In honor of Jeff McGee from Marvin Dog Media guesting for our Dire Straights ‘Brothers In Arms’ episode, we’ve humbly asked him to provide his Top 10 favorite Dire Straits songs of all-time. So check it out and feel free to hit us up with what you think:
Jeff’s Dire Straits Top 10
I always list Dire Straits as one of my favorite bands, and this is mostly due to the first 5 songs on this list. They have all played a big role in my life and in my listening at different points, and they continue to be in heavy rotation in all of my various playlists. When the Dandy Classic crew asked me to write about my top 10 Dire Straits tracks, it forced me to think a bit more about what it is that draws me to the band in order to be able to narrow down the rest of their catalogue to the final 5 spots on my list. What I learned is that the band (and Mark Knopfler in particular) are consistently able to blend a laid-back, easygoing vibe with a dose of angst, tension, and longing that keeps everything moving forward without sounding terribly bombastic or labored. The other element that I respond to is the references made to the rock and roll of the fifties, both musically and lyrically. They manage to make contemporary points by referencing the past. All of this, along with Knopfler being my favorite guitarist, makes for much listening pleasure for these ears.
So, without further adieu, I give you the top ten Dire Strait tracks of all time, according to Admiral 80’s.
10. Tunnel of Love (from Making Movies) – If anyone ever wants to know what Dire Straits “sounds like” just play this for them. It’s got everything that makes up their early sound, with echoes of “Sultans of Swing” and foreshadowing of “So Far Away” thrown in for good measure. Knopfler’s easygoing guitar and vocals are on full display here.
9. Telegraph Road (from Love Over Gold) – If anyone ever asks what later Dire Straits “sounds like” just play THIS for them. It’s vintage Dire Straits storytelling with accompanying social commentary accompanied by some outstanding musicianship and PLENTY of solo work by Knopfler. The 15-minute runtime will seem very self-indulgent, but the song moves along so that it feels more like a significant piece of work and less like an ego trip.
8. Portobello Belle (from Communique) – Knopfler’s lyrics give us a terrific portrait of some characters we have all run into, along with a very concrete sense of place. Musically, it’s a great pop-rock tune with a country/folk/Irish vibe that is a lot of fun to listen to.
7. The Bug (from On Every Street) – My favorite song from their last studio effort. Vince Gill’s guitar and backing vocals are easy to identify here, and it gives the song an added layer of pop-country sheen that works very well with the lyrics. “Some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug.” We’ve all been there on both days, and this is a song that will make you feel better no matter which role you’re playing that day.
6. Twisting By The Pool (from ExtendedanceEPlay) – I am a huge fan of the rock and roll of the 1950s, and this song captures the spirit of that first generation of rock perfectly. With hints of rockabilly and surf rock thrown in, it’s just a fun 3 and a half minutes of summer whenever you need a little sunshine.
5. Money For Nothing (from Brothers In Arms) – The song most identified with Dire Straits in most circles, and with good reason. There’s a lot to be said for this song, and I’m afraid you’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear it all.
4. Sultans of Swing (from Dire Straits) – This is the other song that most people know Dire Straits for. It was their first hit, and remains a standard for guitar-rock fans everywhere. The driving beat never seems overly relentless, and Knopfler’s guitar work introduced the world to a true talent that would remain vital and vibrant for decades to come. The story of the working musicians is a theme that the band would return to with Walk of Life years later.
3. So Far Away (from Brothers In Arms) – One of my favorite songs of all-time. Laid back but never boring. Relaxing without being sleepy. The story of a frustrating long-distance relationship is presented more realistically than in other songs of the same ilk. This is a great “first thing in the morning” song for me because it allows me to ease into my day, and that great guitar hook at the top will stick with you all day. Listen to the podcast for more thoughts from myself, Randy and Dan!
2. Romeo and Juliet (from Making Movies) – You guys. This song. The opening guitar solo creates so many emotions for me that I Just. Can’t. Even. Throw in the lyrics of star-crossed love, coupled with the autobiographical element of Knopfler’s failed relationship with Holly Vincent makes it an emotionally cathartic listen for me every time. Knopfler lays out his hurt and humiliation in the lyrics AND the music, and it speaks to me. Throw in a reference to West Side Story and this theatre geek is in aural bliss.
1. Walk Of Life (from Brothers In Arms) – You guys. This song ALSO. One of my top-3 songs of all time. That opening organ riff, the zydeco bassline, and the story of a busker playing for change and references to rock songs of the 50s and 60s is, quite simply, Jeff’s Smile captured in musical form. I NEVER get tired of hearing this song, and I never fail to get happy any time it plays. Go listen to it now. Seriously, right now. You’ll have a good time. Of course, more was said on the podcast, so, once again, go give it a listen and hear what Handsome Dan and Also-Handsome Randy had to say.
So there’s my list. I had a few honorable mentions, namely Industrial Disease (the witty lyrics makes it sound like a Weird Al Yankovic style parody of Dire Straits), Brothers In Arms (a dirge-like meditation on war and the way it affects those involved), and On Every Street (a song that tells the story of every person who’s ever been caught pining after someone they used to be with). Thanks to Dan and Randy for asking me to be on the show, and for letting me share this list with you. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on the Dire Straits catalog, so find me on Twitter @TheJeffMcGee and we can discuss!
Jeff can be heard on his podcast network, MarvinDog Media (www.MarvinDogMedia.com) where he hosts Talking Toys with Taylor and Jeff, Bantha Banter: A Star Wars Chat Show, and The Pilot Episode. He can also be heard weekly as Admiral 80s on the Assembly of Geeks podcast (www.AssemblyOfGeeks.com), as well as on Comics With Kenobi and Coffee With Kenobi (both onwww.CoffeeWithKenobi.com), where he also writes a monthly blog about life as a collector of toys.