Monday, May 11, 2015

14: Romeo and Juliet - Dire Straits

Track 2 from 'Making Movies', which is arguably Dire Straits' high-point if you discount their early success with Sultans of Swing. Or Money For Nothing. Or Walk of Life. Or... oh, forget it.

Mark Knopfler's guitar is as unique as ever in this one, and the melancholy story is so accurately answered phrase-by-phrase by the guitar twiddles he does between the words. The quiet drops, the builds and the memorable final line of the chorus - "it was just that the time was wrong" - means this has been the song to cover the emotions of many a romantic break-up over the years to anyone who heard it. While Knopfler himself drops in careful throwback references in the lyrics - to songs as 'There's a place for us' and even 'Hey da, my boyfriend's back' - this is a genuinely timeless song, not dated in the way so much late seventies and early eighties pop is today. There's no heavy synth or electronic 'futuristic' sounds, just the guitar, rolling and almost comforting piano (new departure for Dire Straits and I think it was Roy Bittan from Springsteen's E Street band who played on the original album) and Pick Withers doing some very understated drum/percussing prior to his departure from the band.

But the guitar is the unique sound, and nobody else has really managed to do anything like it, on a major popular record, before or since. It sounds like it shouldn't work, and it's too simple, and the tinny treble sound is all wrong, and Mark Knopfler can't sing anyway, and he doesn't even try to if we're honest, and and and... it works. Beautifually, memorably, timelessly, it works.

I'd be astonished if you didn't know this song, but if you don't, play the video (original studio version) and enjoy. For a good live version, try one of Kopfler's later solo efforts, he's slowed it down a little in recent years, added to the ad-lib at the end and generally mellowed it out even more.


Kevin Sawers said...
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Kevin Sawers said...

'You said I love you like the stars above, I'll love you till I die'. *Removes dust from eye*

It's funny but those words look kind of unremarkable just typed out there, but in the song they're absolutely gut-wrenching. Good work, Mr Knopfler...