15/12/15 – Dire Straits – Sultans Of Swing – 1978

Song Of The Day

Dire Straits 1978It may seem unnecessary to post a track that has been played 30 million times on Spotify by a band that has sold 120 million records but when Dire Straits made this video, nobody had ever heard of them – it seemed that Mark Knopfler’s Dire Straits had arrived out of nowhere. Actually he arrived from Blyth on the north-east coast just north of Newcastle but Knopfler is actually Scottish, born in Glasgow, his family moved to his mother’s home town when he was seven years old before moving to London in 1973 like all aspiring musicians from the regions had to in those days.

Once in London Knopfler joined Brewer’s Droop before forming Café Racers. Brother David moved to London soon after and shared a flat with future Dire Straits bassist John Ilsey. Soon after that John Ilsey was asked to join Café Racers until eventually big brother moved in with little brother and Ilsey and they began playing music together. Mark Knofler had developed a unique finger picking style that ultimately made him very famous very quickly. His narrative singing and songs seemed more influenced by American country than the mood of north-eastern England and it catapulted him from nowhere to being the lead singer/songwriter and lead guitarist in one of the biggest bands in the world. But it wasn’t just the public that took to him.

Within a year of releasing the first self-titled Dire Straits album, Knopfler was playing lead guitar on Bob Dylan’s 1979 album, Slow Train Coming, within five years he was co-producing Dylan’s 1983 album, Infidels. It’s an incredible meteoric rise to fame and fortune in such a short period of time, and it didn’t end there. Dire Straits released their fifth studio album, Brothers In Arms in 1985. It went on to be the fourth best selling album ever in the UK with sales of 30 million records…and then by 1986, it was all over. Knopfler went on to record many soundtrack albums and solo albums. A half-hearted Dire Straits comeback album in 1991 entitled, On Every Street failed to capture the old magic. Knopfler carried on where he left off releasing all kinds of different projects/soundtracks/solo albums and productions..

So why post such a well known track by such a massive band. Well, first of all  the Knopfler brothers are from the north-east (kinda), secondly it’s a great song and thirdly Knopfler’s unique guitar playing was something to behold in 1978 (still is) plus I had this album before anybody knew who they were. Last but not least it’s fascinating seeing those naïve young lads miming their song in a cheap video destined for the stars.

A little history about the members, David Knopfler left after the third album, Making Movies released in 1980 but only played on the first album and the follow up Communiqué released in 1979. Hal Lindes replaced him for live shows and stayed with the band as a hired hand for five years. Session drummer Pick Withers was gone by the fourth album, Love Over Gold Released in 1982 – stating ” that he was in danger of becoming a rock drummer”, he left to pursue a jazz direction and was replaced by Terry Williams, both of them ex Dave Edmunds sidemen. Williams shared drum duties with session drummer Omar Hakim on Brothers In Arms, along with Guy Fletcher on synths and Alan Clark on keyboards. Chris White joined later for On Every Street playing flute and Sax. Toto’s Jeff Porcaro played drums on the final album. John Ilsey lasted the distance, made some solo albums and now owns a pub in Hampshire.

Last thought, in the mid-eighties I toured in the opening act for Dire Straits on the east coast of Australia, I think it was thirteen gigs in three cities, it was around the time of the awful Twisting By The Pool EP and although I have some affection for the first two albums, I have little memory of the tour, but do remember falling down a hole on the stage and very nearly killing myself in the process. Little contact with the members of Dire Straits gave no insights as to who they were. Unfortunately Dire Straits swung between inspired guitar and moody warm narratives to being bland and middle of the road and as Mark Knopfler said they ” just got too big”. By the way, Mark Knopfler’s middle name? Freuder! Really?

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