“Brian May did an entire section, about a dozen guitar harmonies:” Mark Knopfler’s all-star Guitar Heroes charity single, Going Home, is released – but who played what?

Mark Knopfler's Guitar Heroes
Joan Armatrading, Jeff Beck, Mark Knopfler and Brian May (Image credit: Erika Goldring/Getty Images; R. Diamond/Getty Images; Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images; Corine Solberg/Getty Images)

Mark Knopfler’s eagerly anticipated all-star supergroup version of Going Home, his theme to Local Hero, has been released, with the single featuring over 50 legendary guitarists, including the late Jeff Beck, who opens the charity single with a “spellbinding” piece of electric guitar manipulation that would be his last ever recorded solo. 

Now we can finally listen to the track – all nine minutes and 49 seconds of it – can we work out who played what on the track? That is easier said than done. Produced by Knopfler’s long-standing co-producer and Dire Straits keyboardist, Guy Fletcher, Going Home has a credits list that reads like a who’s who of guitar. 

You’ve got David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Slash, Brian May, Jeff Beck, Steve Cropper, Duane Eddy, Steve Vai, Sheryl Crow, Derek Trucks, Susan Tudeschi, Nile Rodgers, Pete Townshend, Hank Marvin, Tony Iommi, Bruce Springsteen, Joan Armatrading… The list of guitarists goes on and on, with other musical A-listers popping in, all to help raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust and Teen Cancer America

Ringo Starr and his son, Zak Starkey, play drums. Sting plays bass guitar while Roger Daltrey plays harmonica. It’s a bewildering array of talent. Thankfully, a video will be dropping next week with a commentary on who is playing what to help us make sense of it all – though there’s no mistaking the work of Beck, Knopfler, Gilmour or May. 

Mark Knopfler charity single

Peter Blake, who put together the album cover for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, worked his magic on the cover for Going Home. (Image credit: Peter Blake)

And the Times has run a report from Paul Sexton – who wrote the sleeve notes – which sheds some more light on the project, which all started with Townshend and Clapton dropping by Knopfler’s British Grove Studios, in Chiswick, west London, followed by Sting and Sam Fender – whom we’d like to think got the same train down from Newcastle – with contributions delivered in-person and digitally from across the globe. 

When it came time to mix, Fletcher had an abundance of material to stitch together, and he got to work on a five-minute edit and the full version that’s being made available on digital platforms. 

He offered some clues as to who is playing what. For starters – and no one needed this one – Jeff Beck is playing the intro, as ever all fingerstyle, on the edge of break-up, jockeying the whammy bar, a performance Knopfler describes as “spellbinding”.

“Once I got Jeff Beck’s contribution, there was no way I was going to mess with that,” Fletcher told the Times. “It was as pure as it can be. What he did with it brings you to tears, it’s absolutely astonishing. Only five or six months after I received it, he passed away. The fact that he’s first is kind of beautiful.”

Fletcher says Armatrading plays electric guitar throughout the track and “just wailed” while there is no shortage of Gilmour for Pink Floyd fans to pick out.

There were certain licks that were just absolutely Gilmour. Same with Ronnie Wood, instant Stones

Guy Fletcher

“When David Gilmour came in, he played loads of stuff, but there were certain licks that were just absolutely Gilmour,” said Fletcher. “Same with Ronnie Wood, instant Stones.”

The track grows more rock as it gathers momentum, and much of that was to do with the influence of Queen’s Brian May, who made a telling contribution.

“Brian May did an entire section, about a dozen guitar harmonies, and when he comes in it’s unmistakably Brian,” said Fletcher, who added that Bruce Springsteen's contribution was similarly hard to miss, so keep your ears tuned for a Fender Esquire.

“What I really want to do, more than anything else, is just to thank each and every one for this sterling response,” said Knopfler upon the single's announcement in February. “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 think what we’ve had is an embarrassment of riches, really. The whole thing was a high point.”

Going Home is available now, and it's for a good cause. You can find out more about those causes at Teenage Cancer Trust and Teen Cancer America

Going Home (Theme From Local Hero) credits

  • 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.
Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. 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.