Following on from the hilarious Alexei Sayle clip about Knopfler and Co. I thought I'd better redress the balance. I'll probably get howls of derision from Helpless Dancer and Tomahawk Kid here but here goes!
I had a job driving taxis in 1978 at the grand age of 18. The car in question was an 8 year old Morris Oxford, one of the last of its kind. The radio in this thing was I think a valve effort!
I got a hire from Helensburgh to the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport, Loch Long and was coming back via Ardpeaton when John Peel played a track from a new band he was raving about. The track in question was Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits. This was the first time I'd heard the record and despite the medium wave sound quality, it made an instant impact on me.
Peel played the track another twice that week and I went in to John Menzies in Helensburgh to be looked at blankly when I asked for firstly the single and then the album with no success. A trip to Glasgow where the staff at Listen (10 Cambridge Street Cheap and Nasty) and Bloggs in St. Vincent St. had at least heard of the record but didn't in fact have it in stock. Knowing I wasn't going to be back in the city any time soon I returned to Helensburgh and oredered the single from John Menzies. I think I can safely say I was the first person in town with this record. I got the album a few weeks later and every track was as good as the single.
Borrowing a little bit from Cale,Clapton and Dylan their eponymous first album remains one of the finest debuts in rock history IMHO.
For me they never matched that first album although their biggest commercial success was to come in 1986 with the multi gazzillion selling Brothers in Arms. By that time the critics, (and Alexei Sayle) had made up their minds about them. They were nice. They were played by housewives and trendy types in white Suzuki soft tops. Footballers would list them as favourites, a sure sign of critical nadir. Knopfler had also taken to looking like some guy out at Haloween dressed as a fashion victim.
And yet, despite some overblown production and trite lyrics, B.I.A. was an album which shone like a beacon amidst some very poor music which had come along in punk's slipstream.
I rarely skip a track when they appear on random play on my MP3. Dire Straits. Loved by musicians, hated by critics. I notice Alexei Sayle still placed a copy of Brothers in Arms under his jacket on the way out the shop mind you!