Posts Tagged ‘Dire Straits’

When ‘Sultans Of Swing’ Wasn’t A Hit

It’s so much a part of the fabric of rock history now that it’s strange to think that ‘Sultans Of Swing’ missed the charts altogether when it was first released exactly 38 years ago by Dire Straits, on 19 May, 1978.

The Mark Knopfler composition was, however, still part of the upward curve for the band during that year. They’d been supported by BBC Radio London, notably on broadcaster and writer Charlie Gillett’s show for the station, and were rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the hottest live bands on the circuit — almost living out the life of the funky little band described in the song’s lyric.

‘Sultans’ not only continues to be heard on radio, TV, in retail outlets and many other places to this day, but had an influence on Knopfler’s current solo album , especially on the song ‘Beryl.’ “I think there was a definite nod to the early Straits with ‘Beryl,’” he says. “That was a deliberate thing, going back to a period because it seemed to suit the song. I took a sort of ‘Sultans of Swing’ approach to it for that reason, because it’s something you’d associate with a time.”

Knopfler also remembers the early days of sweat and toil when Dire Straits really were playing the role described in ‘Sultans Of Swing.’ “You’re just going from gig to gig hoping to keep it all together,” he says, “and hoping to get onto a tour, which we managed to do. You just take it on from there.”

Straits ticket

In the month that the single was released in the UK (the first time), Straits toured with the Climax Blues Band, and did European shows opening for Styx. In June, they played their first headlining UK tour, but ‘Sultans’ didn’t become a hit until the new year of 1979, when the band made the US charts with their self-titled debut album and then the single, which climbed all the way to No. 4. Back in Britain, it reached No. 8, and they were well and truly on their way.

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The album that captured the growing phenomenon of Dire Straits as a live attraction is marking a birthday. ‘Alchemy: Dire Straits Live,’ recorded over two nights at London’s Hammersmith Odeon and accompanied by a sister longform video, was released this week in 1984.

Alchemy: Dire Straits Live is a double album and the first live album by the British rock band Dire Straits, released on 16 March 1984 by Vertigo Records internationally, and by Warner Bros. Records in the United States. Recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on 22nd–23rd July 1983, the album features the band’s best-known and fan-favourite songs from their first four albums, the Extended  play EP, and the Local Hero soundtrack (composed by Mark Knopfler); many of the songs have reworked arrangements and/or extended improvisational segments. The album cover is taken from a painting by Brett Whiteley.

‘Alchemy’ followed the band’s first domestic No. 1, the ‘Love Over Gold’ album of some 18 months before. As Dire Straits grew, record by record and tour by tour, into one of the biggest bands in the UK and beyond, the live record went on to have a long life. It debuted in the UK top three, spent all but one week of its first seven months in the top 40 and, in the slipstream of the subsequent sales sensation that was ‘Brothers In Arms,’ went on to spend more than three years in the UK top 100.

‘Love Over Gold’ had gone straight to No. 1 in Britain in October 1982 and stayed there four weeks. Then, with some time for a little extracurricular activity, Mark Knopfler pursued the first of the side projects that ultimately steered him towards the solo career he follows to this day. His soundtrack to the film ‘Local Hero’ included the Ivor Novello Award-winning ‘Going Home.’

Then it was back to Dire Straits business. After dates from March, 1983 in Australia, New Zealand and Japan, the band embarked on a massive European tour from May onwards. They played to big audiences all across the continent, arriving home via an Irish date at Punchestown Racecourse, followed by a London engagement at the Dominion Theatre.

Knopfler and Dire Straits Then came the two sellout Hammersmith shows of July 22nd and 23rd, which turned into celebrations of everything the band had achieved so far, from ‘Sultans of Swing’ to ‘Private Investigations.’ When the recordings of the performances were delivered to Knopfler at his home, he was too exhausted from the tour to listen to them. But he recalled that the Saturday show, the second one, had been especially good, so that formed the bulk of the double album.

‘Alchemy’ was released while the coal miners’ strikes dominated the news in Britain, and while scientists first murmured about something called the greenhouse effect. Meanwhile, this first document of Dire Straits’ live work carried on selling for years.

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Dire Straits Start Their Studio Adventures

Dire Straits had no easy ride en route to the multi-million-selling domination of their later years. The group had to endure plenty of low-profile gigs that paid next to nothing and lots of travelling to their own shows in a van or on public transport in their formative months. But right around this time 37 years ago, the band knew they were on the right path, as they started recording their debut album at Basing Street Studios in London in February 1978.

Having had the help and support of a much-respected broadcaster and author, they now turned to a former member of the Spencer Davis Group. Writer and BBC Radio London DJ Charlie Gillett had been the early champion of Dire Straits, largely creating the momentum that led to their record deal with Vertigo by playing their demos on his show.

Now, as they entered the studio to start recording Mark Knopfler’s songs, they were working with Muff Winwood, who had enjoyed great success himself as bassist in the Spencer Davis’ group, with brother Steve, in the 1960s and was now an in-demand producer (with an earlier notable triumph at the helm of another notable breakthrough album, Sparks’ ‘Kimono My House’) and A&R man.

Dire Straits’ self-titled debut album was recorded over the next few weeks and released the following October, after they had supported both Talking Heads and the Climax Blues Band on UK tours, and become headliners themselves for the first time. The LP contained the later hit single ‘Sultans Of Swing,’ as well as ‘Southbound Again,’ ‘Down To The Waterline’ and other examples of Knopfler’s fine writing and guitar work, and how they meshed perfectly with the band’s tight playing. The roots of one of the most potent sounds of the 1980s were being laid down.

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Passenger aka Mike Rosenberg has been touring across the world for months with his friend and musical colleague Stu Larsson they make indie folk with strong songs, Passenger from Brighton recorded some of his favourite songs whilst touring Americas with support band Once and Stu, also he contributed top the BBC series “Sounds Of the 80’s” a song made originally famous by the huge MTV band “Dire Straits”