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Artist: Dire Straits

Dire Straits

Bio

Dire Straits were a British rock band from Newcastle, United Kingdom, formed in 1977 by Mark Knopfler (guitar and vocals), his brother David Knopfler (guitar), John Illsley (bass), and Pick Withers (drums), and subsequently managed by Ed Bicknell. The band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. Dire Straits emerged during the post-punk era of the late '70s, and while their sound was minimalistic and stripped down, they owed little to punk. 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' fifth studio album, Brothers in Arms, an international blockbuster. The band - along with Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, and Steve Winwood - became 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 B
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Articles

Dire Straits: On Every Street Q, Oct 1991

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THE REASONS FOR the six-year absence are well known: Brothers In Arms – the 15-million-selling album and 250-date world tour – banished an unassuming bloke and his mates to the outer reaches of unwanted superstardom.

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So now, after a prolonged working sabbatical-cum-career re-think, Mark Knopfler has reversed Dire Straits' gradual drift into cosmic respectability. The band returns with a new drummer and guitarist sounding leaner, fitter and more like their original pub-rocking selves than at any time since the eponymous debut in 1978.

Remember when people used to compare Dire Straits to J.J. Cale? Well there are several tracks on this album – the single, 'Calling Elvis', 'When It Comes To You' and, in a darker mood, 'You And Your Friend' – which could have been penned by that legendary Southern mumbler-songwriter. In fact, even when Knopfler heads off in other directions – late-night blues, Celtic folk, Nashville country, Texas boogie and '50s Tex-Mex pop and more – the feel of the presentation is Cale-ishly intimate and low-key. The epic dimensions of early '80s Straits numbers like 'Telegraph Road', the layers of synthesizery fat and the adhesively catchy hooks which spangled all the big hits from Brothers In Arms are conspicuous by their absence.

'Heavy Fuel', a jokey riff-rocker about broads and booze, might on another record have come out sounding as tidy as 'Money For Nothing'. Here, driven by Jeff Porcaro's aggressively sharp drumming, it sounds like ZZ Top in a garage. Leading from the front, Knopfler's voice has been re-instated as a ruminative, restless growl which implies melodies once more, rather than straining to sing them. The title track, a potentially pretty, Celtic-tinged ballad with a stunning, finger-picked guitar coda, particularly benefits from this rough treatment.

The addition of the Nashville pedal steel expert and former Notting Hillbilly, Paul Franklin, seems greatly to have broadened the stylistic reach of Knopfler's solos. There is a bluegrass nimbleness and rhythmic subtlety to their interplay. Even a bantamweight country complaint like 'How Long' trips along with several guitars jostling each other in hot pursuit, while a more sexually charged number such as 'You And Your Friend' smoulders suggestively beneath the altercation of acoustic arpeggios, whining slide and screaming lead lines.

The best news of all though concerns the songs. Well-crafted as ever, they also pack more of a punch than any Knopfler has previously written. In his wry, observational mode, 'My Parties' and 'Ticket To Heaven' are wittier, 'Iron Hand' (about the police treatment of striking miners at Orgreave) more poignant than before.

As in-car entertainment, 'The Bug', 'When It Comes To You' and 'Calling Elvis', tick along with unparalleled precision. As love songs, 'On Every Street' and 'Fade To Black' reach deep into areas of obsession Knopfler has only previously touched on. Clocking in at 60 minutes and lacking a single duff track, this is, by any standard, a great album.

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Top Albums

Brothers in Arms cover art

Brothers in Arms

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Dire Straits cover art

Dire Straits

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On Every Street cover art

On Every Street

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Money for Nothing cover art

Money for Nothing

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Top Songs

Sultans of Swing cover art

Sultans of Swing

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Money for Nothing cover art

Money for Nothing

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Walk of Life cover art

Walk of Life

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Brothers in Arms cover art

Brothers in Arms

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Romeo and Juliet cover art

Romeo and Juliet

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So Far Away cover art

So Far Away

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Your Latest Trick cover art

Your Latest Trick

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Recommended Albums

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Hotel California by Eagles

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