In 1977, rock and roll fans were greeted by many great new bands that were arriving on the music scene from all shorelines. Many of the bands that came from the United States and Britain were celebrating the new sounds of punk and eventually new wave. Dire Straits arrived on the scene in 1977 and sounded nothing like any of the newer bands. The band that was led by Mark Knopfler, featured brilliant virtuoso original sounding guitar playing, well-written lyrics, and beautiful melodies. The sound was slick, but not overproduced. When I first heard the band, they reminded me of a mix of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and in a way Ennio Morricone. It was a band that was all substance.
The band Dire Straits released their first album entitled Dire Straits in October of 1978. The original lineup on the album featured Mark Knopfler on vocals and lead and rhythm guitars, David Knopfler on rhythm guitar and vocals, John Illsley on bass and vocals and Pick Withers on drums. The album immediately put the band on the map as it featured the hit single “Sultan of Swing.”
Dire Straits released their sophomore album entitled Communiqué in 1979. The album did not feature any big hit singles as “Lady Winter,” only reached the number 45 spot on the U.S .Billboard Hot 100. However, the album sold very well as the band had already developed a large following based on the performance of their first record.
The band continued its yearly release schedule with the issue of its third album in 1980 entitled Making Movies. The album’s fresh and romantic sound was fueled by the addition of Bruce Springsteen’s piano player Roy Bittan on the album’s recording sessions. The album sold extremely well reaching the top 20 in the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Australia and Austria. The band released their fourth album in 1982 entitled Love and Gold. Most bands would give anything to have the success that Dire Straits had with their first four records. However, for Dire Straits their biggest success story had not yet come.
In 1985, Dire Straits released the album Brother In Arms. It would become the band’s most successful record and one of the biggest selling albums of all time. There were multiple reasons for the album’s success. The first and simplest reason is it’s a great album. Mark Knopfler’s writing was brilliant on the record. The man also was very well connected with the changing sounds of the 1980s. However, the success of the record was also fueled by other factors. The song “Money For Nothing,” which also featured Sting became one of the most played videos on MTV of all time. The CD was a brand new format and the album Brother In Arms sounded incredible on disc. Music fans had never heard sound that spectacular before.
It would be six more years before Dire Straits released their next album. The band’s sixth album was released in 1991 entitled On Every Street. The album would be the final album released under the Dire Straits name. However, Mark Knoplfer would continue to record albums releasing them under his own name.
Our Top 10 Dire Straits songs list looks at some of the best material the band released during their thirteen years recording period.
# 10 – Calling Elvis
We start out our Top 10 Dire Straits songs list with the first single released from the band’s final album entitled On Every Street. The song “Calling Elvis,” was a great song that was a top 10 hit in eight countries. The song hit number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1991.
# 9 – Telegraph Road
The epic song “Telegraph Road,” was released on the band’s album Love and Gold. The album was released in 1982. “Telegraph Road,” was a brilliant piece of music that helped define the genius of Mark Knopfler . Many might have thought that Mark Knopfler had reached his artistic peak at that point. However, there was still so much more to come from the man.
# 8 – Once Upon A Time in the West
Continuing our Top 10 Dire Straits songs list, we turn to the band’s sophomore album called Communiqué. The song “Once Upon a Time in the West,” was the album’s opening track. The album was recorded at breakneck speed as the band only spent two weeks in the recording studio recording the album.
# 7 – Down To the Waterline
The Dire Straits song “Down To The Waterline, was the second single released from the band’s debut album simply entitled Dire Straits. The single “Down To The Waterline,” was backed by “Water of Love,” which was actually the A-side in various countries.
# 6 – So Far Away
“So Far Away,” is one of three Dire Straits Songs to appear on the Top 10 Dire Straits songs list from the Brothers in Arms album. “So Far Away,” was the opening track on side two of the record. It was also released as the first single from the album.
# 5 – Walk Of Life
The Brothers In Arms record not only delivered classic rock and roll songs for the ages, but the record also spawned some incredible guitar and keyboard licks that every garage band around the world learned to play. “Walk of Life,” was the fourth single released from the Brothers In Arms album. It was a top 10 hit in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
# 4 – Tunnel of Love
The Dire Straits Song “Tunnel of Love,” is not to be confused with the Bruce Springsteen song of the same name. The comparisons between the two only shine the light on the fact that Roy Bittan performed on the Making Movies album. “Tunnel of Love,” was the opening track on the Making Movies record.
# 3 – Money for Nothing
One of the legendary sayings of the 1980’s was the slogan “I Want My MTV.” Sting and Mark Knopfler turned that saying into a great tongue-in-cheek riff on the song “Money For Nothing,” The song became the biggest hit on MTV for a time. Sting, who as a member of his band The Police was also a huge MTV music video star. Although both artists were so brilliant with the music they produced they didn’t really need MTV. It was MTV that needed them.
# 2 – Sultan’s of Swing
The comparisons to Bob Dylan’s vocal sound eventually disappeared after fans became used to the sounds of Mark Knopfler. “Sultans of Swing,” was the song that made the band well known. It was the song that started the career for Mark Knopfler that has lasted forty years and counting. It was one of the greatest Dire Straits songs ever released and one of the best records of the 1970s.
# 1 – Romeo and Juliet
Many Dire Straits fans may argue that the success of the song “Sultans of Swing,” or “Money for Nothing,” should cast those songs in the number one spot. Well, we won’t argue about the greatness of those records and we can’t argue over their commercial success because numbers don’t lie. However, we can ask you to listen to this song one more time. The beauty and brilliance of the song “Romeo and Juliet,” is inescapable. In our book, it was easy to pick “Romeo and Juliet,” for the number one spot on our Top 10 Dire Straits songs list.
Photo: By Heinrich Klaffs [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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