Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dire Straits…

Numerous web sites, VH1 - Dire Straits, & - Dire Straits were quite helpful in preparing my tribute to Dire Straits. Please click on the hyperlinks to enjoy these web sites.

Dire Straits are a British rock band, formed in 1977 by Mark Knopfler (guitar and vocals), David Knopfler (guitar), John Illsley (bass) and Pick Withers (drums), and managed by Ed Bicknell. In an era when punk rock reigned, they played subdued, almost old-school rock and roll. Mark Knopfler (the band's front man) was heard to have asked pub managers to turn down the sound, so people could talk over the music, while they were still in their early days. Despite this complete antithesis to popular culture at the time, Dire Straits still became hugely successful.

If anything, the band was a direct outgrowth of the roots revivalism of pub rock, but where pub rock celebrated good times, Dire Straits were melancholy. Led by guitarist/vocalist Mark Knopfler, the group built their sound upon the laid-back blues-rock of J.J. Cale, but they also had jazz and country inflections, occasionally dipping into the epic song structures of progressive rock. The band's music was offset by Knopfler's lyrics, which approximated the winding, stream-of-conscious narratives of Bob Dylan. As their career progressed, Dire Straits became more refined and their new maturity happened to coincide with the rise of MTV and the compact disc. These two musical revolutions, from the mid-'80s, helped make Dire Straits' sixth album, Brothers in Arms, an international blockbuster. The band, along with Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, and Steve Winwood, become one of the leaders of a group of self-consciously mature veteran rock & rollers in the late '80s that designed their music to appeal to aging baby boomers. Despite the band's international success, they couldn't sustain their stardom, waiting a full six years to deliver a follow-up to Brothers in Arms, by which time their audience had shrunk significantly.

Knopfler (born August 12, 1949) was always the main force behind Dire Straits. The son of an architect, Knopfler studied English literature at Leeds University and worked briefly as a rock critic for the Yorkshire Evening Post while at college. He began teaching English after his graduation, leading a pub rock band called Brewer's Droop at night. By 1977, Mark was playing with his brother David (guitar) and his roommate John Illsley (bass). During the summer of 1977, the trio cut a demo with drummer Pick Withers. A London DJ named Charlie Gillett heard the demo and began playing "Sultans of Swing" on his BBC show Honky Tonkin'. Following a tour opening for Talking Heads, the band began recording their debut for Vertigo Records with producer Muff Winwood in early 1978. By the summer, they had signed with Warner in America, releasing their eponymous debut in the fall. Thanks to the Top Ten hit "Sultans of Swing," Dire Straits was a major success in both Britain and America, with the single and album climbing into the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic.

Dire Straits established Dire Straits as a major force on album-oriented radio in America, and their second album, Communiqué (1979), consolidated their audience, selling three million copies worldwide. As the group was recording its third album, Knopfler left the band to pursue a solo career; he was replaced by former Darling member Hal Lindes.

The third album, Making Movies featured keyboardist Roy Bittan (from Bruce Springsteen's band) and marked a move towards more complex arrangements and production which would continue throughout the band's career. Making Movies was a sizable hit in America and Britain, even though the band was criticized for musically treading water. Nevertheless, the record went gold on the strength of the radio and MTV hits "Romeo and Juliet" and "Skateaway." Dire Straits followed the album two years later with Love Over Gold, an album filled with long, experimental passages, plus the single "Private Investigations," which became a number two hit in the U.K. The album went gold in America and spent four weeks at number one in Britain. Shortly after the release of Love Over Gold, former Rockpile drummer Terry Williams replaced Withers.

During 1982, Knopfler began exploring musical avenues outside of Dire Straits, scoring the Bill Forsyth film Local Hero and playing on Van Morrison's Beautiful Vision. Apart from releasing the Twisting by the Pool EP early in 1983, Dire Straits were quiet for the majority of 1983 and 1984, as Knopfler produced Bob Dylan's Infidels, as well as Aztec Camera and Willy DeVille; he also wrote "Private Dancer” for Tina Turner's comeback album. In the spring of 1984, the band released the double album Alchemy: Dire Straits Live and by the end of the year, they had begun recording their fifth studio album with their new keyboardist, Guy Fletcher.

