive, and out popped the tune for it, and the only difficulty in the studio with that was, the first time that the guys played it, they played it a little, ‘cos they were so keen to be playing it, it was like unleashing the dogs of war, so they played it a little bit up, and it just had to be more sad, bring out the sadness a little bit, went back in and there it was just like that, that’s how marvellous those players are.»

 

Nobody’s Got The Gun

«Er, ‘Nobody’s Got The Gun’ is just a song about an attitude to relationships, it’s as simple as that, and it’s just done in a way that I, a simple musical way that I kind of liked, it wasn’t going to go on the record originally and then Chuck saved it with a magnificent mix, and Guy too, Guy did some stuff afterwards, these little marimba things and we had fun just playing about with it. I’ve always, you might just hear a tiny shade of Sam Cooke in there because I’ve always adored that music, maybe there’s a little touch of his influence there and, ‘Don’t know much about history’ feeling in the guitar playing, obviously it’s not in the vocal (laughs). I’ve known Vince Gill for a long time, it’s always lovely, I mean I first heard Vince when he was singing backing vocals for people and I realised what a skill it was, especially if you can’t sing, you always feel a little in awe of people who can, I’ve always been a great admirer of people who can sing like birds, Dolly Parton and Vince, so yeah, Vince is singing on a couple of things, there’s also ‘Are We In Trouble Now’ he’s singing on too.»

 

Done With Bonaparte

«Oh, I was reading about, first novels and then historical novels and books about the period, I ended up once I started writing ‘Done With Bonaparte’ I found that I had to even research it, I’d be saying ‘Could you lose an eye at Austerlitz and still go on the Russian campaign if you were a French soldier?’ and so on and so forth, and asking questions of heads of history departments and things. It was quite fun to be doing that, you start feeling like a halfway real writer because you’ve actually got a genuine research question to ask – I was interested in it for a number of reasons, it was interesting to me that they called Napoleon ‘The Little Corporal’ and that’s what they called Hitler too, and there are the parallels with Yugoslavia and other things going on, people being sold a dream, quite interesting to me that nothing really changes. And as you get older of course the importance of history increases, and you wish that you’d, well I certainly do, wish that I’d had more of history, and I suppose because I didn’t, I went on to study English more, I’m more interested in history now then I was when I was a kid. Just reading the – this must be incredibly dull to people who don’t know what the hell I’m wittering about – but reading about history has actually given me quite a lot of pleasure, and you only really have history-, the present is over as soon as it’s happened and becomes history, and the future we don’t know anything about.»

Are We In Trouble Now

«‘Are We In Trouble Now’ is a falling in love song, but it’s country style, country in its form except that Franklin, Paul Franklin, liked the way that the middle eight went and suggested that it just go out that way, which I’m eternally grateful to him for. And it was a real treat because we’ve got ‘Pig’ Robbins on piano, who’s played with George Jones for many years, it was actually my pleasure to play with George not so long ago, that was just a wonderful experience. Quite a lot of my mornings I spent listening to old George Jones tunes. But anyway I loved the attitude on that, the piano playing is just something else…it’s a country song, I suppose, kind of a country song, I’m sure it won’t be covered over there but that doesn’t worry me. It’s the only one that I feel a bit embarrassed listening to it, I can live with most of the others but this makes me a bit embarrassed because a song of that sort of form, you’d expect to have a proper singer on it, and that was a problem, it was very hard for me to sing it, but because Vince is on the backing vocals it makes me sound almost halfway, almost there, but it’s Vince that’s making it sound better.»

 

 

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What It Is

«What It Is has got a Stratocaster on it which makes people think of the Straits but its a Scottish style of a lick. I was just coming into Scotland late one night, coming into Edinburgh rather late one night, Saturday night. Edinburgh is one of those places where its a magic city, beautiful, and I always make a point of going there whenever I’m in Scotland …and its so steeped in history that I’m always conscious of being …in the presence of, even though I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts as such, I’m always conscious of the presence of the past there. So, I like all that and its all presided over by this castle with a garrison and the sounds of Scotland, and these huge old buildings and this ancient old town park, you know, and its another road song in the sense that you’re missing… you’re on your own and you’re missing home and its one of those kind of tunes.»

Sailing To Philadelphia

«‘Philadelphia airport for me had become a place where I just changed planes and its full of shops and just millions of people going in every direction, different terminals and you can’t help thinking what it must have been like, you know, at the time of the Mason-Dixon, you know they would sail on a packet from a port on the west coast of England and you would sail and it would take weeks and weeks and weeks and if you were lucky you made it. And, as far as Dixon was concerned, in order to get down there from the North he would have taken a coal boat down to that port and then changed down there, Bristol or somewhere like that maybe or one of the ports on the west coast and then sail, I can’t remember which, and then sail to Philadelphia and nowadays we sail in on a great big airliner, I don’t really think much about it, but you can still see the boats out there when you’re sailing down over there through the clouds. You know, the book’s so great because it makes you think about the present, it doesn’t just put you in the past, it makes you think about what America really is and what we’re becoming, you know. So, there you are.»

Whose Your Baby Now ?

«‘Whose Your baby Now ? is just a quick written thing, it just depicts a situation and it can apply to different people and different things. And its the sort of thing that if I was a little kid and I heard the strumming acoustics I want to strum an acoustic guitar myself. That’s just a tradition I wouldn’t like to see die out, I’d want kids to always want to pick up a guitar and thrash it like that.»

