The Story Of Mark Knopfler’s Nerve-Wracking Collaboration With Steely Dan

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Collaborations and creative partnerships have always been integral elements of music. It is not surprising considering the influences of various musicians over each other. We may define some of them as great collaborations, while others result in a complete failure and disappointment for both the listeners and the artists. The latter was precisely what happened when Dire Strait’s Mark Knopfler accepted Steely Dan’s offer to work with them.

Founded in 1971 by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Steely Dan released just nine studio albums throughout their career spanning over five decades. Still, the duo left a remarkable impression on the music scene with their very original sound, a successful fusion of rock, jazz, blues, R&B, and Latin music. They also brought a unique approach to the music with their touching lyrics and meticulous arrangements.

It is also a rare thing to see in the music scene a band remaining faithful to the stylistic integrity of their sound throughout their whole career. Although they collaborated with various musicians during the recording process of their works, they didn’t allow external influences to change their original output. Therefore, it shouldn’t be hard to guess that working with them has never been easy. Let’s see how Mark Knopfler’s partnership with the duo went.

Mark Knopfler Had A Hard Time Working With Steely Dan

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Steely Dan was working on their seventh studio album, ‘Gaucho,‘ when they first came across Mark Knopfler’s guitar work in Dire Straits’ debut album. Dire Straits had just released their self-titled debut album, which featured the band’s hit single, ‘Sultans of Swing.’ The song was regarded as the album’s highlight by music critics, and Knopfler was particularly praised for his remarkable guitar sound.

Apparently, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were also quite impressed with it as they offered Knopfler to team up with them in the recordings of their ‘Gaucho’ album. The duo invited Mark Knopfler to contribute to the song, ‘Time Out of Mind,’ with a guitar solo. You may assume that Knopfler was lucky to have the opportunity to work with these two great musicians, but things didn’t go as expected.

As stated before, Steely Dan’s members are famous for their meticulous work on their music, so Mark Knopfler was no exception to their strict work ethic. Knopfler began working on the solo, but the duo was never fully satisfied with his output, so they would push him to repeat it. However, their long and repetitious recording sessions eventually pissed Knopfler off.

It was not just about that; the guitarist didn’t like how Becker and Fagen treated him since they harshly criticized his slow progress. It took ten hours for Knopfler to record only 15 seconds to be used in the song’s intro part. Later in an interview, Knopfler recalled his time with the duo as a ‘strange experience,’ which made him feel unconfident and discouraged.

You can have a listen to ‘Time Out Of Mind’ below.