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).
Get out your parachute pants, Members Only jackets and shoulder pads, because we’re heading to the 80s. Specifically, 1980, as I offer up another installment of my Decades series.
Last year I featured the albums of 1972, ’82, ’92 and 2002 (starting with ’72 because it’s my birth year) and earlier this year I rewound to look at the music of 1970. My plan is to cover 1980, 1990 and 2000 before the year is through.
While I’m undoubtedly an album guy, and all of my song picks the past few weeks have come from albums and artists I number among my favorites, here is at least one exception.
I like Dire Straits but I wouldn’t say I’m a Dire Straits fan. I own only two of their albums — Brothers In Arms and Making Movies — and I am drawn more to individual songs than the complete records.
Best Albums of the 80s – #18
Brothers in Arms – Dire Straits (1985)
Almost all of the albums on this list belong to artists whose careers I’ve followed obsessively. Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms is the first exception.
It’s not that I’m not a fan of the Knopfler brothers’ British rock band — on the contrary, I’ve liked pretty much everything of theirs I’ve heard. But they just never made their way onto my radar in a way that would line their six albums up on my shelf.
Bob Dylan has two songs represented over the next couple of weeks, and so too does Mark Knopfler. First up is Mary Chapin Carpenter’s take on Dire Straits’ ‘The Bug,’ a hit track from their final album, 1991’s On Every Street.
Carpenter released her version of the song on her 1992 album Come On Come On, a fine work that also includes ten original compositions and her hit cover of Lucinda Williams’ ‘Passionate Kisses.’
This song is a good case study for the old “can anything be country?” argument. I’d classify the Dire Straits original as more of a blues rock track, but it’s really not all that different from Carpenter’s version, which is clearly country.
I’m finishing the week with my favorite Dire Straits song, the title track of Brothers in Arms. This is what I call a “hold your breath” song, because you kind of have to do that from start to finish.
I’m usually partial to the piano as my instrument of choice. I get off on the ivory acrobatics of Ben Folds and the sumptuous playing of Billy Joel and Elton John. But a guitar handled just the right way is tough to beat, and Knopfler’s guitar work on this song is unmatched.
Dire Straits’ 1985 album Brothers in Arms was their artistic and commercial highpoint. They released one other album (On Every Street in 1991) but it was pretty much an afterthought. Brothers in Arms, propelled by mega-hits ‘Money For Nothing’ and ‘Walk of Life,’ sold more than 9 million copies in the U.S. and more than 13 million in the U.K.
It was also the first album to sell more than a million copies in the CD format, which was relatively new at the time. The compact disc of Brothers in Arms contained longer versions of several songs than their vinyl counterparts, and the digital mastering made it a must-have for early adopters.