Friday, 5 November 2010
♫ Hello again and welcome to another eclectic, eccentric and downright electrifying ‘News, Views and Music’ newsletter full of, well, news, views and music. All your usual columns are here, along with a very important discussion about the early primeval stages of psychedelia (well, it’s very important until it turns into a rant about The Spice Girls anyway!) In our website news we had so many visitors on one day last week (Thursday) that the site crashed – sorry about that, hopefully we’ll have the money to do something about it soon but thankyou to the sudden rush of visitors that caused us to jump from 2203 to 2232 in 24 hours. I’m also heading off on a course this week to learn about the ins and outs of becoming self-employed. I can’t wait...Meantime, happy reading!
♫ Beatles News: There’s yet another new Beatles book out this month, although unusually in this Lennon anniversary year it focuses on Paul McCartney’s life. ‘FAB: An Intimate Life Of Paul McCartney’ is better than it’s title apparently, offering a good contrast to Barry Miles’ extended interview with Macca first released in 1997. This is the first new biography since wife Linda’s death, taking in five truly variable albums, two classical music creations, a book of poetry and another of paintings and the whole Heather Mills debacle, although AAA fans should be given the warning: this book sounds like a similar one to the Albert Goldman and Geoffrey Guilliano Beatle biographies, too focussed on dishing the dirt on our beloved musicians rather than their music.
Another, perhaps more lasting, addition to the Beatles book shelves is the long-awaited book of photographs by the (then) fab five’s Hamburg friend, arguably the first outsider (along with friend Klauss Voormann who often gets overlooked these days) to believe in The Beatles as much as they did themselves. She even became engaged to one of them – bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, who sadly died in her arms of a brain haemorrhage barely a year before The Beatles’ first release. Many of these photographs have been seen hundreds of times before of course (perhaps the most famous is on the front cover of John Lennon’s ‘Rock and Roll’ record of 1975) but Beatles fans can never see them often enough – some others are far rarer, including one that’s already got reviewers of this book talking: a fragile looking John and George standing in Stuart’s room just after his death looking at his paintings. Definitely one on my Christmas list – the full title of the book is ‘Astrid Kirchher – A Retrospective’ and it’s edited by Matthew Clough and Colin Fallows.
Look out too for a new documentary on Wings’ ‘Band On The Run’ which is finally being issued this week as the debut release of the new Paul McCartney reissue series (see the last few news and views newsletters). The programme was broadcast on ITV at 10.15pm and features (alas all too brief) unseen footage of Paul, Linda and Denny Laine recording the album in Laos and London and the usual shots of the trio organising their ‘renegade’ album cover with some famous friends (including regular Hollies collaborator and the first ever Beatles cover artist Kenny Lynch). The show saw Macca on good form, speaking at length about his experiences making the album in Lagos including a few stories I’d never heard before (who knew ‘Jet!’ was about a pony? I’d always been led to believe he was a jet-black Labrador with a story about suffragettes in there somewhere). On the downside interviewer Dermot O’Leary was too in awe of his subject and yet still hadn’t done his homework (how could you possibly believe Linda was a professional musician before joining Wings, great and under-rated singer that she was?!) and Denny Laine continues to get ignored in a documentary about a trio for goodness sake! Still, overall a nice addition to the Beatles archives and it’s nice to see the under-rated ‘One Hand Clapping’ footage used on something officially for the first time (barring a brief snippet of ‘Bluebird’ on the ‘McCartney Years’ box set).
And finally in our Beatles news, John Lennon will be featured on a new £5 coin after winning a poll to find Britain’s favourite Briton (worth, bizarrely, £45 – why didn’t they just make it a £45 coin?!) The Lennon in late Beatles pose picture looks to me like the one from the withdrawn ‘Roots’ album that became ‘Rock and Roll’ in 1975 (strange choice, that), but Lennon’s distinctive features seem to suit the limited edition legal tender well.
♫ Hollies News: The Yesterday channel are repeating some classic Top Of The Pops 2 shows as a double bill in their midnight slot from last week into the foreseeable future, most of them seeming to date from the 2002 period (and so complement nicely the later shows repeated by the channel Dave last year). The best find so far was last Wednesday with the rare 1969 clip of ‘Gasoline Alley Bred’ featuring a very young looking Hollies with new member Terry Sylvester on only his second single. The band were singing live but playing over a pre-recorded backing tape, making this a must for all Hollies fans with the ability to find old programmes on the web.
♫ Human League News: Well, strictly speaking this is all ‘Heaven 17’ news, the trio formed from the splintering of the first Human League album circa 1981. Classic debut album ‘Penthouse and Pavement’ is to be reissued at long last, although annoyingly I haven’t yet heard what the bonus tracks on the set will be. For those who need a reminder, this is the album that spent over a year on the charts in the 1980s and was split into a down-to-earth ‘pavement’ side and a funky, polished ‘penthouse’ side. The band – or two of them at any rate – were also seen on Jools Holland’s ‘later’ programme last week, plugging the new release with performances of the album single ‘We Don’t Need No Fascist Groove Thang’ and the later classic ‘Temptation’. The Human League, meanwhile, are putting the finishing touches to their first new album since 2001, ‘Credo’, due out before Christmas. More news if and when we hear it...
♫ Kinks News: ‘See My Friends’ is the proper name of the Ray Davies collaborations CD we began to tell you about last issue, a sort of cross between a duets CD and a covers album. Lots of new faces that you lot will probably recognise but I’ve done my best to avoid include Paloma Faith, Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Gary Lightbody, although I have heard of this album’s biggest selling points Bruce Springsteen and Metallica (surprisingly there’s no Noel Gallagher, though, despite the obvious debt of songs like ‘The Importance Of being Idle’ to The Kinks katalogue). Tread carefully, though – most reviewers reckon this album is even odder than it sounds (and even for Ray and his recent addiction to church choirs it sounds really really odd).
♫ Oasis News: Hmmm, all the green-inked groups seem to be up to something this week...latest Oasis book news is that much derided first drummer Tony McCarroll is putting his side of the Oasis story from rags to riches across and it’s meant to be quite at odds with how Noel Gallgher has been telling things. The drummer – unfairly dismissed after some sterling work on the first Oasis album ‘Definitely Maybe’ – was famously thrown out for ‘having the wrong kind of hair cut’ and was infamously buried alive on the promo for the band’s ‘Live Forever’ single. However, reviewers have said that the book is surprisingly nice and angst-free for the most part, with Noel and the allegedly unreliable bassist Paul McGuigan coming under fire but Liam and McCarroll’s replacement Alan White getting nothing but praise. An intriguing stocking-filler for Oasis fans this Christmas (assuming you have big feet of course, as this is yet another coffee table book).
♫ Pentangle News: Bassist Danny Thompson has at long last been given his due by the younger crowd, with Manchester-based muso Jon Thorne dragging him out of semi-retirement for the title track of new album ‘Watching The Well’, out in early November. And that Pentangle BBC6 session we told you about (broadcast last Saturday in the early hours) was actually a three-song set from the band’s last days in 1972 and much rarer than we expected, made up of three song’s from the band’s rare last album ‘Solomon’s Seal’ (‘The Snows’, ‘Lady In Carlisle’ and a particularly lovely ‘People On The Highway’).
♫ Rolling Stones News: A good week for solo Stones releases! Ronnie Wood releases his latest solo album next month, ‘I Feel Like Playing’ whose informal title harks back to his debut ‘I’ve Got My Own Solo Album To Do!’ The song getting most interest at the moment is ‘Forever’, a song written in 1974 when Ronnie was in the process of joining the Stones but left unrecorded till now.
And Keith Richards’ new book ‘Life’ is causing more controversy than any Stones release since the 80s, what with its Brian Jones and Mick Jagger-damning anecdotes (the former was ‘selfish’ and the latter ‘possessive’ apparently) and its unheard stories about just how Keef did end up going out with Brian’s girlfriend and – unheard till now in any official tome – how he ended up bedding Mick’s long-term girlfriend Marianne Faithful for ‘revenge’. Reviews have been good, despite the rigmaroles the writer and publisher have put people through (you have to read the book in a locked room without taking any notes, apparently) and its meant to be a very ‘Keef’-like book, full of hazy memories and examples of the shy young boy from London being ‘swayed’ by extreme feelings based on whatever the band, the fans, family or music are doing to him. This is, of course, only the second Rolling Stones memoir and its meant to sit in great contrast to Bill Wyman’s fascinatingly detailed but curiously detached book ‘Stone Alone’. To tie-in with the book, The Culture Show dedicated a special to Keef which was shown on Wednesday, October 28th at 7pm (and should still be available on BBC I-player). It was an entertaining programme, if only for watching Keith come out with a response which had absolutely nothing to do with the question being asked, although some of the anecdotes – such as Keith’s early childhood in a bomb-hit London in World War Two – were fascinating. Keith’s also much kinder about his fellow Stones than he is in the book, although I don’t quite buy the idea that it was all ‘affectionate criticism’!
Finally, the Stones Top Of The Pops 2 Special from 2002 was repeated on the Yesterday channel last Monday, although alas most of the linking speech was trimmed to fit in the advert breaks. Nice to see the rare promo for one of the band’s better modern songs ‘Love Is Strong’, though, complete with the memorable image of a 100 foot Charlie Watts playing drums on a housing estate!
ANNIVERSARIES: Hey! Ra! Ra! Happy birthday to this week’s bumper crop of AAA members (November 3rd-9th): Bert Jansch (guitarist with Pentangle 1968-72 and various reunions) who turns 67 on November 3rd, Lulu (singer) who turns 62 also on November 3rd, Art Garfunkel (a quite different kind of singer) who turns 68 on November 5th and Gram Parsons (guitarist and much more with The Byrds in 1968) who would have been 64 on November 5th. Anniversaries of events include: The Beatles wow mums and dads at their one and only Royal Variety appearance, telling those in the more expensive seats to ‘rattle yer jewellery’ (November 4th 1963); The Beach Boys’ legendary single ‘Good Vibrations’ enters the UK chart on it’s way to #1 (November 4th 1966); The Who’s Quadrophenia tour suffers yet another blow when the pre-taped section ends up playing out of synch with the band, causing Pete Townshend to physically attack the group’s sound man mid-gig (it’s not his fault by the way) (November 5th 1973); The Beach Boys manage the surely unique feat of making #1 in the UK charts in the same week 22 years apart – with ‘Good Vibrations’ in 1966 and ‘Kokomo’ in 1988 (November 5th); Bill Graham puts on the first of his many legendary ‘Fillmore’ shows starring AAA members Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, the former before they even have a record contract (November 6th 1965); Paul Simon comes out of retirement with his first concert for five years (November 6th 1980); The Rolling Stones break the record for the most money earned for a single concert (£108,000) after a gig in Los Angeles, beating the previous record: The Beatles at Shea Stadium (November 8th 1969); The Human League officially split into two – Phil Oakey keeps the band name and gains two cocktail waitress singers whilst synthesiser experts Ian Craig Marsh and Martin Ware form Heaven 17 (November 8th 1980) and finally, David Crosby officially leaves The Byrds, to be replaced for a matter of weeks by his old colleague Gene Clark and leaving Crosby free to form CSN (November 9th 1967).
♫ Hmm, so psychedelia – that must mean the ‘summer of love’, right? All Monterey Pop, Sgt Peppers and Magical Mystery Tours? Well, not necessarily. Whilst 1967 will always be heralded as the heyday of all things psychedelic, movements don’t just suddenly erupt out of nowhere overnight. So this week we’re looking at the pioneering songs that set the tone early on, back when flowers were things that you found only in gardens and when hippies were still the things that connected your leggies together. And we come up with some very surprising finds about who the earliest ground-breaking flower powery artists were...
5) The Who “Circles” (AKA “Instant Party”) (First released under the former name as the b-side to single ‘Substitute’ 2/1966): Noisy psychedelia doesn’t come any better than this disorientating track about how the narrator is trapped between needing his love in his life and falling out with her big time. Circles play a big part in 1967-68’s music (The Small Faces had green ones, George Harrison had colliding ones, The Monkees saw one in the sky), partly because they were the most interesting looking shapes used in the ‘acid light shows’ of the psychedelia set (Pink Floyd, et al) and possibly partly because of the idea of everything being possible to the youngsters of 1967 reinventing ‘the wheel’ and claiming the shape for their own. Or perhaps they just thought it looked groovy! Anyway, this song’s music suit its psychedelia-ish words, featuring a droning backing similar in style to eastern ragas and a drenched-in-feedback disorientating sound that was still deeply unusual in those early months of 1966. It took a cover version by one-hit wonder Fleur De Leys to fully exploit this song’s psychedelic sound, however, one well worth seeking out by curious Who fans even if it can’t match the sheer oomph of this original. The fact that this fine song was relegated by The Who to a B-side (and one with a very troubled history when their old producer, Shel Talmy, used it as the scapegoat for this publishing dispute with the band and re-issued his own mix of the song on the back of the A-side ‘Substitute’, renaming it ‘Instant Party!’ against the band’s wishes) shows just how great Pete Townshend’s songwriting was back in 1966 – and needed to be, too, given how many great psychedelia classics are waiting just around the corner...