 

Baloney Again

«‘Baloney Again is seen from the point of view of a black gospel group touring in the southern states of America in the early 50s, in the song 53 to be precise, and I got the idea from the sleeve notes for a Fairfield Four record, the Fairfield Four being actually a Nashville based black gospel group. The guy who wrote the sleeve notes said something about how it often had to be a baloney sandwich rather than a restaurant steak or whatever it was and that’s all it might take for me to get started on writing a song. I am very happy to report that there is no formula for writing songs as far as I’m concerned.»

 

The Last Laugh

«‘The Last Laugh, I suppose a lot of these songs when they happen to me….a lot of the songs seem to be partly about perseverance. What that says about me I really don’t know but just a few songs seem to be about that. I feel so fortunate in my life, although The Last Laugh is not necessarily about me, absolutely not, its just …its great when you see perseverance rewarded. And I did think it was appropriate for Van because he has stuck with his music and is enjoying a very powerful renaissance I think and a lot of the songs seem to be just really a little bit about that….I don’t know why I wrote Speedway At Nazareth, for instance, I hadn’t got a clue…I started writing that years ago and I don’t know why I started writing it…there’s something about the perseverance in pursuit of a rather strange holy grail, pursuit of a rather strange prize and there’s something in that human endeavour that always attracts me, it breaks my heart, there’s something really wonderful about it.»

 

Silvertown Blues

«Silvertown Blues…I wanted to have The Squeeze boys on, Glenn and Chris’ voices, because I just associate them with that time in…as we came up in Deptford we were playing music together at the same time, in fact the very first gig that we did was on the back of Farrar House in Deptford with Squeeze. We shared gigs at places like the Albany Empire and stuff like that….Again the Dome was….I started writing the song I think about the same time as it was getting off the ground and I was aware that, although I had left the area for a long time, I was aware that this poisonous bit of wasteland was being used in this great PR exercise and this huge inflation was going to go on, you know, this great thing was going to arise…and the funny thing is I actually think that the building itself is fine, its just the use of it still fills me with a kind of amazement.»

El Macho

«‘The name ‘Jerry’ came up just because I wanted it to be male or female when you’re listening to it and it can be what you want, I don’t want to spoil it for anybody, its just one of those situations. Its kind of funny, I got the idea of El Macho itself simply from a picture, from a Spanish painting that I saw, and I liked it and it sort of just stuck with me.»

Prairie Wedding

«Prairie Wedding…I got the idea from a play about postal brides and I do remember seeing something one night with no sound, I was watching a channel with no sound, or I was watching it in some hotel, maybe on the continent, I don’t know but it was a film about a similar situation. So, its really the two things, a play and a film. So, I really did it myself after that, it was my own take on what that must have felt like, to meet someone who you’d never met, who you’d never seen, and marry them: take them out into the middle of nowhere, try and make a life. Again, you know, a few of these things are about how relatively easy life is now compared with the way it was for millions of people not so long ago.»

 

Wanderlust

«‘I wrote Wanderlust a long time back when I must have been feeling a bit bleaker than I am now. I suppose its one of those things except that the urge to move is always pretty strong with a lot of musicians, I don’t quite know why that is. Maybe its just because I’ve done so many millions of miles touring, you know every now and again you get the urge to burn some rubber.»

 

Speedway At Nazareth

«‘I don’t know why I wrote Speedway At Nazareth, for instance, I hadn’t got a clue…I started writing that years ago and I don’t know why I started writing it…there’s something about the perseverance in pursuit of a rather strange holy grail, pursuit of a rather strange prize and there’s something in that human endeavour that always attracts me, it breaks my heart, there’s something really wonderful about it.»

 

  Junkie Doll

«‘Junkie Doll I got from…..the actual term was used by Edward Snorburn in a book, he had written a trilogy and there was a book…in which she actually fictionally but really actually depicts drug addiction and heroin addiction in the most graphic way, it really, really affected me very strongly.»

 

Sands of Nevada

«‘ I can’t remember where Sands of Nevada came from, its like a folk style tune but then with a lot of other stuff thrown on top of it. Its a combination of things. I was interested, I think, in the idea of gambling …in the idea of being an addictive gambler, so in a sense, like Junkie Doll, its another addictive song. I was just trying to understand it, I’ve never known, I don’t think I’ve ever known, anybody whose a gambling addict except the promoters, of course, who I’ve had to work with over the years and I’m convinced that they’re all gamblers.»

 

  One More Matineé

«Oh yeah, I mean the road….I love touring. I’m one of those very lucky people who enjoys the whole shebang as far as music goes, and I love writing and I love rehearsing more than anything. I love recording and I love touring. So, its only going to be a matter of time. I am going to get together with the five guys who I made the record with…I couldn’t think of a name for them so I called them the 96ers for this record just because we got together in 96 for Golden Heart and I suppose I’ll call them something else on the next record. We’re going to get together and do some television specials and things like that. Presumably, when that comes to an end, we’ll have some shows organized and we’ll be able to go on tour a little bit.»

