KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Satur-debut – DIRE STRAITS “DIRE STRAITS”

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.

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29 comments on “Satur-debut – DIRE STRAITS “DIRE STRAITS”

  1. Aphoristical
    August 31, 2019

    I will go through more thoroughly sometime, but I think I prefer the mid-period – Making Movies (although ‘Les Boys’ isn’t a favourite…) and Love Over Gold.

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    • Bill P
      September 1, 2019

      Agree with you here. “Les Boys” certainly should have been put in the “unreleased B-side” category. Pure album filler.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bill, as I mentioned in my reply to Graham, I like “Les Boys,” but that wasn’t always the case. It works well at the end of the album. Anywhere else in the sequence and it would have killed the flow.

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    • For a long time I also preferred mid-period Dire Straits, especially Making Movies, but that probably had something to do with buying it when it was released. Other than Communiqué, which is essentially the debut Part 2, each album had its own unique sound, so on any given day any of them could be my favorite. I actually like “Les Boys” but that wasn’t always the case. It wouldn’t have worked anywhere else but at the end of the album.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aphoristical
        September 1, 2019

        I have been listening to Dire Straits a little since we last spoke – like The Police, they’re another band I’d like to cover on my site soon. I am pretty sure that Love Over Gold is my favourite – the debut is good, but hurt by the lack of stylistic variation.

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      • I know what you mean about the later Dire Straits albums being a little more musically diverse, but the sound they created on the debut was so singular that I have no problem with the lack of stylistic variation you mentioned. Song-for-song it’s as good as anything else in their catalog.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aphoristical
        September 8, 2019

        Yeah, it’s good, I just get a little bored by the end. I heard he fired his brother for not practising enough.

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      • Interesting. I never knew why Knopfler’s brother was ousted from the band. If true that’s pretty harsh, but obviously MK wanted to take over the world and demanded greatness from everyone around him.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aphoristical
        September 9, 2019

        I heard a radio DJ say that back in the day – I read about it some more now. “By that point the Knopflers’ relationship was as bad as it could be. “By the time of Making Movies he was king,” recalls David. “But he was the bloke I’d shared a bedroom with. How could I be deferential to him?”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. christiansmusicmusings
    August 31, 2019

    Great album, which was my intro to Dire Straits. I always dug Mark Knopfler’s melodic guitar playing and the sound of his Fender Stratocaster.

    While I also like Making Movies and their other albums, I think their eponymous debut is my favorite.

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    • Glad you love this one too, Christian. I can’t imagine anyone who plays a stringed instrument not being impressed by Knopfler. He’s truly one of the all-time great Strat players.

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  3. stephen1001
    September 1, 2019

    Nice oxymoronic description of the vocals – it’s apt!
    The clean guitar tones are the selling point for me, nobody could accuse him of hiding behind any sort of effects, it’s just pure talent on display

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    • Thanks, Geoff. Wasn’t sure if that description of his voice would make sense to anyone but me, so I’m glad you agree. Excellent point about his pure talent. I couldn’t agree more.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Bill P
    September 1, 2019

    I came to the Dire Straits with their MTV smash hit ‘Money for Nothing’ along with ‘So Far Away’ and ‘Walk of Life.’ However, classic rock radio played the crap out of ‘Sultans of Swing’ and it was hard not to become aware that there was more that came before. I too like MAKING MOVIES if only for the first two songs being in my Top 5 favorite from the band. I started my Dire Straits collection with the MONEY FOR NOTHING compilation but have since gone back to get nearly all of their albums from the catalog save COMMUNIQUE and the live ON THE NIGHT. This one I purchased about 5 years ago.

    For a fan of Dire Straits, there isn’t much not to like on this one. I feel the country blues pulse of ‘Southbound Again’ has a very similar feel to Clapton’s BACKLESS album (which came out shortly after this one but would have been recorded at the same time). In fact, Clapton played ‘Setting Me Up’ on that tour and later would include it on a live album from the same era.

    If Mark Knopfler had only written ‘Sultans of Swing’ he would have a place in the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. Thankfully for us fans, he went on to have a prolific career with countless ‘classics’.

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    • Hi Bill. That compilation you mentioned is an excellent one, and probably all the Dire Straits many fans would need, even though there are plenty of album tracks that are just as essential as anything on that record. I’m pleased to know that the earlier material made an impact on you even though you discovered them via the radio hits from Brothers In Arms. It goes to show how solid their catalog is. I love your comparison to Clapton’s Backless album. I never made the connection before but after reading your comment I can definitely hear it. As for the DS albums you’re missing, Communiqué is very good but essentially the debut Part 2. I like On The Night but mostly because that was the only tour of theirs I ever saw. It’s not in the same league as their amazing first live album.

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  5. Neil
    September 1, 2019

    This may be my favorite, although Making Movies has sentimental connections.

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    • I probably feel the same way, Neil. Since Making Movies was the first DS album I owned I’ll always have a special connection to it, but I think I like the debut just a little bit more.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. 80smetalman
    September 2, 2019

    My first experience of Dire Straits was hearing Sultans of Swing in a bar in Lisbon Portugal. I was in the service at the time. My first thought it was Bob Dylan singing with Clapton backing him up on guitar. With Dire Straits, you never need that combo. One of my other favourite DS songs is Skateaway and I was bitterly disappointed when they didn’t play it when I saw them live in 1985.

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    • That “Dylan singing with Clapton on guitar” assessment was spot-on. Somehow Knopfler exceeded that description by doing both parts himself. I feel the same way about “Skateaway,” which has been among my DS favorites for a long time. I only saw them on their final tour and can’t remember if they played that one.

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  7. David Ballmann
    September 6, 2019

    I also discovered them through hearing sultans of swing on the radio. The first album I bought though was Brother’s in Arms. My neighbor first bought it on vinyl and I had just recently gotten my first compact disc player. The CD version had extended versions of some of the songs and sounded absolutely great. Now that I have gotten back into buying vinyl I wish I had a copy of that just for nostalgic reasons.

    Dave,

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

    • Hi Dave. I also got my first CD player in 1985 and Brothers In Arms was one of the first 9 or 10 discs I bought. I was thrilled that it had extended versions of certain songs. I felt like I was in an exclusive club. How ironic that now everyone wants to go back to vinyl. I wonder if the reissued vinyl version of the album includes the extended versions, which would probably make it a 2-disc set.

      Like

  8. Alyson
    September 8, 2019

    I thought my memory was playing tricks on me but I checked and was right, it wasn’t until the following year, 1979, that we in the UK heard Sultans Of Swing on the radio but right from the off, it was obvious this band were going to be around for some time and create great albums. They weren’t even that young in 1979 so you kinda wondered which rock they had been hiding under, as they came across as a supergroup right from the beginning. So yes, they were indeed “great out of the gate” and although I really liked their later albums too there is something satisfying, fresh and unpolished about first albums. I think we’ve perhaps discussed this before but one of my favourite films is Local Hero and a lot of that is because of Mark Knopfler’s soundtrack.

    And finally an anecdote! I knew it was ’79 when we first got to know about Dire Straits as that summer my friend and I were working in a really posh country house hotel. Some of the boys we knew from school had gone off on holiday to an English seaside resort and of course in those days postcards were sent – I don’t know if you get them in the US but the staple of seaside resorts was the comedy, cartoon, slightly naughty postcard and the one we were sent was no exception. I can still see the slightly stuffy manager’s face when he passed it to us – He was not impressed! Written across the front in bold letters however was that it was from the “Sultans Of Swing” as that was an apt description for the Tarzan style antics going on in the picture. Crikey, 40 years on and I still remember that!

    Like

    • I’m pleased that Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler made at least some impact on you. It’s been a while since we had a musical connection. I’ve never seen Local Hero (*hangs head in shame*) and I’m only familiar with the one track that was included on Dire Straits’ first live album. I should check it out (movie AND soundtrack) one of these days.

      I’m not familiar with the naughty postcards you’re referring to so I’ll just have to use my imagination. Was the card already imprinted with the words “Sultans Of Swing” or did the boys write it in themselves?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson
        September 9, 2019

        You must watch Local Hero when you have the time. Very dated now in that there were no mobile phones so transatlantic business was done via a red phone box (you don’t have those either do you?) but pivotal to the storyline – a great movie and great soundtrack.

        Oh my, I’ve made those postcards sound salacious but there were more “cheeky” than “naughty” – Large ladies in Kiss Me Quick hats etc. They are highly collectible nowadays and all but gone in today’s world but were very much an art-form. Obviously doesn’t translate (like the red phone box) across the pond but yes, the boys hand-wrote the Sultans Of Swing on the front of the card as they were Dire Straits fans. (That has to be one of my worst anecdotes ever – sorry – you have my permission to delete the whole comment thread once you get this.)

        Like

      • I will definitely check out Local Hero the next time it shows up on cable or one of the streaming services. I have no problem with “dated” movies or music, as long as the story is good. Sounds like that’s the case here.

        Thanks for clarifying things regarding those postcards. And no need to apologize for your anecdote. Apparently I found it more interesting than you did. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bill P
        September 11, 2019

        Alyson,

        One minor point I really enjoyed about Local Hero was watching MacIntyre’s state of dress get less and less stuffy. It is subtle but it starts to match his attitude toward the town.

        Rich, you really should watch this film. Don’t expect some action-packed blockbuster though. Just a very thoughtful rumination on what is important in life and about friendships. It is both funny and quirky, yet also will make you feel warm inside. And I love that theme music and any of the live versions I’ve ever heard from it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bill, thanks for confirming my need to see Local Hero. I have added it to my list of movies I should watch, and will keep an eye out for it.

        Like

      • Alyson
        September 13, 2019

        Yes, he gradually shrugs off the city suit doesn’t he and starts to blend in. Pennan where it was filmed is not far from us and we visited last year. The red phone box is still there and of course I had to have my picture taken beside it – I can feel a blog post coming on featuring that fantastic soundtrack!

        Like

      • Bill P
        September 13, 2019

        Alyson,

        You might recall that I lived up on the Moray Coast for a few years. I too made the pilgrimage to see Pennan and take a photo of the red phone box. Sadly, there was no ceilidh in the pub and most of the homes were turned into holiday lettings. Small villages like that seem of more interest to the instagram crowd than they do to the fisherman who once made them but moved on….do clue us in if you write a post on the s/t. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

        Like

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