Money for nothing. Dire Straits happened before MTV, but their success was tied together. Remember when people actually watched MTV for rock videos?
Mark Knopfler and band formed in England in 1977 and had their first chart success in 1978. “Sultans of Swing” from their first album slowly made its way around the world and led to a recording contract with Warner Brothers. By the end of 1978 they had toured with the Talking Heads, embarked on a long and very successful tour of North America, helped Bob Dylan record an album and were hard at work in the Bahamas on their next album. That was quite a year. They would also be nominated for Grammy Awards for their self-titled debut album.
Their second album, Communique, similarly rose up the charts with “Lady Writer” as the lead single. It didn’t break any new ground but it proved that Dire Straits was here to stay.
In 1980, the band released Making Movies, an album that changed everything. There’s no mistaking the sound of Dire Straits, their mid-tempo, guitar-picking, low-key vocals by Knopfler, was a trademark recipe. It had a folky-style, but the music flowed like the lead guitar player was following a jazz chart. No band sounded like Dire Straits.
Making Movies showed the quick evolution of Knopfler as a writer and storyteller. His lyrics were thoughtful and burrowed deeper than the typical rock song on the radio. This album marked some line-up changes too. Knopfler’s rhythm-guitar player brother left the band, he was replaced by another guitar player, and the band added a keyboard player to sweeten the sound.
“Romeo and Juliet,” “Tunnel of Love” and “Solid Rock” we’re big songs from the Making Movies. Knopfler proved that he could writer rockers but also channel his sensitivity into sophisticated ballads. Dire Straits was in the big time now.
Love Over Gold followed in 1982. A curious album, it did not yield the hit singles like Making Movies. The songs were much longer in length, and it’s as if Knopfler wanted to prove the band could do more than write hits. Love Over Gold is a very thoughtful album and it takes several listens to fully appreciate Knopfler’s songs.
In 1984, Alchemy, a live album, was released of their last tour. The album also included music from Knopfler’s soundtrack to Local Hero. Always looking for the next challenge, Knopfler found it in composing for films. Local Hero was a quiet, charming little film that unwinds slowly.
The next year delivered Brothers in Arms, which would top the charts all around the world, sell more than 30 million copies, and win two Grammy Awards. When you list the handful of blockbuster albums of the decade, Brothers in Arms has to be on that list.
The song, “Money For Nothing,” was a number one hit in the U.S. The music video was the crazy computer animation that played continuously on MTV, and of course was the MTV video of the year.
“Walk of Life,” “So Far Away” and “Brothers in Arms” were other successful songs from the album.
In 1988, a greatest hits collection sold 14 million copies.
The last album of original material, On Every Street, was released in 1991, only reached number 12 on Billboard. Five singles came from the album:B
On the Night, their second live album, was released in 1993, and covered material from their recent albums. A companion live album, Encores, was released the same year.
Yet another live album, Live at the BBC, was released in 1995, but this was from sessions recorded in 1978.
Several “best of” collections followed, but no new Dire Straits music. Knopfler has been a solo artist since then, and has distanced himself from the Dire Straits, even failing to appear at the band’s 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
Knopfler has contributed to nine film soundtracks, ten solo albums, and collaborative albums with Chet Atkins, Emmylou Harris and The Notting Hillbillies.
On whether a possible Dire Straits reunion might happen, “Oh, I don’t know whether to start getting all that stuff back together again.” He added that the band’s success, “just got too big.”
Bonus video: Weird Al’s version of “Money For Nothing”