For those of you who were buying music in the mid-80s, you had quite the option of how you procured your tunes. Some folks were still clinging on to vinyl LPs, others had fully converted to cassette tapes for better on-the-go functionality. Compact disks were just starting to become a thing, but many folks weren’t sure if this new-fangled technology was worth the major cash you had to fork over. Today’s featured album was engineered specifically for the CD format and was one of the first to sell more CDs than LPs.
Other than being pioneers of technology, Dire Straits was known for making pretty solid rock music. Back in 1977, a couple of brothers, Mark and David Knopfler formed a band with a couple of buddies. They had a five-track demo tape they took to a BBC London radio station. With the intent just to get advice from the DJ, they took in the demo tape for feedback. The DJ enjoyed one track so much he put it on steady rotation. That track was ‘Sultans of Swing’, which would become the lead single on their debut album (and also an EPIC song).
We’re focusing today on their fifth studio release, Brothers In Arms, which came out in May of 1985. Let’s get the accolades out of way early: this is one of the best-selling albums worldwide at over 30 million sold; it’s the eighth best-selling all time in the UK; it won two Grammy awards in 1986, and it sits at #51 on the Greatest Albums of All Time list. After listening to this a couple times today, it’s easy to see why. It’s a great blend of rock, but it’s a bit folky and a little new wave in spots. It’s a pretty unique blend of music, and I have to assume not something overly common for the times.
Given the popularity of the record, I’m sure there are a couple tracks you’ve heard before on the album. ‘Walk of Life’ has been a staple in every baseball stadium in the world for many years, and ‘Money for Nothing’ has been a standard on rock radio for decades. The video for the latter was also one of the most-played music videos for MTV in the era. It’s also only one of two songs in Dire Straits history with writing credits given to someone outside the Knopfler brothers—specifically, it was co-written by Sting.
Although this album has only nine tracks, five of them were commercially released singles. I’m not sure I can say anything more about it, other than it’s a solid piece of music history. It plays like more than just another rock album, with features like pan flute, reggae-influenced drum beats and even the use of eerie background noise on a couple tracks. Interestingly, while the album was written as a commentary on the senselessness of war, I’m not sure you can tell just by listening to it.
Dire Straits seems to be a forgotten band to many, but one you should definitely listen to today. Five bucks for such an outstanding album, almost seems like you’re robbing Amazon.
Top 3 Tracks: