Mark Knopfler

Mark Knopfler on the Re-release of ‘Local Hero’

Following the re-release of ‘Local Hero’, we were lucky enough to join Mark Knopfler for an evening in conversation with Alan Shearer…

In March, St. James’ Park was home to the world-exclusive first play of a special re-release of the iconic ‘Going Home (Local Hero)’ by Mark Knopfler and an extraordinary ensemble of global music stars.

When writing our cover stories, I tend to spend some time reflecting on the story, the words, the interviewee, and try to come up with a creative headline. This time, the first thing I wrote on a blank page was ‘Local Hero’. It may seem like the obvious title, but it’s the best way to sum up iconic guitarist and singer songwriter, Mark Knopfler OBE.

A personality we have longed to speak to here at Luxe, when we were invited to join distinguished figures of the North East for an evening in his presence at St. James’ Park, we jumped at the opportunity to hear from the star on the back of the re-release of the iconic ‘Going Home (Local Hero)’ track.

Since its announcement in February of this year, there has been much anticipation surrounding the re-release by Mark Knopfler and a sensational ensemble of legendary musicians.

The purpose of the re-recording is to support and raise crucial funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust and Teen Cancer America, charities Knopfler has worked closely with for many years.

To breathe new life into this rendition, he has enlisted some of the industry’s finest, including more ‘local heroes’ in Sting and Sam Fender, as well as music legends such as Eric Clapton, Roger Daltrey, Brian May, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Pete Townsend and Ronnie Wood – all of whom have left their unique mark on this iconic track’s new version.

Mark Knopfler
Photo credit: Terry Blackburn

Mark Knopfler Guitar Heroes Fundraiser

Forty-one years since its original release in 1982, ‘Local Hero’, famed as the anthem of match days on Tyneside, has been reimagined by the Dire Straits legend. And who better to host a Q&A session at St. James’ Park than Newcastle United legend, Alan Shearer?

In support of Teenage Cancer Trust, we joined Alan and Mark for the Mark Knopfler Guitar Heroes Fundraiser at St. James’ Park’s Heroes Suite. Alan kicks off the Q&A by asking Mark how it feels to be back in Newcastle.

“Oh, every time it’s the same,” he starts, with a smile.

“I make my way to the end of the [train] carriage to see the familiar sight – you know, the river and the bridges – I always do it. Chester-le-Street, I’m up… ‘excuse me, sorry, sorry, I just want to be there to see the river!”

The city plays a big part in Mark’s life and career. He was born in Glasgow, but moved to Newcastle when he was young.

“My mum was a Geordie from a Geordie family. There were a lot of connections between Geordies and Scots when I was growing up – there always has been. I actually remember visiting my nana’s house as a kid and hearing Scottish music.”

Music has been a running theme throughout his life, and something he was drawn to as a child.

“I remember my headmaster writing a note that said: ‘this boy is destined to do whatever the hell he wants to do’ – or at least a headmaster’s version of that.”

Mark Knopfler
Photo credit: Terry Blackburn

Mark Knopfler and His Connection to Newcastle

And it was true. Mark is the first person to admit that he didn’t really have a plan or much of an idea of what he was doing, but he’d caught the music bug and he was off.

“Music is such a humbling thing,” he says.

“Over the years, I learned how much dedication is required to keep it all happening and to sustain a level of excellence. It’s difficult. There’s always going to be somebody better than you.

“With music, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing,” he laughs.

“I was just a northern strummer, clueless about everything. I didn’t really know what I was doing until Guy Fletcher came to my door looking for a job with a keyboard under his arm. After we played together for a few hours, I realised that he didn’t know what he was doing either!”

Mark’s work has, and always will, play a huge part in the workings of Newcastle United.

“I’ve been at St. James’ when the song plays, it is phenomenal,” he says.

In 1983, the release of the film ‘Local Hero’ marked Knopfler’s debut as a film composer, and it received critical acclaim, earning him a BAFTA nomination.

Since the early 1990s, ‘Local Hero’ has resonated as the anthem of the Geordies, welcoming the Newcastle United team onto the St. James’ Park pitch. If you’ve been lucky enough to soak up the matchday atmosphere at St. James’, it’s impossible not to get goosebumps as the tune echoes through the stadium, the team emerges and adrenaline builds in the run up to kick-off.

Mark Knopfler
Photo credit: Simon Godsave

Significance of ‘Local Hero’

“This is a piece of music to me that represents coming home,” says Alan Shearer.

