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RS Essentials: 5 Dire Straits Hits (But Don’t Expect ‘Sultans of Swing’)

These lesser-known numbers showcase the broad range of melodies that the British band embodies

Shunashir Sen May 04, 2022

Dire Straits are one of the most well-known classic rock acts of all time. Photo: Rolling Stone US

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‘Why Worry’ – Brothers in Arms (1985)

Sometimes, the chips are down. You stumble over life’s hurdles with seemingly no one around to pick you up. It’s in moments like these that “Why Worry” serves as a balm for a wounded heart and battered mind. The song is as gentle as a feather floating to the ground. It literally tells you that “there will be laughter after pain, there will be sunshine after rain,” thus reversing the idiom, ‘All good things must come to an end.’   

‘My Parties’ – On Every Street (1991)

You think you throw great house parties? You think people feel gutted when they don’t make it to your guest list? Well, guess what. Your shindigs are nothing compared to the ones that Mark Knopfler has at his place. They start in his backyard where there is a portable hammock (you don’t have one, do you?). Then, when it gets chilly, people move indoors where there is a brass toilet tissue holder with its own telephone (you don’t have that either? Tsk tsk). Knopfler, “the host with the most,” mingles around making all his guests feel equally at ease. But don’t expect a second invite if you prattle on about serious issues like populist governments or the ice caps melting. Refill your glass of punch instead and keep the conversation casual.

‘On Every Street’ – On Every Street (1991)

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Most people tend to associate Dire Straits with Knopfler’s guitar, and he is indeed a wizard with the instrument (that solo at the end of “Sultans of Swing” is pure magic). But their tunes also often have sublime saxophone parts that play the role of an important side character even as the guitar plays the lead. Take the title track in On Every Street. The melody begins with Chris White’s sax laying the foundation in an unassuming manner, before the full cast of characters – lead, slide and bass guitars, and drums – reveal themselves in a crescendo that’s worthy of a standing ovation.

‘Twisting by the Pool’ – Money for Nothing (1988)

There are times when you go for a holiday with a bagful of expectations but things don’t go as planned. Say, you were hoping to soak up some sun on the beach, only for miserably wet weather to rain on your parade. Or, you were looking forward to burning the dance floor with your friends at the hippest club in town, but are asked for ID and denied entry because you left it back at your hotel. These things happen, but not to Knopfler and gang. The holiday he describes in “Twisting by the Pool” is so much fun that it’s replete with images of magnificent villas, quaint cafés, raucous cabarets, and swish discotheques where the vacationers make new friends. Knopfler’s girlfriend is also part of the group, lounging in a pool and looking so glamorous in her swimsuit and sunglasses that she seems fit for a glossy magazine cover. The upbeat music matches this revelry and even if your own holiday is an unmitigated disaster, play this track to lift your mood.

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‘Ticket to Heaven’ – On Every Street (1991)

Those who listen to the songs on this list in a chronological manner will notice that it’s interspersed with one track that makes you sit back in contemplation, with another that compels you to get up from your chair and move your feet. It’s testament to the broad range of musical maneuvers that Dire Straits is capable of. Evidence of that lies in their two most famous songs – “Brothers in Arms” and “Sultans of Swing” – which are sonically as opposite to each other as a hibernating bear is to a cheetah running at full throttle. And after the groovy nature of “Twisting by the Pool,” we’ll let you return to your seat with “Ticket to Heaven,” a song so peaceful that even a rioter with a brick in his hand will embrace his enemy. So, sit back, relax, and join Knopfler as he “rides all the way to paradise” with this soothing melody.

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