Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
When Dire Straits’ first single, “Sultans Of Swing,” hit the airwaves in the Spring of 1978, it sounded like nothing else on the radio. Mark Knopfler’s unique vocal style, an authoritative laid-back drawl (that’s quite an oxymoron), was matched by his stinging lead guitar work. It’s one of a handful of songs that formed the soundtrack of the summer camp I attended that year. I didn’t start buying their albums until a few years later, starting with 1980’s Making Movies, but I soon went back to the beginning and now I’ve been a fan for nearly four decades. Since each album has its own particular sound it’s hard to choose a favorite, but I don’t think they ever topped their self-titled debut (though they certainly matched its greatness a few more times). See below for my comments about that record from the Great Out Of The Gate series.
For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.
From GREAT OUT OF THE GATE Part 5:
Seven years before Dire Straits became arguably the biggest band in the world with their über-platinum, chart-topping Brothers In Arms album, they burst onto the scene with their self-titled debut that was “merely” a Top 10 double-platinum release. The instantly recognizable vocals & lead guitar work of songwriter Mark Knopfler was augmented by his brother David Knopfler on rhythm guitar and the killer rhythm section of bassist John Illsley and drummer Pick Withers. Their first single, the driving “Sultans Of Swing,” quickly became their defining song and introduced the world to Mark’s brilliant technique on his Fender Stratocaster. After a quiet start, album opener “Down To The Waterline” kicks into a higher gear and would have been an ideal follow-up single. Instead, they chose the slow, loping “Water Of Love,” which made little to no impact on the charts even though it’s a wonderful song. A similar laid-back mood prevails through much of the album, with “Six Blade Knife” and “Wild West End” being particular favorites, while the country-tinged “Setting Me Up” could pass for a Nick Lowe song. Dire Straits is an album that reveals its charms more with each listen, and that’s still the case nearly 40 years after it first appeared.
I often wonder how fans who discovered them later, especially via the world-conquering Brothers In Arms in 1985, feel about their earlier work. I think there’s a lot for them to love here even though it might be a bit subdued for anyone who favors their peppy radio hits. When did you first hear Dire Straits, and which albums/songs are your favorites?
Satur-debut will return in two weeks when I close out the ’70s with an album by one of my all-time favorite artists.