All of the early groundwork that Dire Straits had put into cultivating their audience with tireless live work and a strong first album brought them a new reward exactly 37 years ago. As June turned to July in 1979, their second LP Communique reached a second-week peak of No. 5 in the UK and, at the same time, became the third-highest new entry on Billboard’s Top LPs and Tape chart.
It had been only in April that the previous year’s self-titled debut album, fuelled by the success of the reissued ‘Sultans Of Swing’ single, rebounded in the UK and hit a new peak of No. 5. When the sophomore release came along, again entirely written by Mark Knopfler, the first set sold alongside it and stayed on the chart clean through into October.
Communique had wasted no such time in reaching the band’s new fan base, with a UK peak at No. 6. As it climbed one place the following week, Dire Straits was still selling well at No. 21; its successor would spend nine weeks in the top 20.
Knopfler and bandmate Pick Withers had spent May that year recording with Bob Dylan in Muscle Shoals, in sessions for his Slow Train Coming album. Then there was a UK tour for Dire Straits that ended with two nights at Hammersmith Odeon in London, and as Communique hit the record racks, another sellout set of British and European dates.
The album made its first appearance on the June 30 US chart at No. 53, a healthy debut third only to Wings’ Back To The Egg at No. 45 and the Cars’ Candy-O at No. 48. Communique reached No. 11 in the States in early August, as the band prepared for their second tour there in September.
Talking to Melody Maker as the album came out, Knopfler acknowledged that Communique was something of a reflection of how his, and the band’s, life had changed with the success of the first album. “Your lifestyle changes so dramatically that it’s bound to affect what you do. But the change in lifestyle hasn’t affected a change in sense of self at all,” he said.
“I seem to remember people saying things about the first record…they’re saying things about this record which are complimentary compared to what some of the people were saying about the first record when it came out. And I think that maybe a bit of time will change some of those people’s ideas about what they think they hear.”