On Every Street, released in 1991, is the sixth and final album by British roots rock band Dire Straits. Released six years after their massively successful and just-as-massively acclaimed Brothers in Arms, the album wasn't exactly one that came about under amicable terms. Frontman Mark Knopfler had spent much of the interim working on film soundtracks and other side projects, with Dire Straits themselves having only occasionally regrouped for brief one-off performances before disbanding in 1988. Vertigo Records, having gotten fed up with the lack of a follow-up to Brothers in Arms, strongarmed Knopfler into reforming Dire Straits for another album at the start of 1991, with Knopfler and bass player John Isley returning alongside keyboardist Alan Clark, keyboardist & guitarist Guy Fletcher, and saxophonist Chris White, accompanied by a number of session musicians.
The end result was a much more melancholic affair compared to Brothers in Arms, crafting a mix of Communiqué's laid-back sound and Love Over Gold's tone, atmosphere, and density, punctuated by only a sparse handful of uptempo tracks, a sharp contrast with its jauntier 1985 predecessor. As a result of this shift in tone, the album received mixed reviews from both fans and critics, who couldn't come to a consensus on whether or not it was an adequate follow-up to Brothers in Arms or a disappointing cash-in that came in too late to be of any real use. It didn't help that the album was highly anticipated in the leadup to its release, leaving plenty of room for Hype Backlash when it turned out not to have the same energetic tone that permeated its predecessor. Fans, however, took more kindly to the album with time, regarding it as a good album in its own right and a fitting end to Dire Straits' career, though it's still considered one of their lesser albums from a comparative standpoint.
In spite of its middling critical reception, the album was a considerable commercial success for Dire Straits, topping the albums charts in the UK, Australia, Austria, France, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, in addition to peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard 200. The album was also eventually certified diamond in France, quadruple-platinum in Spain and Switzerland, double-platinum in the UK, Canada, Australia, Latvia, and Platinum in the United States, Austria, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. However, compared to the gargantuan sales of Brothers in Arms, these results were a relative disappointment in the same way that Tusk was a failure compared to Rumours for Fleetwood Mac.
The album was also supported by a world tour spanning from 1991 to the end of 1992. According to band manager Ed Bicknell, the tour was an unpleasant experience, marred by souring personal relationships between band members and a growing awareness of their decline from mainstream relevancy. Aware of this, Mark Knopfler made the decision to dissolve Dire Straits for the second and final time in 1995, shifting focus to his solo work and leaving behind a band that ended as tensely as it began, except instead of being hounded by the risk of financial ruin, this time they were hounded by the inevitability of losing their grip on the zeitgeist. Knopfler would remain active in the music scene via his solo career and is still active to this day, but in a far smaller position compared to the massive levels of mainstream popularity Dire Straits had seen in 1985.
On Every Street was supported by six singles: "Calling Elvis", "Heavy Fuel", "On Every Street", "The Bug", "You and Your Friend", and "Ticket to Heaven".
In an unlikely move, two tracks were later hits for Country Music artists: John Anderson with "When It Comes to You" in 1992, and Mary Chapin Carpenter with her own version of "The Bug" a year later.
- "Calling Elvis" (6:26)
- "On Every Street" (5:04)
- "When It Comes to You" (5:02)
- "Fade To Black" (3:49)
- "The Bug" (4:18)
- "You and Your Friend" (5:59)
- "Heavy Fuel" (4:57)
- "Iron Hand" (3:09)
- "Ticket to Heaven" (4:26)
- "My Parties" (5:32)
- "Planet of New Orleans" (7:47)
- "How Long" (3:53)
If you wanna trope cool, you gotta trope on heavy heavy fuel:
- Big Applesauce: In "On Every Street", the town the protagonist is singing about is implied to be New York City, with a reference the fireworks exploding over (the Statue of) Liberty.
- Cerebus Syndrome: The album presents a more melancholic and brooding take on the mainstream-friendly, prog-tinged roots rock that had previously defined Brothers in Arms.
- Downer Ending: "How Long" for both the album and the band, being a bitter song about a rapidly collapsing relationship.
- Eagleland: The narrator of "My Parties" ardently ascribes to type 1, featuring a "musical doorbell" that plays "America the Beautiful" and "Tie a Yellow Ribbon", though he himself is more of a type 2 given his arrogance and refusal to acknowledge actual real-world issues with anything other than snide dismissal.
- Epic Rocking:
- "Calling Elvis", and "Planet of New Orleans" both surpass the six-minute mark, with "You and Your Friend" being just a second short of the mark.
- Live versions of "On Every Street" (such as the recording heard in the 1993 live album On the Night, taken from the On Every Street tour) also tend to run to around seven minutes or so compared to the studio version's five.
- The album itself also deserves mention: at 60:16, it stands as Dire Straits' longest studio album. This is even the case on LP releases, which pack the grooves closely enough to feature the entire album uncut on a single record (albeit at the expense of reduced sound quality and faster playback degradation). Compare this to Brothers in Arms, which edited down several tracks on the LP release in order to contain as much of the album as possible without any groove compression (though this discrepancy is likely owed to the fact that the vinyl record was still the dominant format for popular music in 1985, whereas in 1991 it had already been phased out as a point of priority by major labels).
- Face on the Cover: Not for the album itself, but for the CD single cover for "Ticket to Heaven", featuring a monochrome photograph of Mark Knopfler.
- Feelies: One promotional CD single release of "The Bug" in France and Beneleux came packaged in a papercraft beetle.
- Grand Finale: The final album by Dire Straits, with Mark Knopfler's intention to end the band being more than apparent in hindsight.
- Lyrical Dissonance:
I don't care if my liver is hanging by a thread
- "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 televangelists.
- "Heavy Fuel" is a catchy, upbeat number about an alcoholic on the verge of self-destruction:
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
- "Ticket to Heaven" features a blissfully breezy melody that belies its highly cynical lyrics about televangelism and the corruption rampant within the movement.
- "How Long" contrasts a relatively upbeat-sounding, folksy melody with acidic lyrics about a rapidly collapsing relationship.
- Not Christian Rock: "Ticket to Heaven", where the (imaginary) singer is clearly sincere about his belief, though the song itself is a pretty cynical jab at televangelists.
- Orange/Blue Contrast: The album cover features an orange, two-tone photograph of a guitar player resting his feet atop a mixing desk, set against a backdrop of a blue variant of the same photo, blown up to fill the rest of the cover. The contrast carries over to the back cover and disc labels as well, with orange text against a blue backdrop on the back cover and LP labels and blue text against an orange backdrop on the CD label.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: The album came out solely as a result of Vertigo forcing Mark Knopfler to put out a new Dire Straits album. As a result, the songs frequently feature a bitter, melancholic tone reflective of Knopfler's burnout towards Dire Straits, with the closing track "How Long" being a particularly transparent allegory for his relationship with his bandmates by that point.
- Shout-Out: "Calling Elvis" contains a bunch of references to, well, Elvis Presley. The music video for the song has an additional nod to Thunderbirds, being produced in the show's signature "Supermarionation" style of puppet work, right down to being co-directed by Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson.
- Take That!:
- "Ticket to Heaven" is one towards televangelists, featuring the narrator describing a preacher who embezzles the donations he receives under the guise of charity work as a microcosm of the corruption rampant within the televangelist movement as a whole.
- "My Parties" satirizes those who indulge in hedonism to escape from pressing real-world issues, in this case environmentalism (as the album came out at a time when the movement was making a resurgence to levels not seen since the 1970's).
- War Is Hell: The general theme of "Iron Hand", with the added implication that war represents how humanity hasn't truly changed since prehistory, still being savage and impulsively violent.