John Illsley - the life and times of Dire Straits in Morecambe

The Platform, Morecambe

Thursday, 12th March 2020, 1:31 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th March 2020, 1:32 pm

Wednesday, March 18, 7.30pm.

Along with Mark Knopfler, John Illsley was a founder member of the legendary Dire Straits who, during their time together, sold more than 120 million albums .

The evening will feature a Q&A and stories from his career, plus classics from the Dire Straits history performed by John and some fellow musicians including: Money for Nothing, Brothers in Arms, Romeo and Juliet and Sultans of Swing.

John Illsley, founder member and bass player of Dire Straits, is bringing his chat and music show to The Platform this March.Picture by Judy Totton.
John Illsley, founder member and bass player of Dire Straits, is bringing his chat and music show to The Platform this March.Picture by Judy Totton.

Reporter Michelle Blade spoke to John ahead of his performance in Morecambe.

John said: “This show is a bit of a trip down memory lane based on the history of the band from beginning to end. We chat, show pictures and play some music, take a break and during the second half, go through a journey of the band’s history.

“We did two tours last year so this will be the third tour, and it seems that people like it. It’s a different approach to a concert, the songs become much more intimate when you are sitting around with an acoustic guitar and a keyboard.

“When Dire Straits ended, Mark Knopfler and I remained on very good terms and that helped a lot in a pretty big situation dealing with the entertainment business and being in a rock and roll band.

“Not many people know it was a series of coincidences that brought the band together. I was renting a flat which cost £9.48 a week and needed a flatmate. David Knopfler came to live there and through him I met Mark Knopfler and we hit it off through friendship and music. We started playing guitars together and it just gelled very quickly. We needed a drummer and bass player and Dire Straits was formed quite quickly. We made a demo tape and started playing together towards the end of 1976.

“In 1977 the band started playing gigs all over the UK, often times for a pint of beer and a fiver. “Things came together and we moved forward. Mark is a remarkable songwriter, which is key to a band.“

When John was 12 or 13 he listened to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones , Chuck Berry and the blues from the US.

He said: “This music spoke to me in a different kind of way. I taught myself how to play the guitar, I went through the pain and started playing with other people. Playing with other musicians is a joy. It has always been in my blood. I was in 10 or 15 bands up to the point I met Mark and David Knopfler but we just had something quite special. After the band I followed my other passion which is being an artist. If I’m not playing music, I’m usually in an arts studio. I have an art show every two or three years and it has filled the vacuum left by the band.” John, 70, lives in Hampshire and has four children and three grandchildren. He has never been to Morecambe before but used to visit his aunt in Formby when he was younger. He said: “I’m looking forward to coming up to a traditional seaside place.” John recently played at a benefit concert at the 02 with Eric Clapton and Mick Hucknall. He said: “I felt myself getting a little nervous but told myself to calm down and relax. We raised £1 million.” Call The Platform on 01524 582803 for tickets.