Sat Eye Candy: Dire Straits


When Dire Straits went looking for a keyboardist to tour the more keyboard heavy Making Movies in 1980, whoever got the job had big shoes to fill - the E Street Band’s Roy Bittan had played on the album. Enter Alan Clark, whose deep skill and compositional dexterity strongly influenced the group’s subsequent catalog, particularly their worldwide blowout Brothers In Arms. In between his duties with the Straits – with whom he remained until the band’s end in the mid-90s – Clark also worked with Elton John, George Harrison and many other luminaries, even serving as Tina Turner’s musical director during her 80s return to superstardom. Today is Alan Clark’s 59th birthday and we thought it was a good opportunity to celebrate his work with one of the finest rock bands to emerge from the late 70s to brighten up the often dreary mainstream music scene in the 1980s. True craftsmen they were. (Dennis Cook)

We begin with the leadoff track from Clark’s studio debut with Dire Straits. One immediately feels his presence in this music and how it shifted things for the band.

For all the stadium filling success their music would eventually net them, Dire Straits’ is flecked with quirky, weirdly funny oddities like this one [song starts after one minute intro by their manager]

Yes, it was omnipresent for a time but step back from it now and it’s a pretty cool song, eh? You might recognize the guitarist in the pink suit to Mark Knopfler’s left onstage.

One of the band’s strongest traits was their ability to simmer, something born of the blues but drawn with different calligraphy, like this killer off their self-titled 1978 debut.

By their second album, Communiqué, their songwriting reach had already grown considerably from the small band feel of their debut.

Though less of an event than Brothers In Arms, the follow-up On Every Street (1991), the Dire Straits’ final studio work, contains many great moments, including this fretboard workout.

Such a heartfelt, beautiful song to begin with, this performance from a mid-90s Nelson Mandela Birthday concert is an utterly lovely cry for humanity to unite in peace.

It’s closing time again. Who could have predicted these young bucks would conquer the planet?

[Published on: 3/5/11]

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