In London, in mid-1977, the band Dire Straits appeared, the result of the union of the brother’s Mark Knopfler (voice and guitar) and David Knopfler (guitar) with bassist John Illsley. Drummer Pick Withers completed the basic training, which only Mark Knopfler and John Illsley remained until the end. With the original name of Café Racers, the idea of Dire Straits came from a friend of Pick Withers referring to the dramatic financial situation of the musicians. In a period in which the rock of the seventies begins to show wear and tear among the public and that punk rock was the fever of the moment, a band appears with a proposal of lighter rock, well structured in classic rock. The band, clearly, from its formation, until its end, always showed diverse influences as jazz, folk, country, and even blues.
Still, in 1977, the band recorded a demo tape of their presentation at Rock Garden and distributed it to some professionals in the field. Among these professionals was Charlie Gillet, host of a BBC London radio program called Honk Tonk. Charlie loved the work that contained five tracks and put one of them to play. The track was Sultans of Swing, which would be one of the band’s biggest hits. The work caught the attention of Vertigo, a record company part of the Phonogram group, and the band can sign their first contract. Hence, the first album named Dire Straits appeared.
The album, which was recorded between early February and early March 1978, has many references to Mark’s experiences. The track Down to the Waterline, which opens the album, is composed of images from Mark’s memories while living in Newcastle, for example. Originally, the album was released with 9 tracks, with Sultans of Swing being the first on the B side. Interestingly, in addition to not having been released with Sultans of Swing as the album’s opening track, the version of the song on the original album lacks the iconic soil that closes it. Shortly afterward, they re-released the album by exchanging tracks from side A to tracks on side B, in addition to adding the full and better-known version of Sultans of Swing.
For a debut work, the album achieved impressive results. It reached third place on the German charts and fifth in the UK. Not quite, he won platinum records in several countries, 4 in Canada, 2 in the UK, and 2 in the USA. Among several tours that the band did to promote the album, the most emblematic was the one that opened the shows for Talking Heads.
Still, in 1978, between late November and mid-December, the band was already recording their second album, Communiqué. Still, with its original formation, Communiqué is an album that reinforces the style that would be striking for Dire Straits. Interestingly, again, the best tracks are on side B. The highlight for the beautiful Lady Writer and Portobello Belle, whose live versions are much more powerful. The cover is an artistic project by the Phonogram agency and won in 1979 the cover award of the year.
The album achieved a great feat in Germany by being the first to top the chart in its first week of the debut. It is worth remembering that at the same time, in Germany, the previous album was still in the third position. In addition to Germany, the album also reached the top in New Zealand, Spain, and Sweden. In the UK it came in 5th and 11th in the USA. Regarding the sale, more than two million albums sold worldwide, with emphasis on the two platinum records that won in France and the three platinum records received in Switzerland.
New Zealand and the United States, as well as two in the United Kingdom.
Making Movies is the third studio album by British rock band Dire Straits released on 17 October 1980 by Vertigo Records internationally, Warner Bros. Records in the United States, and Mercury Records in Canada. The album includes the single “Romeo and Juliet“, which reached #8 on the UK Singles Chart. The album reached number one on the album charts in Italy and Norway, number 19 in the United States, and number 4 in the United Kingdom. Making Movies was later certified platinum in the United States and double-platinum in the United Kingdom.
Once again the band went on tour and only returned to the studios in May 1982 to record their fourth album, Love Over Gold. The album’s name came from graffiti that Mark always saw from the window of his flat in London. The album had a very different format from the previous ones and is the first produced exclusively by Mark Knopfler. With only five tracks, the work invests in longer songs, with great passages. It is worth mentioning the presence of Alan Clark on the piano and keyboard. To replace David Knopfler, Hal Lindes takes over the guitar.
Love Over Gold opens with the huge Telegraph Road in just over fourteen minutes. Following and closing side A, Private Investigations was the highlight single track from the album that hit 5th place on the UK charts, the band’s first track to reach so high. On the B side, three other tracks that were not so successful, but it is worth mentioning Industrial Disease.
Even with a different format, the album reached the top in several countries such as Australia, Norway, and the United Kingdom. On sales, two platinum records in the UK and one platinum record in Canada, France, Germany, and New Zealand.
After the album’s release, the band once again went on tour, and to help Alan Clark, the band called on Tommy Mandel, than having two keyboard players. The band made two sold-out performances in London in July 1983. These performances became an official record, Alchemy Live. The album, despite not having great sales numbers, is a great work of the band for bringing more worked and iconic versions of their biggest hits. The work was released as a double album, but also as a video record (VHS). Unlike what many bands did to improve the quality of their live records, Dire Straits did not use the overdubs feature. The record is so incredible that it was re-released as DVS and Blu-ray almost thirty years later.
