Forming an opinion on classic British rockers Dire Straits isn’t probably high on your to-do list. Unless you’re already a fan, the band is maybe nothing more than that “Sultans of Swing” song, or that “Money for Nothing” song, to you.
But hear me out: that “Sultans of Swing” song is an all-time rock bop. The rumbling, suspicious guitars sound like beautiful construction site noise (an oxymoron if there ever was one), or maybe more like the furious winds of some Wild West scene. It’s a song of adventure, of potential. It’s a little of Nashville mixed with New Orleans brewed with Austin and seasoned with Memphis—delivered by a rag-tag pack of Londoners. Degrading it to “one-hit-wonder” status is a mistake. It’s an anomalous treasure that emerged just before rock ‘n’ roll took a turn for the hairy.
Not yet convinced? Try listening to the band—in its rare, original four-piece lineup—play the song live in 1979. On this day (March 31) in 1979, the first formation of the group (of which no official live recording even exists) played a set for the King Biscuit Flower Hour in San Francisco. The group was on the brink of popularity, and here they play all their hits released up to this time, including, of course, the smoldering “Sultans of Swing.”
Listen to the entire set below via the Paste archives.