Inductee Insights: Dire Straits
In a decade where flash and pyrotechnics reigned supreme,
the Dire Straits never lost touch with the inspiration and creativity with which they began. Hear how the clean edge of Mark Knopfler's guitar and the out-of-this-world drum sounds helped Dire Straits stand out in an era dominated by punk rock and disco. The Class of 2018 Inductees take center stage in our latest PNC Bank Inductee Insights episode.
The Dire Straits were one of the few rock bands to break out in an era dominated by punk and disco. Introspective lyrics with out-of-this-world guitar and drum sounds made them one of the most original rock bands of the 80s.
Led by lead singer and guitarist Mark Knopfler’s stinging, uniquely melodic, and clean-edged guitar, Dire Straits stood in direct contrast to the punk rock enveloping London at the time. Knopfler’s guitar sound was influenced by the acoustic blues of Lead Belly, the precision licks of James Burton, and the fingerpicking technique of Chet Atkins. His songwriting and lyrical delivery is, at times, reminiscent to Bob Dylan.
Formed in 1977, the founding lineup included Mark Knopfler, his younger brother and rhythm guitarist David, John Illsley on bass, and drummer Pick Withers.
Their common touch was evident in their first hit single from 1978, “Sultans Of Swing.” Their debut was a slow burner, inching into the lower end of the British charts. But by the end of the year, “Sultans of Swing” had carved its own niche on the radio.
In 1980, the band released Making Movies. The album included fan favorites “Tunnel of Love”, “Skateaway” and the hit song “Romeo and Juliet”, which has since been covered by the Indigo Girls, the Killers, and Matt Nathanson. Fellow Rock Hall Inductee Roy Bittan of the E Street Band was recruited to play keyboards on the album.
The ambitious Love Over Gold followed in 1982. As the first album solely produced by Mark Knopfler, songs like “Private Investigations” and the 14-minute “Telegraph Road” allowed the band a free range of imagination. As Rolling Stone magazine critic David Fricke put it: “in a period when most pop music is conceived purely as product, Love Over Gold dares to put art before airplay.” Alan Clark joined the band for this album, becoming their first official keyboard player.
Keyboardist Guy Fletcher joined the band in 1984 and, in 1985, they released their landmark album Brothers In Arms. The album sold over 9 million records in the United States and 30 million worldwide. It included some of the band’s biggest hits - “Walk of Life”, “So Far Away” and “Money for Nothing”. “Money For Nothing”, arguably their most recognizable song thanks to a groundbreaking music video and a well-placed collaboration with Sting of the Police, captured the MTV cultural moment with a satirical look at how the public perceives a musician. Brothers in Arms would go on to win two Grammy Awards.
Dire Straits set a standard of excellence and achievement that continues to resonate, and their reputation has only grown through the years. Their legacy lives strong in the songwriting style of artists like Sheryl Crow, the guitar work of Alejandro Escovedo, and the musicianship of the Dave Matthews Band, among many others.