4) The Beatles “The Word” (First released on the album ‘Rubber Soul’ 12/1965): The word, for those who don’t know, is love. Unusually for this list it’s ‘The Word’s lyrics rather than its melody or production values that set it out as being an early example of psychedelia. And what a psychedelic bunch of words they are too: a slight tongue-in-cheek spoof of gospel, this song is all about ‘spreading the word’ of love so that humanity can delight in its togetherness. A rare example of the Lennon/McCartney partnership in full flow (it’s arguably the last 50/50 track until late 1967’s B-side ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’) the pair celebrated their new found song by writing out this song’s lyrics in brightly coloured crayons – very psychedelic! (The lyric sheet was later given away by Lennon for charity). Musically, this track is very much in keeping with the fab four’s increasingly more sophisticated-sounding pop of 1965 and is played by their usual line-up of instruments, despite the fact that the Beatles had already single-handedly invented most of the sounds of 1967 (feedback on ‘I Feel Fine’, long guitar solos and tape loops).
3) The Beach Boys “The Little Girl I Once Knew” (First released as a single 11/1965): It may have been the Beach Boys’ biggest flop since 1962, but this little known single arguably paves more of a way towards the ‘Pet Sounds’/’Smile’ recordings the band will go on to be most famous for than any of their better known material. Lyrically, it’s not that different to earlier Beach Boys records, albeit still light years ahead of most songs from the mid-60s – the narrator’s girl has changed since they started dating, growing more mature with every passing day while he wants to stay as a teenager and its causing a big rift between them (it’s a logical extension of Brian Wilson’s jaw-dropping 1964 song about aging ‘(When I Grow Up) To Be A Man’). This forever-changing personality is a key part of the song, though, transforming herself with such regularity that the narrator is left gasping for breath the second time he ever sees her, after ignoring her the first. Musically, though, it’s the start of a whole new species of songs, the sort that are out to confuse the listener and take them somewhere else rather than merely enforce or reflect what they feel, complete with sudden jolting full stops (part of the reason why this single sold so badly was that radio DJs objected to this song’s few seconds of dead air) and it’s lurching switch between jolly nursery rhyme singalong chorus and verses of desperate grief. Very psychedelic, in other words, and an obvious stepping stone towards the sounds of 1966-68, even though it is yet again all played on conventional instruments.
2) The Kinks “See My Friends” (First released as a single 30/7/1965): Ray Davies was inspired to write this beautiful single after The Kinks played a rare show in India and the elder Kink brother was inspired by the sitar sounds he’d never heard in close proximity before (the same time George Harrison came across the instrument while filming ‘Help!’ , although his experiments with the instrument won’t make it to disc until December that year). This Kinks single doesn’t actually feature any unusual instrumentation outside the two guitar-bass-drums set up, but its droning one-note vibe is clearly inspired by Eastern music and its haiku-like lyric phrases are much closer to summer of love gobbledegook than 1965’s folk-rock boom. The subject matter – betrayal and jealousy – aren’t exactly perennial psychedelic themes but no matter, this song is still clearly
1) The Searchers “He’s Got No Love” (First released as a single 16/7/1965): Bet you didn’t see that coming! But as far as our research goes, the earliest example of the sort of spaced-out, groundbreakingly freeform and other-worldly sounds goes to The Beatles’ baby brothers who have for too long been forgotten for their pioneering work. The band never got much chance to show off their stuff in the ‘summer of love’ when they were at their most unhip, which is a terrible shame given how much this band grows between late 64 and early 66. This flop single ‘He’s Got No Love’ – released at the same time as ‘Help!’ and ‘My Generation’ - sounds much closer in spirit to 1967 than 1965 with its world-weary vocals, smothered production sound and feedback-filled chiming Rickenbacker guitars. The sound of this song also fits nicely with the theme of isolation and despair –not a traditional psychedelia subject, perhaps, but there are lots of examples of it out there on later, much better known summer of love songs. Above all, this song ticks the boxes of sounding other-worldly, transcendental and downright different compared to everything else around at the time. Ha, bet The Spice Girls don’t even know what psychedelia is (or how to spell it!) – hmm, I’ve just got an image of hearing the new Spice Girls reunion single ‘I wanna huh with flowers on’...
You can buy 'Solid Rock - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To Dire Straits' by clicking here!
“Calling Elvis – is anybody home? Calling Elvis - I’m here all alone” “A three-chord symphony crashes into space, the moon is hanging upside down, I don’t know why I’m still on the case...” “If we can’t get along, we ought to be apart and I’m wondering where yo0u got that cold cold heart” “You only get one life I know – I want to get my licks in before I go” “Sometimes you’re the windshi’On Every ld, sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes it all comes together baby, sometimes you’re the fool in love” “My life makes perfect sense – lust and food and violence” “The same old fears and the same old crimes – we haven’t changed since ancient times” “Now I’m trying to find my way through the rain and the steam”
Dire Straits “On Every Street” (1991)
Calling Elvis/On Every Street/When It Comes To You/Fade To Black/The Bug/You And Your Friend//Heavy Fuel/Iron Hand/Ticket To Heaven/My Parties/Planet Of New Orleans/How Long?
"Ullo? Is that Elvis?' 'Uh-huh?' 'Look, mr King, sir, I'm in a rock and roll band and we're quite big at the moment - well just about the biggest thing since you Mr Presley, sir, and I'm scared'. 'Uh-huh?' 'I just wondered, was there a moment in your career when you saw the end coming? Would you have given it all up to have stepped away from that spotlight for just a single moment or even a breather? Did you ever feel as if it all just got too big?!Does it all get easier? Or should I just step away quietly? Look, I just really need some guidance now....Hello, Elvis?..."
