Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mark Knopfler: Producing Bob Dylan's "Infidels"

By Susan Dagostino

Mark Knopfler has been producing his own work for years, first with Dire Straits, then his film soundtracks, and finally and most recently for his solo albums. In the 1980s, however, he also produced tracks and entire CDs for other very notable artists - including Bob Dylan.

After performing on Dylan's 1979's religion-laden "Slow Train Coming," Knopfler was approached once again in 1983 to produce his newest album. Knopfler brought along engineer Neil Dorfsman (who went on to engineer and produce the Dire Straits mega-album "Brothers in Arms") and Dire Straits' keyboardist Alan Clark, and put together a number of other musicians who ultimately created the eight tracks entitled "Infidels" that would end up on the finished product (along with the countless other songs that didn't make the cut). Knopfler played guitar on the album as well, along with former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor.

Christopher Connelly of Rolling Stone complimented Dylan, saying it was "a stunning recovery of the lyric and melodic powers that seemed to have all but deserted him." It ended up being the only one of Dylan's albums to go gold in the 80s, and the Village Voice awarded it as one of its Top 10 Albums of the Year.

A continuing mystery is why Dylan ultimately decided to remove the track "Blind Willie McTell" from the finished product. The song, eventually released as one of a series of out-takes, was simply arranged with Dylan singing and playing the piano, and Knopfler on acoustic guitar. Knopfler, who wanted to leave the song on the album, had to leave for a previously-committed tour in Germany with Dire Straits and Dylan ended up finishing the editing and ultimately delivered the masters to CBS Records without his assistance or input.

In a 1987 interview in Q Magazine, Knopfler admitted "I was lucky with Bob. He's wild to work with but different people get results different ways. If anybody ever has the dubious fortune to end up in the producer's seat they'll find out for themselves that the best way to go forward is to respect others' feelings about things, sometimes when they're directly opposed to your own."

Mark Knopfler is a singer, songwriter and guitar player touring in 2006 with Emmylou Harris to promote their new album "All the Roadrunning.” For Mark Knopfler news, biography, photographs, and tour information visit the site:

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  1. Infidels has this photograph of Jerusalem on the back cover and the songs kind of remind me of Israel. I mean "neighbourhood bully" and thats maybe also the reason why "blind Willie McTell" wasn t included. Maybe the other reason why it wasn t included is that the tune isn t really Dylan's its kind of like "St James Infernery" an old blues standard. Then again maybe both of these things together was enough reason to leave it off "Infidels"

  2. I think it makes perfect sense not to include "Blind" on Infidels. Even though it is a fantastic song it does not fit the title and the feel of the album Infidels. It is a bitter album about everything that is wrong in the world. "Blind" is a very sensitive song without the bitter undertones of the "Infidels".
    - Marc de Oliveira

  3. Not bitter? Not fitting Infidels? How about "This land is condemned, all the way from New Orleans to Jerusalem"? It would have fit perfectly! I think the reason he left it off is that he didn't want it to be an acoustic track--when he plays it live, it has a much harder feel--and the electric track doesn't quite gel (not to mention Bob interrupts the first verse with a hacking smoker's cough).

  4. When asked why Blind Willie McTell wasn't included on the album, Dylan said he didn't think he recorded it right.
    Interestingly, the album's original title was "Surviving In A Ruthless World", but someone pointed out to Dylan that his last 4 album tiltes began with the letter "S", so he changed it.

  5. There is a still unreleased version of Blind Willie McTell with the full band that blows the piano version out of the water.

  6. It was the full band version that Knopfler wanted included. Knopfler's running order for the vinyl album was :
    Side 1
    2.License To Kill
    3.Man Of Peace
    4.Neighborhood Bully
    Side 2
    1.Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight
    2.Blind Willie McTell
    3.Sweetheart Like You
    4.I And I
    5.Foot Of Pride

  7. Knopfler was right, Dylan was wrong. Blind Willie and Foot of Pride should have been in, Union Sundown out. Bob sabotaged his own album, like so many times before.

  8. back to 1983: