It’s no secret that Dire Straits has a guitar god in their frontman Mark Knopfler. What you might not have heard is how amazing they sound when the one and only Eric Clapton sits in with the band, at the 1990 Knebworth Festival no less.
Slowhand has played with Dire Straits numerous times over the years, and one of the highlights is his appearance for the classic “Money for Nothing” at Knebworth. Knopfler leads proceedings for the first half, laying down the iconic opening riff and later taking the first solo. At just before the four minute mark, Clapton does what he does best and smashes out a blistering fretboard work out, all while looking like an absolute boss in a pink suit.
Knopfler was not going to be outshined in the fashion department, as he’s also looking dapper in a burnt orange suit with a matching custom-built Pensa Suhr MK guitar, which has become one of his iconic axes. The live version of the song is also an excellent showcase for Knopfler’s guitar playing. The full studio version of the song does not feature a guitar solo, despite sprawling out to more than eight minutes in length.
However Knopfler really lets his hair down live and gives a fiery guitar solo that is beautifully composed, despite the fact it’s just for the live show. Perhaps having Clapton sitting in with the band inspired some friendly rivalry about who could pull off the hottest solo. Clapton, having gone all the way to Knebworth for the show, wasn’t content with just one song and also played on “Think I Love You Too Much”, delivering another memorable solo.
Both videos are a testament to just how amazing Dire Straits were live. The groove the band creates is just monstrous, with each member delivering exactly what is needed to keep the 120,000 punters in attendance dancing from go to whoa.
As great as the studio recording of “Money for Nothing” is, the live arrangement is really the definitive edition. The band sounds more organic and groovy live than in the album version, which is burdened somewhat by studio gimmicks that might have sounded cool in 1985, but haven’t aged all that well.
“Money for Nothing” famously featured Sting on backup vocals, singing the iconic line “I want my MTV”. The song featured a computer animated 3D music video, which was considered groundbreaking at the time. It almost didn’t happen though, as Knopfler was resistant to creating an animated music video, as he preferred to have a straight-forward performance video, if any video was needed at all. Luckily for the band, the director Steve Barron talked him into greenlighting the animated video, and it became a smash hit on MTV.
The release of “Money for Nothing” as the second single from Dire Straits’ fifth studio album Brothers in Arms found the band at the peak of their powers. The song was a top five hit in both the US and UK, and went Platinum in the latter market. Propelled by four hit singles, the album represents the band’s commercial peak, going to number one just about all over the world and hitting 14 times Platinum in the UK. If you would like to see more from Dire Straits, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel or follow them on Facebook.