 

 

 

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Why Aye Man

“One of those tunes that comes for a number of different reasons. It actually means “Well, of course” in Geordie, “Why, yes.” You still hear it all the time. Jimmy Nail was shooting the new “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet” series, and he happened to be saying that the North American Indians, in a lot of their music, they sounded just the same. That’s what put the idea in my head. That, and Seamus Heaney sent me a copy of “The Spirit Level”, his lovely book of poems that won the Whitbread prize. He’d written on the inside ‘To Mark, keep your level high.’ I was thinking about that too. On a building site you could always tell the brickies and the carpenters by their spirit levels and I was always fascinated by my dad’s spirit level, I was always looking at the little green bubble in the middle. I was really writing about the period in which the original “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet” was set, it struck me as ironic that there were refugees going from here to Germany, not just to Germany of course, they were going all over the place. So it’s a bit of a mish-mash, the whole thing, but I found myself writing about the Thatcher period. It wasn’t written as anything to do with the new TV series, in fact they just took the chorus, which is only three words anyway, and used that for the end. Jimmy was telling me he’s sure it’s going to be a St.James’ Park [Newcastle United FC ground] terrace song, which is territory I’ve been in before, in fact the Theme from Local Hero is the United theme tune. There was a little spell when it was dropped, when Ruud Gullit was running the team, but as soon as he went, it came back again, mysteriously…”

Devil Baby

“I was reading about sideshow live freak shows. It really just comes from whatever I happen to be reading at the time. The devil baby was one of the exhibits and it struck me that the current chat shows on television, like the Jerry Springer show, are a TV equivalent of the same kind of thing. So it was really just a little reflection on that. It starts from the point of view of someone who works in the sideshow area, then it moves to ‘CALL 1-800 IMA FREK’ if you want to get on the Springer show, which was a true thing, you could do that. So it’s just putting two periods next to each other and looking at the similarities and differences between them.

 

Hill Farmer’s Blues

“I spent a lot of time in the hills of Northumberland. I spent a bit of time doing farm work myself, so hill farming, although it’s a worldwide thing, is something I associate with Northumberland. Actually, there’s a line in it that goes “Going into Tow Law”; well Tow Law’s actually in County Durham, but it’s very close. Whenever I’ve driven through Tow Law I always got a feeling, can’t really explain what it was, but the power of the name always stuck with me. Recently it was the time of foot and mouth, and it was on my mind a lot, how hard it was. We were reading about suicides of farmers, and then I thought if I could make it work for everyone, your farmer in the song could be from where you come from, even in another country. So I’ve tried to make it work for everything and anywhere. Most importantly, I’ve tried to make it work for me.”

 

A Place Where We Used To Live

“There’s a lot about home, and I suppose it’s the nearest I’d want to get to nostalgia. It’s just a place where we used to live, that’s all it is. With the last album when we were doing the press kit, I went back and looked at my little house where I grew up, and the back lanes I used to play in. I tried to find my first little school, and it wasn’t there. Then I went on a trip with someone else back to her little school, not so long ago, and that’s what got me thinking about it.”

Quality Shoe

“I saw a sign on a store somewhere in London, and it wasn’t a good shoe store, but the sign above said Quality Shoes and that sparked it off. It’s from the point of view of the salesman – it’s kind of my little tribute to ‘King Of The Road’. I was lucky enough to meet Roger Miller shortly before he passed away, and it was a very pleasant experience.”

Fare Thee Well Northumberland

“Like ‘Why Aye Man’ and ‘Hill Farmer’s Blues’ it starts off like a folk tune. It could be Northumbrian or a borders folk tune. It’s just Richard Bennett strumming on his bazouki, then there’s a harmonica and a Delta or Chicago style piano, then I start playing some electric, and we’re in the blues, so it really just travels inside itself. I like that, if you can bring that off.”

Marbletown

“This is a solo voice and guitar thing. I’ve got a semi home studio in a little mews house in London, and there’s a little back bedroom in there that sounds really good, so I’ve done quite a lot of work in there. ‘Marbletown’ I just did with the Martin and a couple of mics.”

You Don’t Know You’re Born

“It’s a very British expression, in the States they don’t have it. So it is what it says it is. A phrase can strike a note, it could be just two or three words that somebody says, or sometimes it’s a place, which collides with you. I’ve no idea when the gong is going to go off or why it goes off, but it just does.”

Coyote

“Probably ‘Coyote’ comes from watching cartoons with my kids. I always loved Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, and this song is actually sung from the point of view of the Roadrunner, but the funny thing is my sympathy is with poor old Coyote. I don’t know what it is about him, he just keeps on trying. It’s a human thing, that endless, back-to-the-drawing-board thing that appeals to me. Even though it’s sung from the Roadrunner’s point of view. The Roadrunner is kind of cool too. They’re both cool.”

The Ragpicker’s Dream

“The Ragpicker’s Dream itself I just invented. To me as a guitar player it has a number of different meanings. The first time it’s a bottle of whisky. I’m more driven to write about the fringes of life, I’ve always been drawn to that.”

Daddy’s Gone To Knoxville

“Again, it follows a theme I’ve always been interested in, which is following a place where people are familiar with the names, and looking at it from the point of view of the past. Just the last few years, these places have boomed. The Gallatin Road in the first verse – you see the traffic reports in the States and you see the rush hour traffic. On screen they’ll be saying ‘The Gallatin Road is very heavy, there’s an overturned truck on Exit 9’ – well that was once just a little track, and not very long ago either. The development is frightening, and you start to wonder how long the wilderness is going to hold out against all this civilization. And I was thinking about Chet Atkins and his early music life, I think that was on my mind too, the endless backward and forward movement. So again I was using geography from Tennessee and putting it back a few decades into a much more innocent era.”

