Below is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in RS 461 from November 21, 1985. This issue and the rest of the Rolling Stone archives are available via Rolling Stone Plus, Rolling Stone’s premium subscription plan. If you are already a subscriber, you can click here to see the full story. Not a member? Click here to learn more about Rolling Stone Plus.
One day in 1977, Mark Knopfler and John Illsley visited an art gallery run by a friend in London’s West End. “We just couldn’t believe the stuff that was in this gallery,” Illsley recalls, “bits of string, bricks piled up in a comer, garbage cans strewn all over the floor.”
During the ride home to their apartment in south London, Knopfler sat in the back seat of the car, scribbling furiously. “We got to the flat,” Illsley explains, “and he stayed writing in the back seat. So I went upstairs and made myself a cup of tea. Thirty minutes later, he finally came in. ‘I just finished this song,’ he said. And that was ‘In the Gallery,”‘ Illsley says,” Illsley says. “He wrote the whole thing between Shaftesbury Avenue and Deptford.”
Mark Knopfler — singer, songwriter, guitarist and undisputed captain of Dire Straits — still works with the same intensity and single — minded devotion to his craft. The group has long been a superstar attraction in England, Europe, Australia and Japan. Now, the smash hit “Money for Nothing” has given the band its first Number One album in America; Brothers in Arms has already sold 2 million copies. But Mark Knopfler has rarely been seen in public without a guitar around his neck since he founded Dire Straits in the summer of 1977 as a vehicle for his evocative country-and-blues-rooted songs. Offstage, his life seems to be an endless succession of Dire Straits recording sessions, film soundtracks (Local Hero, Cal, Comfort and Joy), production assignments (Bob Dylan, Aztec Camera) and guest appearances on other artists’ records (Van Morrison, Bryan Ferry and Steely Dan; “Private Dancer,” recorded by Tina Turner, bears his copyright).
“Even now I just go up and look at my guitars sitting on the side of the stage,” admits Knopfler, 36, idly chewing on a guitar pick before a recent New York show. “I’ll hang out at Rudy’s Music Stop down on Forty-eighth Street when I’m in town, just to be around the instruments, just looking at the damn things.”