Saturday, October 24, 2015
Dire Straits took a low ride to be the story in the solid rock of this cinematic streetsuss serenade. The group had formed in 1977 and their first album Dire Straits slowly gained momentum as their second Communiqué was released in 1979. Bandleader Mark Knopfler began writing songs with an ambitious new vision for their sound: "Just for the record, Communiqué did sell three million copies. In a lot of countries it did better than the first. The hang-up about Communiqué was an American thing. But having said that, I still don't think it was a very good record. Making Movies was closer to what I like to do. On that record I was determined I would not be immobilized by anything. I was going on, to do what I knew I could do. I just kept on working. I decided against being waylaid, to be a survivor instead of casualty. That break gave me the time to consider all that had happened and to express it in terms of music. Retrospect's a really good thing. Time to think and write it down. Some of those songs were written during a period of turbulence. I wasn't felling good or collected when I wrote "Solid Rock"; I deliberately wrote and recorded that and "Expresso Love" fast. I took more time to record "Romeo and Juliet" because it took more time to write and demanded special attention. To crystallize: If you can turn negative energy into positive, turn a dire straits situation, excuse the term, into one that is positive, you're not going to go under, you're creating. Like someone who could write a book in prison. The songs are linked in that sense. It wasn't conscious, but I see the Sultans, Les Bouys, the roller skate girl, and Romeo all change disadvantage into advantage. Rather than leave it thay make something with it. I'm not advocating adverse circumstanses, but if they come you have to create from it."
Work on 'Making Movies' began in June of 1980; but there was tension between Mark and his brother David. David reveals: "I founded the band to be a vehicle for my song-writing and as events progressed, it became apparent that the band was becoming a conduit, almost exclusively, for Mark's song-writing. There simply wasn't enough oxygen left to do anything more than perform set parts ad-nauseum in sports stadiums converted for the night to music venues... and the possibility of enjoying a show in those conditions is very limited. It wasn't the life I wanted and strained relations with my brother provided me with the tipping point to call it a day and leave. It was three years of intense work that revolutionalised my life though arguably, spiritually speaking, not much of it for the better. It did however provide me with a second education after my formal degree which I think did ultimately provide me with the tools to pick up, where I'd left off, and get on with making my own work...I quit in New York in August 1980, several weeks into recording our third album Making Movies, over the usual personal and musical tensions that beset all bands. By then we'd sold enough records to give me a shed full of neglected platinum discs that sadly I felt no pride or respect for...[Mark] was the bloke I had shared a bedroom with. How could I be deferential to him? Mark and I had a different vision of what we were up to. I was building a democracy and Mark was making an autocracy. Everything put a strain on us...I spent a lot of time doing therapy and dealing with my issues and ghosts and demons."
The sessions continued at The Power Station in New York with Mark Knopfler co-producing with Jimmy Iovine. Iovine remembers: "I love doing third albums. A group makes its first album, and then the record company rushes them into the studio to make their second album. After that, they go, 'Whoa, wait a second.' They get a little more confident. They step back and say, 'Okay, now we're gonna do it.'...I think he wanted to take Dire Straits to that next step, especially in terms of the songs, and to have the album really make sense all together, which I think it does. It's a really cohesive album. He stunned me, as far as his songwriting talents. The songs on that album are almost classical in nature...It basically happened on the first six days of the sessions. The right people were in the room together. It really was making a record in the pure sense of the term. The whole thing sounds like one song. But you know what that is? That's the writing, the guy who wrote it. He wrote the album like that; he wanted to make the album like that."
'Making Movies' features Mark Knopfler on vocals and guitar; John Illsley on bass and vocals; Pick Withers on drums and vocals; with the addition of Sid McGinnis on guitar and E Street Band member Roy Bittan on keyboards. Bittan says: "Mark was real excited, because it was the first time he expanded Dire Straits in a way that has been consistent since then. It was a seminal album for them in that respect...[These were] work sessions where we went in and really took time to capture the emotion and paint the picture.... They were not very straightforward songs. The subtleties of emotion that he was trying to capture was something real special — it reminded me of Bruce, you know?"
'Making Movies' skated to number nineteen in the US, fifteen in Austria, seven in Germany, six in Australia and the Netherlands, four in Sweden and the UK, three in New Zealand, and number one in Norway.
Tunnel of Love
Romeo and Juliet
All songs were written by Mark Knopfler, except where indicated
Tunnel of Love - 0:00 (Extract from "The Carousel Waltz" by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II)
Romeo and Juliet - 8:06
Skateaway - 13:59
Expresso Love - 20:38
Hand in Hand - 25:49
Solid Rock - 30:38
Les Boys - 34:04