Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I've Seen This Rockin' cat, I Wanna be Just Like That

Thinking back on growing up, I remember my dad talking a lot about Mark Knopfler. I remember hearing "Sultans of Swing" on the radio, and the presenter introducing the song as being performed by Dire Straits, to which I laughed and pointed out to my dad how silly it was of the presenter not to know that the song was performed by Mark Knopfler.I also remember sitting in a classroom many years ago, having art. The female principal was supervising us and we were all busy drawing masterpieces with crayons and watercolours. Our principal put on a CD and asked us if anybody knew who the artist was. I was proud to be the only one to raise my hand and answer, amongst my classmates obliviousness, as Mark was not only my much older principal's favourite musician, but mine as well. 
What makes this memory so special to me, is that I remember my principal telling us how excited she was to have tickets for his first solo tour, which would be take place a number of months later. Mark Knopfler released his first solo album in 1996, which would make me 8 years old and even then a big Mark Knopfler fan. I remember being so proud knowing who the teacher was playing and the fact I was only 8 and still remember this, makes me feel warm and fussy inside.
I told you that I remember my dad talking a lot about him, but my dad was not a huge fan with all of the records. I don't remember hearing his music as much as I remember hearing my dad talking about him. Even though I don't remember actually hearing the music, the songs seem to have always been familiar to me and the lyrics were stuck somewhere between my consciousness and subconsciousness. It took a few years for me to start listening to Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits as avidly as I am now. The music was something my dad and brother listened to, while I had some sort of hidden love/pride for his music. 

I don't remember how old I was when I started taping Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler songs from the radio (this is what you did back in the days, before Pirate Bay if you had no pocket money) but I grew more and more interested in his music. I remember a summer evening, listening to the radio's "Request a Song" and sending in about 7-8 text messages, all in the following pattern:

"Could you play any Dire Straits song?"
"Could you play any Dire Straits song, except for Sultans of Swing?"
"Could you play any Dire Straits song, except for Brothers in Arms?"
"Could you play any Dire Straits song, except for Skateaway?"

...and so on. I'm sure they must have had a good laugh over the text messages that were flowing in, obviously from the same peculiar person with a strange fascination for Dire Straits.
I eventually bought my first Dire Straits CD and saved up all my money to buy most, if not every one of their albums, one by one. I saved the receipts and would remember in which order I had bought them. The receipts are at home in Finland and I have forgotten in which order I bought them, but I remember that the first one was their first, self-titled album with the beige cover. 
As you can see from the picture below, I have not only bought all (more like most, I don't have the Best of compilations, the album he did with Chet Atkins, The Notting Hillbillies project, nor any of the music score he did) but I have also bought two of the bassplayer's solo albums in CD and LP format, one of his brother's CDs and a few other bits and pieces. The pictures were taken a few years ago so they are missing some new CDs which can be added to the collection along with two tour t-shirts.
I was lucky enough to get to see him live in 2009 in Helsinki and was thrilled to buy my two tour t-shirts. I went with two musicians in their 60's and the events leading up to that is a story on its own which I won't go into now. I sat on the 5th row, if I am not mistaken and in the end I got to stand right in front of him. I was jumping and clapping and managed to clap my hands so enthusiastically for the full 10-15 minutes I was standing right in front of him, that I actually got bruises on the palms of my hands. I was jumping up and down and clapping the whole time and I happened to (not planned by no means) be wearing a shirt which showed off my cleavage. At one point when I was jumping and frantically clapping my hands he started smiling and I hoped it was because of the cute, buxom girl in the front who seemed to be a big fan. I keep thinking that I hope it was because of me that he smiled, and that he felt like a Beatles, lunatic female fan and all.
I had planned to make a sign that said "I've seen this rockin' cat, I wanna be just like that" as it was a line from one of the songs of his then current album, but I never wound up doing it. It would have felt a bit nerve-wrecking to know he would read something which I had written on a piece of paper, and which was directed to him.

The line also had a lot of meaning in it as well. To me the line showed some of my admiration and love for him and his music, which I am sure he has for other musicians. His music has been very important in my life and it has gotten me through some bad years of my life. About the time when I started buying all of his/their records, I spent a whole year-year and a half only listening to Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler and nothing else. It was everything and the only thing I needed. As of lately, the last year or so, I haven't listened to too much music, but it doesn't change how important his music is to me, what it makes me feel.

Listening to his music makes me happy, it feels like I start bubbling with emotion and like I am slowly floating away on a cloud of excitement. I get an urge to dance, to sing and to play the guitar. It makes me want to practice more and learn to play like him. It gives me the urge to create but also to explore. To go out and do things, live life and experience things. And a big part of me wishes I could give him a big hug and sit down and have a cup of coffee with him.

I would love to meet him some day. Not simply a handshake/hug/picture taken with him/tell him how much he means to me, but actually get to meet him in normal circumstances and get to see a little bit of his personality. One of my Finnish friends said that she had been talking to one of her cousins and that apparently her cousin's dad knows Mark Knopfler and that he has given Mark race driving lessons, as he teaches this (among other things?) and that they have had him over for dinner a few times. This cousin of hers had no interest in him at all and had only a vague idea who he was, while my friend was jumping up and down at her cousin's lack of interest and incredible luck.
My fianc√©e's cousin is the drummer in the Irish band Aslan which is hugely popular here, and he keeps telling me that they would probably know Mark or have contacts who know him. I keep daring him to set up a dinner date of some sort with Mark as I am highly suspicious of them having any type of connections with him.  I am still left waiting for any such opportunity, but I hope to get to meet him some day, through whatever strange ways it might be, or if nothing else, then to see him live again. Maybe this time I will go ahead and make my sign, so I can for a short while, communicate with him and hopefully let him see that he is wonderful, that what he does is important and that his music means incredibly much to his fans.

I hope that this posting has not totally failed to show the importance of Mark Knopfler in my life. The way I feel when I listen to his music is something which I cannot explain, and I have a constant urge to pay tribute to him in some way, as a thank you for his music. I had Mark's name embroidered on a jacket and I remember the immense pride I used to have wearing it. Once, here in Ireland, when I was inside a clothing store, a guy came up to me and asked me where I got the cool jacket I was wearing. He called over his girlfriend and asked her to look at the back of my jacket. I would still be wearing it, be it not that the zipper on the jacket is broken.
My mission for next winter will be to get it from Finland and repair the zipper. I can then continue to walk the streets of Ireland and showcase proudly that I am a fan of his music, and in the meantime continue my support for him by writing long blog entries.

It is now time for me to go to bed. I hope you enjoy the songs!

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