Brothers Mark and David Knopfler, from Newcastle in northeast England, and friends John Illsley and Pick Withers, from Leicester in the east midlands, formed Dire Straits in London in 1977. Withers was already a 10-year music business veteran, having been a session drummer for Dave Edmunds, Gerry Rafferty, Magna Carta and others through the 1970s; he was part of the group Spring, which recorded an album for RCA in 1971. At the time of the band’s formation, Mark was working as a teacher at art college, Illsley was studying at Goldsmiths’ College, and David was a social worker. Mark and Withers had both been part of the pub rock group Brewers Droop at different points in around 1973.
Initially known as the Café Racers, the name Dire Straits was coined by a musician flatmate of Withers, allegedly thought up while they were rehearsing in the kitchen of a friend, Simon Cowe, of Lindisfarne. In 1977, the group recorded a five-song demo tape which included their future hit single, “Sultans of Swing”, as well as “Water of Love” and “Down to the Waterline”. After a performance at the Rock Garden in 1977, they took a demo tape to MCA in Soho but were turned down. Then they went to DJ Charlie Gillett, host of called Honky Tonk on BBC Radio London. The band simply wanted advice, but Gillett liked the music so much that he played “Sultans of Swing” on his show. Two months later, Dire Straits signed a recording contract with the Vertigo division of Phonogram Inc. In October 1977, the band recorded demo tapes of “Southbound Again”, “In the Gallery” and “Six Blade Knife” for BBC Radio London; in November demo tapes were made of “Setting Me Up”, “Eastbound Train” and “Real Girl”.
The group’s first album, Dire Straits, was recorded at Basing Street studios in Notting Hill, London in February 1978, at a cost of £12,500. Produced by Muff Winwood, it was first released in the United Kingdom on Vertigo Records, then a division of Phonogram Inc. It came to the attention of A&R representative Karin Berg, working at Warner Bros. Records in New York City. She felt that it was the kind of music audiences were hungry for, but only one person in her department agreed at first. Many of the songs on the album reflected Mark Knopfler’s experiences in Newcastle, Leeds and London. “Down to the Waterline” recalled images of life in Newcastle; “In the Gallery” is a tribute to Leeds sculptor/artist Harry Phillips (father of Steve Phillips); “Wild West End” and “Lions” were drawn from Knopfler’s early days in the capital (b wikipedia)
… And the rest is history…
And heres a pretty good show from 1980, recorded for a German Television network called “ZDF” in a superb broadcating quality.
Alan Clark (keyboards)
John Illsley (bass, vocals)
Mark Knopfler (vocals, lead guitar)
Hal Lindes (guitar)
Pick Withers (drums)
01. Once Upon A Time In The West 10.34
02. Down To The Waterline 5.05
03. Lions 7.30
04. News (includes Instrumental outro – “Private Investigations licks”) 6.27
05. Sultans Of Swing 10.00
06. Tunnel Of Love 13.43
07. Solid Rock 5.26
All songs written by Mark Knopfler
And here´s the video of this show: