“The feeling of being inspired, for wanting a better world, is one of the best feelings you can have”
Mark Knopfer, July 2019.
The first time I heard the Dire Straits I was in London, in 1979. That clear sound produced by Mark Knopfer with his amazing guitar was being broadcasted all over the radio. When I took a taxi on that cold 18th of December, the notes of Sultans of Swing accompanied me all the way to the airport before going back to Italy.
As the images of Hyde Park drifted further and further away and my heart was enveloped in a cloud of despair, thinking I would never see that mythical city that I adore again, the clean and wonderful sound of Dire Straits warmed my soul.
And I promised myself to dig deep into the news to understand who Mark Knopfer was, this genius who, in my opinion, was surpassing even Tom Waits, Jeff Beck, Jimy Hendrix or Santana, guitarists on the international scene who were loved and considered exceptional.
But Sultans of Swing had something extraordinary. It wasn’t just the beautiful melody or its rhythm that caught my curiosity.
Here is a link to a wonderful concert: dire straits live in wimbledon 1985
There was a lot of good music around at that time. Alternative, political, mystical, punk music and all those rhythms obviously left an indelible trace, because
music always expresses the best of any conditions.
What struck me was the contrast between an exceptionally clean sound and the slightly derisive words of a text that I hardly understood at that time because I thought it was addressed to the band members themselves. But only after a long time I learnt that Mark Knopfer had listened to a band introducing themselves as “Sultans of Swing” in a half-empty pub in South London where he had taken refuge from the rain. The contrast between the scruffy appearance of the boys in the band and the name of Sultans they had given themselves inspired Mark Knopfer the title and the lyrics for his song which later became one of the symbols of the Dire Straits. A truly singular text for such genuinely clean music.
Although the Dire Straits have always been considered not too involved in politics, the messages of their rock is always catching the hearts of people.
And I was again in London when Britan was involved in the Falklands war and Mark Knopfer decided to write another song, Brothers In Arms, which made me get a shiver.
The words used by Knopfer and his soft voice with the sound of the guitar, even softener, deepened in my heart.
Every time I hear that song I feel excited and it saddens me to know that
war is always around the corner in our foolish world.
Mark Knopfer filled his music with many political statements cleverly veiled by fantastic music.
“The feeling of being inspired, for want a better world, is one of the best feelings you can have” wrote Mark Knopfer on his facebook page on 30 July 2019.
After Sultans of Swing many other songs were written and the Dire Straits produced a total of 12 albums.
The career of the Dire Straits, who immediately established themselves on the British music scene, however, had a fairly short life because the group disbanded in 1988 after giving dream concerts.
Mark Knopfer continued his career but … this is another story.
© 2021 Dr Maria Sannino