Released in the summer of 1985, Brothers in Arms was Dire Straits' breakthrough album, making the band international stars. Supported by the groundbreaking computer-animated video for "Money for Nothing," a song which mocked music videos, the album became a blockbuster, spending nine weeks at the top of the American charts and selling over nine million copies; in England, the album became the biggest-selling album of the '80s. "Walk Of Life" and "So Far Away" kept Brothers in Arms in the charts through 1986, and Dire Straits played over 200 dates in support of the album.

Aiding the success of Brothers in Arms was the fact that it was one of the first fully digitally recorded and produced albums available in the (then) new Compact Disc format. This had the accidental side effect of making it one of the 'must buy' albums for consumers wishing to demonstrate the new technology. Equally, the new format was an excellent showcase for Knopfler's meticulous production values on the earlier albums, leading many existing fans to repurchase the whole back catalogue. Partly as a result of this (and a successful appearance in Live Aid), Dire Straits were the biggest selling band in the world in the mid 1980s. The popularity of the band extends beyond the UK and US: in many parts of the world including India, Southeast Asia and Africa, Dire Straits has been one of the most well-known and admired western bands.

Once the tour was completed, Dire Straits went on hiatus for several years, as Knopfler produced records by Randy Newman and Joan Armatrading, scored films, toured with Eric Clapton, and recorded a duet album with Chet Atkins (Neck and Neck, 1990). In 1989, he formed the country-rock group Notting Hillbillies, whose sole album, Missing...Presumed Having a Good Time, became a British hit upon its spring 1990 release. During the extended time off, John Illsley recorded his second album; the first appeared in 1984.

In 1990, Knopfler reconvened Dire Straits, which now featured Illsley, Clark, Fletcher, and various session musicians. The band released On Every Street in the fall of 1991 to great anticipation. However, the album failed to meet expectations -- it only went platinum in America and it didn't crack the U.K. Top 40 -- and failed to generate a hit single. Similarly, the tour was a disappointment, with many tickets going unsold in both the U.S. and Europe. Once the tour was completed, the live album On the Night was released in the spring of 1993 and the band again went on hiatus. In 1996, Knopfler launched his solo career with Golden Heart.

The band's line-up changed over the years, but one constant was Mark Knopfler, who wrote most of the band's songs and acted as clear leader of the band. (The Sultans of Swing: The Very Best of Dire Straits album contains only two songs not credited to Knopfler alone: 'Money for Nothing', which is credited as co-written with Sting, in fact Sting, at the behest of Knopfler, merely added the line 'I want my MTV' in the style of The Police hit, 'Don't Stand So Close To Me'. 'Tunnel of Love', which contains an instrumental section based on music from Carousel but is otherwise all Knopfler's own work.)


Private Investigations: The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler [Japan] - Released: 03.25.08

Sultans of Swing: Deluxe Sound & Vision - Released: 09.17.07

Private Investigations: The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler [Canada Single Disc] - Released: 11.15.05

Brothers in Arms [DualDisc] - Released: 07.26.05

Sultans of Swing: The Very Best of Dire Straits - Released: 11.10.98

Sultans of Swing: The Very Best of Dire Straits [Bonus Live Disc] - Released: 08.25.98

Live at the BBC - Released: 06.26.95

Brothers in Conversation - Released: 06.13.94

On the Night - Released: 05.11.93

On the Night: Encores - Released: 01.01.93

On Every Street - Released: 09.01.91

Money for Nothing - Released: 10.01.88

Interview Disc - Released: 01.01.87

Brothers in Arms - Released: 05.01.85

Alchemy: Dire Straits Live - Released: 03.01.84

Twisting by the Pool - Released: 02.01.83

Love Over Gold - Released: 09.01.82

Making Movies - Released: 10.17.80

Dire Straits/Making Movies - Released: 01.01.80

Communiqué - Released: 06.01.79

Dire Straits - Released: 10.01.78

Dire Straits [Germany] - Released: 01.01.78

Dire Straits have a lot of quality songs, such as Brothers In Arms, Money for Nothing, So Far Away, Sultans of Swing, and Walk Of Life, among others…

Thank you, Dire Straits, for some great music…

No comments: