Writer: Mark Knopfler
Producer: Muff Winwood
Recorded: February and March 1978 at Basing Street Studios, London
Released: June 1978
|Players:||Mark Knopfler — vocals, guitar
David Knopfler — guitar
John Illsley — bass
Pick Withers — drums
|Album:||Dire Straits (Warner Bros)|
Dire Straits formed in 1977 in Deptford, England. Frontman and chief songwriter Mark Knopfler was a former schoolteacher and journalist with the Yorkshire Evening Post, his brother David was a social worker, bassist John Illsley was a bank manager’s son, and drummer Pick Withers came on the recommendation of a friend.
The group’s big break came after BBC Radio 1 DJ Charlie Gilett started playing their demo tape, which led to a record deal with England’s Vertigo label.
The group’s first tour came in early 1978, when they opened for Talking Heads.
“Sultans Of Swing” is a sly and detailed observation of the London pub scene that established Knopfler as a witty, cinematic songwriter, as well as one of rock’s new guitar heroes.
Knopfler said the story is true and that the pub was actually located in Deptford: “It’s one of those songs — you are somewhere, you’re in a place, and it just seems as though the conditions are right. There’s a convergence of conditions…The pub was really quiet except for some kids playing pool in one corner. They were really playing to an audience of about two or three, anyway.”
Released in the U.K. in the summer of 1978, the Dire Straits album hit Number 38 on the chart there and attracted the attention of Warner Bros. Records in the U.S., which signed the band and putDire Straits out in October 1978.
“Sultans Of Swing” hit Number Four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and Number Eight in the U.K.
The Dire Straits album reached Number Two on the Billboard 200, while it peaked at Number Five in the U.K.
Among the fans of the album was Bob Dylan, who recruited Knopfler and Withers to play on his 1979 album Slow Train Coming.