'On Every Street' is where Dire Straits reverse the charges. After some of the greatest procrastination the world has ever known (an ad hoc super-group The Notting Hillbillies, a covers album with Chet Atkins and no less than four film soundtracks) Mark Knopfler finally got back to his day job and tried to follow-up the biggest selling album of the decade. But he does so on his own terms: this is an album that consciously, deliberately, overwhelmingly tries to stay low key. There are no power pop singles here, in fact nothing all that deep and meaningful at all (especially the first three singles that were released first from this album that can best be considered 'novelty records'), no guest stars and no big production numbers. Caught halfway between what Mark had become (rock star hero) and what he was about to become (earthy folk crooner), 'On Every Street' finds Knopfler straddling every path and almost wilfully vowing not to go anywhere near his past (even though conversely it's sadly the last album to buy if you're interested in Mark Knopfler records mainly to hear that electric guitar sound, with lots of last farewells here). At the same time Knopfler is keen to use the skills he's learnt - the painstaking atmospheric craftwork of his film scores (which are often lovely but perhaps a little too well crafted and in need of some urgent spontaneity) and the daftness of his rockabilly projects with other people (which are often fun but badly in need of structure to be meaningful) As a result fans have always been rather uneasy about 'On Every Street', which moves from a pastiche of what a preening rockstar should be doing on their follow-up to a hit album (the heavy rocking comedy 'Heavy Fuel'), atmospheric ballads that don't say much and are all about the sound (e.g. the title track), folk laments that will later become the default Knopfler setting (the uneasy farewell track 'How Long?') and the sound of a band just having fun and trying to shrug off the weight of expectation ('The Bug' is the sort of thing a new wannabe band can get away with, but not an established million-selling act). As a result a lot of fans don't quite know how to take 'On Every Street' which manages by turns to stretch the band's signature sound to breaking point and confine them inside a little box marked 'no ambition'. If this was an attempt at a big hit album it would surely have been a cul-de-sac, but a hit album was the last thing the basically shy and down-to-earth Knopfler would have wanted - far from bringing him the success and glory, the high sales for 'Brothers In Arms' only seem to have brought him unhappiness and a sense that people were believing more in him than he believed himself.
Now, following world-wide blockbusters is never easy. The added pressure that your biggest successes gives you can lead to some very odd decisions, as we’ve seen elsewhere already on this site (The Beatles’ ‘Magical Mystery Tour; Neil Young’s ‘Time Fades Away’; Pink Floyd’s four song album ‘Wish You Were Here’, etc) while it broke artists like Lindisfarne, The Small Faces and Simon and Garfunkel up altogether. Yet only 'Dark Side Of The Moon' comes close to selling as many copies as 'Brothers In Arms' did and arguably that came after a run of hit albums anyway: while albums one, three and four could all be considered big sellers of one sort or another, 'Brothers In Arms' smashed all records from almost the first day of release, promoted by two hit singles before the album was even out in shops. Following it up would have been a problem for any band, never mind one that worked at as slow a pace as this one (would you believe there’s a six year gap between albums by this stage? Neil Young, for instance, had released seven long-players and an EP in the same time period). Despite initially selling far more copies than its predecessor (it hit #1 in the charts far quicker than ‘Arms’ which had to wait for the million-selling single ‘Money For Nothing’ to come out to push it all the way to the top of the charts) , ‘On Every Street’ is nowadays one of the most obscure albums Dire Straits ever released. It is also, to date at least, their last. The two are not un-connected.
There’s lots of reasons why this album was so badly received at the time, not just the long gestation period. We forget nowadays, but back in the 1980s Dire Straits were the biggest band around, second only to Madonna and Michael Jackson for singles and albums sold in that period (and that by releasing basically only a quarter of the same amount of material). In 1985 they were at their profile peak, appearing on everything from Live Aid to TV-broadcast concerts of their world tours and their promo videos were everywhere. ‘Brothers In Arms’ was an album that suited the climate well, full of confident pop and hard-hitting ear-catching arrangements, with just enough gentle toughness underneath the gloss to give fans who wanted either something they wanted. ‘On Every Street’ is by contrast a very humble album, very unsure of itself both in the way that the arrangements repeat themselves throughout and in the way that the lyrics seem to pose questions rather than give answers. Hardly anything here is tough the way that 'Ride Across The River' and 'The Man's Too Strong' became the 'conscience' of that record ('Iron Hand' comes closest and that's more like a traditional folk song than something powerful and contemporary). Yet hardly anything is as empty effervescent gloriously glossy pop as 'Money For Nothing' or 'So Far Away' either - in truth the only 'uptempo' songs here are all frivolous comedies and even though Vertigo tries hard by releasing four singles (just one less than last time) only 'Calling Elvis' did well and that was mainly through pre-sales before most fans had heard it (the song makes more sense in the climate of the nostalgic rockabilly 1993, but play it back to back with the oh so 1985 final single 'Why Worry?' and the two songs couldn't be more different - one is deep yet with pretty colours on every last note, the other is bare-bones and effectively a one-note (though still funny) joke. However the confusion that greeted 'On Every Street' is in many ways unfounded; though curiously low on rock throughout it's actually 'On Every Street' that sounds most like the albums of the past (the mixture of comedy and adrenalin that is 'Makin' Movies' and the thoughtful, lyrical 'Love Over Gold'); it's the assertive and confident 'Brothers In Arms' that sounds like the odd one out when you play these records in order.
'On Every Street' has something of a reputation for being boring and worthless. The former is probably true - very little here leaps out at you musically and when this album does assault your ears it's generally for the wrong reasons ('My Parties' is a joke to far, the flimsiest song on the record getting the biggest production job, while Knopfler sings in an annoying accent throughout instead of just one verse). However, it's far from worthless - it's just not that immediate, that's all, and you just have to dig a bit more to realise how great some of these songs are. While for my money Knopfler was never as natural a lyricist as he was a composer, he has a very distinctive homespun philosophy style that sits well with his music and his lyrics on this album are among the best he ever wrote. Fans should by rights be quoting the moody ‘Fade To Black’, atmospheric ‘Iron Hand’ or even the jokey ‘The Bug’ (the best comedy song on this site not written by 10cc or given to Ringo to sing?), but instead they hardly know them – even if they own this album. It's hard to sing anything from this album out loud and I guarantee that the only song from this entire album that will be rolling round my head tonight when inevitably I can't sleep will be the chirpy 'Calling Elvis' (oh no, I feel nine hours of that bleeping synthesiser sound effect going over and over...) However just have a flick through the lyrics to these songs again: 'I bet you already made a pass in a darkened room somewhere' 'I wish I'd never been lassooed or been to hell and back...' 'The same old fear, the same old crimes, we haven't changed since ancient times...' 'One day you're a diamond - then you're a stone...' all of these are highly quotable lyrics that would happily grace any of the earlier LPs. Even if some of the other tracks try a little too hard (the title track and 'Ticket To Heaven' come to mind), this isn't just a ripped off hurried album rattled off to kill off the band's sound - Knopfler has worked at the lyrics and what he has to say. In fact that's arguably this record's biggest weakness: it spends so long trying to work out what to say and make it meaningful, before pulling the rug underneath us with a deliberately daft song that simply points out how stupid taking advice from rock musicians is. 'Brothers In Arms' was an album that could have it both ways because, while simple, none of the pop songs were empty and all sounded heartfelt, while the more serious songs on the album 'joined up the dots' a little,
preventing it from being 'just' an album of pop singles. 'On Every Street' can't win: the silly songs are really silly, the deep songs are really deep and there's nothing in the grey area between them.
