Monday, May 21, 2007

Number 610 - Dire Straits

Number 610

Dire Straits

"Romeo & Juliet"

27 years ago .. can you believe that? Mind you, when this song was released John Lennon was still alive and probably had no weird thoughts about offing himself. The Number 1 film from that time was "Ordinary People" which was OK but "Raging Bull" should have won and the Grammy for 1980 for best performer was *drum roll please* .. Billy Joel. As for the rest of 1980? Well JR from Dallas got shot, Ronald Reagan became, believe it or not looking back now, but a more credible President than the one America have now and Nasa found a spare new moon orbiting Saturn (was 47 not enough?) and finally, December 9th 1980 is the day music died for a lot us (remember it was the 9th here in NZ).

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' sixth album, Brothers in Arms, an international blockbuster. The band -- along with Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, and Steve Winwood -- become 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.

Dire Straits established Dire Straits as a major force on album-oriented radio in America, and their second album, Communique (1979), consolidated their audience, selling three million copies worldwide. As the group was recording its third album, Knopfler left the band to pursue a solo career; he was replaced by former Darling member Hal Lindes. Like its predecessor, Making Movies was a sizable hit in America and Britain, even though the band was criticized for musically treading water. Nevertheless, the record went gold on the strength of the radio and MTV hits "Romeo and Juliet" and "Skateaway." Dire Straits followed the album two years later with Love Over Gold, an album filled with long, experimental passages, plus the single "Private Investigations," which became a number two hit in the U.K. The album went gold in America and spent four weeks at number one in Britain. Shortly after the release of Love Over Gold, former Rockpile drummer Terry Williams replaced Withers.

During 1982, Knopfler began exploring musical avenues outside of Dire Straits, scoring the Bill Forsyth film Local Hero and playing on Van Morrison's Beautiful Vision. Apart from releasing the Twisting by the Pool EP early in 1983, Dire Straits were quiet for the majority of 1983 and 1984, as Knopfler produced Bob Dylan's Infidels, as well as Aztec Camera and Willy DeVille; he also wrote "Private Dancer for Tina Turner's comeback album. In the spring of 1984, the band released the double album Alchemy: Dire Straits Live and by the end of the year, they had begun recording their fifth studio album with their new keyboardist, Guy Fletcher. Released in the summer of 1985, Brothers in Arms was Dire Straits' breakthrough album, making the band international stars. Supported by the groundbreaking computer-animated video for "Money for Nothing," a song which mocked music videos, the album became a blockbuster, spending nine weeks at the top of the American charts and selling over nine million copies; in England, the album became the biggest-selling album of the '80s. "Walk of Life" and "So Far Away" kept Brothers in Arms in the charts through 1986, and Dire Straits played over 200 dates in support of the album. Once the tour was completed, Dire Straits went on hiatus for several years, as Knopfler produced records by Randy Newman and Joan Armatrading, scored films, toured with Eric Clapton, and recorded a duet album with Chet Atkins (Neck and Neck, 1990). In 1989, he formed the country-rock group Notting Hillbillies, whose sole album, Missing...Presumed Having a Good Time, became a British hit upon its spring 1990 release. During the extended time off, John Illsley recorded his second album; the first appeared in 1984.

In 1990, Knopfler reconvened Dire Straits, which now featured Illsley, Clark, Fletcher, and various session musicians. The band released On Every Street in the fall of 1991 to great anticipation. However, the album failed to meet expectations -- it only went platinum in America and it didn't crack the U.K. Top 40 -- and failed to generate a hit single. Similarly, the tour was a disappointment, with many tickets going unsold in both the U.S. and Europe. Once the tour was completed, the live album On the Night was released in the spring of 1993 and the band again went on hiatus. In 1996, Knopfler launched his solo career with Golden Heart. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
For Van Morrison see Number 987
For Tina Turner see Number 756
For Randy Newman see Number 958
For Bob Dylan see Number 929 & Number 841
For Steve Winwood see Number 622
For John Lennon see Number 639
For Billy Joel see Number 849
For Phil Collins see Number 684
For Eic Clapton see Number 537

What did Rolling Stone think of Dire Straits
Singer, songwriter and ace guitarist is the impressive sum of several very appealing parts. His voice is a smoky mixture of Bob Dylan's acidic whine, ' tubercular snore and 's breathy, marbles-in-the-mouth whisper. He writes such songs as "Sultans of Swing" and "Once upon a Time in the West" with the cinematic flair of Bruce Springsteen, the hall-of-mirrors imagery of classic Dylan and the slashing thrusts of Neil Young's bayonetlike realism. Finally, Knopfler's guitar style is a shotgun wedding of jazzy chording and harmonic tangents descended from Django Reinhardt and Wes Montgomery, the no-nonsense electric blues of , Jimi Hendrix' string-bending sensuality and James Burton's country-pop sheen.

Guitar freaks who genuflected over every riff on Dire Straits and Communiqué may be disappointed at what seems like a shortage of raveup Knopfler solos on Making Movies. There are a few (in "Tunnel of Love" and "Solid Rock"), but the beauty of the artist's current playing is that each note and phrase is woven into the fabric of the tales he tells. Unlike the other LPs, this one boasts songs, not solos.

More important, Making Movies is the record on which Mark Knopfler comes out from behind his influences and Dire Straits come out from behind Mark Knopfler. The combination of the star's lyrical script, his intense vocal performances and the band's cutting-edge rock & roll soundtrack is breathtaking–everything the first two albums should have been but weren't. If Making Movies really were a film, it might win a flock of Academy Awards. (RS 336)

For Bruce Springsteen see Number 817
For Neil Young See Number 677 & Number 938
For Jimi Hendrix see Number 718

Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs ranked this song at Number (C'mon.. Dire Straits?) and the Album ranked at Number (However there was this album....)
Yea Right
This song has a crowbarred of 71.7 out of 108 pts
Dire Straits - Romeo and Juliet
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