John Illsley Reflects On Mark Knopfler’s Decision To Leave Dire Straits

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Dire Straits bassist John Illsley discussed Mark Knopfler‘s departure from the band while talking about the band’s music career in a recent interview with The Mitch Lafon and Jeremy White Show.

Dire Straits peaked their success with ‘Sultans of Swing.’ The single became number four in the US charts, while it was number eight in the UK. ‘Sultans of Swing,’ as one of the band’s biggest hits, became one of the signature songs of Dire Straits’ career.

1985 album entitled ‘Brothers in Arms‘ gave them an international success. The songs like ‘Money for Nothing,’ ‘So Far Away,’ and ‘Walk of Life’ found themselves solid places on several charts. ‘Brothers in Arms’ tour made a massive impact on the rock music scene, during which 2.5 million tickets were sold.

While Dire Straits was at the peak of their career, Mark Knopfler decided to leave the band to focus on his solo works. After the band’s enormous success, he also wanted to rest for a while. Knopfler continued working on his solo projects until Dire Straits reunited in 1988.

Illsley stated in a recent interview that although the band was happy with the great success they gained with the ‘Brothers in Arms’ album, they needed a break. When Knopfler wanted to focus on his solo projects and leave the band, John reacted normally, as he stated. According to him, although Mark and he were happy with their success, it would be better for both of them to take a break. The bassist said that he was content to continue his solo works, and he released ‘Glass.’

John Illsley explained in his words:

“Well, I think after you’ve had an album of that magnitude, you sort of need to back off for a bit. I think it’s wise to back off for a bit. As I said in the book, I really think we’d reached the zenith at that particular point in time. There was a big tour; the album just seemed to be everywhere.

Also, as I said in the book, and don’t get me wrong, Mark and I really enjoyed the success side of that. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with success, especially when it feels right to me, and I felt good, really good about it. But honestly, after that, I just wanted to not do much.

And Mark had got other projects on the go. He wanted to go and do different things. So, he sort of said, ‘Goodbye,’ and I thought, ‘Well, okay.’ I’d just live a normal bloke for a while, and it was great. And I did another solo album, and I did ‘Glass’ in ’87. And went to do a few gigs. And then we did this, the Mandela Show, at Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday party.”

John Illsley continued talking about when he and Mark decided to create ‘On Every Street’ after the break. Because people were constantly comparing the new album to the previous one and did not like it as much as ‘Brothers in Arms,’ the band did not give a meaning to this. As Illsley stated, that was the time they decided to end their career with the band.

Illsley added:

“Then all went quiet, and then I had lunch with Mark one day; he said, ‘I’ve got some songs I think Straits should do.’ And I went, ‘Really? I thought you and I were just meeting up to have lunch and drink too much wine.’ And so we ended up going and doing the record ‘On Every Street.’ People said it was not as good as ‘Brothers in Arms.’ That’s just the way people conceive it.

I mean, there are some great songs on that record. And in fact, actually, that tour afterward, we played two, three times as many people on the ‘On Every Street’ tour than we did on the ‘Brothers in Arms’ tour. It was completely bonkers. I think the ‘On Every Street’ tour was the sort that definitely said, for Mark and me, ‘Okay, that’s definitely enough. That’s it, or else we’re going to hurt ourselves.'”

When Dire Straits had considerable success in the rock music scene, it was better to take a break, although they were happy about their success, as John Illsley stated in the interview. According to him, Mark Knopfler’s decision to leave the band in 1987 was something he needed to do.