There’s another reason for this album’s humility that few reviewers picked up on in 1991, even though the ‘feel’ of it is present in this album’s songs everywhere but the singles. Mark Knopfler’s 10 year marriage to second wife Lourdes Salomone was grinding to a halt, with the couple divorcing just two years after this album’s release and there’s some speculation that Dire Straits’ gruelling and then-unprecedented two-year long tour was as much to avoid going home as it was to promote this album (like all too many bands out on the road for extended periods, Dire Straits broke up for good just after it had finished). We’ve had other ‘divorce’ albums on this website before of course (Paul Simon’s ‘One-Trick Pony’ takes the gentlemanly route; The Kinks’ ‘State Of Confusion’, about Ray Davies’ split with Pretender Chrissie Hynde, was less so) but ‘On Every Street is pretty much unique in the way it goes about taking revenge for wrongs and slights over the years. The music is alternately slow, bluesy and reflective and then angry and piercing, while the words veer wildly from poetic wrist-slitting to personal confessional angst, often mixing these approaches in the same song. 'Brothers' had some sad reflective moments but was for the most part a glass half full, upbeat album - but this album is half empty (except for 'The Bug' where it sloshes around between overfull and bare all the time). 'On Every Street' 'When It Comes To You' and 'Fade To Black' all imagine what the past Mrs Knopfler will get up to in the future, most of it bad and none of it involving the narrator who feels abandoned, left behind (not for nothing does the band use the image of a homeless trap on the cover, his feet sticking out towards the camera), while the back image repeats this cover but as a 'postcard' - being away from home is another album theme that everyone assumes was to do with the tour: erm actually the tour didn't start until these songs were recorded; my guess is that Knopfler was imagining a new life away from the family home). Funnily enough, we've come full circle. First album 'Dire Straits' was another break-up album, with Knopfler in many ways only becoming a rock star so he could vent his feelings (his first wife didn't approve so the first three records are in many ways an 'I'll show her...' commercial fest until Knopfler's social conscience kicks in on 'Love Over Gold'). It's as tough as a pair of boots (it should have come with the cover for this album), full of themes about going on walks and not knowing home when you get back: even 'Sultans Of Swings' is about the stop-off escapist point offered as a reason for why the 'album narrator' has to get out of the house. 'On Every Street' very much returns to the start, with themes of loss and breakup and name-calling and guilt and walking as far away as possible and yet still not being able to shake off the hurt happening at home...The difference is that instead of a no-frills rock band Dire Straits are now a global icon and Knopfler is all rocked out, preferring a folk sound to tell his stories.
As for the end predictably there wasn't one - not really. Officially Dire Straits have never broken up and are just 'resting', although I'd be surprised if anything new comes out under the band name again (John Illsley, still good friends with Mark, says he keeps ringing him up every year or so to ask when they're going out on tour - at first he meant it seriously, but now it's something of a joke). Having ended with the mother of all farewell tours (collected on live set 'On The Night' and two 'Encores' EPs) where Dire Straits played to as many people as could possibly want to go see them around the world, Knopfler hung up his boots (yep, them again!) and created a whole new parallel world for himself as a folk singer-songwriter, content that enough of the fans who'd fallen in love with him would follow and support him for the rest of his creative life, while those into Dire Straits because they were rich and successful would all go away. Of all the ways of following up a huge album, this is in many ways my favourite: nobody gets hurt, the band got a 'proper' goodbye where they made pots of money, Knopfler continues to write music (far more often, in fact, than in his days with the band) and fans got to see both why Dire Straits couldn't go on being the band they were this last time around ('I tried' you can almost hear Knopfler saying throughout this album, stamped through the lyrics like a watermark', but too much has changed for me to write like that!') and got to experience a 'preview' of where Mark's solo career was going to go. People have called 'On Every Street' a disappointment, which it is if you're expecting another world-beater perfect for its times. But how could it be: the 1980s fitted The Dire Straits to a tee, the 1990s weren't the same background anymore and Knopfler is no longer interested in music from the present anyway but the sounds of the past (any record that references the English Civil War and Elvis - dead for sixteen years by the time of this album's release - clearly doesn't care anymore about what's in the charts and why). Considering what might have happened (no last goodbye at all, a pure folk album like the ones to come or a truly awful 'pop' record like the lesser songs here repeated ad infinitum) this is, honestly, the way to go full of reasons why the band had to change, why they had to say goodbye and why tis album's chief creator knew from the moment he started writing the first song for it that the project was doomed to failure.
‘On Every Street’ is a mixed bag, then, without the sparkle and mainly without the wit of the olden days, without quite matching Mark's later solo albums in terms of wisdom and sensibility. This was always going to be a hybrid project, one that found Knopfler's personal and professional life in flux. You sense that he's only half-joking about coming down the Dire Straits years ('Last time I felt sober - man I felt bad!') but you also know that this new vow of abstinence from all rock star things is heartfelt and for Mark the only option left to him. ‘Street’ has aged an awful lot better than it's predecessor in many ways, with subdued production values that for the most part sound like a forerunner of the more mid-90s back-to-basics fashion and there are less dateable elements like synths, linn drums and production gimmicks (although as 'My Parties' falls into all of these traps we can't let it get off entirely scott free). It also works better than most of the band’s other albums as a mood piece, with each track similar in tone, give or take three of the four singles released from the album, as opposed to the eccentricity that became the Knopfler trademark from ‘Communique’ onwards. Ask the average person today (far too young to know of 'Dire Straits', poor things) which of the two records they consider to be the 'hit' album that summed up its era and which was the 'disappointment', a good half of the time they might surprise you with their choice and pick the quieter, humbler, more thoughtful LP with the three insanely catchy songs on it (not that we conducted any blind testing or anything, so don't hold us to this under pain of death or something). What's more this is in many ways where the band chemistry finally comes together: Alan Clark’s haunting keyboards are all over this record, more so than any other barring 'Love Over Gold' (plus this CD sounds, in parts, quite similar to his and Knopfler’s score for the ‘Local hero’ film where Clark really should have had joint billing, having more to do than on any Dire Straits record) and Guy Fletcher’s rhythmical drumming is well suited to the rockers and nicely subdued on the ballads. Only the ever-present John Illsey is under-served, with less and less to do in the band he co-founded over time. However this is also in many ways the first Mark Knopfler solo record, one which tries and partly discards all sorts of ideas that don't work but finds many convincing new ways to tell old stories. There's a reason Mark's solo albums sound more like this record than 'Brothers In Arms' or indeed any of the Dire Straits releases: quieter, simpler and yet with more detail going on, this is a record that's more Mark's natural speed and style. Sadly it's also far less consistent, which is a pity, but in many ways that's inevitable: this album suddenly has a whole universe to run around in, so why should Mark stick to the same old avenues that sound like a prison?
