About the Album:
“Dire Straits were fortunate enough to be the right band at the right time with the right product to benefit from a new music medium.” TB “When the clamour of punk began to die down at the beginning of the eighties, ex-pub rockers Dire Straits emerged with a lucrative brand of laid-back rock tailor-made for the more mature end of the market and the fledging CD format.” PR At a time when most albums were still recorded on analog equipment, Arms was recorded digitally making it a “must-have record for serious audiophiles.” ZS It was “the first album to sell one million copies in the CD format and to outsell its LP version.” WK “Industry insiders suggested everyone who owned a CD player also owned a copy of this disc.” PR The one downside – due to limitations of the latter’s format, tracks had to be edited to fit.
“Brothers in Arms brought the atmospheric, jazz-rock inclinations of Love Over Gold into a pop setting, resulting in a surprise international best-seller.” AMG The album topped the charts in 25 countries. TB One of the keys to their success “was that their music wasn’t too dynamic, nor demanding.” PR “It rocks – but not too much – and it doesn’t scream at you, so millions who would normally never buy a rock album bought it.” TB “Knopfler’s laid-back guitar licks looked back to Clapton, Rory Gallagher, and Martin Barre of Jethro Tull” PR and “his mid-Atlantic drawl reminded older fans of J.J. Cale, Springsteen, and Bob Dylan” PR positioning Knopfler as “an unpretentious Man Of The People.” TB
Other than Mark Knopfler, the band’s only original member was bassist John Illsley. Mark’s brother David was the original rhythm guitarist and departed in 1980. Hal Lindes replaced him, but was either fired or quit at the beginning of sessions for Brothers in Arms. WK He was replaced in December 1984 by Jack Sonni, who contributed minimally to the album, not even being listed as a band member. Keyboards were handled by Alan Clark, who joined in 1980, as well as Guy Fletcher, who became a member in 1984.
Original drummer Pick Withers left in 1982 and was replaced by Terry Williams. Williams was credited on Brothers in Arms, but jazz session drummer Omar Hakim came in to re-record drum parts after it was decided that Terry Williams’ style didn’t fit the goal of the album. WK Hakim had worked with Weather Report, David Sanborn, George Benson, and David Bowie (Let’s Dance, Tonight) and was also on Sting’s debut album, released just a few weeks later. He went on to work with Miles Davis, Mick Jagger (Primitive Cool), Sammy Hagar, Carole King, Anita Baker, Mariah Carey (1990’s Mariah Carey), Tracy Chapman, Lionel Richie, and Daft Punk (2013’s Random Access Memories).
“Money for Nothing”
“The success of Brothers in Arms was helped considerably by the clever computer-animated video for Money for Nothing.” WK With its “indelible guitar riff,” AMG the “harmonic-popping distant relative of ‘Jumping Jack Flash’” TB and “the album’s liveliest track” TB was a #1 hit. The song grew out of overhearing a “New York appliance salesman’s anti-rock-star, anti-MTV rant” RS as a wall of TVs tuned to MTV played in the background. Nikki Sixx, the bassist for Mötley Crüe, claimed in 2007 that the man was grumbling about one of their videos. DSB Ironically, the song became one of the most played videos of all time.
“Money for Nothing “is the only Dire Straits song on a studio album to not be solely credited to Mark Knopfler. Sting was given a co-writing credit because his vocal hook, ‘I want my MTV,’ is the same melody as The Police’s ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me.’” WK Sting was reportedly embarrassed that his publishing company demanded credit because he felt his contribution to the song was minimal. DSB
“Walk of Life” and “So Far Away”
What sent the album into the stratosphere was the band’s development on the first half of the record “of their unique brand of arena rock which had evolved in their music since the 1980 album Making Movies.” WK This is best exemplified by Knopfler’s “incisive songwriting and lush guitar riffs on Walk of Life and So Far Away,” RS both of which were released as singles. “Walk of Life,” which was written as a celebration of London buskers, DSB reached the top ten in the U.S. and the UK; in fact, it was a bigger hit in the UK than “Money for Nothing.” The original video featured a busker, but the U.S. version of the video featured a sports bloopers montage, DSB causing reviewer Nick Deriso to wrongly call the song a “silly baseball-park ditty” SER and saying that it and “Money for Nothing” were “jokey songs.” SER
“The approachably pretty” ‘So Far Away’” SER was a top 20 hit in both the U.S. and UK. It “is a catchy up-tempo boogie variation on ‘Sultans of Swing,’” AMG that “was nearly left off the album, but was included after the band out-voted producer Neil Dorfsman.” WK
“Why Worry” and “Your Latest Trick”
“The melodies of the bluesy ‘So Far Away’ and the down-tempo, Everly Brothers-style Why Worry were wistful and lovely.” AMG “The jazzy Your Latest Trick” AMG is also a standout.” AMG Aft first, it “seems like a simpler song about love-gone wrong” SER but in the context of the album’s musings on war, it sounds more “like another swipe at political leaders with their own wartime agendas.” SER
“Dire Straits had never been so concise or pop-oriented, and it wore well on them.” AMG “The whole album maintains the original Dire Straits’ bluesy and laid back guitar-based sound whilst retaining a more lavish and bombastic production and overall sound.” WK
“Ride Across the River”
However, “the second half consists of more folk-influenced material.” WK These “semi-acoustic folk-rock tracks…have an enduring and unassuming appeal.” PR “Ride Across the River is built on an off-beat rhythm. The song uses immersive Latin American rain forest imagery, accompanied by pan flute and eerie background noises, to allude to the elements of guerilla warfare.” WK
“The Man’s Too Strong”
The Man’s Too Strong is also “lyrically focused on the guerrilla wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua of the 1980s.” WK Between this song, “Ride Across the River,” and the title cut, Brothers in Arms becomes a somewhat thematical album making a commentary on war.
“Brothers in Arms”
The title of the album was inspired by a conversation in which Knopfler’s father remarked, ‘We shouldn’t be at war with our brothers in arms.’” WK Knopfler wrote “Brothers in Arms” in 1982 during the Falklands War, a two-month conflict which claimed the lives of 258 soldiers. DSB The song is a “meditation on suffering – in battle and afterward.” SER It “is one of Knopfler’s greatest moments. Refusing to show off, he wrests from the Les Paul something magisterial. Rarely has the electric guitar possessed such dignity.” TB
“Brothers in Arms remains one of their most focused and accomplished albums, and in its succinct pop sense, it’s distinctive within their catalog.” AMG It “perfectly evokes its period (great for flashbacks to Miami Vice) with a terrific mix of commercial pop…and musical exploration crafted in an atmosphere of power and mystery.” ZS