THE GREATEST OF ALL TUNES (G.O.A.T.) is a series of posts, producing my 100 favorite songs of all time. The master list is here, and I update it about every two weeks or when I have another 10 songs or so.
Mark Knopfler hates this song. More to the point, he hates Dire Straits. Or at least that is my understanding. He broke the group up, rumors have it, because the music wasn’t up to his standards.
Sultans of Swing was the lead single from the band’s debut album, and it immediately announced them as a different kind of band. It felt like country-jazz, and the vocals were understated rock and roll. Knopfler was almost telling a story rather than singing, in fact. And the song made complex twisty turns throughout—even though it had a standard verse-chorus-verse-solo-chorus structure, it didn’t feel like anything we’d heard before. And Knopfler’s finger-style guitar work deserves a spot up there with Clapton, Hendrix, and Van Halen.
Further listening: Dire Straits has several songs that could rank up alongside other GOATs. There are the well-known hits, like So Far Away, Walk of Life, and Romeo and Juliet—but there are also some phenomenal deeper cuts like One World and the 14-minute Telegraph Road, which actually did chart despite its length and complexity.
Knopfler was born on August 12, 1949. To celebrate, here’s some Dire Straits covers–and I’ll be inducting Sultans of Swing on to my G.O.A.T. list at next update.
Hit next for the covers!