Double Four Time: Dire Straits in Four Songs

October makes me gravitate to a certain style of music. I grow more reflective and pensive as we move past harvest time and into a time of frosts and falling leaves, and my playlist tends to reflect this mood. Van Morrison, U2, Steely Dan all start appearing more than they did in the warmer months with longer days. And so too does Dire Straits. Four in particular become standards of Autumn evenings, which grow longer by the day. A good time for roaring fires and a dram of your favorite scotch.

Sultans of Swing
“You check out guitar George, he knows-all the chords
Mind, it’s strictly rhythm he doesn’t want to make it cry or sing
They said an old guitar is all, he can afford
When he gets up under the lights to play his thing”

This one has to be there, of course. Perhaps you might make a case for Money For Nothing as the “hit” to include on the list, but I’m partial to their first big song. Packed with relentless energy, this one is a great driving with fallen leaves scattering about behind you song. Or maybe early in the evening before the coals really start glowing and reflecting the truth right back at you.

Down To The Waterline
“Up comes a coaster fast and silent in the night
Over my shoulder all you can see
Are the pilot lights
No money in our jackets and our jeans are torn
Your hands are cold but your lips are warm”

One of those songs that starts in a moody, almost sultry place. But you know its going to burst into flames of passion soon enough, and it doesn’t disappoint. You know these guys lived the portrait they’re painting in this song, going down to the waterline to have some quiet intimacy. The song ends way too soon, like those waterline visits probably did.

Brothers in Arms
“Through these fields of destruction
Baptism of fire
I’ve watched all your suffering
As a battle raged high
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms”

As a student of the violent history of humanity, I get a catch in my throat when I hear this song. I’ve never been to war, never been in the military for that matter, but I pay attention when those who have tell what it was like. I’ve heard this song resonates with veterans, and while I’ll never fully understand what they went through, I think I can understand why.

On Every Street
“There’s gotta be a record of you someplace
You gotta be on somebody’s books
The lowdown, a picture of your face
Your injured looks
The sacred and profane
The pleasure and the pain
Somewhere your fingerprints remain concrete
And it’s your face I’m looking for on every street”

Haunted by someone you once knew, or wanted to know. If The Police’s Every Breath You Take was a “stalker song”, this is a song of longing unfulfilled. And who hasn’t felt that? As Mark Knopfler guitar songs go, this one is right up there on my list of favorites, along with Sultans of Swing and Wild Theme from his solo catalog.

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