 ‘Calling Elvis’ seemed like a natural place for the band to go and was well received as the lead-off single for this album, helped by a curious promo video which featured the band as thunderbird puppets singing about Elvis’ death (a real mix of childhood memories there!) In the beginning, in the late 70s, Dire Straits were welcomed as a breath of fresh air in an era where huge prog rock albums were the norm and their retro 1950s rockabilly with contemporary flourishes at one stage offered as much of a cause for a movement as the punks did (I know which movement I’d have preferred, although the two aren’t actually that different – the main clash seems to be over song lengths!) ‘Calling Elvis’ is clearly a throwback to those days, built on a simple riff and only some very minor touches to update the sound for the present. What’s curious is that this song sounds far more like Chuck Berry than Elvis, with a swampy bluesy quality not often found on Elvis’ records and a guitar-led kick that bites harder than most Presley recordings that rely on his voice for their biggest impact. By contrast, you can barely hear the words here Knopfler is so subdued and indeed the vocal is the weakest part of this opening track, with the band kicking up a storm of emotion by the end although Mark rarely rises above a whisper. The lyrics are intriguing too. Elvis had been 14 years when this album came out – hardly the right sort of timing for an anniversary – and his stock had never been lower thanks to a run of ‘in memoriam’ compilation albums that dug up more and more pointless outtakes that saw the singer lose stock badly until a revival of sorts in the mid-90s when the public at large suddenly remembered that most of the stars of the 1950s were still gigging (Elvis’ estate should have sat tight and reissued these old albums slowly, as Yoko did when Lennon died). But this song isn’t a straightforward tribute to a favourite singer, despite the many fan-friendly references to Elvis’ songs, but a cry for help. The song starts with the narrator calling up because he’s ‘all alone’ only to find no answer, as if forgetting that the legend had died all those years before and the context is curious – it’s as if Knopfler has woken from his six year inactive slumber to find the music world had moved on without him and that the only music he can ‘connect’ to goes right back to his youth. Thereafter the song gradually loses touch with its original source and becomes more of a tribute to Elvis the Pelvis, but Knopfler’s exemplary guitar playing throughout this track suggests more of a personal journey than one in memory of someone else. The long ending of this song (on the album version at least) is the closest we come on the whole album to the band interplay that propped up all those earlier Dire Straits albums, with Knopfler bouncing off the keyboard morse code cries for help from Alan Clark and the energetic drumming from Guy Fletcher. Essentially, though, the Dire Straits are over from the next track onwards, which is very much Mark Knopfler out on his own...
The title track on  ‘On Every Street' sounds at times uncomfortably close to the title track of ‘Brothers In Arms’. But whereas that track was about overcoming austerity with feelings of brotherhood and shared suffering, this track is all about distances, with Knopfler’s narrator separated from his either imagined or remembered lover (either interpretation fits) and desperately looking for her face everywhere he goes. The recording should suit this subdued slice of melancholy, being every bit as stark as ‘Brothers In Arms’ but alas the band take it too far – Knopfler’s vocal is hard to hear (which is a shame as this track has some of the best lyrics of the whole album) and when the gentle pedal steel guitar part comes in even that subtle touch seems like too much weight for this fragile song. The rockabilly upbeat coda, with Knopfler playing a circular riff while the others join in one by one, also sounds like a desperate attempt to liven the song up for performing on the road rather than anything in keeping with the song. A shame because the lyrics are something rather special, with the third verse (the one starting ‘three chord symphony crashes into space’) one of Knopfler’s best and most poetic, reflecting on the turmoil and uncertainty of his life in the present, when even his victories in the petty arguments with a loved one seem ‘bittersweet’ because he doesn’t want to be having them in the first place. If I’m right – and there’s no certainty that I am as Knopfler is an even more private man than most on this list and rarely talks about his songs in depth – then ‘On Every Street’ is the ‘goodbye’ song to his second marriage and a neat mirror to his ‘hello’ song ‘Private Investigations’, which was release the year before the couple married. Both songs involve a shadowy figure trying to get to the bottom of an even shadier story and both songs have the private eye figuring things out for himself rather than for a third party. The difference is that this time around the mystery person the narrator can’t fathom out is standing next to him the whole time and her presence is just as shadowy at the end of the song as it was before. A fascinating song, badly served by a poor arrangement that puts the emphasis on this song’s weak spots (the melody, which for once isn’t up to scratch) rather than its strengths (the very intriguing lyrics).
 ‘When It Comes To You’ is a much catchier song on the same theme, with Knopfler spelling things out a bit more directly this time around. It’s probably my favourite on the album, with Mark’s vocal upfront for the first time on this album and matching some simple rockabilly phrases with some lyrics that might be equally easy to understand but point to some hidden depths. It’s always hard to put into words a description of an actual sound rather than discussing lyrics and key changes and things, but suffice to say Mark’s conversational guitar is exemplary here, cutting in and adding asides between the vocal and seemingly adding the emotional touches that the reserved and strangely detached sounding narrator can’t bring himself to say. Of all the Knopfler guitar solos on record, the sudden outpouring in the middle of this song is beaten only by ‘Telegraph Road’ for sheer emotional impact and it perfectly sets up this song about a female playing hard to get. This song should have been the single, not ‘Calling Elvis’ ‘On Every Street’ ‘Heavy Fuel’ or even ‘The Bug’, my other favourite on the album, as ‘When It Comes To You’ has so much more power, attack and charisma than the other pieces on this troubled album. The gem of the record.
