who discovered dire straits? i did, that’s who!
I discovered Dire Straits. No kiddin’.
So, there I am heading off to the uni gym. I always have lunch in the uni gym; in a corner of the mezzanine that Wozza and Kevin and Helen and Phyllis and Anthony and Linley and the other Kevin, and a few hangers on, have claimed as our own. We talk about music and sport and, well… anything other than study. Today, I’m enthused. I’ve heard a song on the radio that I reckon has ‘hit’ written all over it.
I have it on cassette tape and it’s in my bag primed and ready for the others to hear and rave over.
“Listen to this,” I say. “These guys are gonna be big.” And I play Sultans of Swing, the very first single off the very first Dire Straits album – and they don’t like it! I can’t believe it! How could you not LOVE it!
vindicated but forgotten
Of course, within a couple of years all my friends are singing the praises of Dire Straits but does anyone who discovered them? Does anyone ever happen to say, “I remember that glorious day when GK played us Sultans of Swing and we rubbished him!?!?”
No, when it comes to unearthing superstars, I am truly a prophet without honour!
my love affair didn’t last
I might add, I went off Dire Straits as quickly as I fell for them. While everyone else was buying that red album with the blue sash across the top, I was lamenting the addition of a keyboard player. A dire step backwards in my opinion.
Having said that, Mark Knopfler remains one of my favourite and most respected musical artists – and it’s not just because he has such a cool surname!
A lot of people don’t realise that the Knopfler brothers, Mark and David, are Scottish, born in Glasgow. Their mother was English and their father a Hungarian Jew who was forced to flee his homeland because of his rather vocal anti-facist sentiments. In hindsite, having made the move in the early 1940’s, he escaped in the nick of time.
sultans of swing fax.
- Sultans of Swing was released, in various forms, four times. First as a demo recording in 1977. It got played on Radio London and record exec’s came knocking wanting to sign the band. Phonogram won the race and released Sultans of Swing proper in 1978 on Dire Straits’ first album. However, the record company wanted a less polished version for radio play and so an alternative version was recorded and released. It was then released for a fourth time in 1988 as a single from Dire Straits Greatest Hits album.
- Sultans of Swing was inspired by Mark Knopfler’s visit to a deserted bar South London. There was a jazz band playing in the corner. There were more people in the band than there were listening to it (“they don’t give a damn about any trumpet playing band. It ain’t what they call rock ‘n’ roll”). At the end of the gig the band lead singer said, “Thank you. We are the Sultans of Swing.” The song is a tribute to artists like that band, who play for the joy of music not fame.
- An American named Bill Wilson claimed to have co-wrote the song with Mark Knopfler. Listen to Bill’s claim and his version here.
- It’s said that “Guitar George” and “Harry” who are mentioned in the lyrics of Sultans of Swing are George Young and Harry Vander. They were guitarists in the Australian band The Easybeats who were popular in the UK. George Young is the older brother of Angus Young, guitarist with AC/DC.
- The song was originally written and played on an acoustic guitar. Only later did Mark Knopfler adapt it for his Fender Stratocaster.
- The guitar solo from the album version of Sultans of Swing reached #22 on Guitar World’s list of the Greatest Guitar Solos of all time and #32 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of Greatest Guitar Songs.
- Sultans of Swing lyrics.