 

Old Pigweed

“I was learning about stews, like you do. One of the things I learned was that pigweed, which is a wild plant, was often put into Mulligan stews but it had to be young pigweed, the young plant. And I thought, somebody must have put old pigweed in it, it must have happened, and then somebody would be saying ‘Who put old pigweed in the Mulligan?’. So really that’s all it is.”

 

 

 

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Darling Pretty

«Well in fact I recorded a song in America, and then went back to Ireland to get the beginning, because I wanted to hear it recorded, hear the melody played that way anyway, so then there was some other music that was there and then I just chopped it off, so at the moment there’s just this intro which is with the whistle and harp and accordion and the fabulous Donal Lunny on bazouki and Sean Keane on violin, and again it’s the same set-up except this time it had Derek Bell from the Chieftains, and there’s there’s just that, plays the melody and then dives into the same tune but done rock ‘n’ roll band style, so it makes a kind of a link between whatever these links are supposed to be between.»

Imelda

«‘Imelda’ is just another rock ‘n’ roll tune, what I call kind of a portrait job, same way as ‘Money For Nothing’ or ‘Sultans Of Swing’ or ‘Rudiger’, all of these tunes, they’re just songs about a type. ‘Imelda’ is really about a type, it’s always struck me as being pretty funny, just looking at the difference between Naomi Campbell in all of this gear and some other people that waddle in and out of the shops dressed from head to foot in it. So I really see it as a type, it’s always been a source of some astonishment to me I suppose, that somebody could be dressed head to foot in something that adds up to more than most people earn in a year. The ‘Imelda’ name does a lot really in one word in terms of a type.»

Golden Heart

«‘Golden Heart’ again was recorded pretty much all together, so I was thinking about maybe taking my guitar off and playing it again properly, but I had a feeling from the session, so I just left it. That’s … it’s always a very exciting thing when you can keep as much from the original session as possible on the record, and that’s really what happened- And it’s just a love song.»

 

No Can Do

«‘No Can Do’ is a little bit like ‘What’s the worst job you ever had?’ and in fact this, in fact the warehouse, was not the worst job I ever had, but came close to it. That started off more as a straight rap style of a thing, and it just, the more I played it back the less I liked it, and wanted to change it around into something else, so with the help of Guy and Chuck we chopped it up and made it into something else, and I just thought, I felt as though I hadn’t done justice to it musically so I wanted to just put more into it, I’d written it too quickly, and originally it went into a kind of country blues thing that again I just got rid of. Might want to do that on stage though, just extend it into this other thing. But it’s really about a time when I was frustrated and wanting to be a musician and not being able to, it was that period where there were a lot of people like me, in the warehouse as well there were musicians, as well as a lot of other unfortunate people, and it’s just really about that period, I suppose, and people have often written tunes about jobs that they did and really, that’s I suppose a rather bad attempt at doing the same thing, only it’s not as good as ‘Big Boss Man.»

 

Vic And Ray

«‘Vic And Ray’ is another portrait job of some paparazzi, but the lower end of the paparazzi spectrum, there is like a pecking order of paparazzi apparently, and I was just a little bit astonished that, always been mildly appalled that you could spend your entire life waiting around and stuff. And you think well, maybe they’ve got a mother in hospital that they’ve got to pay for or something, it’s a relevant thing, everybody’s got to earn a living. I suppose it’s just, I feel so lucky and fortunate to be doing what I do, and I suppose I feel sorry for them, that’s really honestly what it is, although I have respect for anybody that does a job well. But it’s the idea of a life, it seems if you’ve only got one life then you might try doing something creative or lasting with it, you know.»

 

Don’t You Get It

«Oh, ‘Don’t You Get It’ is really, it’s not about, even though it says ‘Don’t you get it, I don’t want to buy your car,’ it’s not about a car. It’s just the idea about buying an idea, it’s the idea of not wanting to go your way but wanting to go my way, and it just applies to so many things, you know. If the record company wants you to do something or other and you say ‘No, I don’t want to do that, I want to do it this way.’ And really, you could apply it to anything that you want, I think it’s important to be able to please yourself because I think if you can’t please yourself then you can’t please anybody.»

A Night In Summer Long Ago

«‘A Night In Summer Long Ago,’ I suppose that answers some genetic chip in me, I’ve always felt an affinity with old Celtic music and I suppose it was the first music that I heard in Newcastle, and borders music in Glasgow’ when I was very small, and when I was pretty small in Newcastle, it’s just always been part of my background, so when I’ve had to do things like ‘Local Hero’ or ‘Cal,’ I’ve never had a problem getting into that melodic area and making music that way. I just feel it’s an attractive way to play, or an interesting way to play, if you like, a love song, the idea that it’s, if it’s setting the scene that’s way, way, way in the past, that it can still be relevant to situations now. You know, a man has still got to put himself in front of a girl, boy puts himself in front of a girl and says ‘Can I have this dance?’. And the other thing about it is that the character in the song is still puzzled at the end at why this beautiful girl should want to have anything to do with him. So that feeling of being fortunate is still relevant. I was talking to a guy the other day and he said he feels very lucky to be with his girl every day and I said ‘Well, you’re a lucky guy,’ that’s exactly what the song’s about. I remember a keyboard player in Pat Metheny’s band, we were in the studio, a jazz musician, he was in one studio and we were in the other, this was about ten years ago and he said ‘Man, how do you get that stuff to sound that way, ‘Local Hero’, that stuff sounds like it’s a thousand years old.»

Cannibals

«Well, ‘Cannibals’ really comes from a combination of things, it’s a touch of tongue-in-cheek with the ‘Jungle Rock’ influence from listening to so many old rockabilly records, being in love with Chuck Berry and hearing shades of ‘Promised Land,’ which is one of my favourite ever songs, and I’ve always loved that area, you know, same as ‘You Never Can Tell,’ Chuck Berry was about the first person I ever saw live on a stage, I was about 15, Newcastle City Hall, and I was just in some kind of heaven – so there’s an influence there, it was before I’d really heard or studied cajun music really, but there’s an influence there, and it’s also bits of being a dad, and the sort of things that being a parent, and the sort of things that children say to you. And also my own dad said to me once when I woke up in the middle of the night, I must have said I was worried about cannibals and he said, ‘Well, once upon a time there were cannibals, now there are no cannibals any more, go back to sleep.’ So it’s just a combination of all kinds of junk. Well, again, with ‘Walk Of Life’ it’s the same thing, you hear a kind of cajun influenced thing happening except it wasn’t played on the accordion, it was more a farfisa thing, «Walk Of Life,’ but in fact ‘Walk Of Life’ was recorded by a cajun artist afterwards, Charles Mann had something of a cajun hit with it, I understand. It’s just an influence that’s there, it’s just my idea of bliss is going home and playing the Balfour Brothers or, you know, hearing ‘Promised Land’, I mean to me that’s just, you know ‘Promised Land’ would be the kind of song that if you were asked the question, ‘Is there a song you wish you’d written well that would be mine, you know – or, but on the other side, away from R&B, it would be something like ‘Raglan Road’, which a traditional melody, not ascribed to anybody, words by Pete Kavanagh, so there’s a combination going on with me and my idea of bliss is somewhere, I’ve said this before somewhere I think, but it’s really somewhere where the Delta meets the Tyne – often when I’m working with a group, with a band I’ll say ‘No thirds,’ which is the ‘me’ in the ‘do-me-so-do’ take the third out and you have something Celtic, there’s a drone, but with the blues that moving third place, there’s something about the meeting of black and white music that I just adore. Which I suppose has led to the joy that I get out of a lot of roots music, it’s to do with being brought up with folk music and then getting involved in the blues, and going back, ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50 and so on and so forth, so there’s a mixture, there’s just a glorious stew, for me.»

 

I’m The Fool

«‘I’m The Fool’ I like the sound of, I’m pleased that it came out the way it did, I have to thank Chuck I suppose for that, and Richard, we got good sound going with the acoustics and then took what I call the Jurassic Stratocaster, this Jurassic Strat that Paul Kennerley, a dear friend of mine, who’s an Englishman who writes songs, lives in Nashville and and he’d given me this Strat as a present, 1954, and I just plugged it in and played the solo on it. It just, to me I like the way it’s worked in terms of the texture and the idea, and the idea is as well that, just being genuinely sorry for something that you’ve done, just having to face up to it, you know.»

 

Je Suis Désolé

«‘Je Suis Désolé’ just follows the cajun thing, again just listening to a lot of cajun music I suppose and coming out with something of your own. Because that’s all we are, you know, we absorb and squeeze something and something else comes out that’s yours. And quite a few of the songs on the record seem to me to have, for some reason, have taken a moving theme, and this just ties up again with cajun music I suppose, and I was down in Louisiana recording some of this stuff, and it ended up being recorded in, this particular version ended up being recorded in Nashville but with the Louisiana musicians. Sonny Landreth, who I’d got to know quite well before, I’d been playing on his record down in Louisiana anyway, and we started to try and record this, and Steve Conn on accordion, who was in Sonny’s band then, and Michael Doucet, who’s a wonderful fiddle player from down that way who Kennerley turned me on to, and Billy Ware on triangle because you hear the triangle on this thing, that’s really a feature of cajun music, and I hope I’m not insulting people who know about the music, but that’s a very important part of it, and then Michael Rhodes and Eddie Bayers, who are the bass player and drummer, were in Nashville, so those guys came up and we just put it together up there. And it was fun playing with Sonny at the end of it because, you know, we managed to share some breaks going on out, because it was a good vibe and it was rocking, and it was a good mood so we just played out.»

 

Rüdiger

«‘Rüdiger’ is a German autograph hunter, he was there the first time that we went years ago and he’s there now, as far as I know’, that’s just, I wrote the song about 12 years ago, maybe more, I don’t know, maybe 15, and never could, never really wanted to put music to it, never could find music to it that worked and then I found it, and because it was just a good time for me, it just seemed as though it wanted to have a tune. So there you’ve got an ancient lyric, I never felt as though I had to change a word, so I didn’t, just for some reason, probably just because I was feeling good about things and feeling productive, and out popped the tune for it, and the only difficulty in the studio with that was, the first time that the guys played it, they played it a little, ‘cos they were so keen to be playing it, it was like unleashing the dogs of war, so they played it a little bit up, and it just had to be more sad, bring out the sadness a little bit, went back in and there it was just like that, that’s how marvellous those players are.»

 

Nobody’s Got The Gun

«Er, ‘Nobody’s Got The Gun’ is just a song about an attitude to relationships, it’s as simple as that, and it’s just done in a way that I, a simple musical way that I kind of liked, it wasn’t going to go on the record originally and then Chuck saved it with a magnificent mix, and Guy too, Guy did some stuff afterwards, these little marimba things and we had fun just playing about with it. I’ve always, you might just hear a tiny shade of Sam Cooke in there because I’ve always adored that music, maybe there’s a little touch of his influence there and, ‘Don’t know much about history’ feeling in the guitar playing, obviously it’s not in the vocal (laughs). I’ve known Vince Gill for a long time, it’s always lovely, I mean I first heard Vince when he was singing backing vocals for people and I realised what a skill it was, especially if you can’t sing, you always feel a little in awe of people who can, I’ve always been a great admirer of people who can sing like birds, Dolly Parton and Vince, so yeah, Vince is singing on a couple of things, there’s also ‘Are We In Trouble Now’ he’s singing on too.»

 

Done With Bonaparte

«Oh, I was reading about, first novels and then historical novels and books about the period, I ended up once I started writing ‘Done With Bonaparte’ I found that I had to even research it, I’d be saying ‘Could you lose an eye at Austerlitz and still go on the Russian campaign if you were a French soldier?’ and so on and so forth, and asking questions of heads of history departments and things. It was quite fun to be doing that, you start feeling like a halfway real writer because you’ve actually got a genuine research question to ask – I was interested in it for a number of reasons, it was interesting to me that they called Napoleon ‘The Little Corporal’ and that’s what they called Hitler too, and there are the parallels with Yugoslavia and other things going on, people being sold a dream, quite interesting to me that nothing really changes. And as you get older of course the importance of history increases, and you wish that you’d, well I certainly do, wish that I’d had more of history, and I suppose because I didn’t, I went on to study English more, I’m more interested in history now then I was when I was a kid. Just reading the – this must be incredibly dull to people who don’t know what the hell I’m wittering about – but reading about history has actually given me quite a lot of pleasure, and you only really have history-, the present is over as soon as it’s happened and becomes history, and the future we don’t know anything about.»

Are We In Trouble Now

«‘Are We In Trouble Now’ is a falling in love song, but it’s country style, country in its form except that Franklin, Paul Franklin, liked the way that the middle eight went and suggested that it just go out that way, which I’m eternally grateful to him for. And it was a real treat because we’ve got ‘Pig’ Robbins on piano, who’s played with George Jones for many years, it was actually my pleasure to play with George not so long ago, that was just a wonderful experience. Quite a lot of my mornings I spent listening to old George Jones tunes. But anyway I loved the attitude on that, the piano playing is just something else…it’s a country song, I suppose, kind of a country song, I’m sure it won’t be covered over there but that doesn’t worry me. It’s the only one that I feel a bit embarrassed listening to it, I can live with most of the others but this makes me a bit embarrassed because a song of that sort of form, you’d expect to have a proper singer on it, and that was a problem, it was very hard for me to sing it, but because Vince is on the backing vocals it makes me sound almost halfway, almost there, but it’s Vince that’s making it sound better.»

 

 

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What It Is

«What It Is has got a Stratocaster on it which makes people think of the Straits but its a Scottish style of a lick. I was just coming into Scotland late one night, coming into Edinburgh rather late one night, Saturday night. Edinburgh is one of those places where its a magic city, beautiful, and I always make a point of going there whenever I’m in Scotland …and its so steeped in history that I’m always conscious of being …in the presence of, even though I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts as such, I’m always conscious of the presence of the past there. So, I like all that and its all presided over by this castle with a garrison and the sounds of Scotland, and these huge old buildings and this ancient old town park, you know, and its another road song in the sense that you’re missing… you’re on your own and you’re missing home and its one of those kind of tunes.»

Sailing To Philadelphia

«‘Philadelphia airport for me had become a place where I just changed planes and its full of shops and just millions of people going in every direction, different terminals and you can’t help thinking what it must have been like, you know, at the time of the Mason-Dixon, you know they would sail on a packet from a port on the west coast of England and you would sail and it would take weeks and weeks and weeks and if you were lucky you made it. And, as far as Dixon was concerned, in order to get down there from the North he would have taken a coal boat down to that port and then changed down there, Bristol or somewhere like that maybe or one of the ports on the west coast and then sail, I can’t remember which, and then sail to Philadelphia and nowadays we sail in on a great big airliner, I don’t really think much about it, but you can still see the boats out there when you’re sailing down over there through the clouds. You know, the book’s so great because it makes you think about the present, it doesn’t just put you in the past, it makes you think about what America really is and what we’re becoming, you know. So, there you are.»

Whose Your Baby Now ?

«‘Whose Your baby Now ? is just a quick written thing, it just depicts a situation and it can apply to different people and different things. And its the sort of thing that if I was a little kid and I heard the strumming acoustics I want to strum an acoustic guitar myself. That’s just a tradition I wouldn’t like to see die out, I’d want kids to always want to pick up a guitar and thrash it like that.»

 

Baloney Again

«‘Baloney Again is seen from the point of view of a black gospel group touring in the southern states of America in the early 50s, in the song 53 to be precise, and I got the idea from the sleeve notes for a Fairfield Four record, the Fairfield Four being actually a Nashville based black gospel group. The guy who wrote the sleeve notes said something about how it often had to be a baloney sandwich rather than a restaurant steak or whatever it was and that’s all it might take for me to get started on writing a song. I am very happy to report that there is no formula for writing songs as far as I’m concerned.»

 

The Last Laugh

«‘The Last Laugh, I suppose a lot of these songs when they happen to me….a lot of the songs seem to be partly about perseverance. What that says about me I really don’t know but just a few songs seem to be about that. I feel so fortunate in my life, although The Last Laugh is not necessarily about me, absolutely not, its just …its great when you see perseverance rewarded. And I did think it was appropriate for Van because he has stuck with his music and is enjoying a very powerful renaissance I think and a lot of the songs seem to be just really a little bit about that….I don’t know why I wrote Speedway At Nazareth, for instance, I hadn’t got a clue…I started writing that years ago and I don’t know why I started writing it…there’s something about the perseverance in pursuit of a rather strange holy grail, pursuit of a rather strange prize and there’s something in that human endeavour that always attracts me, it breaks my heart, there’s something really wonderful about it.»

 

Silvertown Blues

«Silvertown Blues…I wanted to have The Squeeze boys on, Glenn and Chris’ voices, because I just associate them with that time in…as we came up in Deptford we were playing music together at the same time, in fact the very first gig that we did was on the back of Farrar House in Deptford with Squeeze. We shared gigs at places like the Albany Empire and stuff like that….Again the Dome was….I started writing the song I think about the same time as it was getting off the ground and I was aware that, although I had left the area for a long time, I was aware that this poisonous bit of wasteland was being used in this great PR exercise and this huge inflation was going to go on, you know, this great thing was going to arise…and the funny thing is I actually think that the building itself is fine, its just the use of it still fills me with a kind of amazement.»

El Macho

«‘The name ‘Jerry’ came up just because I wanted it to be male or female when you’re listening to it and it can be what you want, I don’t want to spoil it for anybody, its just one of those situations. Its kind of funny, I got the idea of El Macho itself simply from a picture, from a Spanish painting that I saw, and I liked it and it sort of just stuck with me.»

Prairie Wedding

«Prairie Wedding…I got the idea from a play about postal brides and I do remember seeing something one night with no sound, I was watching a channel with no sound, or I was watching it in some hotel, maybe on the continent, I don’t know but it was a film about a similar situation. So, its really the two things, a play and a film. So, I really did it myself after that, it was my own take on what that must have felt like, to meet someone who you’d never met, who you’d never seen, and marry them: take them out into the middle of nowhere, try and make a life. Again, you know, a few of these things are about how relatively easy life is now compared with the way it was for millions of people not so long ago.»

 

Wanderlust

«‘I wrote Wanderlust a long time back when I must have been feeling a bit bleaker than I am now. I suppose its one of those things except that the urge to move is always pretty strong with a lot of musicians, I don’t quite know why that is. Maybe its just because I’ve done so many millions of miles touring, you know every now and again you get the urge to burn some rubber.»

 

Speedway At Nazareth

«‘I don’t know why I wrote Speedway At Nazareth, for instance, I hadn’t got a clue…I started writing that years ago and I don’t know why I started writing it…there’s something about the perseverance in pursuit of a rather strange holy grail, pursuit of a rather strange prize and there’s something in that human endeavour that always attracts me, it breaks my heart, there’s something really wonderful about it.»

 

  Junkie Doll

«‘Junkie Doll I got from…..the actual term was used by Edward Snorburn in a book, he had written a trilogy and there was a book…in which she actually fictionally but really actually depicts drug addiction and heroin addiction in the most graphic way, it really, really affected me very strongly.»

 

Sands of Nevada

«‘ I can’t remember where Sands of Nevada came from, its like a folk style tune but then with a lot of other stuff thrown on top of it. Its a combination of things. I was interested, I think, in the idea of gambling …in the idea of being an addictive gambler, so in a sense, like Junkie Doll, its another addictive song. I was just trying to understand it, I’ve never known, I don’t think I’ve ever known, anybody whose a gambling addict except the promoters, of course, who I’ve had to work with over the years and I’m convinced that they’re all gamblers.»

 

  One More Matineé

«Oh yeah, I mean the road….I love touring. I’m one of those very lucky people who enjoys the whole shebang as far as music goes, and I love writing and I love rehearsing more than anything. I love recording and I love touring. So, its only going to be a matter of time. I am going to get together with the five guys who I made the record with…I couldn’t think of a name for them so I called them the 96ers for this record just because we got together in 96 for Golden Heart and I suppose I’ll call them something else on the next record. We’re going to get together and do some television specials and things like that. Presumably, when that comes to an end, we’ll have some shows organized and we’ll be able to go on tour a little bit.»

