(Continued from Part 1)
A few years after I had tried to learn the solo from Tunnel of Love I read the latter parts of Douglas Adams’ Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (in five parts, of course), namely Life, the Universe and Everything and So long, and thanks for all the fish. I have been a huge fan of Douglas Adams since the mid-1980s, when I first heard the BBC radio plays of HHGG and then later read the HHGG novels. Sadly, DNA is now dead, but his legacy lives on in humour and music. (But maybe not in the movie.)
On the surface it would seem that this has nothing at all to do with Dire Straits at all, but it turns out to be quite the opposite. You see, Douglas Adams was a great music fan, and also a Dire Straits fan. (If he had lived to see the iPod as well, it would probably have been one of his dreams come true, just like it has been mine, but that is another story altogether).
In So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish Adams pays tribute to Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler. The protagonist of all the Hitch-Hiker’s books, Arthur Dent, finally gets it going with Fenchurch, the strange and beautiful cello-playing girl of his dreams. He has fallen in love with her like you would never think that the shy and insecure Arthur could, as that part of his character is not emphasised by Adams before this fourth [sic] book in the trilogy. Then again, still waters etc.
In chapter 22 of So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish Arthur is visiting Fenchurch’s apartment, where he puts on a record by Dire Straits. It is not mentioned in the novel which Dire Straits album is the one that is playing, but the Wikipedia article about Douglas Adams mentions that he was indeed thinking about Making Movies (which to me is highly credible information, although not backed with a reference, at least at the time of this writingfootnote), and that the specific song that is playing when Fenchurch kisses lucky Arthur is indeed — you guessed it, Tunnel of Love. And Fenchurch does that because, in the immortal words of the unfortunately very mortal Douglas Adams, ”the record had got to that bit which, if you knew the record, you would know made it impossible not to do this.”
Well, I knew the record, and I knew that it could be exactly like that in a similar situation. Never mind that in my case the actual soundtrack was something different (The Smiths, perversely enough, but that is yet another story.)
When I first read So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish, I considered myself something of a Tunnel of Love expert, having learned the solo and all. Somehow I also knew that it just had to be the song Adams was thinking of, and I was actually pretty amazed to find out much, much later that I had been right after all. There must be a name for this (call it serendipity for now).
Another strange coincidence is that Tunnel of Love starts with an excerpt of the waltz from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, and in HHGG part one the computer of the ship Heart of Gold sings You’ll Never Walk Alone, also from Carousel. Or perhaps it is not a coincidence at all, but something that Douglas Adams connected with, upon hearing the carousel waltz kicking off Tunnel of Love. I guess we’ll never know. (What certainly is a coincidence is that Mark Knopfler’s first solo album is actually titled Golden Heart.)
The crucial chapter 22 of So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish ends with the sentence: ”The record got to the good bit.” And so, my conclusion follows: the lovely, emotional, expressive guitar solo by Mark Knopfler which appears in Tunnel of Love, the one I tried to learn on electric guitar, is ”the good bit”.
FOOTNOTE: The alt.fan-douglas-adams FAQ does say explicitly that this is indeed so. I’m sure it wasn’t the case when I originally wrote this in 2007 or 2008.