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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-yos, 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 your chicks for free.
— "Money for Nothing"

Dire Straits were a British rock group active from 1978–88 and 1991–95. 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 frontman Mark Knopfler has continued to release solo albums since then.


Principal Members (founding members in bold):

  • Alan Clark: keyboards, piano (1980-8; 1991-5)
  • Guy Fletcher: keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals (1984-8; 1990-5)
  • Omar Hakim: drums (1984-5)
  • John Illsley: bass, backing vocals (1977-88; 1990-5)
  • David Knopfler: rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1977-80)
  • Mark Knopfler: lead guitar, lead vocals (1977-88; 1990-5)
  • Hal Lindes: rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1980-5)
  • Jack Sonni: rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1985-8)
  • Terry Williams: drums (1982-4, 1985-8)
  • David "Pick" Withers: drums, percussion (1977-82)

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

  • Ace Custom: The Pensa-Suhr MK-1 and other Pensa or Pensa-Suhr guitars, created for Mark to give him Stratocaster and Les Paul tones in one axe after he got tired of having to switch between these two guitars during concerts.
  • Adam Westing / Parody Assistance: Mark Knopfler and Guy Fletcher performed the guitar and synths on "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Money for Nothing" parody "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*", which was apparently the one condition on which they would allow it. It still ended up sounding a bit different from the original since they performed their parts more in line with how they had grown accustomed to doing it in concert over the four years since the song was first released.
  • 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.)
  • Alternate Music Video: "Walk of Life" has two videos; one featuring a busker in the London Underground and one showing sports bloopers. Both are intercut with (different) live footage of the band playing the song.
    • There are also two videos for "Tunnel of Love". One is part of a thematic video trilogy along with "Romeo and Juliet" and "Skateaway". While each video stands alone, they also blend together from song to song. The other takes place at an amusement park, and follows the lyrics more closely.
  • Age-Progression Song: "Telegraph Road"
  • Anaphora:
    • "Telegraph Road"
      Then came the churches
      Then came the schools
      Then came the lawyers
      Then came the rules
      Then came the trains
      And the trucks with their loads
    • "Money for Nothing"
      We got to install microwave ovens
      Custom kitchen deliveries
      We got to move these refrigerators
      We got to move these colour TVs
    • "Walk of Life"
      He do the song about the sweet loving woman
      He do the song about the knife
      He do the walk
      He do the walk of life
      Yeah he do the walk of life
  • 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).
    • "Brothers In Arms" features a lot of black & white animation very similar to the aforementioned "Take On Me".
  • The Band Minus the Face: Tina Turner's recording of "Private Dancer" (written by Mark, then given to her when he decided it needed a woman's voice) features all the active members of the band circa 1984 except Mark Knopfler, who was prohibited from appearing on it by their record company.
  • 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.
  • Concept Album: Love Over Gold, which examines the rise of British domestic industry and its decline under Thatcher.
  • Crapsack World: "Once Upon A Time In The West", which draws parallels between today's world and the lawless "Wild West".
  • Dead Artists Are Better: "In The Gallery" is all about the hypocrisy of this trope.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • Epic Rocking: Mark Knopfler seemed to have a fondness for this trope.
    • Love over Gold pretty much only consists of this, with the shortest song being the 5:50 "Industrial Disease" and the longest being the 14:17 "Telegraph Road" (which, incidentally, is the band's longest song in their studio discography). Other longer songs from their other albums include "Tunnel of Love" (8:11), "Money for Nothing" (8:26), "Why Worry" (8:31), "Brothers in Arms" (7:00) and "Planet of the 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.
    • Live versions of "On Every Street" generally run around seven minutes as opposed to the five minute studio version.
  • 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...
  • Film Noir: "Private Investigations" pretty much checks every noir trope into three short verses.
    A bottle of whiskey and a new set of lies
    Blinds on the window and a pain behind your eyes...
  • 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."
  • Homesickness Hymn: Mark Knopfler's "Fare Thee Well Northumberland" tells the story of a man who regrets having to leave home and knows he will miss it, but he is "bound to ramble and roam." Unlike many examples of this trope, the narrator outright states "I would not gamble on my coming home."
  • I Am the Band: Mark Knopfler was lead singer, lead guitarist, sole songwriter, arranger and sometimes producer, and one of only two band members to have been there the entire time they were active.
  • Job Song: "Money for Nothing" is a song about an ignorant blue-collar worker Mark Knopfler encountered in a home appliance store.
  • 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.
  • Memory Trigger: The song "Lady Writer": Seeing the titular person on the TV reminds the singer about someone:
    Lady writer on the TV
    Talking about the Virgin Mary
    Reminded me of you
    Expectation left to come up to, yeah
    Lady writer on the TV
    Yeah, she had another quality
    The way you used to look
    And I know you never read a book
    Just the way that her hair fell down around her face
    And I remember my fall from grace
  • 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..."
  • New Sound Album: While they never entirely moved away from their roots rock... erm... roots, Love Over Gold definitely marked a shift to a more technically complex sound with more liberal use of Epic Rocking. This is particularly apparent on Love Over Gold itself, which opens up with the 14-minute Progressive Rock suite "Telegraph Road".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: Love over Gold, a Progressive Rock album from a band otherwise known for roots rock.
  • Performance Video: Done with some of their earlier songs like "Sultans Of Swing" and "Lady Writer".
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: The narrator of "Money for Nothing" is deliberately designed to be a bigot who doesn't understand what he's talking about. Throughout the song, he decries MTV rock artists as homophobic slurs simply because they earn fame and fortune through a seemingly simplistic method while he's stuck working a dead-end job.
  • Private Eye Monologue: "Private Investigations".
  • 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."
  • The Roadie: The video for "Heavy Fuel" centers on one of their roadies, played by Randy Quaid.
  • 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", singing the falsetto "I want my MTV!" in the melody of his own "Don't Stand So Close to Me". (He got a songwriting credit because of this.)
  • 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.
    • "Terminal of Tribute To" is a thorough attack on The Straits, who kept playing old Dire Straits songs long after the band dissolved and don't have any original members left.
    • "Don't Crash the Ambulance" is something a little more gentle aimed at both George Bushes and Sr.'s "passing on" of his role to Jr.
    • 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.
  • This Is a Song: "Wild West End" is about Knopfler going shopping for a pickup for the guitar he's playing on the song itself.
  • Trial-Period Dating: In "Tunnel of Love", the narrator and the girl he meets at the carnival end up falling in love, but mutually agree to only spend that day together. After the girl gives him her locket and kisses him, she disappears from his life, but the narrator ends up having second thoughts and tries to look for her around the carnival, to no avail.
  • War Is Hell: "Brothers In Arms".
    • "Done with Bonaparte" from 'Golden Heart' as well.


Video Example(s):


Mark Knopfler helps Weird Al

Mark Knopfler's one condition for letting Weird Al parody his hit: Mark gets to play guitar.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / ParodyAssistance

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