Should we learn to love Mark Knopfler?

For years the 80s star has remained resolutely uncool, but Bob Dylan doesn't seem to agree

Chances are, if you're over 35, you were responsible for one of the 30m worldwide sales of Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms. It's the fifth best-selling album in UK chart history, ahead of Dark Side of the Moon, Thriller and Rumours. Only Queen's Greatest Hits, the Beatles' Sgt Pepper, ABBA's Gold and Oasis's (What's the Story) Morning Glory? have sold more. Yet now you are hard-pressed to find anyone who admits to owning it.

Incredibly, despite countless opportunities for a career reassessment, from the guilty pleasures phenomenon to the seemingly endless 1980s revivals of recent years, Dire Straits have somehow remained steadfastly uncool. But look beyond the headbands and tragic hair and you'll find a truly great songwriter. Frontman Mark Knopfler could write big, brooding epics (Love Over Gold, Brothers In Arms). He could write pure pop (Walk Of Life). But he also has a postmodern appreciation for the ridiculousness of his lot; a self- awareness all too lacking among his peers.

In Money For Nothing he wrote an 80s mega hit, with guest vocals by an 80s megastar (Sting), which achieved its unashamed aim of permanent rotation on MTV. When you consider that the song is written from the point of view of a blue-collar worker muttering "that ain't working" as he watches overpaid pop stars on MTV, this is no mean feat.

Thankfully, someone appreciates his talents. This month, Knopfler is co-headlining a tour of Europe with Bob Dylan. It's not the first time they have shared a bill. Knopfler played on Dylan's 1979 album Slow Train Coming and co-produced Infidels for him in 1983. He is also the co-writer of Blind Willie McTell, the song most critics rate as Dylan's best since his 1975 album Blood in the Tracks. When popular music's pre-eminent songwriter of the last 50 years wants Knopfler on board, you can't help thinking the rest of us must be missing something.

But if you don't trust Dylan's judgment, consider this: Mark Knopfler is the only official rock dinosaur in the world. The Masiakasaurus knopfleri, a theropod dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period, was named after him in 2001. And if that isn't cool, I don't know what is.


Mark Hooper

The GuardianTramp

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