Steely Dan Sunday, “Time Out of Mind” (1980)

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Walter Becker and Donald Fagen dug “Sultans Of Swing” like the rest of us did when this first Dire Straits hit was making hay on the radio in 1979. It was beginning with this song where Mark Knopfler made fancy fingerpicking — by way of Chet Atkins — cool again in rock music. But while songs like this might have convinced ordinary folk like you and I to go catch a Dire Straits concert or two, such dazzling technique inspired Steely Dan to “borrow” Knopfler for a track on their next album. That track is familiar to most, it’s the second hit single from Gaucho “Time Out Of Mind.”

Yet another good groover with drug references, “Time” boasts a killer roster of supporting musicians from David Sanborn to Patti Austin, but perhaps the only one really noticeable is Michael McDonald, the sole backup vocalist in the whole world capable of regularly upstaging the lead vocalist. Oh, and Knopfler? He’s listed as the lead guitarist and you can hear him, too, but he rarely gets out to the front in spite of that “lead guitar” designation. And that’s the problem with what is an otherwise pretty strong outing. They reportedly paid Knopfler a million bucks for his services, why not let him rip it up and not edit it all out? He’s nowhere to be found on the instrumental break, and hard to pick up competing with the horn charts toward fade-out.

“Time Out Of Mind” is a good tune. Mark Knopfler could have made it a great one, had they let him.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron
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  • The Dean

    Well, I’m thinking Don and Walt didn’t really like what Mark brought to the table, solo wise. It wasn’t unusual for The Dan to bring in hired guns only to leave their contributions on the cutting room floor. Mark should be proud he made at least some contribution to the song.

    Given the historical results I’ll trust Don and Walt’s judgement and assume the song is better as-is.

    • S. Victor Aaron

      “Mark should be proud he made at least some contribution to the song.”

      I dunno, I think Mark has made a pretty good career on his own to be proud of. I doubt he even remembers he played on this tune. Sometimes when I listen to it, I forget, too.

    • Doc Mu

      That instrumental break is screaming for a guitar solo over the top. I don’t think he knew what he was getting into. I guess Jay Graydon wasn’t available!

      At least Knopfler offered up a nice solo on the outtro. Gaucho at the time was the most expensive album, surpassing Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk I believe. WENDEL, the drum sampling machine cost $150,000 for Roger Nichols to create. The sessions became even more expensive when they settled with Keith Jarrett for lifting the vamp on the title track.

      Today’s artist receives a budget to cover a few capuccinos, and a producer with computers to fix their crappy tracks.

  • Sal

    Million Dollars lol! You should do better research than that!

    • S. Victor Aaron

      Sal, I think you read that sentence a little too fast and missed a key word: “reportedly”, as in “I heard/read it but I don’t know for sure if it’s true.”

      However, if you’d like to research exactly how much Mr. Knopfler got paid, please be my guest.

  • Nick Millevoi

    I remember some interview where Fagen said that Knopfler just didn’t play anything worth keeping, but I don’t remember where that came from. Who knows what that really means though…

    • S. Victor Aaron

      I can believe that explanation, Nick. Becker and Fagen were a notoriously picky bunch. Still hard for me to imagine what they didn’t like about Knopfler’s playing that disappointed them, you know just what you’re getting with that guy.

  • Iñaki Iraeta

    I like the instrumental middle section as it is. If DF/WB decided to erase Mark’s “attempt”, I trust their instincts. Maybe they left the fills in the vamp-like intro/outro but didn’t think he was “saying” anything in the more harmonically complex interlude… Just guessing.