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Music / Dire Straits (Album)

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"You feel alright when you hear the music ring."

Dire Straits, released in 1978, is the self-titled debut album by British roots rock band Dire Straits. The band, born out of frontman Mark Knopfler's previous failed attempts at etching out a career in music, first attracted the attention of the music industry via a demo tape that impressed BBC radio jokey Charlie Gillett, whose advice the band sought out of respect for him. Gillett, impressed with what they had recorded, played "Sultans of Swing" on his radio show Honkey Tonk, attracting the attention of Vertigo Records.

The album that resulted from this was a major commercial success— a far cry from the band's initial financially strained situation that had lent them their name— spending 132 weeks on the UK Albums chart and peaking at No. 5. The album was also a major international success, topping the charts in France, Germany, and Australia and reaching No. 2 on the Billboard 200; Dire Straits would go on to be certified double-platinum in both the US and UK. Lead single "Sultans of Swing" additionally peaked at No. 8 on the UK Singles chart and No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.


Dire Straits was supported by two singles: "Sultans of Swing" and "Down to the Waterline".


Side One
  1. "Down to the Waterline" (3:55)
  2. "Water of Love" (5:23)
  3. "Setting Me Up" (3:18)
  4. "Six Blade Knife" (4:10)
  5. "Southbound Again" (2:58)

Side Two

  1. "Sultans of Swing" (5:47)
  2. "In the Gallery" (6:16)
  3. "Wild West End" (4:42)
  4. "Lions" (5:05)

You remember we used to run and trope in the shadow of the cargoes:

  • Bittersweet Ending: "In the Gallery": Harry, the sculptor, is recognized as a great artist, but only posthumously.
  • Concept Album: While never marketed as one, the album's lyrics make frequent references to themes of loss, failure, and nostalgia, particularly in regards to romantic relationships; the exploration of these themes could possibly be derived from the dire straits the band's members were in at the time.
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  • Dead Artists Are Better: Discussed via "In the Gallery", which criticizes the hypocrisy behind this trope.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: While not a jarring contrast with their later material, the songwriting on the album is decidedly more rooted in Three Chords and the Truth compared to the more complex composition and instrumentation that would signify their later material.
  • Epic Rocking: "In the Gallery" just barely surpasses the six-minute mark.
  • Love Nostalgia Song: "Down to the Waterline" is one, describing specific anecdotes relevant to the narrator's life with a past love.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: 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
  • Non-Indicative Name: "Sultans of Swing", a blues rock song.
  • Performance Video: "Sultans of Swing" received one.
  • Rock Star Song: 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.
  • Self-Titled Album: Dire Straits. By Dire Straits.
  • Take That!: "In the Gallery" towards 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. This only changes once Harry himself kicks the bucket.
  • The One That Got Away: A majority of tracks on the album frequently allude to a lost lover; coincidentally (or not?), both "Down to the Waterline" and "Water of Love" heavily invoke water imagery in relation to the relationship.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: The album's bread and butter; each song is composed in a fairly basic and easy-to-digest manner, without coming off as banally generic.