It's been nearly 40 years since Dire Straits were propelled to worldwide fame with the release of their multiplatinum album "Brothers in Arms."
With the hugely popular song "Money for Nothing," and its influential music video, guitarist Mark Knopfler, keyboardist Alan Clark and the rest of the band became superstars on a global scale. "Brothers in Arms" has gone onto sell more than 30 million albums worldwide, including nine million in America, and is nearing diamond status of more than 10 million albums sold in the United States.
And then after one more album, it pretty much ended. Dire Straits played their final full concert in 1992. And aside from a few reunions for charity, the band has stayed silent.
That is until a little over 10 years ago when Clark got an offer to perform Dire Straits tunes for a charity gig at the Royal Albert Hall. That performance on May 22, 2011, which featured former Dire Straits saxophone player Chris White, gave Clark a moment of pause.
I’ve spent about 20% of my life as a member of Dire Straits and then when the band stopped playing together in the early 90s. I spent a lot of time not playing Dire Straits music, and then the opportunity to do so to play it again arose about 10 years ago for a charity show at the Royal Albert Hall," said Alan during a recent interview with Sinclair Broadcast Group. "It started out as a laugh and a bit of fun and then sort of developed into what it is now, which is still a laugh and a bit of fun, really, but it's a bit more serious than that.
Clark realized that the fans were in a bit of a fever pitch to hear those songs again after such a long live moratorium.
"I think the fans have been deprived of hearing the music played live or certainly be played properly live show," he said. "And so that's what we bring to the arena. It goes down incredibly well. People are really, really appreciative of the fact that we're out there doing it."
Dire Straits Legacy features original Dire Straits band member Alan Clark (piano/keyboards) and Dire Straits musicians Danny Cummings (percussion), Mel Collins (saxophone) and Phil Palmer (guitar/musical director) – along with esteemed Italian musicians Marco Caviglia (vocals/guitar), Primiano Di Biase (keyboards) and Cristiano Micalizzi (drums). DSL is out on the road in the States through the end of September, bringing the vast catalogue of not only the hit songs, but the entire Dire Straits catalogue at their disposal.
The formation of Dire Straits goes back to 1977 when Knopfler and his brother David hooked up with bass guitarist John Illsley and drummer Pick Withers. They immediately struck upon a sound that would eventually propel them to superstardom. You could hear that unique sound on their first single "Sultans of Swing" in 1978. That song would reach Top 5 in several countries around the world, including America.
After three albums, Clark joined the band in 1980 and got his feet wet in the recording process for their 1982 album "Love over Gold," which took Dire Strait's music from elegant simplicity to cinematic grandeur. It features one of Clark's favorite songs to play live "Private Investigations," which can be found kicking off some of the band's latest gigs.
But the song "Industrial Disease" with Clark's trademark keyboard compositions that gives fans a hint of what to expect from their next album "Brothers in Arms." The song has the flavor of "Money for Nothing" or "Walk of Life" but you could tell the band was laying the groundwork for their masterpiece.
You can't talk about Dire Straits without mentioning their masterpiece album "Brothers in Arms." That was one of those complete albums that you could play from beginning to end without picking up the needle, a reference to the newly popular vinyl LP format.
It seemed all of Dire Straits' previous work was leading them towards this creation. The maturation process in songwriting had hit a zenith that was felt worldwide.
When asked about "Love Over Gold" and "Brothers in Arms," Clark said recording those albums was a complete 180 degrees from the band's previous work.
Mark would maintain the same sort of vibe from one album to another, so when 'Love Over Gold' came out, that was a completely different album to the previous three records," he said. "And then 'Brothers in Arms' was a move in another completely different direction. And credit all to (Mark). He seems to have his finger on the pulse at the right moment. And it did extremely well.
"So Far Away" was the first single released from "Brothers in Arms" and went Top 20 in many countries, but it was the second single "Money for Nothing" that hit No. 1 in America and spent three weeks in the top spot. Sting's signature vocals could be heard in the song's intro when he exclaims "I Want My MTV," a catchy ad slogan the then fledgling music video channel used to gain dominance over the American music industry back in the 80s.
"Well, when you make an album, you never you never know if it's going to become big. I mean, we didn't anticipate 'Brothers in Arms' to become as big as is," Clark said. "I still remember when I first heard that guitar riff. I thought 'this is going to become one of the classic guitar riffs of all time.' But as far as the song, I didn't know if 'Money for Nothing' would be taken seriously or not. But it certainly did."
One of the misconceptions about the song "Money for Nothing" is who came up with the idea to include the phrase "I Want My MTV" in the song. In a 2022 interview with Music Radar, Clark gives his input on the discussion.
Well, there’s that line – ‘I want my MTV’. My esteemed and much-loved fellow band member John Illsley, in his book ‘Brothers in Arms – My Life in Dire Straits,’ mentions it was Mark Knopfler’s idea to include the line ‘I want my MTV’. Entirely forgivable. It was 36 years ago But it wasn’t Mark’s idea. In rehearsals when Mark first played ‘Money For Nothing’ to the band, there was no intro and no ‘I want my MTV’. It started with an early version of that guitar riff. During a break in rehearsals, when most of the band were out of the room, I started creating the intro on my keyboards, singing ‘I want my MTV’. By the end of the day, the track had an intro. That’s the short version. For the record: the idea was mine.
And one of the reason's for the song's meteoric rise to the top of the charts was its influential music video, complete with computer graphics that blew the minds of kids and grownups around the world, but Knopfler was reportedly not impressed by it.
To me it was almost like a dream sequence,” he told Ultimate Classic Rock of how he had envisaged the clip. “I’d visualized a kid in his bedroom with that ‘I want my MTV’ thing happening and the camera rushing over the landscape – as I’ve said before, it’s a good thing I never had anything to do with the video!
"Walk of Life," "Your Latest Trick" and the title track were also released as singles, but "Brothers in Arms" is one of those pieces of work that is best played in its entirety to really appreciate the body of work.
Numerous accolades were bestowed on the album "Brothers in Arms," including Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. But "Brothers in Arms" is also the album that was one of the first to be fully digitally recorded and the first to sell a million copies on new compact disc format. The first CD to outsell its vinyl LP edition.
Dire Straits were finally inducted in 2018 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which saw Clark reunite with John Illsley and Guy Fletcher at the ceremony. A sort of validation for all the hard work the band had put into crafting a catalogue of timeless classics that are still being played today.
And after over four decades since he joined Dire Straits, Clark says he's happy to give the fans a chance to hear these incredible tunes live once again.
"It's great to revisit these tunes, especially since I never really expected to do it again," he said. "I didn't have any ambition to reform or play them again after Dire Straits stopped. But when I did, it was like a reawakening. It's so great to hear the audience react when they hear those songs again."
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