Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

Dire Straits was a British rock band, formed in 1977 by Mark Knopfler (guitar and vocals), his brother David Knopfler (guitar), John Illsley (bass), and Pick Withers (drums), and subsequently managed by Ed Bicknell. Although the band was formed in an era when punk rock reigned, Dire Straits worked within the conventions of classic rock, albeit with a stripped-down sound that appealed to modern audiences weary of the overproduced stadium rock of the 1970s. In their early days, Mark and David requested that pub owners turn down the amps so that patrons could converse while the band played – indicative of their unassuming demeanor. Despite this oddly self-effacing approach to rock and roll, Dire Straits soon became hugely successful.

Dire Straits chose their name mainly due to the financial conditions the four band members were in at the time.

Sultans of Swing

Sultans of Swing” was the first single release of the British rock band Dire Straits. It was first recorded as a demo, and quickly acquired a following after it was put in the rotation at Radio London. It did not take long for the popularity to find its way to record executives, and Dire Straits were offered a contract with Phonogram, a British record company. The song was then re-recorded and released in both the United Kingdom and the United States, though the demo version remained on the original UK Vertigo single. It entered the American music pop charts in early-1979. Unusually, the success of this single release came more than six months after the relatively unheralded release of the band’s debut album in October of 1978; the song reached the top 10 in both the UK and the U.S., and helped drive sales of the album, which also became a hit.

You get a shiver in the dark
It’s raining in the park but meantime
South of the river you stop and you hold everything
A band is blowin’ Dixie double four time
You feel alright when you hear that music ring

And now you step inside but you don’t see too many faces
Comin’ in out of the rain you hear the jazz go down
Competition in other places
Oh but the horns they blowin’ that sound
Way on down south, way on down south London town

You check out Guitar George, he knows all the chords
Mind he’s strictly rhythm he doesn’t wanna make it cry or sing
Yes and an old guitar is all he can afford
When he gets up under the lights to play his thing

And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene
He’s got a daytime job, he’s doin’ alright
He can play the honky tonk like anything
Savin’ it up for Friday night
With the Sultans… with the Sultans of Swing

And a crowd of young boys they’re fooling around in the corner
Drunk and dressed in their best brown baggies and their platform soles
They don’t give a damn about any trumpet playing band
It ain’t what they call rock and roll
And the Sultans… yeah the Sultans play Creole

And then the man he steps right up to the microphone
And says at last just as the time bell rings
‘Goodnight, now it’s time to go home’
And he makes it fast with one more thing
‘We are the Sultans… We are the Sultans of Swing’

  • Audio from the 1978 album, Dire Straits:
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