There are only two people that can tell the full Dire Straits story. Mark Knopfler, or his co-founding band member and bassist John Illsley. Whilst the original band was a foursome the two other founding members, Mark’s brother David, and drummer Pick Withers, left the band as their fame, and workload intensified.
The book “The Story of Dire Straits: Brothers in Arms” by John Illsley is a must-read for any fan of the iconic band. Written in an open and honest way, the book gives readers an inside look at the band’s rise to fame, from their early days playing London pubs and clubs to recording their smash hit albums at the Power Plant or in Monserrat. John’s writing style feels like we’re sitting down for a beer and a chat. He, and Mark, comes across as a thoroughly decent bloke who worked hard to achieve the success and then find a new life on the other side.
Dire Straits was the British rock band formed in London, England in 1977 by Mark Knopfler and John Illsley. The band gained widespread popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s with their unique blend of rock, folk and blues music. They released their debut album, “Dire Straits,” in 1978, which included the hit single “Sultans of Swing.” This was followed by the release of several successful albums including “Communique” (1979), “Making Movies” (1980), “Love Over Gold” (1982) and “Brothers in Arms” (1985). The band’s fifth and final studio album, “On Every Street,” was released in 1991.
One of the most interesting points in the book is John’s account of the band’s performance at Live Aid in 1985. He reveals that they were unable to play their finale due to a scheduled gig across the car park at Wembley Arena that night. It must have been strange for the band, and the fans to be playing their own gig in the arena whilst the world’s biggest concert was wrapping up across the way.
Another interesting revelation in the book is the role that Sting played in the recording of Dire Straits’ hit album “Brothers in Arms.” John writes about how Sting was vacationing on the Caribbean island of Montserrat while the band was recording the album at George Martin’s studio on the island. It was only by chance that Sting came to sing on the album’s hit single “Money for Nothing.” This adds to the reader’s understanding of the serendipitous nature of the music industry and the impact that chance encounters can have on the success of a band.
“Brothers in Arms” was the band’s most successful album, selling over 30 million copies worldwide and becoming one of the best-selling albums of all time. It featured hit singles such as “Money for Nothing,” “Walk of Life,” and “So Far Away.” John talks about their reticence of ‘so far away’ being the opening single for the album but a feeling that Money for Nothing was going to be something extraordinary.
Overall, “The Story of Dire Straits: Brothers in Arms” offers an in-depth look at the band’s history and the personalities of its members. John’s writing style is engaging and relatable, making me feel as if they are getting to know the band on a personal level. They worked hard, toured for a year straight and stuck to Beer and hard work, The book also highlights the friendship and camaraderie between John and fellow band member Mark Knopfler who remain friends to this day.
As an unexpected Music biography on my Christmas pile, (Charlie and Bono are next) I was delighted to read the story of Dire Straits. I highly recommend it!