If that last track could only be done by the Dire Straits however, hiding a complex song behind a straightforward sound,  ‘Fade To Black’ is a copycat song too far. This song is a blues, so obvious and unoriginal you can almost sing it yourself if you were given the lyric sheet and asked to make up a melody and see how it goes. The song is made to sound like it’s being played in a club, with Guy Fletcher playing the drums with brushes and Alan Clark reducing his sound to swirly keyboard chords, but Mark Knopfler doesn’t sound like he belongs here, propping up the bar with his troubles. Lyrically this song is a lesser re-write of ‘On Every Street’ without the twist in the tale, as the narrator wonders what his missing partner is getting up to while he’s away, seemingly missing out on the point that she could well be on the other side of the bar drowning her own sorrows. Alas, it’s all too easy to hear this song ‘fading to black’, as it runs out of steam too long before that.
 ‘The Bug’ is a much needed injection of energy and – more than that – enthusiasm on the record, a joyous sign-off to the relationship that’s been getting the narrator down throughout the rest of the record. This time around Knopfler’s taken his own advice in ‘Calling Elvis’ to go back to his past, offering a breathless tribute to his 1950s childhood that’s far more successful here. In fact, why the heck didn’t the other Travelling Wilburys persuade Markl Knopfler to join when Roy Orbison died and he was between bands – he’d pretty much created their sound with Dire Straits and this album is a near-contemporary with their Volume Three! The lyrics, too, might be simple but feature more of that wonderful homespun Knopfler philosophy – sometimes love works out, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes you’re the bug whacking into the windshield of the car you didn’t see coming and sometimes you’re the one causing the pain to another by accident. I’m curious to know whether this song came before, after or during the others on this troubled album as it seems to sit apart from the other tracks somehow and whoever placed it here, after a series of ballads, deserves a medal. The song isn’t as deep as we know Knopfler to be capable of (try ‘Telegraph Road’ for that, all 14 minutes of it!) and its probably not even the catchiest thing he ever wrote (try one of the ‘Brothers In Arms’ spin-off singles), but somehow this simple song stands head and shoulders over practically everything else on the album, winning our sympathy by not trying as hard as Knopfler does elsewhere. Best of all, Dire Straits sound like a band again, not just Knopfler’s backing crew, and this song offers one last time of hearing their distinctive ‘gurgling’ sound, with Guy Fletcher especially at the peak of his powers here. Oh and for those in Europe who are wondering what on earth a ‘Louisville slugger’ can be, this is Londoner Mark Knopfler at his most American, quoting informal baseball phrases!
 ‘You And Your Friend’ finds us right back in the foot-off-the-throttle groove, however, another not very inspired slow burning ballad that sounds like an outtake from Neil Young’s generic blues album ‘This Notes For You’ of three years before. The part of this song that does stand out, however, is the very Dire Straits-ish key change into what might be called either the middle eight or the ‘alternate’ verse (it’s the part of the song that starts ‘if you talk to one another...’, although strictly speaking this song has none of the usual verse/chorus/middle eight structure and is ABAB all the way through with a guitar solo at the end). The whole song lifts for this section, especially with Mark Knopfler’s nylon steel guitar playing which makes the song sound more like the band of the early 80s than the early 90s and fits this song’s feeling of separation quite well. This theme is taken a stage further by the long fade out, when after several verses about how the narrator and his partner and her friend are being kept apart the two sections of the song match up and Knopfler’s steel guitar playing and his more usual electric playing clash with each other head on. That’s what’s so odd about this song – the two styles simply don’t go together and clash badly, although in the context of the song it’s really clever, reflecting the lyrics that see the narrator pondering over how two such separate and distinct people could ever have got together in the first place. A hard song to listen to, then, but one that’s quite admirable by the end, even if the llloooonnnggg fade out could have done with a bit of trimming.
 ‘Heavy Fuel’ is another comedy that borrows the heavy riffing of ‘The Bug’ and adds in the lyrics from scathing 1982 B-side ‘Badges, Posters, Stickers and T-shirts’. Knopfler has always been one of those rock stars who absolutely hates celebrity, perhaps because he spent so long waiting for success he’s rather put off by the instant gratification of our X Factor age (the Dire Straits didn’t release their first single until Knopfler was a few months shy of 30) and every so often we get one of these spoof songs from him about the miseries of being rich and famous. None of these spoofs are particularly worthy of his talent but ‘Heavy Fuel’ is by far the best, thanks to only the third strong band performance on the record and lyrics that cheekily offer an incentive to getting full of booze and drugs! That’s part of the joke of course -I can’t think of anybody less likely to get tanked up on illegal and legal substances and lose his reserve than Mark Knopfler – and for the most part this song is good fun, with one of Knopfler’s better (and better produced) vocals and some genuinely funny lines (the closing one about ‘writing a suicide note – but on a hundred dollar bill’ sounds more like a barbed Ray Davies comment). The joke is, of course, on the narrator – like all the best comedy songs – because as the opening lines make clear he’s filling himself up with artificial stimulants to cover up how bad the hangover from these same stimulants is, a vicious circle of his own making. The laughter also comes from his displaced sense of priorities – in one breath he’s moaning about how ‘my ugly big car won’t climb this hill’ and in the next he’s completely non-plussed by the doctor’s claim that ‘I ought to be dead’ thanks to all the beer and narcotics. What’s missing in this song is depth or any kind of resolution – like all too many songs about addiction this song is guaranteed to make non-addicteds shake their head in puzzlement and the ones who are hooked to go ‘man, he isn’t talking about me – I’m not doing anything wrong!’) Many reviewers claim that this song doesn’t fit on such a bleak and straightforward album, but actually this song’s theme of denial and going back to the things you know hurt you is very in keeping with ‘On Every Street’s number of doomed romance songs.
 ‘Iron Hand’ is unique among these songs in trying to come up with a song about a bygone age that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the impending doom that’s felt across this record – only to undo it in the final verse where the narrator sings about ‘fears that haven’t changed since ancient times’. This song shares its moody atmosphere with the previous album’s ‘The Man’s Too Strong’ (the best track on the whole of ‘Brothers In Arms’ for my money, although it’s probably the most obscure on the whole record!), although it can’t quite match that earlier song’s intensity or purpose. For although Mark Knopfler is an effective storyteller, conjuring up a scene of knights and castles in a few lines and giving them depth, there’s nothing really to care about in this short, simple song. Knopfler’s claims early on that the days then were simpler (‘the sky so blue, the grass so green’) are clearly wrong – the narrator seems to have forgotten about plague, threat of attack and above all the lack of readily available music making the lives of the poor, at least, a misery back then and the writer himself undoes his work with that curious last line. Yet then again, perhaps this song is a warning, with a seemingly peaceful and harmonious town devastated suddenly and without warning – very much on a level with these other songs of impending doom, in other words, however much Knopfler tries to disguise it.