“Whenever I was driving across the Tyne Bridge, I would put it on. Then I ran out to the song for 10 years at St. James’ Park,” he adds.

“It moves you. It’s something about it that we just recognise in Newcastle.”

It has become a part of the city. Something we are incredibly proud of here in the North East. Not just in football, but also in the personal lives of those influenced by Mark’s music.

“Local Hero cuts are often used in people’s lives to celebrate or mark everything from having babies, to when people pass away,” he starts.

“It gets used in people’s lives to get them through happiness and sadness. It makes me feel wonderful when people use the songs in their lives. That’s what it’s all about.

“When you’re in a band, everybody is trying to do the best thing for the song, it’s like having a child. But if you’ve written it, you’re just trying to do the best thing by sending it off to a good home – or a good school maybe.”

The Process Behind the Re-recording of ‘Local Hero’

The new recording, which primarily took place at British Grove Studios in West London, is out now and proceeds are being directed towards the Teenage Cancer Trust and Teen Cancer America. But why now? Where did the idea of a re-release come from?

“I think the Teenage Cancer record itself came from a DJ called Mike Reid, who asked Guy Fletcher what he thought about making a re-recording of the song,” Mark starts.

“Mike suggested bringing a couple of guests on board, so we said ‘guests, yeah that’s fine… we can have a couple of guests!’.

“Pete Townshend arrived immediately with a guitar in his hand. He took it into the studio and hit a chord on the Local Hero theme, and it sounded so damn good. And I thought ‘we’re away, this is going to be alright….’

“I came in the next morning and there’s Eric Clapton. So I said, ‘hello, Eric, how very nice of you to come in!’.

“Then David Gilmour was there, and Jeff Beck sent something from this place. Before we knew it, there’s this waiting list of people down the back lane. So I said to Guy, ‘how long can this thing actually get? Jokingly suggesting more verses and bridges’. ‘Yeah, we can do another verse?,’ he said. ‘What about another middle eight? And another bridge? Another bridge? Hmm it’s a concept. Yeah, we can do that.’.

“So before we knew where we were, we were 10 minutes in… and worried. But Guy, being a brilliant editor, managed to piece it together despite various challenges. Eventually, we had two versions: one extended, and one shorter for regular listening.”

Mark Knopfler

Involvement with the Teenage Cancer Trust

Things have somewhat come full circle for Mark Knopfler, not only in terms of writing music that hits home, but in his work with Teenage Cancer Trust.

“It’s very much a full circle moment,” he starts.

“Because Dire Straits paid for the very first Teenage Cancer Unit which was in the Middlesex Hospital Trust, then a few years later it moved to University College and it’s still there now.

“It’s gone from strength to strength largely due to the work of other people, nothing to do with me, but I managed to stay a patron. And here it is, the circle has come around. It’s just wonderful. I love those circular moments when you know the past catches up with you and just taps you on the shoulder and says, ‘here we are’ – 34 years later. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Mark is an icon in the music industry, and certainly a hero in his own right in the North East. But as we hear him chat about his life, his musical journey and his northern roots, he remains humble and honest.

When asked if he has any regrets or things he would change along the way, he answers with:

“Too many to mention!

“The trouble is, when you’re young, you go charging in,” he adds.

“I remember telling an engineer when I started the first album: ‘this might be another album to you, but it’s not to me’. You know that kind of sounds like arroganceand maybe it was, but I think at the same time you do need to have a bit of that about you when you’re charging for it.”

Hometown Roots

His captivating career has taken him from Blyth to the BAFTAS and beyond, but he assures us he takes a little bit of Newcastle wherever he goes.

“That wouldn’t change,” he says.

“I remember singing to my mum when her memory had gone. If I sang a line of a Geordie song – just half a line – she’d pick it up and finish it. So it goes very deep.”

Hearing from Mark Knopfler was inspiring to say the least. Every word that leaves his mouth is captivating and his journey is one many of us are fascinated by here in the North East. A local hero indeed.

Music lovers can obtain the re-released track in various formats, including physical copies such as CD and 12″ vinyl with an etched B-side, as well as a deluxe CD+BluRay edition featuring sleeve notes by Paul Sexton.

Digital formats, including a Dolby Atmos mix, are also available for purchase, with proceeds directed towards the Teenage Cancer Trust and Teen Cancer America.