Song of the Day #4,063: ‘Portobello Belle’ – Dire Straits

Dire Straits is the next inductee from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2018. The English blues rock band first became eligible for inclusion in 2003 but was nominated for the first time last year.

The band was remarkably consistent during their 13-year life span. They released six studio albums between 1978 and 1991, every one of them going platinum in their native UK and all but two going platinum in the U.S. (those two went gold).

Their commercial peak was also their best album, 1985’s Brothers in Arms. The album has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, and its hit ‘Money For Nothing’ helped define the MTV era (in part by including the refrain “I want my MTV” and explicitly referencing the channel in its verses).

The track ‘Walk of Life’ is a jaunty delight while the title track is a beautifully devastating anti-war ballad. The deep cuts are just strong. Brothers in Arms is one of the great rock albums of all time, and it alone should land Dire Straits in the Rock Hall.

Their other albums are nothing to sneeze at, however. Making Movies is a favorite of mine, highlighted by the songs ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ‘Tunnel of Love’ and ‘Skateaway.’ Other standout tracks from their discography include the wonderful ‘Sultans of Swing,’ ‘Down to the Waterline’ and today’s SOTD, ‘Portobello Belle.’

Frontman Mark Knopfler went on to record plenty of great solo material (his album Sailing to Philadelphia is a classic) but it’s unlikely he’ll be nominated to the Hall of Fame as an individual performer. He snubbed the Hall in 2018, without offering a reason, and left the remaining members of Dire Straits to receive this honor without him.

[Verse 1]
Bella donna’s on the high street
Her breasts upon the off beat
And the stalls are just the side shows
Victoriana’s old clothes
And yes her jeans are tight now
She got to travel light now
She got to turn up all her roots now
She got a turn up for the boots now

She thinks she’s tough
She ain’t no English rose
But the blind singer
He’s seen enough and he knows
Yes and he do a song about a long-gone Irish girl
Ah but I got one for you, Portobello Belle

[Verse 2]
She sees a man upon his back there
Escaping from a sack there
And Bella donna lingers
Her gloves ain’t got no fingers
Yeah, the blind man sing in Irish
He get his money in a tin dish
Just a corner serenader
Upon a time he could have made her, made her

She thinks she’s tough
She ain’t no English rose
But the blind singer
He’s seen enough and he knows
Yes and he do a song about a long-gone Irish girl
Oh but I got one for you, Portobello Belle

[Verse 3]
Yes and the barrow boys are hawking
And the parakeet’s squawking
Upon a truck there is a rhino
She get the crying of a wino
And then she hear the reggae rumble
Bella donna’s in the jungle
But she is no garden flower
There is no distress in the tower

Bella donna walks
Bella donna taking a stroll
She don’t care about your window box or your buttonhole
Yes and she sing a song about a long-gone Irish girl
Ah but I got one for you, Portobello Belle

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,063: ‘Portobello Belle’ – Dire Straits

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I’ve always been a casual fan of their (and his) sound. I think this is a good inclusion into the Rock Hall. Too bad Knopfler didn’t attend the ceremony. Life is too short and these moments too meaningful to let them pass.

  2. Amy says:

    Hmmm. I just went down a bit of a rabbit hole trying to figure out what happened. (First sign of empty nester syndrome? 😉

    Seems Knopfler, who hasn’t spoken to his brother and Co-founder of the band in 30 years!! may have just been a bit overwhelmed by their own success. He said he’d view any reunion tour as a money grab and implied that they were pushed by outside forces to be bigger than the “optimal size,” whatever he means by that.

    I only listen to a handful of their songs, but I consider those masterpieces. Add his score of The Princess Bride, and he earned in me a forever fan.

  3. Christian Nyman says:

    which album has Portobello Belle (live) on it ?

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