 ‘Ticket To Heaven’ sounds on first listen like the surefire winner of the album – Knopfler is loud and proud in the mix at last and, far from looking down at his shoes as so often on this album, he’s singing a confident-sounding song with a catchy riff. The only problem comes a few listening later when the reality hitys you that all this song has going for it is a simple and much –repeated riff and that sounds like it was stolen from something else (it’s two parts ‘three steps to heaven’ and one part a ballad from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Carousel’, a musical that Knopfler had already commandeered for the opening of ‘Tunnel Of Love’ of course). Analyse this song even further and you find that, far from being the simple affirmation of love it sounded, this song has some of the oddest lyrics to ever grace Alan’s Album Archives (not by the Spice Girls anyway). The narrator is seeing visions, a mysterious ‘man with a diamond ring’ who comes down from the afterlife to tell the poor man not to worry about his own ‘dire straits’ because there is a place booked for him in heaven. What’s hinted is that, by the end of the song, the optimistic narrator has died, his body being sent straight to heaven where ‘the good Lord will provide’ – even though, without the vision’s intervention he may still be alive to pay his heating bills and put food on his table. A curious song all round and one where we’re not quite sure where our sympathies lie, even though the narrator is adamant about what the visions mean to him. Dire Straits never did a religious song apart from this one and yet there’s many of them on Knopfler’s solo records, most of them positive – are we looking at another ‘redemptive’ period here in the same way that George Harrison ‘found’ God in the late 60s or Bob Dylan did in the 70s?
Almost as curious is the subdued  ‘My Parties’, which sounds like the most boring and pointless party you’ve ever been to (well, actually, I’ve been to a few that sound worse than this. Some of them my own). I hope that this song about a party host showing off his knick knacks is another spoof of the rich lifestyle as heard on ‘Heavy Fuel’ and various other songs, but somehow I’m less sure about it than on these other songs. The narrator is singing straight for the most part (although there is a definite chuckle in Knopfler’s voice on the line ‘we aim to please’) and there is no twist in the tale this time around, even with a narrow minded host who cares nothing for dying species as long as there ‘ain’t nothin’ runnin’ out in my deep freeze’. A closing party stopper sound effect, as the song lurches to an unsure halt, is either woefully misguided or an ironic comment on how nobody at this party had any fun whatsoever. Like Godley and Creme’s own worst song ‘The Party’, making a painfully artificial song about artificial small talk impresses a little but mainly irritates the hell out of you, just like the real thing. Odd.
 ‘Planet Of New Orleans’ is slightly better but still shows signs of this album fading on the second half. The lyrics to this song are yet another re-write of ‘On Every Street’, this time with the lost narrator pausing to try and trace a song that’s running through his head and, by relation, the feelings he used to feel back when he and his partner were together. The music is more interesting, though, a Pink Floyd-ish collage of sound with Knopfler breaking with tradition and sounding downright angry at times throughout this track (especially on the guitar). The idea of New Orleans being ‘on the other side of the planet’ suit both the idea of the lost narrator re-tracing his past from what seems like a completely different world and the ‘feel’ of this song which really does sound like a different planet entirely to the usual Knopfler sound. The last great Dire Straits experiment, then, or an absolute mess? Well, in truth, it’s a little of both. Each distinct part of this multi-layered song sound intriguing and ear-catching, especially Mark Knopfler’s guitar links which again feature his best playing, saying so much more than the narrator allows himself to say and channelling the anger and displacement of the song. However, the sum of this song is far less than its parts and the long sections of each are far too long, being boring without offering a reason for holding our attention (the muddy production is again heavily muted, with Knopfler’s vocal hard to hear and not much happening beneath him), but if you can get into this complex song it does reward. The closing image of the narrator trying to find his way home, ‘through the rain and steam’ is also a neat catch-all image for this troubled image, with Knopfler trying to find a way to his happier past every bit as much as a new direction for the band to walk in. Still, as farewells go, it’s good to hear the band to go out on an experiment (that’s a farewell bare the short final track anyway) rather than yet another variation of a tried and tested formula as we’ve heard too often on the rest of the album.
If ' Planet Of New Orleans’ is the big goodbye then truly final track  ‘How Long?’ is in effect the big 'hello again', both in the sense that this is the album’s troubled narrator sometime in the future offering a much more humbled and angst-free greeting to the partner he’s been stewing over for much of the album and in that it sounds very much like Knopfler’s forthcoming solo records (starting in 1996 with ‘Golden Heart’, which nearly all sounds like variations on this track). There’s really not much happening in ‘How Long?’ other than the narrator bumping into his old flame by accident, asking her how she is and what’s she’s up to, even though things turn nasty again in the second verse as a new-found love does exactly the same, pushing the narrator away. For the most part, though, this is an upbeat song and one that offers hope in true Dire Straits tradition, with some lovely acoustic playing that sounds very like the opening to early Dire Straits song ‘Romeo and Juliet’, as if to mimick the end of a relationship that started back with those two lovers in the song. The most distinctive part of the track, though, are the country leanings which will become a much greater influence for Mark later in the decade and John Illsey’s lovely harmonies which have been shockingly absent from most of this album.
‘On Every Street’, then, is a bit of a mixed album. As the follow up to ‘Brothers In Arms’ it fails on so many levels, offering little of the commercialness but above all the variety that made that album a best-seller. As a Dire Straits record in general it fails, because it is so downbeat compared to all the other five studio albums and features so many brooding ballads and few pop songs. As a record released in that curious stepping stone year of 1991 (the hits that year are split more or less evenly between the remnants of the very 80s sound and the very 90s newer sounds) it failed very badly, being out of step with the poppy ballads and actors-spin-off records that were in the charts back then. As a cohesive album taken on its own terms, however, and away from all the hype it received at the time, ‘On Every Street’ is quite a good little record, with a handful of highlights among the best things Dire Straits ever did and a readily recognisable mood linking each piece.
Other Dire Straits articles from this site you might be interested in reading: