Music / Dire Straits

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"They don't give a damn 'bout any trumpet-playin' band...
It ain't what they call rock and roll..."
Now look at them yo-yo's that's the way you do it,
You play the guitar on the MTV,
That ain't workin' that's the way you do it,
Money for nothin' and chicks for free.
"Money For Nothing"

Dire Straits were a British rock group active from 197888 and 199195. They had a large rotation of members throughout their history, but the core of the band was lead guitarist, singer, and songwriter Mark Knopfler. They are best known for their hits "Money for Nothing", "Brothers in Arms", "Walk of Life", "Sultans of Swing", "So Far Away", and "Telegraph Road". They released six studio albums, though Face of the Band Mark Knopfler has continued to release solo albums since then.

Discography:

  • With Dire Straits:
    • Dire Straits (1978)
    • Communiqué (1979)
    • Making Movies (1980)
    • Love Over Gold (1982)
    • Brothers in Arms (1985)
    • On Every Street (1991)
  • Mark Knopfler solo:
    • Neck and Neck with Chet Atkins (1990)
    • Golden Heart (1996)
    • Sailing to Philadelphia (2000)
    • The Ragpicker's Dream (2002)
    • Shangri-La (2004)
    • All The Roadrunning with Emmylou Harris (2006)
    • Kill To Get Crimson (2007)
    • Get Lucky (2009)
    • Privateering (2012)
    • Tracker (2015)

Now that ain't workin', that's the way you trope it:

