Mark Knopfler has been producing his own work for years, first with Dire Straits, then his film soundtracks, and finally and most recently for his solo albums. In the 1980s, however, he also produced tracks and entire CDs for other very notable artists – including Bob Dylan.
After performing on Dylan’s 1979’s religion-laden “Slow Train Coming,” Knopfler was approached once again in 1983 to produce his newest album. Knopfler brought along engineer Neil Dorfsman (who went on to engineer and produce the Dire Straits megaalbum “Brothers in Arms”) and Dire Straits’ keyboardist Alan Clark, and put together a number of other musicians who ultimately created the eight tracks entitled “Infidels” that would end up on the finished product (along with the countless other songs that didn’t make the cut). Knopfler played guitar on the album as well, along with former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor.
Christopher Connelly of Rolling Stone complimented Dylan, saying it was “a stunning recovery of the lyric and melodic powers that seemed to have all but deserted him.” It ended up being the only one of Dylan’s albums to go gold in the 80s, and the Village Voice awarded it as one of its Top 10 Albums of the Year.
A continuing mystery is why Dylan ultimately decided to remove the track “Blind Willie McTell” from the finished product. The song, eventually released as one of a series of outtakes, was simply arranged with Dylan singing and playing the piano, and Knopfler on acoustic guitar. Knopfler, who wanted to leave the song on the album, had to leave for a previously-committed tour in Germany with Dire Straits and Dylan ended up finishing the editing and ultimately delivered the masters to CBS Records without his assistance or input.
In a 1987 interview in Q Magazine, Knopfler admitted “I was lucky with Bob. He’s wild to work with but different people get results different ways. If anybody ever has the dubious fortune to end up in the producer’s seat they’ll find out for themselves that the best way to go forward is to respect others’ feelings about things, sometimes when they’re directly opposed to your own.”