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Dire Straits


It's doubtful MTV would have used the above as an advertising slogan when they launched in the '80s but they could have.

From Dire Strait's "Brothers In Arms" CD the song "Money For Nothing," with Sting's guest vocals, featured the ethereal demand "I want my MTV." Both Sting and Dire Straits frontman, guitarist/vocalist Mark Knopfler, were ex-teachers. Someday, somebody will write a doctoral dissertation on the connection between teaching and Rock (Gene Simmons of KISS was also a teacher). Of course, there'll be pages and pages telling us what we already know; going from teaching to Rock is analogous to joining the other side.

"Money For Nothing" and its accompanying animated video tore through the music biz. "Brothers In Arms," released in '85, was Dire Straits' greatest commercial success. By that time, the band was considerably different than the group
that started as Dire Straights.

Dire Straights got together in '77 around a nucleus of Mark, his brother David and bassist John Illsley. Their name came from a friend commenting on the group's financial condition. After the brief period, they changed the spelling. That tended to blur the meaning - making it more of a pun. The following year they were touring Europe supporting the Talking Heads, Climax Blues Band and Styx. They also recorded their self-titled debut containing early signature song "Sultans of Swing." It crystallized the Knopfler guitar style - choppy, almost percussive lead lines. As for the vocals, Knopfler clearly belonged to the Dylan school of singers specializing in a talking/singing delivery with about a three-note range. The album also had the stark "Water of Love" and "Down Along The Waterline." Dire Straits followed their initial success with their second album "Communiqué" in '79. Like the first album, this record was entirely written by Mark Knopfler.

Starting work on their third LP David decided to go solo. "Makin' Movies" saw Alan Clark added on keyboards. The album also featured work from keyboardist Roy Britten, of E Street Band fame. An outstanding track was the keyboard drenched "Skateaway," Knopfler's tribute to a "roller girl."

"Love Over Gold," Dire Straits' fourth full-length effort, was followed by the EP "Twisting By The Pool." The title track was an infectious romp. A whole lotta fun. Also, ex-Rockpile drummer Terry Williams had joined.

Aside from "Money For Nothing" "Brothers In Arms" also showcased the rousing "Walk of Life" and the riff ballad "So Far Away." Amazingly, the band didn't release another CD for five years but Knopfler kept busy with outside projects. He contributed his guitar talents to projects by artists including (but not limited to):

Mavis Staples
Chet Atkins
Bob Dylan
Eric Clapton
Phil Lynott

Knopfler also composed and performed music for films:

"The Princess Bride" Soundtrack

"Local Hero" Soundtrack

"Wag The Dog" Soundtrack

In '91 the band re-grouped for the recording of "On Every Street." The CD had three songs that illustrated Knopfler's style diversity; in both writing and playing. The whimsical "Calling Elvis" had a Country/Rock feeling. "The Bug" was more philosophical but also has a roots Rock feeling. (It was later covered by Country singer Mary-Chapin Carpenter). Then there's the dense, ominous and driving "Heavy Fuel."

Dire Straits Discography

Studio Albums:

1978 Dire Straits
1979 Communique
1980 Making Movies
1982 Love Over Gold
1985 Brothers In Arms
1991 On Every Street

Dire Straits is the story of a group making great music with modest commercial success who eventually produce that huge hit album only to find it a dead end. Dire Straits' most popular album is "Brothers In Arms" with the ballad "So Far Away," the MTV pandering "Money For Nothing" and the joyful "Walk of Life." But before "Brothers In Arms," Dire Straits produced "Making Movies." Their best album contains "Tunnel of Love," the compelling "Romeo & Juliet" and the brilliant keyboard drenched "Skateaway." The latter song emphasizes Knopfler's casual vocal style. "Love Over Gold" coming from the pre-"Brothers In Arms" period is another excellent album. Dire Straits' self-titled debut, with "Sultans of Swing," sophomore album "Communique" and the EP "Twisting By The Pool," featuring the infectious title track, are all worth owning. Following "Brothers In Arms," "On Every Street" has a few hot tracks and is a solid, if not stunning effort.

The "Money For Nothing" compilation provides a fair representation of the group's work (hits and LP tracks). It's the best of the Dire Straits packages. Knopfler has busied himself with instrumental albums, movie soundtracks and other solo projects.


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