  • Adaptational Heroism: The edited-down music video for "Money for Nothing" makes the protagonist nothing worse than a blue-collar worker looking at the music scene. (Where Knopfer has since clarified in interviews just how the singer was meant to come across in the first place.)
  • Age-Progression Song: "Telegraph Road"
  • Animated Music Video: "Money for Nothing". This video is of special note as the first fully computer-animated music video. The animators later went on to found Mainframe Entertainmentnote . It also won the 1985 Grammy for Best Music Video (beating A-ha's "Take On Me" in an arguable Award Snub).
  • Big Applesauce: In "On Every Street" the town the protagonist is singing about is implied to be New York with a reference the fireworks exploding over (the Statue of) Liberty.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "In The Gallery": Harry, the sculptor, is recognized as a great artist, but only posthumously.
  • Bowdlerize: The version of "Money For Nothing" included on the live On the Night album replaces the slurs in the controversial "faggot" verse with the slightly less offensive "queeny". The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), which initially ruled "Like other racially driven words in the English language, 'faggot' is one that, even if entirely or marginally acceptable in earlier days, is no longer so" in regards to the unedited version and banned it from the airwaves. Stations in Halifax and Edmonton played the unedited version for one hour in protest of the ruling, and after further review, left it up to the stations to decide which version to play, and that the words in question were used in a satirical, non-malicious manner.
  • Camp Gay: "Les Boys" is a sarcastic look at this trope.
  • Crapsack World: "Once Upon A Time In The West", which draws parallels between today's world and the lawless "Wild West".
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The protagonist in "Money for Nothing" repeatedly makes reference to "that little faggot" in addition to making various other ignorant and bigoted utterances. While casual homophobia was exceedingly common in the 1980s, the song still attracted a decent amount of controversy, and while that wasn't exactly Knopfler's goal, he definitely did want the audience to see what he saw at that visit to the appliance store that ultimately spawned that song: an ignorant, loudmouthed asshole who embodied all the most repulsive and contemptible traits of rock fans.
  • Down in the Dumps: "So Far From The Clyde," about a British cargo ship that's being torn apart for scrap in a salvage yard in India, so far from the Clyde Shipyards in Glasgow where it was built.
  • Driving Song: "Border Reiver" from Knopfler's solo catalog, about driving a lorry of the same model name as the title (produced by the Scottish company Albion), making a living as a young man in 1969.
  • Epic Rocking:
    • The Love over Gold album pretty much only consists of this trope, with the shortest song being the 5:50 "Industrial Disease" and the longest being the 14:20 "Telegraph Road". Other longer songs include "Tunnel of Love" (8:11), "Money for Nothing" (8:26), "Why Worry" (8:31), "Brothers in Arms" (7:00) and "Planet of New Orleans" (7:48).
    • The live version of "Sultans of Swing" from the live album "Alchemy", which featured an improvised and extended version of the solo.
  • English Rose: Gets a Shout-Out in "Portobello Belle", which is about a modern girl walking through the market on Portobello Road:
    She thinks she's tough / She ain't no English rose...
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: In Mark Knopfler's solo song "Cleaning My Gun" (the joke being the name of the firm):
    Blarney and Malarkey, they're a devious firm
    They'll take you to the cleaners or let you burn
  • Fighting for a Homeland: The unnamed narrator of "Brothers in Arms":
    These mist-covered mountains are home now for me / But my home is the lowlands and always will be / Some day you'll return to your valleys and your farms / And you'll no longer burn to be brothers in arms...
  • Garfunkel: Everyone except Mark Knopfler.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Three of them to date.
  • Happily Ever After: "Storybook Love", the Award-Bait Song from The Princess Bride.
    "Then he swooped her up just like in the books, and on his stallion they rode away."
  • I Am the Band: Mark Knopfler.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Knopfler's old band, Brewer's Droop, was named after a British slang term for alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction. The condition is also mentioned in "Industrial Disease":
    "You've got smoker's cough from smoking / Brewer's droop from drinking beer"
  • Love Hurts: "Romeo and Juliet", inspired by Knopfler's own breakup with a fellow musician, Holly Vincent. Less obviously, there's "Tunnel of Love", "Hand in Hand", "Where Do You Think You're Going?" and "On Every Street".
  • Lower-Class Lout: The protagonist of "Money for Nothing", 'the crowd of young boys' in "Sultans of Swing" and every character except for the doctor in "Industrial Disease".
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • In "Money for Nothing", the word "faggot" pops up a couple of times, and the narrator makes numerous other homophobic, piggish, racist, and just plain ignorant statements. Knopfler has repeatedly explained that the song was inspired by an unambitious dumbass he met in an electronics store who struck him as the epitome of everything that was wrong and reactionary about rock fans, so the song is written from his perspective - many of the lines in fact were verbatim quotes from things Knopfler heard him say ("that ain't workin'", "the little faggot with the earring and make-up", "we got to install microwave ovens...", and so on).
    • The band's big hit, "Sultans Of Swing" is a rock and roll song rather than swing, although justified in that the "Sultans Of Swing" themselves are a swing/blues band, shown in the following stanza:
      And a crowd of young boys, well they're fooling around in the corner
      Drunk and dressed in their best brown-baggies and their platform soles
      They don't give a damn about any trumpet playing band
      It ain't what they call rock and roll
      And the Sultans
      Yeah, the Sultans play Creole
      Creole blues
    • "Industrial Disease". A happy-sounding song about, among other things, the decline of the British manufacturing industry.
    • "A Ticket to Heaven" is an interesting example - on the surface, the melody matches the lyrics perfectly, but when you look at the lyrics closely, it's actually an ironic satire of teleevangelists. Many people in Youtubeland don't look close enough...
    • "Heavy Fuel" is a catchy, upbeat number about an alcoholic on the verge of self-destruction:
      I don't care if my liver is hanging by a thread
      Don't care if my doctor says I ought to be dead
      When my ugly big car won't climb this hill
      I'll write a suicide note on a hundred dollar bill
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: "Skateaway", though unlike many examples of the trope it just seems to be a girl the narrator has seen who has no apparent interest in him.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Making Movies
  • Money Song: "Money for Nothing"
  • Napoleon Delusion: "Industrial Disease" includes the line "Two men say they're Jesus. One of them must be wrong..."
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: Other than Mark Knopfler himself, John Illsley was the only member of the original 1978 line-up who was still around in 1995. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who remembers his name, even among fans.
  • Not Christian Rock:
    • Both the music and lyrics of "Solid Rock" sound incredibly churchy, but it doesn't have any specific Biblical or God-related references.
    • "Ticket to Heaven", where the (imaginary) singer is clearly sincere about his belief, though the song itself is a pretty cynical jab at televangelists.
  • The One That Got Away: "Tunnel of Love"—remembering a little flingy encounter with a female stranger at an amusement park which he didn't pursue further, but he was wistful about it later.
  • Protest Song: "Iron Hand" is a criticism of the Thatcher government's actions during a miners' strike. "Industrial Disease", mentioned above, is about Britain's economic malaise in the early 1980s.
  • Putting on the Reich: "Les Boys got leather straps / Les Boys got SS caps / but they got no gun now."
  • Rock-Star Song: Pretty much all of their singles touch on some facet of this.
    • Subverted by their debut single "Sultans of Swing", a song about a band that's never going to make it big and doesn't really mind.
    • "Money for Nothing" is a variation of the type, a song about what a blue-collar schmo imagines being a rock star is like.
  • Self-Titled Album: The band's debut album.
  • Shout-Out
    • "Calling Elvis" contains a bunch of references to Elvis Presley (duh)...
    • ...And "Walk of Life" to Gene Vincent and Ray Charles.
    • "Telegraph Road" is a Whole Plot Reference to Knut Hamsun's Growth of the Soil.
    • "Romeo and Juliet" aside from the obvious one in the title, also references "My Boyfriend's Back" by the Angels and "There's a Place For Us" from West Side Story.
    • In Real Life, the dinosaur Masiakasaurus knopfleri is named after Mark Knopfler
  • Something Blues: "Millionaire Blues", the B-side to the On Every Street single.
    • "Hill Farmer's Blues" from Knopfler's solo catalog
  • Special Guest: Sting, on "Money for Nothing".
  • Stealth Pun: A great one in "Romeo and Juliet"
    Now you just say "Oh, Romeo. Yeah, I used to have a scene with him."
  • Take That!: Knopfler's solo song "Boom Like That" is a vicious slagging of the McDonald's corporation... using Ray Kroc's own words. "In The Gallery" is a Take That! against modern art; Harry the sculptor, who makes angels and coal miners, goes unrecognized, while an artist who puts up a blank canvas gets into the trendy galleries in London. Lastly, "Money for Nothing" is a pretty open middle-finger to the type of rock fan that Knopfler absolutely despised: an ignorant, loutish asshole who filters everything that he sees through his own benighted perspective.
  • War Is Hell: "Brothers In Arms".
  • Your Cheating Heart: "Fade to Black" and "You and Your Friend" from On Every Street explore this trope from the point of view of the man being cheated upon.
    • From Knopfler's solo work, there's "Hill Farmer's Blues" from the point of view of a man who'd been cheated on and will probably do the same in retaliation:
    I'm going into Tow Law to have my fun
    Don't get me wrong, you were the only one
    Behind my back, Lord you made a fool of me
    Don't do jack and don't wait up for me

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