The story behind “5:15 AM” first song from Mark’s solo album Shangri-La

The story behind “5:15 AM” first song from Mark’s solo album Shangri-La

Angus Sibbet and the Jaguar

Shangri-La is the fourth solo studio album by Mark Knopfler, released on 28 September 2004 produced by Mark himself and Chuck Ainlay.

The first track on this solo album is a song named “5:15AM”. The song tells the story of the 1967 “One-Armed Bandit Murder” in North East England, where Knopfler grew up, from the perspective of the community.

Knopfler was 17 at the time of the killing. The ‘bandit’ name comes not from amputeeism or even the crime involved, but from the “one-armed bandits” nickname for the slot machines in the nightclubs from which those involved in the killing collected their fortunes.

The coal mining industry of northeastern England is referenced throughout, and the inhabitants of the region are presented as victims of the fear brought by organized crime, of the theft of money lost to the gambling machines, and more broadly of the exploitative and sometimes fatal labor conditions miners suffered “for a pittance” as the coal companies amassed fortunes.

5:15 AM is the time that the victim, Angus Sibbet, was found dead. Mark Knopfler said:

“This is partly about the murder of a fruit machine man on Tyneside that figured very big when I was a young teenager. I can be slow to get around to writing songs! The body was in a huge Jag and discovered by a pitman coming home from night-shift on his bicycle on a frozen morning. The nightclubs were moving into Newcastle. The Americanization of our culture comes later but always comes.”

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