In America, the singles heyday of Dire Straits didn’t arrive until the Money For Nothing album phenomenon of 1985 put them on just about every chart you can imagine. But as they built up to that, 8 January 1983 brought them a Billboard Hot 100 entry with ‘Industrial Disease,’ a rock radio favourite from the album that had come out a few months before, Love Over Gold.
The song, which at just under six minutes was the shortest on the album, was Mark Knopfler‘s typically pithy take on the decline that by then had set in across the British manufacturing industry. “The work force is disgusted, downs tools and walks,” he wrote. “Innocence is injured, experience just talks/Everyone seeks damages and everyone agrees/That these are ‘classic symptoms of a monetary squeeze.”
The lyric also had a smart reference to “brewer’s droop,” the phrase that described loss of libido through drinking too much alcohol, but which had another meaning for Knopfler. As devotees know, Brewers Droop was the band that latterly featured both the writer-guitarist and fellow future Dire Straits member Pick Withers, who played on ‘Industrial Disease.’ Both were part of the earlier band’s line-up towards the end of their run in 1973.
‘Industrial Disease’ was already in its 11th week on Billboard’s chart of the most-played songs on US rock radio when the single entered the Hot 100. It was backed by ‘Solid Rock,’ another of the band’s early rock favourites, from the Making Movies album.
As a 45, ‘Disease’ failed to make a significant crossover, peaking at No. 75 and totalling just four weeks on the chart, but the song was a substantial hit in Canada and the parent album continued to sell and lived up to its name with gold certification by the RIAA in 1986. By then, Dire Straits’ American — and global — takeover was in full effect.
‘Industrial Disease’ is on Love Over Gold, which can be bought here.