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Dire Straits Biography

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Dire Straits In-depth Biography

Dire Straits} emerged during the post-punk} era of the late '70s, and while their sound was minimalistic and stripped down, they owed little to punk}. If anything, the band was a direct outgrowth of the roots revivalism of pub rock}, but where pub rock} celebrated good times, Dire Straits} were melancholy. Led by guitarist/vocalist Mark Knopfler}, the group built their sound upon the laid-back blues-rock} of J.J. Cale}, but they also had jazz} and country} inflections, occasionally dipping into the epic song structures of progressive rock}. The band's music was offset by Knopfler}'s lyrics, which approximated the winding, stream-of-conscious narratives of Bob Dylan}. As their career progressed, Dire Straits} became more refined and their new maturity happened to coincide with the rise of MTV} and the compact disc. These two musical revolutions from the mid-'80s helped make Dire Straits}' sixth album, Brothers in Arms}, an international blockbuster. The band -- along with Eric Clapton}, Phil Collins}, and Steve Winwood} -- become one of the leaders of a group of self-consciously mature veteran rock & rollers in the late '80s that designed their music to appeal to aging baby boomers. Despite the band's international success, they couldn't sustain their stardom, waiting a full six years to deliver a follow-up to Brothers in Arms}, by which time their audience had shrunk significantly.

Knopfler} (born August 12, 1949) was always the main force behind Dire Straits}. The son of an architect, Knopfler} studied English literature at Leeds University and worked briefly as a rock} critic for the Yorkshire Evening Post} while at college. He began teaching English after his graduation, leading a pub rock} band called Brewer's Droop} at night. By 1977, Mark} was playing with his brother David} (guitar) and his roommate John Illsley} (bass). During the summer of 1977, the trio cut a demo with drummer Pick Withers}. A London DJ named Charlie Gillett} heard the demo and began playing "Sultans of Swing"} on his BBC} show Honky Tonkin'. Following a tour opening for Talking Heads}, the band began recording their debut for Vertigo Records} with producer Muff Winwood} in early 1978. By the summer, they had signed with Warner} in America, releasing their eponymous debut in the fall. Thanks to the Top Ten hit "Sultans of Swing,"} Dire Straits} was a major success in both Britain and America, with the single and album climbing into the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic.

Dire Straits} established Dire Straits} as a major force on album-oriented radio in America, and their second album, Communique} (1979), consolidated their audience, selling three million copies worldwide. As the group was recording its third album, Knopfler} left the band to pursue a solo career; he was replaced by former Darling} member Hal Lindes}. Like its predecessor, Making Movies} was a sizable hit in America and Britain, even though the band was criticized for musically treading water. Nevertheless, the record went gold on the strength of the radio and MTV} hits "Romeo and Juliet"} and "Skateaway."} Dire Straits} followed the album two years later with Love Over Gold}, an album filled with long, experimental passages, plus the single "Private Investigations,"} which became a number two hit in the U.K. The album went gold in America and spent four weeks at number one in Britain. Shortly after the release of Love Over Gold}, former Rockpile} drummer Terry Williams} replaced Withers}.

During 1982, Knopfler} began exploring musical avenues outside of Dire Straits}, scoring the Bill Forsyth} film Local Hero} and playing on Van Morrison}'s Beautiful Vision}. Apart from releasing the Twisting by the Pool} EP early in 1983, Dire Straits} were quiet for the majority of 1983 and 1984, as Knopfler} produced Bob Dylan}'s Infidels}, as well as Aztec Camera} and Willy DeVille}; he also wrote "Private Dancer} for Tina Turner}'s comeback album. In the spring of 1984, the band released the double album Alchemy: Dire Straits Live} and by the end of the year, they had begun recording their fifth studio album with their new keyboardist, Guy Fletcher}. Released in the summer of 1985, Brothers in Arms} was Dire Straits}' breakthrough album, making the band international stars. Supported by the groundbreaking computer-animated video for "Money for Nothing,"} a song which mocked music videos, the album became a blockbuster, spending nine weeks at the top of the American charts and selling over nine million copies; in England, the album became the biggest-selling album of the '80s. "Walk of Life"} and "So Far Away"} kept Brothers in Arms} in the charts through 1986, and Dire Straits} played over 200 dates in support of the album. Once the tour was completed, Dire Straits} went on hiatus for several years, as Knopfler} produced records by Randy Newman} and Joan Armatrading}, scored films, toured with Eric Clapton}, and recorded a duet album with Chet Atkins} (Neck and Neck}, 1990). In 1989, he formed the country-rock} group Notting Hillbillies}, whose sole album, Missing...Presumed Having a Good Time}, became a British hit upon its spring 1990 release. During the extended time off, John Illsley} recorded his second album; the first appeared in 1984.

In 1990, Knopfler} reconvened Dire Straits}, which now featured Illsley}, Clark}, Fletcher}, and various session musicians. The band released On Every Street} in the fall of 1991 to great anticipation. However, the album failed to meet expectations -- it only went platinum in America and it didn't crack the U.K. Top 40 -- and failed to generate a hit single. Similarly, the tour was a disappointment, with many tickets going unsold in both the U.S. and Europe. Once the tour was completed, the live album On the Night} was released in the spring of 1993 and the band again went on hiatus. In 1996, Knopfler} launched his solo career with Golden Heart}. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

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