When I heard Sultans of Swing for the first time as a teenager, I was immediately hooked on Dire Straits. Since they would always fade out the song on the radio, which drove me nuts, I needed to own it myself. So I bought the vinyl album that includes Sultans of Swing, not realizing I could have gotten the single instead. I’m glad I did what I did, since I would have missed out on great music otherwise!
While I’ve had Dire Straits’ eponymous studio album for 30-plus years, I could not play it until recently when I got a turntable, a device I had not owned in close to 20 years. You wonder what took me so long! So with a turntable finally in place again and the album in my vinyl storage shelf, it was the perfect opportunity to pull it out and listen to it in its entirety. Of course, I could have done the same via Apple Music, but it simply is not the same experience.
Sultans of Swing is the first song on the album’s B-side. It’s the best known tune from the record. The single climbed all the way up to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached No. 8 on the U.K. Singles Chart.
Water of Love is another song that Dire Straits released as a single in some countries. While it wasn’t as successful as Sultans of Swing, it’s one of my favorite other tunes on the album. I also think Down to the Waterline, the B-side of the Water of Love single and the album’s opener, is a gem. Other songs I like in particular include Setting Me Up and In the Gallery.
To me and I guess to most other Dire Straits fans, most of the band’s appeal came from Mark Knopfler and the amazing sound he got out of his Fender Stratocaster. His melodic and sparing way to play the guitar with his fingers rather than a pick created a very transparent and distinct sound. There is simply no other guitarist who sounds like him.
While it is fair to say that Mark Knopfler was Dire Straits’ dominant force, a band is never just one guy. So this post wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the other musicians on the album: David Knopfler, Mark’s brother (rhythm guitar, vocals), John Illsley (bass, vocals) and Pick Withers (drums).
Dire Straits is best remembered for their 19985 studio album Brothers in Arms and the hit single Money For Nothing. And while that’s undoubtedly a terrific album, their 1978 debut will always remain my favorite.