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The Northernness of Dire Straits: Top 10 Songs by Mark Knopfler

Introduction to Dire Straits

Dire Straits is a British rock band that emerged in the late 1970s and went on to become one of the most successful acts of the decade. The band was led by Mark Knopfler, who blended his working-class roots in Newcastle with his virtuosic guitar playing and dry humor to create a sound that was both distinctive and widely popular.

In this article, we will explore the importance of Knopfler’s “northernness” in music and highlight the top 10 Dire Straits songs that have stood the test of time. Mark Knopfler’s working-class roots

Mark Knopfler was born in Glasgow, Scotland but spent most of his childhood in Newcastle, England where his father worked as a nightshift supervisor at a local factory.

Knopfler’s family had strong ties to the shipbuilding industry, which was a vital part of the region’s economy at the time. His grandfather and uncles all worked in the shipyards, and his brother David would go on to become a successful economist specializing in maritime economics.

Knopfler was deeply influenced by the music he heard growing up, including the sounds of skiffle, blues, and rock and roll. He began playing guitar at an early age and soon became a talented musician in his own right.

As a student at the University of Leeds, he formed a band called the Caf Racers and played in local pubs and clubs around town. Later, while studying at the University of London, he met Sting, who was also a struggling musician at the time.

The two struck up a friendship and played together in a band called the Last Exit before going their separate ways. Importance of Knopfler’s “northernness” in music

One of the things that made Mark Knopfler stand out as a musician was his dry wit and understated sense of humor, which was very much informed by his northern roots.

He had a way of writing songs that were simultaneously melancholic, poetic, and amusing, often using colloquialisms and slang in his lyrics. Another distinguishing feature of Knopfler’s music was his virtuosic guitar playing, which he developed through years of dedicated practice and experimentation.

He was known for his fingerpicking style and use of finger vibrato, which gave his playing a distinctive tone and texture.

Top 10 Dire Straits Songs

1. Lady Writer

“Lady Writer” is a track from Dire Straits’ second album, Communiqu, which was released in 1979.

The song was written about Marina Warner, a British author who had written a book about female writers in the 19th century. The lyrics describe a woman who is trapped in her own artistic endeavors, unable to escape the pressure of fame and fortune.

2. Six Blade Knife

“Six Blade Knife” is a track from Dire Straits’ self-titled debut album, which was released in 1978.

The song was written about a guitar that Mark Knopfler had bought for six pounds in a second-hand shop. The lyrics describe the idea of using music as a means of escape from the mundanity of everyday life.

3. Tunnel of Love

“Tunnel of Love” is a track from Dire Straits’ fourth album, Making Movies, which was released in 1980.

The song is an autobiographical reflection on Knopfler’s own experiences growing up in Newcastle and spending time at the Spanish City amusement park. 4.

Your Latest Trick

“Your Latest Trick” is a track from Dire Straits’ fifth album, Brothers in Arms, which was released in 1985. The song tells the story of a heartbroken man who seeks solace in the arms of a woman who is described as a “lady of the night.” The lyrics make references to the Wild West and have a cinematic quality to them.

5. Walk of Life

“Walk of Life” is a track from Dire Straits’ fifth album, Brothers in Arms.

The song is a tribute to the London buskers that Knopfler would encounter while walking through the city. The lyrics describe a fictional character named Johnny who dreams of playing in the Cavern Club in Liverpool.

6. So Far Away

“So Far Away” is a track from Dire Straits’ fifth album, Brothers in Arms.

The song is a reflection on the nomadic lifestyle of a touring musician and the feeling of separation from loved ones that comes with it. 7.

Brothers in Arms

“Brothers in Arms” is the title track from Dire Straits’ fifth album, Brothers in Arms. The song is a powerful critique of war and its impact on the soldiers who fight it.

The track was released at the height of the Falklands War and became an anthem for the anti-war movement in the UK. 8.

Money for Nothing

“Money for Nothing” is a track from Dire Straits’ fifth album, Brothers in Arms. The song is a satirical take on the world of rock and roll, poking fun at the prima donna pop stars who were popular at the time.

The lyrics describe the hard labor that goes into making a living playing music. 9.

Romeo and Juliet

“Romeo and Juliet” is a track from Dire Straits’ third album, Making Movies. The song was inspired by a conversation that Mark Knopfler had with Holly Vincent, a singer from New York who was working on a solo album at the time.

The lyrics make references to the play “Romeo and Juliet” and the musical “West Side Story.”

10. Sultans of Swing

“Sultans of Swing” is a track from Dire Straits’ self-titled debut album.

The song is a tribute to the jazz bands that used to play in the Deptford pub where Knopfler used to hang out. The lyrics describe a band that is “blowing Dixie” and playing a style of music that is out of fashion but still captivating.


Mark Knopfler’s working-class roots and virtuosic guitar playing helped to create the distinctive sound of Dire Straits. His dry humor and northern upbringing added an element of wit and whimsy to his lyrics, while his fingerpicking style gave his playing a unique sound and texture.

The band’s top 10 songs reflect these qualities, with tracks like “Money for Nothing” and “Brothers in Arms” providing biting social commentary, while more reflective songs like “So Far Away” and “Tunnel of Love” show Knopfler’s more introspective side. Whether you’re a die-hard Dire Straits fan or just discovering the band for the first time, these songs are sure to stand the test of time and continue to inspire listeners for years to come.

In conclusion, the article has highlighted the importance of Mark Knopfler’s northern roots in the music of Dire Straits, and identified the top 10 songs that best showcase his unique style and approach to music. Knopfler’s working-class background, dry humor, and virtuosic guitar playing helped him to create a sound that was both distinctive and widely popular, and his music continues to inspire listeners today.

Whether you’re a fan of Dire Straits or simply interested in learning more about the band and their music, these songs offer a window into the world of one of Britain’s most successful rock acts.

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