The band returned to the studios in October 1984 and started what would be the biggest job of the decade and one of the most important in the history of rock and roll. At the famous AIR Studios on Montserrat Island, in the Caribbean, recording of Dire Straits’ fifth album, Brothers in Arms, began. In partnership with Mark Knopfler, Neil Dorfsman helped produce the album. He had already helped Mark on the Local Hero soundtrack for his solo career in parallel. The album, in its initial project, was already a landmark because it is the first album in history recorded entirely digitally. That is, it was a project to be the first album entirely produced to become a CD.
The end result was an album that, for those unfamiliar with the band’s discography, looks like a collection of hits. However, it is a studio album of new songs. On side A, five tracks and all were hits playing on the radio: So Far Away, Money for Nothing, Walk of Life, Your Latest Trick, and Why Worry. Of these tracks, Money for Nothing is one of the rare songs which is not credited exclusively to Mark Knopfler. Another track with this rare characteristic is Tunnel of Love due to the introduction that takes a snippet of another song as previously said. On the B side, four more tracks, the last being one of the band’s most famous ballads, the title song of the album Brothers in Arms.
At that time, Dire Straits, as well as several bands, invested in music videos to promote their music. The video clip of Walk of Life is extremely fun with several scenes of sports mess. Money for Nothing won a video with a very professional and innovative footprint. So much so that he won 9 MTV Video Music Award from 1986, the exclusive award for clips.
Released in May 1985, Brothers in Arms was the UK’s best-selling album that year, with over 4.3 million copies sold. He reached the top of the British charts and stayed there for an incredible 228 weeks. In the USA it was not much different. Selling more than 9 million copies, he reached the top and stayed there for nine weeks. The top was also the Brothers in Arms parade in more than 10 other countries. Considering only the singles charts, the numbers are also impressive. Money for Nothing hit the top in the US and 4th in the UK. The track Walk of Life, which almost missed the album if it wasn’t for Neil’s insistence, reached 2nd in the UK and 7th in the USA. So far Away was in the top 20, both in the US and the UK. Not to mention the title track and Your Latest Trick that was in the top 30 on both charts. He was nominated for album of the year at the 1986 Grammy, losing to Phil Collins’ solo album No Jaquet Required. However, it won the Grammy for best production in the same year.
Sales, which were already huge in the two main countries in the music world, remained with huge numbers in other countries. The album received 3 platinum records in Spain, 6 in Denmark, 7 in Switzerland, 9 in the USA, 14 in the UK, and 17 in Australia, in addition to a diamond album in France for nearly 2 million copies sold. It is estimated that the album has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. Because of this, he entered the Book of Records as the first CD to sell in the millions and, therefore, to popularize the format.
Mark assumes that the smashing success of Brothers in Arms, which brought tours of mega stadiums with audiences to tens of thousands of people, caused some fright in him. Hence, added to the need to play personal projects, the band took a break in 1987. In the meantime, both Mark and John Illsey continued their personal projects. The band itself just got together for a performance at Wembley Stadium for Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday and nothing more.
In 1991, after four years of hiatus, the band reunited again with their base lineup of Mark Knopfler and John Illsey, in addition to keyboardists Alan Clark and Guy Fletcher who worked on the last album. Other members were called, especially Jeff Pocaro, a drummer who worked on several projects, including the band Toto. With the band complete, Dire Straits starts recording what would be their last studio album, On Every Street.
The album that has great songs like Calling Elvis and Heavy Fuel did not hit big hits on the charts. Still, the album as a whole achieved a good performance reaching the top of the United Kingdom, Italy, Norway, Australia, besides a 12th in the USA. On sales, he received 2 platinum records in Australia, Canada, and the UK, plus one in the USA.
With a new album, the band went out again and toured and their performance in France in May 1992 became an official record. From this show came the album On The Night, where the band plays hits from the album Brothers in Arms, hits prior to the famous album, as well as songs from the recent On Every Street. The presentation is impeccable with a stage taken by musicians featuring saxophonist (Chris White), percussion (Danny Cummings), two keyboards (Alan Clark and Guy Fletcher), drums (Chris Whitten), slide guitar (Paul Franklin), a bass guitar (Phil Palmer), in addition to the two founding members Mark Knopfler and John Illsey.
The album, like most live albums at the time, did not have as great an impact as the Dire Straits standard. Selling just over 1 million copies worldwide, On The Night only went platinum in France, Holland, and Spain.
At the end of the tour, Mark again showed discomfort with big tours and concerts in crowded stadiums and, thus, chooses to end Dire Straits once and for all. Even so, Mark continued his solo career working on his own records and film tracks. However, the story of one of the greatest rock bands in history was officially closed, which made more noise in such a short time than many bands that have been perpetuating themselves for so long in the market.