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reDiscover Dire Straits’ First Live Album ‘Alchemy’

It was the album that captured the band’s growing reputation as a live force.

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Alchemy album cover

The first live album by Dire Straits celebrated the long road they’d travelled and served notice that they were on their way to becoming the world’s biggest rock band of the day. We’re reDiscovering Alchemy, which entered the US chart on 21 April 1984.

The album was recorded at one of the band’s two nights at Hammersmith Odeon in London in July 1983, in the time after their first UK No. 1 with Love Over Gold and as they prepared to make the ultimate move to the very pinnacle of their profession with Brothers In Arms. 

As this writer observed in the liner notes for the 2010 reissue of Alchemy, the London performances followed a period of solo endeavours in which Mark Knopfler laid the groundwork for the solo career he follows with such distinction today. He completed the soundtrack to Bill Forsyth’s charming comedy Local Hero and won an Ivor Novello Award in the process for ‘Going Home.’

When Dire Straits gathered at Hammersmith Odeon, they were at the end of an extensive European tour that had included another London date at the Dominion Theatre two nights earlier. After two epic performances, the recordings of both were delivered to Knopfler at his home, but he was too exhausted from touring to listen to them.

Saturday, he remembered, had been a good night – so that’s what was used for the Alchemy release. Listening again now, the momentum of a band firing on all cylinders is unbroken, from the opening moments of ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’ to the valedictory ‘Going Home.’

Alchemy, released during the turmoil of the coal miners’ strike in the UK, debuted in the top three there and spent all but one week of its first seven months in the top 40. Once Brothers In Arms had become a sales phenomenon and fans flocked to catch up on the Straits catalogue, the live set spent more than three years in the top 100. It also spent 18 weeks in the Billboard 200, reaching No. 46.

In 2010, the album made its upgrade from the original vinyl and VHS video release to CD, DVD and Blu-ray, and stands as a reminder of a historic chapter in the Dire Straits story.

Alchemy can be bought here.

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Follow uDiscover’s Dire Straits Best Of playlist.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Greg, Finland

    March 14, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Right, over many years have enjoyed the lead guitarrists musical gift. Attended this ‘live in ’85’ in helsinki in those days, Amazing perfomance and forever on my mind!:-)

    Great stuff, keep playing
    Greg

  2. Fred

    April 13, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    Spotify? Seriously? Even with just 16gb there’s plenty of room for “Alchemy”, “On The Night” and every single album ever – though I’m still trying to figure out how to rip “Twisting by the Pool” off cassette to MP3 😉

    • Sheri

      March 13, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      Amazon has a vinyl player with a cassette player and conversion to MP3s. Just bought it for my grandson.

  3. Amr Labib

    November 7, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Best album ever. Still enjoy it after all these years

    • Mike S

      August 6, 2019 at 5:10 pm

      Agreed, still listening to Alchemy 35 years later on a regular basis. My favorite live album of any artist of all time!

  4. mk1

    November 7, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    I am a die hard fan of Knopfler and Dire Straits. He was a decent singing away from one of the best live performances ever with Tunnel of Love

    • Marc

      March 30, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      The best indeed. Every morning I have to put tunnel of love in my car since my two daughters ask me for it. The last 4 minutes are breathtaking..

  5. Piotr

    March 12, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    The best album ever. I used all my money to buy it when I was 14 years old . This album is still nr 1 in my life. Mark is still in my heart and I was happy to see him just in front of the scene at the concert in Stavanger in juni-15.

  6. Chris J

    March 12, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    “Alchemy ” was my first Straits album and will resinate in my soul til I take my last breath. It travels withme wherever I go. An incredible collection of music that rolls into one never ending sound. Amazing talent!!!

  7. Christopher Sherwin

    April 21, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    The best live album with no overdubs ever

  8. Sandra Lund

    March 23, 2018 at 9:05 pm

    I bought this and it is my favorite album. I liked watching the YouTube videos of Alchemy, but I think only two videos are left. I do listen to it on Spotify sometimes! It’s a wonderful! I like anything by Dire Straits and/or Mark knopfler!

  9. A Wilson

    September 2, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Definitely my favorite live album of all time, I still listen to a couple of tracks every day during my commute after all these years

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