Dire Straits’ Self-Titled Debut Album: A Modest UK Chart Arrival
On July 22, 1978, Dire Straits had something to show for their early efforts in terms of a UK chart position – but only just.
The old music industry adage of great things coming from modest beginnings was rarely more true than in the case of Dire Straits. In their formative months, the group had to endure plenty of low-profile gigs that paid next to nothing, and lots of travelling to their own shows in a van, or on public transport. On July 22, 1978, they first had something to show for their efforts in terms of a UK chart position — but only just.
Dire Straits’ self-titled debut album was recorded at London’s Basing Street Studios from February 1978 with producer Muff Winwood. It arrived with the band emerging as critical favorites, supporting Talking Heads, the Climax Blues Band, and Gerry Rafferty on UK dates, and playing headline shows of their own. The LP contained the later hit single “Sultans Of Swing,” as well as “Southbound Again,” “Down To The Waterline,” and other examples of one of the tightest little four-piece bands on the live circuit.
Listen to uDiscover Music’s Dire Straits Best Of playlist.
All of that would eventually lead to a big hit album, but certainly not at first. “Sultans Of Swing” missed the UK charts altogether when first released. It was only in April that, fuelled by the success of the reissued single, the album rebounded in the UK and hit a new peak of No.5. Back in the summer of 1978, the going was tougher.
Dire Straits made its UK chart debut as disco ruled the roost, with the Saturday Night Fever in the 12th of an incredible, unbroken 18-week run at No.1. Rock giants new and old were big, from the Rolling Stones and the Moody Blues to Genesis and (Straits’ Vertigo labelmates) Thin Lizzy. The hot new British singer-songwriter of the year was Kate Bush.
Barely Top 40
In that environment, a band with no visual gimmicks and only their songs and live reputation to help them were always going to find it tough, even if they were the big new label priorities. The album entered the Top 75 at No.48, in between releases by Irish flautist James Galway and American rock heavyweights Van Halen. A week later, it climbed to No.40 but then fell back to its entry position.
The album flickered around the charts for the rest of the year, peaking at No.38 in early September. But it wasn’t until 1979, with the momentum of a hit single and new-found American success, that Dire Straits really got their foot on the commercial ladder in their home country. Once they did, there was no turning back.
Reviewing the album at the time for Rolling Stone, Ken Tucker wrote of “an English quartet led by singer songwriter Mark Knopfler [that] plays tight, spare mixtures of rock, folk and country music with a serene spirit and witty irony. It’s almost as if they were aware that their forte has nothing to do with what’s currently happening in the industry, but couldn’t care less…as a writer, Knopfler pens terse little narratives about the mundane problems of his brethren: women trouble, money trouble, one’s-place-in-the-world trouble.”
Dire Straits reached its eventual top five UK peak in April of that year, amassing eight weeks in the top ten in their home country. The album continued to pop up in the lower reaches of the British countdown throughout the 1980s and into the 90s, outlasting even the active life of the group itself.
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July 22, 2015 at 8:41 pm
When David will arrive to Finland concert in the country?
July 22, 2015 at 9:45 pm
Always loved the sound that the original 4 members had the starkness you could really feel the room those first LP were recorded in and then Mark took it up a few notches and lost it for me but he made a lot of money and thats what its all about RIGHT.
August 11, 2015 at 6:04 pm
I can’t dispute what you are saying, but Brothers In Arms was a good album. Now that Money For Nothing is not being overplayed on the radio I rather enjoy listening to it.
July 23, 2015 at 3:20 am
I’m late as a fan but Mark Knopler is ex ellent as an artist is his music speaks to me.
July 23, 2015 at 4:24 am
hello .. j’ecoute mon groupe Dire Straits de puis 34 ans et je me régale toujours de ce son de guitard de Mark .. chaques jours j’écoute ses chansons .. et je ne m’en lasserais jamais …….. robert 😉
August 21, 2015 at 3:11 am
@lhote Robert A very good reply, Robert! (Votre reponse est tres bien!!) 🙂
February 29, 2016 at 7:38 pm
Si.. J’adore le joueur de guitare et le son merveilleux et distinctif de sa guitare. Mon solo favori est du célèbre hit: “Sultan of Swing”, pour toujour!!!
July 23, 2015 at 3:51 pm
Still my favorite Dire Straits release. Love that Knopfler tone.
July 23, 2015 at 9:49 pm
Sou fã desses caras
July 26, 2015 at 1:59 pm
Still consider Alchemy the best live recording ever!
February 28, 2016 at 7:53 pm
I agree 100 %
August 22, 2015 at 2:39 am
I can’t resist Sharing this, but I may have been one of Mark’s very first Fans!! We were both admiring a window display of musical instruments, back in the ’50s, but my bus arrived and I had to go! But his face stayed in my memory, and when he first became popular, on T.V., I thought: “Isn’t he the boy I met briefly at the music shop, so many years ago?” I believe that he certainly was the one, and to use an old-fashioned expression, I am tickled-pink about having met him (or so I believe!) before fame truly came his way!!
August 27, 2015 at 1:56 am
Could Mark please tell me, in confidence, the name of the girl in the empty room?? She reminds me of someone I know!
September 20, 2015 at 9:02 am
@Rock Singer. Yes the four piece were fantastic, and it wasn’t until making movies that David departed.
But the big one was it was never about MONEY. That came due to there musicianship and pure determination.
If people put the effort they did now then we would have better talent in the charts. Cheers. Best group I’ve ever known, personally as well.
December 31, 2015 at 2:40 pm
Saw them twice back in the early 80s. Ok, the sound was more raw than the studio version but Mark’s skill on guitar made them concerts one of my highlights of the 80s. I also loved some of the experimentation he did after DS.
January 1, 2016 at 2:45 am
I have listened to Dire Straits since 1979. Best band ever. so great of memories driving my 69 442 olds, going to high school in Scappoose Or. Still think there as good as NIRVANA. Keep up the great life experience Mark. If your ever in Portland OR. let me know.
February 28, 2016 at 4:44 pm
Ik heb alle cd’s van hun en ben ook naar een concert geweest in de kuip in Rotterdam. Echt GRANDIOOS heb echt genoten.
May 21, 2016 at 9:10 pm
Are any of the early Dire Straits LPs numbered? I was in Plymouth in about July 78. I wandered into a record store and they were playing the Dite Straits album. A roadie had dropped in the record because Dire Straits were playing at the local hall for 1 pound entry that night. I bought the promotional LP that the local record store was playing. It only has a sticker on one side. Still got it. Worth anything? There are some numbers stamped into the vinyl near the album’s centre.
July 22, 2017 at 9:31 pm
If i’ m not mistaken, their ” glorydays” began in the Netherlands. Sultans of swing became a number 1 hit over here so the british started to think that they’ d missed something. From then on things started to roll….
July 23, 2017 at 3:24 am
My all time Knopfler favorite is the Notting hillbillies. Check out the live at their live at the snape concert on you tube. Working on the railroad and your own sweet way will blow your mind. Not only are knopflers solos life changing but guy Fletcher’s piano/keyboard is world class.
July 23, 2017 at 6:59 am
I can remember I was 15 years old when my friend got this record in 1977. It was very difficult to get this one because we had lived in the GDR. So you would understand what it meant to us. We played the record again and again, I followed the music of Dire Straits up today.
James R Ford -author
July 24, 2017 at 4:09 am
Did they do a song called ‘Water of Love’ (first album maybe?).