“Eric came in, played great, just one tasty lick after another. Jeff Beck’s contribution was spellbinding”: Mark Knopfler enlists Clapton, Townshend, Iommi, Slash and dozens more for all-star charity single

Mark Knopfler's Guitar Heroes
[L-R] Slash, Pete Townsend, Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, Joan Armatrading (Image credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images; Matthew Baker/Getty Images; Angel Marchini/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images; Rick Kern/WireImage; Luciano Viti/Getty Images)

Mark Knopfler has put together an almighty assemblage of A-list guitar talent for an expanded all-star version of Going Home, his theme track to Local Hero, with the charity single opening with the late Jeff Beck’s final recording, and proceeds going to teenage cancer charities.

In sum, more than 60 rock legends, including 50-plus guitarists, were involved in the recording, which was produced by Guy Fletcher, with some choosing to track at British Grove Studios, in West London, others sending their parts in, and others, such as Pete Townshend of the Who, just appearing out of the blue with an electric guitar, an amp, and the look of a man who wanted to get down to business.

“Before I knew where I was, Pete Townshend had come into my studio armed with a guitar and an amp,” says Knopfler. “And that first Pete power chord…man, I tell you. We were in that territory, and it was just fantastic. And it went on from there.”

It did. The cast of players is ridiculous. Let’s take a deep breath and name a few names: Brian May, Tony Iommi, Slash, Joan Armatrading, Joan Jett, Buddy Guy, Hank Marvin, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Slash, Orianthi, Tom Morello, Peter Frampton, David Gilmour, Albert Lee, and Eric Clapton. There are many more.

Alongside Townshend, Clapton and Lee were among the first to contribute. Speaking of which, Slowhand was in top form. “Eric came in, played great, just one tasty lick after another,” says Knopfler.

The track will be previewed at Newcastle United’s home match against Wolverhampton Wanderers on March 2 (the team walk out to the Local Hero theme), before being released via Sony/BMG on March 15. A number of the performers will be at the match. 

Let’s name some more names. Also featured are Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, Joe Bonamassa, Nile Rodgers, Duane Eddy, Steve Lukather, Sheryl Crow, Joe Walsh, Mike Rutherford, and Ry Cooder. We also have a Beatles/Stones crossover event, with Ronnie Wood playing guitar, and Ringo Starr on the drums. Starr’s son, Zak Starkey, also plays drums. Oh, and Sting is playing bass guitar. It’s that sort of occasion. 

But it is Jeff Beck’s presence that makes this all the more poignant. This was the last guitar track he recorded before his death in January 2023. 

Knopfler described Beck’s contribution was “spellbinding.” While Fletcher says Beck's part was “absolutely meant to be. What he did with it, it just brings you to tears.”

Mark Knopfler auction

(Image credit: Future / Joby Sessions)

Knopfler was taken aback by the response from his peers, and admits that they had to extend the track to fit everyone on it.

“What I really want to do, more than anything else, is just to thank each and every one for this sterling response,” he says. “I really had no idea that it was going to be like this. It hit Guy and I quite early on that we had to extend this piece somehow, to take in the number of people who joined in.”

I really had no idea that it was going to be like this. It hit Guy and I quite early on that we had to extend this piece somehow, to take in the number of people who joined in

Mark Knopfler

Going Home is an instrumental but it does feature one of rock’s great frontmen, Roger Daltrey, playing harmonica. The single will benefit the Teenage Cancer Trust in the UK, which Daltrey is an honorary patron of, and the Teen Cancer America, which he co-founded with Townshend. 

The sheer scale of this Going Home charity redux production calls to mind Live Aid, when in 1985 the convening powers of Midge Ure and Bob Geldof got pop’s biggest stars to unite against famine in Africa for one of the defining pop-cultural moments of the decade. But has there ever been a track with so many star guitarists?

The cast certainly gave Sir Peter Blake plenty to work with for the cover, and he took a similar approach to his iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album artwork, with images of all the guitarists – plus the likes of Local Hero stars Peter Riegert and Burt Lancaster – cut-out and arranged across a picture of the legendary Hank’s Guitar Shop on London’s Denmark Street.

Mark Knopfler's Guitar Heroes

(Image credit: Peter Blake / Teenage Cancer Trust / Sony BMG)

The Mark Kopfler’s Guitar Heroes version of Going Home (the Theme from Local Hero) is available to preorder now, and is out March 15 on CD, 12” with etched b-side, and a deluxe CD/Blu-ray package including sleeve notes by Paul Sexton. Digital formats will include a Dolby Atmos mix of the track.

The track has already raised a six-figure sum following NeoFidelity Recordings’ sale of an Original Disc of the master recording.

In addition, eight guitars have been donated by leading guitar brands to support the initiative, each of which has been signed. One will be auctioned for the Teenage Cancer Trust at a private donor event on March 1. 

You can read the track’s full cast below, and find out more at Teenage Cancer Trust and Teen Cancer America.

Mark Knopfler's Guitar Heroes: 

Joan Armatrading, Jeff Beck, Richard Bennett, Joe Bonamassa, Joe Brown, James Burton, Jonathan Cain, Paul Carrack, Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, Jim Cox, Steve Cropper, Sheryl Crow, Danny Cummings, Roger Daltrey, Duane Eddy, Sam Fender, Guy Fletcher, Peter Frampton, Audley Freed, Vince Gill, David Gilmour, Buddy Guy, Keiji Haino, Tony Iommi, Joan Jett, John Jorgenson, Mark Knopfler, Sonny Landreth, Albert Lee, Greg Leisz, Alex Lifeson, Steve Lukather, Phil Manzanera, Dave Mason, Hank Marvin, Brian May, Robbie McIntosh, John McLaughlin, Tom Morello, Rick Nielsen, Orianthi, Brad Paisley, Nile Rodgers, Mike Rutherford, Joe Satriani, John Sebastian, Connor Selby, Slash, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Zak Starkey, Sting, Andy Taylor, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, Ian Thomas, Pete Townshend, Keith Urban, Steve Vai, Waddy Wachtel, Joe Louis Walker, Joe Walsh, Ronnie Wood, Glenn Worf, Zucchero.

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Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.