Monday, August 10, 2015

Dire Straits - Dire Straits

Ya know, the late 70's were an interesting time to be a teenager.  Mostly because it wasn't horribly hard to hear new music.  You had to work at it to hear anything underground or local, but you could turn on one of the Rock radio stations and sandwiched in between the Zeppelin and Stones were plenty of new bands like Dire Straits or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  It didn't mean that all those new bands were good, or even worthwhile but at least when you turned on the radio you didn't hear the same shit your dad grew up with 24/7.  It's like people demanded to hear new things alongside of their old favorites and then one day those people all said, "Fuck it," and radio decided to just play what used to work and quit trying to expand their audience, or even try to stay interesting ot the kids that made Rock radio important in the first place.

That's a damned shame, too.  There's obviously a shitload of people interested in Rock music.  They're so interested in it that modern Country has appropriated the whole damned thing, power chords and all.  They're so interested in it that professional sports blasts those old songs out ad nauseam.  The interest is there, but the major labels have bought all the radio stations and they only play their own tried and true surefire moneymakers.  Heaven forbid some PD at a station in Akron, OH play a song that isn't thoroughly tested and proven to make .006 cents per listener per minute for three fucking minutes.  Someone might turn off the radio and miss the next nine minutes of tampon ads.

In 1978 Dire Straits were one of those bands that were untested, and they were kind of quirky and slow and mostly moody, but for some reason someone around somewhere decided to keep pushing them a little at a time and by mid 1979 Sultans of Swing was our new "classic" rock staple.  That song was everywhere.  Every station played it, to the point where I always figured I'd just be sick of these guys until the day I died.  Something happened, though.  I just never really get tired of these guys.  I have to be in the mood for them, but give me a nice summer night and a cold beer and a little peace and quiet and I can listen to some Dire Straits.

I think a lot of it is that while I don't think they have any truly great, monumental songs, they also don't have any truly shitty songs.  At least not on the couple of albums I have, like this first one.  It never sounded particularly fresh and new when it came out, but the music on this album has a remarkable quality of never sounding old and stale, either.  I guess this album is kind of like a good pair of jeans.  They fit pretty good but you've got better ones, and they just never seem to wear out.  that's how Dire Straits seem to me.

That's okay, too.  Everything doesn't have to be the absolute greatest thing that ever happened.  When did people quit appreciating talent and craftsmanship and demanding nothing but a handful of songs that most everyone agrees are the definitive statements of their era, not to mention deciding that one era was more or less deserving of any other?  I mean, I love home made ice cream, but I can appreciate and enjoy Dairy Queen, too.  There's so much stuff in the world that's so much better than average and people ignore these things because they aren't the "best."  Man, that's really stupid.

That's where Dire Straits is for me.  At least this album and another one.  They're better than most things.  The playing is terrific, and Mark Knopfler is certainly deserving of all the credit he gets for his playing (and probably more).  Sultans of Swing was a big hit, deservedly so, but Wild West End, Down to the Waterline and Six Blade Knife are maybe not Top Ten material, but there's a lot of meat on those bones and these are the kinds of songs that make for a solid, strong album.  The kind of thing that deserved the accolades it got at the time, and the kind of thing that was more than worthwhile for some PD to take a chance on.  I know those days are gone, but while everything people took chances on back then didn't work, when they did they paid off and paid off for years.  it's too bad people aren't like that anymore.

So I like this record.  I don't love it, but I like it a lot.  Mine is a Columbia House version, and it sounds terrific.  Super flat, super clean, super quiet and just as good as a record gets.  I think it was a quarter and I can't imagine that I've spent many quarters on many other things that are this good.


  1. Hi there, long time no chat.

    Funny thing about Dire Straits, 1st album is that among the discomania going on back then, is that this album sounded like no other at the time, jazzy clean, polished. Even Sultrans Of Swing still sounds viable when I play it on the player. I had a cassette copy which didn't last very long, most of the songs are keepers beginning with Down To The Waterline, Setting Me Up, Lions, Switchblade Knife. Which I became the first in line for the followup Communique which paled in comparison. I thought it was boring at first but nowadays it has grown on me from Once Upon A TIme to Where Do You Think You're Going and the title track. SIde 2 has the clinkers but I do like the side ending Follow Me Home, it has that lazy but grooving sound.

    Dire Straits may not been the ultimate classic rock band with the big anthems, I do like the original bands album up to Love Over Gold, the 13 minute marathon of Telegraph Road the highlight. Once Pick Withers left the band, later albums weren't as memorable for me. Brothers In Arms broke them big and I found the LP for cheap, it just didn't appeal to me.

    But it was a different time back then and without the Corporate stranglehold on radio, it was nice to see a band like Dire Straits shake up the music. In today's version of radio they would have never happened. But I do tend to think their first remains their best overall.

    1. Hi Crabby! I think that's a valid point about the radio back then and what Dire Straits sounded like. They were all really good players and had the skill set of Steely Dan but weren't as much of whatever it is that Steely Dan's critics find to dislike about that band. I only have two Dire Straits albums and I'll probably leave it at that. The other one is NOT Brothers in Arms, I just don't like that album, no matter how perfectly it's supposed to be recorded.