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Sultans of Swing (1978) - Dire Straits - All about the song: history, facts, photos

History of popular composition...

Song History: Sultans of Swing (1978) - Dire Straits

Dire Straits' first hit song was "Sultans of Swing". This is a track from the initial album of those who will soon conquer the musical Olympus and become known all over the world. The composition has grown in the top lists of a number of countries and glorified the performers. How the song was created is well known to the fans - this is reflected in the memoirs of Mark Knopfler, which he told reporters about more than once.

John Illsley and Mark Knopfler performing on stage. Photo: Ebeth Roberts
John Illsley and Mark Knopfler performing on stage. Photo: Ebeth Roberts

How it all began?

Once, Knopfler went to some bar where a not-so-popular band was scheduled to perform. There were few visitors, the performance did not evoke a bright response. Mark himself was also not very impressed, but he remembered the final words, which, addressing the audience, were uttered by the soloist. He wished everyone a good night and called himself and his colleagues "sultans of swing".

Years later, Mark said:
... there was something really funny about it: it was difficult to call them sultans. They are, rather, just very tired guys in sweaters.
However, the insight helped Knopfler create a new song.

Then he talked about his work on the composition:
Sultans of Swing was created on an open tuning National Steel guitar, even though I never played it that way. It was boring. But when I got my first Strat - that was in 1977 - things were different. The words have not changed, but the sound - yes! The song got a second wind when I started playing it on Strat '61. This guitar was my main guitar for many years and, in fact, the only one used in the initial album, and the new-sounding chords came out spontaneously. I was satisfied.

Recording Options

The demo version was produced in the British studio Pathway in 1977. The performers showed it to DJ Charlie Gillett from the BBC London Radio. He gave the song on the air, which resonated with the listeners. Then the band noticed Phonogram Records and made a contract offer.

An updated studio recording of the song was made at Basing Street Studios and included on the initial album. In order to promote to a wide audience on the air, another option was developed - at Pathway Studios. Just it was published by Vertigo in Germany, England and other countries.

In the winter of 1978, the composition was released as a prologue to the Dire Straits album. In the TOP 100, her position was fourth, and in the British variation of the rating - eighth. Then it was included in the collections selected from the entire work of Knopfler and Dire Straits.

This song is listed among the 500 that literally "made" rock and roll, at least according to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In addition, the track is also included in many other prestigious ratings of widespread hits.

Below is the video for "Sultans of Swing":

Plagiarism scandal

Artist Bill Wilson once stated that the song was created with his participation. Some not very popular label released a disc, which includes 24 tracks by various artists. One of them is sung by Bill Wilson. A footnote at the end says that the recording was made during a performance at The Warehouse, Indianapolis. Even before the song begins, Wilson states:
We wrote in collaboration, and now I will sing it. About 12 years ago I composed the words. A close friend was often brought into sessions with my longtime producer Bob Johnston and sang songs with British Mark Knopfler, who has his own band, Dire Straits. He played a tune like "Walk, Don't Run". It was a compressed story about some guys who did not achieve popularity. Only a couple of listeners were at the performance. And one evening, after the session, we threw a couple of phrases on a napkin. And, in my opinion, I just created the main part of the text ....
And then he does a version of "Sultans of Swing" that is somewhat different from the Dire Straits version. Whether Wilson is telling the truth or not is hard to say unequivocally. Most likely, if he had iron arguments, he would have filed a lawsuit and the scandal would have had much greater consequences.

Below is Bill Wilson's version:

This is interesting

When a verse about a cheerful company is performed, this may refer to the famous DJ Alan Freed - it is he who is credited with the authorship of the concept of "rock and roll". Once, as a young man, he was a trombonist with the Sultans of Swing.

  • There is an opinion that some George and Harry, about whom the song is sung, is George Young, the brother of the creators of AC / DC, and Harry Vanda. The two were former members of The Easybeats, and have also contributed to standalone AC/DC albums.

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