Welcome to Grace Every Day! For the month of October, I’ll be writing about different songs I encounter in the normal course of my day. As a musician, married to a musician, MOTHER of musicians, it’s inescapable. There’s ALWAYS music around! I’ll take what comes and write what follows. Below is the first installment; you can find the rest of the month’s offerings here:
All He Says I Am
Be Thou My Vision
All About That Bass
Come On Come On
Walk Of Life
It was a familiar sound, the iconic Farfisa organ riff from the introduction. I heard it through the babble of some talking head trying to convince me to ask my doctor to put me on some sort of medicine.
I think, anyway. As advertisements go, it sucked; I have no idea what the product was. But I’ve been thinking about the song, and the band, all day long.
Brothers In Arms came out in 1985, the year I graduated Texas Tech University. I bought a copy fairly soon after the release, prompted by my affection for The Police and Sting’s presence on “Money For Nothing”, the first big hit off the album. That falsetto voice, pleading “I want my….I want my MTV…” over that crazy, lush Metheny-esque haze – I was smitten. Most hardcore musicians approach Dire Straits as a vehicle for one of the most accomplished guitarists of our age, but for me, it started with Sting.
Any band that’s a friend of Sting was a friend of mine.
Prompted by the commercial, I listened to “Walk of Life” a few times today. It’s a good, strong song – simply, basic rock and roll chords. My biggest discovery today was an abrupt realization that there was no bridge in this song. It startled me, because I was listening (on the elliptical) and tracking right along with the tune: verse, chorus, second verse, chorus – and right where it was time for the formulaic bridge, they slid easily into the third verse, instead.
How weird is that?
Another discovery: It’s about a guy busking.
Here comes Johnny singing “I Got a Woman”
Down in the tunnels trying to make it pay
I never made that connection. These days, I’m fond of those who busk, as one of my favorite musicians (and coworker), Matthew O’Donnell, makes his weekend musical home on the streets of Carytown or Charlottesville with his guitar or accordion or violin or concertina or whatever new instrument he’s learned this week.
I went back and listened to most of the album today; “Walk of Life” never was my favorite song. It’s not a bad little tune, but here’s the deal: It’s surrounded by INCREDIBLE songs. Fascinating chord changes, somewhat daring instrumentation for a rock and roll band – opening trumpet solo on ‘”Your Latest Trick” as example number one, with that scratchy, angry guitar underneath. It was the Brecker Brothers, making their rounds of all the best 80’s music, putting their stamp of excellence in the oddest places; and then a thick, lush groove that would fall into the hole of elevator Muzak were we not paying close attention to the horns, Knopfler’s aching rasp, and that lurking guitar, in all the nooks and crannies.
“Robbery with insolence…”
This is one fine piece of music, y’all.
I think “Why Worry” lulled me to sleep on more than one restless night. I didn’t give much thought to the brilliance of the guitarist, but now that I’m older and wiser (and married to a guitarist) I recognize his skill. One of the world’s top 100 guitarists, according to Rolling Stone.
“Ride Across the River” prepared the musical soundscape for Peter Gabriel’s So, out the next year – at least for me. And the title track – “Brothers In Arms” – has always been, for me, one of the most beautiful, ethereal and poignant songs of the 80’s. The big orchestral beginning and the thunder segues into a deep sorrow; I remember it being all about the vocal, but listening again today, I hear the open chord changes and the Farfisa again – and always, as throughout the record, the punctuation of the guitar.
This entire record feels, to me, like a conversation. The engineering is rich and true; listening today, I felt tugged deeper into the recording that I am with any, say, Taylor Swift song, where there’s so much going on that you can’t keep track of much of anything. There is genius all over this record – from composition to lyrics and fresh chord changes and timing, to the incredible guitar sound – but more than anything, I found myself amazed and astounded and happy to be able to feel the music. The old-school recording and arranging allows for an incredibly visceral experience.
I’m sure it’s tied to memories; my 22-year-old self remembers the imprint of these songs on a soul that was fresh and open and just a little bit raw. But there’s an innocence and a definitive quality of excellence and beauty in these songs, of this record as a whole.
It’s a lot more than a stupid commercial, that’s for sure.
Do yourself a favor and go give it a listen – the entire thing. Put on a good pair of headphones and experience the album. If you’ve never heard of Dire Straits, consider this part of your musical education.
And if you were a fan, take a trip down memory lane.
What was YOUR favorite song off of this record?