Mark Knopfler In 20 Solos

August 12, 2017

It's now 40 years since Mark Knopfler first served notice to the wider world that he was a guitar player of rare calibre. Hundreds of millions of album sales later, and with an unparalleled catalogue of recordings to his credit, he continues to be one of the greatest exponents of the guitar in the world. We're celebrating that fact with a uDiscover playlist of 20 songs featuring some of his finest-ever solos.

The list includes material both from Dire Straits, across the course of their recording span of some 15 years, and the distinguished catalogue of solo albums Knopfler has been making over the last 20. We've also included one track from his impressive array of collaborations, in a list that runs in chronological order, from the first studio album he was on until the most recent.

sultans of swing1We begin with the track containing what is probably still Mark's most famous solo, and one of those that he still reproduces on a regular basis on stage: the spectacular run on his Fender Stratocaster from around 4'58” until the fade of Dire Straits' debut hit 'Sultans Of Swing.' Also from their self-titled first album of 1978, we feature the equally brilliant 'Down To The Waterline' and 'Water Of Love.'

From the following year's follow-up album Communiqué, there's the single 'Lady Writer' and another track much-admired by Knopfler fans, 'Single Handed Sailor.' Listen for the fine solo starting at around 2'48,” which as with many of his recordings, energises the song all the way to its fade.

Knopfler Straits 21980's Making Movies offers the singles 'Tunnel Of Love' and 'Solid Rock' and from the 1982 album Love Over Gold there's 'It Never Rains' and the memorable solo at the culmination of the epic 'Telegraph Road.' It almost goes without saying that the title track from Brothers In Arms demands a place on the list.

While Dire Straits were still recording, Knopfler paused to make the delightful Neck & Neck album with one of his guitar heroes, Chet Atkins. Their version of 'I'll See You In My Dreams' has both of them soloing delightfully throughout. At the end of the Straits' recording era, their final studio album On Every Street contained his mellifluous solo on 'You And Your Friend,' and the 1993 concert  set On The Night an atypically hard-rock workout on the live version of 'Private Investigations.'

Golden Heart

Then we have seven selections from Mark's eight solo studio albums to date. Golden Heart included the jaunty 'Don't You Get It,' while Sailing To Philadelphia had two more fan favourites among his best solos, the exhilarating 'Speedway At Nazareth' and the more measured 'Baloney Again,' reminiscent of another of his favourite players, J.J. Cale.

MK Tracker 500

Another example of the gentle, less-is-more playing style of his solo years is on the elegant 'Our Shangri-La,' the near-title track from 2004's Shangri-La. The Privateering album featured the folk-influenced playing of 'Redbud Tree' and 'Go Love,' and we come right up to date with the Cale-esque 'Broken Bones,' from last year's Tracker. 

Enjoy our choice of 20 landmark solos by one of the greatest guitar players of this, or any, era, and do use the comments box below to tell us which Knopfler performances are your own personal favourites.

Follow uDiscover's Mark Knopfler Best Of playlist.

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91 comments

      1. Claudi
        Reply

        I like so many songs from MK. At the moment i like very much the songs 2, 7,8, 9 and 11 from the album tracker and the ” dream of the drowned submariner” from the album privateering and all songs from alchemy.

    1. Carlos Brito
      Reply

      Por favor Mark Knopfler , venha ao Brasil em 2018 no Rock in Rio , Existem milhares de fãs aqui no Brasil e países vizinhos,
      Um enorme abraço deste seu fã desde os meus 15 anos , hoje eu tenho 55 anos. Abraçossss

  1. James Sullivan
    Reply

    My favorite out of all there pieces would have to Romeo & Juliet. I can really connect with the lyrics and Marks magical guitar playing. Now I as specially like Mark with the Resinator magic.

    1. madraccoon
      Reply

      Bang on! Love over gold version. Started me on Dire Straits and never forgotten… hair stood up on my neck from the first few notes of the intro. One of my top ten definitive tracks.

    2. Charlie Larzalere
      Reply

      Telegraph Road and Romeo & Juliet. Any of the pieces where Mark and the band cut loose on their individual pieces and bring it all back together. The longer they do that, the more into the song I get.

  2. Trond Jenssen
    Reply

    I agree on Tunnel of Love. Sadly he doesn’t play that one anymore. But happily he still plays Telegraph Road, and of course Sultans 🙂

  3. jimmy
    Reply

    The live version of Speedway at Nazareth from the Real Live Roadrunning DVD. And of course, Tunnel of Love.

  4. Harald Houtman
    Reply

    On the limmited edition album: best of Dire straits is a live version of sultans of swing wich lasts allmost 15 minutes!!!
    Briljant guitarsolo of i think about 7 minutes……….
    One of my other favourites that is’nt listed here is So far from the clyde, from the album Get lucky.

  5. Barry
    Reply

    I happen to think that in terms of musical quality, Dire Straits started at the top and gradually fell down. The first three albums are the pinnacle. There is so much great, greasy, slippery goodness in “Dire Straits” and “Communique” to satisfy for a lifetime. But the ending solo on “Tunnel of Love” is enough to bring this grown man to tears just about every time, even 33 years later.

    Sadly — at least to me — Knopfler turned away from the slippery compressed Stratocaster sound to a Les Paul with a highly overdriven distortion with the treble turned way low. In my own admittedly biased opinion, this was a loss. The sound was no where near as distinctive — it seemed muddy and overdone. I also think Knopfler began to avoid what I think he saw as guitar pyrotechnics, playing fewer solos. This was a shame, in that the fireworks in the fingers were replaced by fireworks in the effects.

    He was and is a fine songwriter, no question, but I miss his earlier style of playing. The sound of his Fender Stratocaster with nothing more than compression and his powerful, fluid finger-picking was his absolute best sound — fluent, lyrical and uniquely his.

    1. Christopher L Simons
      Reply

      Barry, isn’t that true for most everyone? Except the few all time ‘greats.’ Most of us want to experiment but can’t maintain the our initial success. I am not a musician but in general we want to move on to new things. It’s human nature.

    2. Pete
      Reply

      I think Mark had every right to go where he wanted to go as an artist but on a personal enjoyment level I tend to agree with you Barry.

    3. Chris McD
      Reply

      He played Penser Schecter Gibson Fender, don’t think he has used His 61 Strat thst much since the first 2 albums. His tone is never the same continually evolving. Tunnel of Love isn’t on a Fender. Don’t think he over-uses overdrive really. I don’t agree and I adore his changing styles!

    1. Randell
      Reply

      Nice choice indeed Carlota ….

      I was so obsessed with that version for so long back in my high school years and it definitely served to keep me forever a true fan of Mr. Knopfler and his skills.

  6. Glenn
    Reply

    Almost every solo on Alchemy really, but particularly “Telegraph” and “Once Upon A Time In The West”

  7. Jacques Bertrand
    Reply

    Mark and Dire Straits is one of my all time favourite bands I do partially love the song Brothers in arms, especially with the thunder in the back ground at the beginning.

  8. Eyal Sucher
    Reply

    I’m glad the author noticed the unforgettable solo on the lesser known “It never rains” ..
    Beside the obvious ones mentioned above many times I would mention the great solos on :
    -In The Gallery a pointy and chicky solo around the middle of the song continuing the lyrical sarcasm and protest of the song in guitar playing.
    -Settin’ Me Up – great country like bluegrass soloing, learned a lot of Mark’s style from this one..
    -Local Hero theme – of course this is not a “solo” per-se but rather a composed melody, but still worth a serious mentioning here.
    -Father & Son [from the ‘Kal’ soundtrack]- like the previous example, another unforgettable guitar melody by Mark which happily he returned performing in the past decade.
    -Planet Of New Orleans – I’d never go without mentioning this one of Straits’ dark and haunting songs with an unmistakable ton and atmosphere largely portrayed by the guitar from the song’s first seconds to the culminating guitar solo on the outro like many great Dire Straits tunes.

  9. Francisco
    Reply

    Absolutely: Tunnel, Telegraph road (Alchemy version), and over all, the themes of Local hero and Cal: Smooching, The way it always starts, Wild theme, The long road, The road, Irish boy, Potato picking…; My life was with this soundtrack in 1986,1987 and 1988 and is impossible to forget. Thank you, Mark.

  10. Nigel Jordan
    Reply

    I’m a huge fan but it sucks that he hardly plays any Dire Straits anymore. I know he’s moved on and is playing what he’s into but we are Dire Straits fans that have been along for a long time and deserve to hear what we love. At least half of a live performance not just a couple of songs! Getting older but not an old fart, doubt I’ll go again after such a disappointment last time in Toronto! 🙁

  11. Ian Mathison
    Reply

    Wild Theme from Local Hero? Same melody as Going Home but stripped down. Still gives me goosebumps after 35 years. Original hook for me was Sultans though. Evidence of his emerging genius

  12. Noeleen Cowen
    Reply

    Marks love of his craft has been evident from day one. I dont care whether I listen to Dire Straits, Nottinghillbillies or present day music from Mark it all moves me to the core of my spirit. Thank you Mark for enriching my life with your talent. Your music, your voice has gathered followers as time goes by and you are still as sexy as ever. Admiration for you is anundant in Australia – how about it – come visit us.xxx

  13. Gabriella d'Alonzo
    Reply

    Mu fav songs..beyond Telegraph road, Tunnel of love, theme from Local Hero, What it is, Sailing to Philadelphia, Dream of the drowned submariner, Kingdom of gold, Speedway at Nazareth, Money for nothing, The last laugh, I love over all Brothers in arms, On every street and Why worry…

  14. brando
    Reply

    Without Money for Nothing, this list is despicable. Yeah theres an entire library of Knopfler music to choose from but we’ll ignore not only one of the best intros and riffs in classic rock, but also the one single track that skyrocketed Dire Straits into international superstardom. After Brothers in Arms no one gave a sh*t about Dire Straits let alone “classic rock” because Heavy Metal, Rap and Pop Music were dominating the charts. The fact that he’s been making relevant music for 40yrs and is still fairly unheard of, kills me. Ask someone, you listen to Mark Knopfler? Dollars to donuts they say, Who???!! But if you say…”You know, get your Money for Nothin and your Chicks for free”….they say “oh yeah..I love that song.” me too pal. Me too.

  15. James
    Reply

    Single Handed Sailor outtro. Happy to see it on the list and no doubt one of rock’s best guitar solos bar none. Listen to it with headphones on. The. Listen to it again. And again. There are subtle nuances in Marks playing that reveal themselves with each and every listen. It sounds new and fresh even after 37 years.

  16. Jim
    Reply

    I’m glad that Eyal mentioned Planet of New Orleans – one of his great evocative, moody solos. And I cast a big vote for Brothers in Arms as one of the most moving rock songs I’ve ever heard with a solo to match.

  17. Zidders Roofurry
    Reply

    I love all his solo’s but to me my most favorite bit of MK playing is the intro to Money for Nothing. It’s such a quintessential 80’s riff and led to Weird Al’s wonderful ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ tune in the film UHF (played by none other than Mark himself). It’s such a beloved child memory and the song that got me into Mark & Dire Straits in the first place.

  18. Mike R
    Reply

    One of my favorite solos is the one in Are we in trouble now, on the Golden Heart album. Take a listen & tell me if it doesn’t move you.

  19. Brahim
    Reply

    Telegraphe road , are we in trouble now, golden heart , why worry , on every street ….among others ..i really love his songs.

  20. Paul Anderson
    Reply

    I disagree with the comment about The first two albums of Dire Straits being Knopler’s best work and that things go downhill from there.
    Those 2 albums are brilliant. I even exclude the 3rd album from that grouping because the sound was starting to change already by then. But the I agree those albums are simply spectacular. They and Brothers make the Dire Straits great. At the time that clean twangy strat sound was unlike anything else. And I can still listen to those albums and enjoy them as much as I did 35 years ago.

    But, can you imagine 35 years of that sound? No. If Mark had not altered his playing style and diversified his sound, he would have faded into obsurity long ago. I do think that was probably the best work by Dire Straits until Brothers in Arms. But Mark’s solo career far supasses Dire Straits in my opinion. He has been, is, and always will be one of the great at the guitar. But his songwriting has realky blossomed during his solo career. He has become one of the premier storytellers and lyricists of our time in the past 20 years. And he has never made a bad album (Though Killing with Crimson is only mediocre IMHO). But there is no way he could have stayed with the sound of Dire Straits and Communque all this time and survived. I hope you see my point. I love those albums. And I love all his music because it has evolved. It has been slow, when I first hear a new album my first reaction is always “Oh. More of the same. It is not until they have sunk in that I start to hear it. But it is always there. That small tract of uncharted territory. And it keeps his music fresh and alive.

    But still the last time I saw him pergorm was when he toured with Dylan. He did a silo on “Sultans” with the Les Paul that just left everyone in the Arena with their hair frizzed. I will take either flavor. They are both delicious.

  21. BETTY
    Reply

    Me gusta escuchar sin excepción todas las canciones de sus comienzos 78..79.de Dire Straits..lastima que no hay muchos videos ..me encanta y no me canso de verla a Alchemy Live Sultans of swing , vivo con cada movimiento y gesto de Mark , Terry Williams Guy Flecher Alan Clark Jhon por supuesto el sonido de los instrumentos es espectacular y tiene un final en la canción que retumba en mis oídos sensacional…y no he visto otro , Mark tiene unos punteos de guitarra únicos e inrepetibles solo en éste video

  22. Deacy
    Reply

    I would just like to say that Mark Knopfler has brought me so much pleasure with his music. He is right up there with the best of them and in my humble opinion tops the list. Sincere thanks. I could listen to you all day.

  23. Anup
    Reply

    No love for “Water of Love”, So far away?

    Also love some of his solos – Millionaires Blues, Summer of Love, Get Lucky and Postcard from Paraguay.

  24. Maria Gkinala
    Reply

    Geniuses evolve. Picasso spent 80 years unlearning the formulas, so that he can paint from the soul of simplicity, like a child. Mark is peeling off the layers to reach the core from the beginning. His lyrics alone are among the most personal poems ever written for song.
    You get a glimpse of this pure musical genius already in the early DS years. “Follow Me Home” is a primordial beat, its rhythm a primitive tune eternal.
    Here’s to many more years of Mark Magic !

  25. Hassan Aniba
    Reply

    Hallo Mark you are best guitarist Ilove you and ilove you again WRITER hASSAN ANIBA SURFER MORROCCO LONGE TIME

  26. zozi vijatov
    Reply

    Dire Straits in Belgrade, early eighties… great performance, wonderful concert… THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC… love 4 ever…

  27. Richard Haight
    Reply

    “You and Your Friend” The acoustic/electric solo is like an opera. I can picture the scene. The acoustic guitar is the girl who is leaving her lover. The electric guitar is the man pleading in vain for her to return to him. When I listen to the solo I can hear their words and feel his pain.

  28. Shlomo
    Reply

    Hi Mark,
    Happy birthday and many more good ones to come.
    You were my insperation back in the 80’s when i was courting a buetifull girl.
    I used to qoute pieces of your songs in my love letters to hers.
    And guess what? she couldn’t resist them and later became my wife.
    The peak of those years was the “Live in 85” show i saw twice in Israel.
    All the best.
    Shlomo

  29. Alexandre "Tabajara" Souza
    Reply

    No “Going Home”??? No guitar list would be complete without one of the most perfect and loveful guitar solos ever!

  30. sean
    Reply

    Has to be Telegraph road, you and your friend, sultans of swing, News, the mans too strong and Why worry, Happy birthday Mark and keep on playing your a Legend.

  31. Jules Sambou
    Reply

    Happy Birthday Master ,god give you Long Life thank you for the beautiful Songs
    You gave us during all the Time ,and my wish is to See you Play in a live concert May god keep you ,and give you Long Life and Health
    Amen

  32. DUQUE
    Reply

    cuando pongo la llave de contacto en mi moto.. suena siempre SULTANS OF SWING.. me da suerte y fuerza para iniciar la ruta con las mejores sencaciones… sin duda para mi la mejor melodia que conozco..
    Gracias MARK .,.,

  33. Lev Goodwin
    Reply

    Many of Marks songs feature lengthily guitar solo’s or fade-outs… Brothers in Arms or Are We in Trouble Now (from Golden Heart) are examples. Has anyone ever done a mash -up of this wonderful guitar work. My sense is that most would blend one to the next seamlessly. I’d love to hear something like that.

  34. Trond Jenssen
    Reply

    Mark Knopfler live in concert is one of life’s highlights, IMHO. I couldn’t possible choose one song or solo from all of his masterpieces. And I don’t remember leaving a MK concert without tears in my eyes.

  35. Walt Howard
    Reply

    You left out “What it is”. Anyone who hasn’t heard that should do so immediately especially if you like Sultans of Swing. It’s very similar to Sultans of Swing in its mix of instruments, composition and feel.

  36. Keith
    Reply

    The stunning solo on Bryan Ferry knocks me off my feet everytime – it’s short but perfectly formed and wonderfully atmospheric!

  37. Obwhon
    Reply

    I still didn’t see one of my favorites on the list. “Where Do You Think You’re Going” was one of his best guitar solos along with “Once Upon A Time in the West”

  38. Walt
    Reply

    I love the early stuff but always think some of his more recent work is underappreciated. The amazing collaboration with Emmylou Harris, Song for Sonny Liston; Remembrance Day, Devil Baby the list goes on.

  39. Rich
    Reply

    What about the acoustic/electric solo in “You and Your Friend”? It always sounded like an opera to me, a scorned lover (electric guitar) begging for his lost lover (acoustic/slide) to return, to no avail..

  40. Linda Wells
    Reply

    I can remember the very day I heard Money for Nothing all those years ago. I play your music every day in my car. Please come to Australia.
    Cant think of the song title but I love a little song about fixing up a boat. Happy Birthday Handsome.xx

  41. Martin Dearden
    Reply

    A favourite? Crikey how do I pick one? Well the most memorable song is Sultans of Swing, I discovered Dire Straits when I was playing pool in a gymnasium and my love for theirs and Marks music has never changed. I have many songs that I adore and I never tire of listening to them which is strange because I very rarely like repeating anything.

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