Deep Album Cuts Vol. 104: Dire Straits

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is, by design, not focused on new and exciting music, since artists are only eligible after 25 years. But the 2018 is perhaps a little less exciting than usual, full of acts that have been around for longer, which also means the HOF was in no rush to induct them years earlier. The youngest act, Bon Jovi, had been eligible for nearly a decade, and the rest (The Cars, Dire Straits, The Moody Blues, and Nina Simone) had been eligible for much longer. A bit different from last year, when Pearl Jam and 2Pac got in.

You might think a band like Dire Straits would be pretty excited to get into the Hall of Fame. After all, they debuted in 1978 London, at the height of punk and new wave, as a particularly traditional blues-based rock band, fronted by Mark Knopfler, whose Dylanesque voice and writerly lyrics and virtuoso guitar playing earned him a lot of fans in the classic rock elite, including Bob Dylan himself. But Knopfler is reportedly not attending the ceremony this weekend. Dire Straits co-founder John Illsley says he's just not interested in performing or giving a speech. So this will be a particularly low key induction for a band that's been largely defined by how it managed to sell millions of records and record a few timeless radio staples without seeming to care much about mass appeal.

Dire Straits deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. In The Gallery
2. Down To The Waterline
3. Wild West End
4. Single-Handed Sailor
5. Where Do You Think You're Going?
6. Expresso Love
7. Solid Rock
8. Hand In Hand
9. Telegraph Road
10. It Never Rains
11. The Man's Too Strong
12. Your Latest Trick
13. One World
14. Fade To Black

Tracks 1, 2 and 3 from Dire Straits (1978)
Tracks 4 and 5 from Communique (1979)
Tracks 6, 7 and 8 from Making Movies (1980)
Tracks 9 and 10 from Love Over Gold (1982)
Tracks 11, 12 and 13 from Brothers In Arms (1985)
Track 14 from On Every Street (1991)

All 6 of their albums sold big and generated hit singles in the U.K., but in America, the Dire Straits legacy has been boiled down largely to their debut single, "Sultans of Swing," and the three big hits from Brothers In Arms. Going through their discography, I didn't register much recognition of any of the singles from the three albums in between, although I did surprisingly remember their final rock radio hit, 1991's "Heavy Fuel." The 14-minute non-single "Telegraph Road" was supposedly an FM radio staple at one point, but I'd never heard it, and it's pretty great, so it seemed fair game as a famous deep cut.

As I said, Dire Straits always struck me as kind of a low key band, not exactly bursting with personality or charisma. But going through the records, I started to like them more than before, particularly on the debut, which retains a lot of the storytelling and detailed descriptions of people and places that made "Sultans of Swing" so memorable. And Knopfler is certainly talented -- classic rock is full of singer-songwriters and guitarists, but not that many who are as revered for their lyrics as for their guitar solos. Brothers In Arms is kind of remembered as one of the big audiophile albums of the '80s, and though its aesthetic hasn't entirely aged well, I still work events sometimes where the soundman will play it on the PA as a soundcheck and it does sound pretty great on a hi-fi system.
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