 

 

 

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Why Aye Man

“One of those tunes that comes for a number of different reasons. It actually means “Well, of course” in Geordie, “Why, yes.” You still hear it all the time. Jimmy Nail was shooting the new “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet” series, and he happened to be saying that the North American Indians, in a lot of their music, they sounded just the same. That’s what put the idea in my head. That, and Seamus Heaney sent me a copy of “The Spirit Level”, his lovely book of poems that won the Whitbread prize. He’d written on the inside ‘To Mark, keep your level high.’ I was thinking about that too. On a building site you could always tell the brickies and the carpenters by their spirit levels and I was always fascinated by my dad’s spirit level, I was always looking at the little green bubble in the middle. I was really writing about the period in which the original “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet” was set, it struck me as ironic that there were refugees going from here to Germany, not just to Germany of course, they were going all over the place. So it’s a bit of a mish-mash, the whole thing, but I found myself writing about the Thatcher period. It wasn’t written as anything to do with the new TV series, in fact they just took the chorus, which is only three words anyway, and used that for the end. Jimmy was telling me he’s sure it’s going to be a St.James’ Park [Newcastle United FC ground] terrace song, which is territory I’ve been in before, in fact the Theme from Local Hero is the United theme tune. There was a little spell when it was dropped, when Ruud Gullit was running the team, but as soon as he went, it came back again, mysteriously…”

Devil Baby

“I was reading about sideshow live freak shows. It really just comes from whatever I happen to be reading at the time. The devil baby was one of the exhibits and it struck me that the current chat shows on television, like the Jerry Springer show, are a TV equivalent of the same kind of thing. So it was really just a little reflection on that. It starts from the point of view of someone who works in the sideshow area, then it moves to ‘CALL 1-800 IMA FREK’ if you want to get on the Springer show, which was a true thing, you could do that. So it’s just putting two periods next to each other and looking at the similarities and differences between them.

 

Hill Farmer’s Blues

“I spent a lot of time in the hills of Northumberland. I spent a bit of time doing farm work myself, so hill farming, although it’s a worldwide thing, is something I associate with Northumberland. Actually, there’s a line in it that goes “Going into Tow Law”; well Tow Law’s actually in County Durham, but it’s very close. Whenever I’ve driven through Tow Law I always got a feeling, can’t really explain what it was, but the power of the name always stuck with me. Recently it was the time of foot and mouth, and it was on my mind a lot, how hard it was. We were reading about suicides of farmers, and then I thought if I could make it work for everyone, your farmer in the song could be from where you come from, even in another country. So I’ve tried to make it work for everything and anywhere. Most importantly, I’ve tried to make it work for me.”

 

A Place Where We Used To Live

“There’s a lot about home, and I suppose it’s the nearest I’d want to get to nostalgia. It’s just a place where we used to live, that’s all it is. With the last album when we were doing the press kit, I went back and looked at my little house where I grew up, and the back lanes I used to play in. I tried to find my first little school, and it wasn’t there. Then I went on a trip with someone else back to her little school, not so long ago, and that’s what got me thinking about it.”

Quality Shoe

“I saw a sign on a store somewhere in London, and it wasn’t a good shoe store, but the sign above said Quality Shoes and that sparked it off. It’s from the point of view of the salesman – it’s kind of my little tribute to ‘King Of The Road’. I was lucky enough to meet Roger Miller shortly before he passed away, and it was a very pleasant experience.”

Fare Thee Well Northumberland

“Like ‘Why Aye Man’ and ‘Hill Farmer’s Blues’ it starts off like a folk tune. It could be Northumbrian or a borders folk tune. It’s just Richard Bennett strumming on his bazouki, then there’s a harmonica and a Delta or Chicago style piano, then I start playing some electric, and we’re in the blues, so it really just travels inside itself. I like that, if you can bring that off.”

Marbletown

“This is a solo voice and guitar thing. I’ve got a semi home studio in a little mews house in London, and there’s a little back bedroom in there that sounds really good, so I’ve done quite a lot of work in there. ‘Marbletown’ I just did with the Martin and a couple of mics.”

You Don’t Know You’re Born

“It’s a very British expression, in the States they don’t have it. So it is what it says it is. A phrase can strike a note, it could be just two or three words that somebody says, or sometimes it’s a place, which collides with you. I’ve no idea when the gong is going to go off or why it goes off, but it just does.”

Coyote

“Probably ‘Coyote’ comes from watching cartoons with my kids. I always loved Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, and this song is actually sung from the point of view of the Roadrunner, but the funny thing is my sympathy is with poor old Coyote. I don’t know what it is about him, he just keeps on trying. It’s a human thing, that endless, back-to-the-drawing-board thing that appeals to me. Even though it’s sung from the Roadrunner’s point of view. The Roadrunner is kind of cool too. They’re both cool.”

The Ragpicker’s Dream

“The Ragpicker’s Dream itself I just invented. To me as a guitar player it has a number of different meanings. The first time it’s a bottle of whisky. I’m more driven to write about the fringes of life, I’ve always been drawn to that.”

Daddy’s Gone To Knoxville

“Again, it follows a theme I’ve always been interested in, which is following a place where people are familiar with the names, and looking at it from the point of view of the past. Just the last few years, these places have boomed. The Gallatin Road in the first verse – you see the traffic reports in the States and you see the rush hour traffic. On screen they’ll be saying ‘The Gallatin Road is very heavy, there’s an overturned truck on Exit 9’ – well that was once just a little track, and not very long ago either. The development is frightening, and you start to wonder how long the wilderness is going to hold out against all this civilization. And I was thinking about Chet Atkins and his early music life, I think that was on my mind too, the endless backward and forward movement. So again I was using geography from Tennessee and putting it back a few decades into a much more innocent era.”

 

Old Pigweed

“I was learning about stews, like you do. One of the things I learned was that pigweed, which is a wild plant, was often put into Mulligan stews but it had to be young pigweed, the young plant. And I thought, somebody must have put old pigweed in it, it must have happened, and then somebody would be saying ‘Who put old pigweed in the Mulligan?’. So really that’s all it is.”

 

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