In 1977, Mark Knopfler (who had been teaching English at Loughton in Essex) hooked up with his brother David and sociology student John Illsley (who were sharing a council flat in Deptford) and invited Pick Withers down from the North East.
With £1,000 left to Illsley by his grandmother, the band recorded a five-song demo. Illsley and Mark Knopfler then took the tape to DJ Charlie Gillett, who duly played Sultans Of Swing on his Radio London show, resulting in a record deal with Phonogram.
Dire Straits then played a residency at London’s Marquee Club to critical acclaim, but in spite of rave reviews and a sold-out tour, their self-titled debut album (1978) only reached #37 in the charts.
Curiously it fared much better in Australia and New Zealand where it topped the charts.
The band recorded Communique under the direction of Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett and undertook a series of tours in 1979 which increased their reputation and following.
Dave Knopfler left the group to be replaced by Hal Lindes, and Roy Brittan was added on keyboards to record Making Movies. The album demonstrated new confidence and imagination on the part of Knopfler the songwriter. Tunnel Of Love – with its clever use of the opening bars from the main theme of the musical Carousel – was one of his finest compositions to date.
In October 1980, Dire Straits undertook a world tour that lasted until July 1981. With Alan Clark added as permanent keyboardist they spent four and a half months working on their fourth album. Meanwhile, the dark, almost sinister, Romeo and Juliet made #11 in the UK.
Expectations ran high for the new album, and Love Over Gold did not disappoint. It included some of Mark’s most dazzling guitar work in the lengthy Telegraph Road. Released in late 1982 it shot to the top of the UK and US LP charts and remained in the Top 100 for months.
Terry Williams joined on drums in 1983 for a 40-date European tour. Dire Straits performed in a Royal Charity Concert in July before the Prince and Princess of Wales and stole the show with a display of brilliant musicianship.
In May 1985, Brothers In Arms entered the UK album charts at #1 and shortly repeated this success in the American charts. Marking the dawn of a new era, it was the first major hit on the new Compact Disc format.
The album subsequently made it to the #1 spot in 25 countries and shifted over 20 million copies.
The single Money For Nothing (co-written by Mark Knopfler and Sting) dominated the US charts in September with the video on heavy rotation on MTV (despite its anti-MTV lyrics, including the sarcastic chant “I want my MTV”).
The 1991-1992 On Every Street tour finally broke the camel’s back. The combination of 225 gigs in 12 months and marriage and relationship failures for band members convinced them to call a halt to the Dire Straits machine.