Meaning of Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits & The Story Behind

Dire Straits’ first major hit was the song Sultans of Swing from the debut album of the future legends of the British rock scene. She rose high in the charts of several countries and brought worldwide fame to the musicians. The history of the composition is well known to fans of the famous band thanks to the memoirs of Mark Knopfler, which he shared in several interviews.

The story of creation and the meaning of the song Sultans of Swing

One day, Knopfler happened to be in a bar where a little-known band was performing. Her few visitors were not particularly impressed by her music. Mark was also not thrilled, but he liked the phrase that the frontman ended the evening with. He said from the stage: “Good night and thank you. We are the sultans of swing.”

Mark later recalled:

…something about it seemed really funny to me, because they were definitely not sultans. You know, they were more like tired guys in pullovers.

But it was at that moment that Knopfler had the idea for a new composition.

Subsequently, Mark Knopfler told how he worked on the song:

“Sultans of Swing” was originally written on an open tuning National Steel guitar, although I never played it that way. She seemed boring to me, but as soon as I bought my first Strat [гитара Stratocaster] in 1977, everything changed, although the lyrics remained the same. It just came to life when I started playing it on Strat ’61 – which was my main guitar for many years and, in fact, the only one I played on the first album – and new chord variations just popped up and stood up. into place.

guitar world

Recording and release

A demo of the song was recorded at Pathway Studios in London in the summer of 1977. The musicians took the track to DJ Charlie Gillett on BBC Radio London. He put the composition on the air, and the listeners of the radio station liked it. Dire Straits was then noticed by Phonogram Records, who offered the band a contract.

The new studio version of Sultans of Swing was recorded at Basing Street Studios. She was included in the band’s debut album. To promote the song on the radio, an alternative version of the track was prepared. The band worked on it at Pathway Studios. It was his company Vertigo released in Germany, the UK, and some other countries.

In February 1978, the song was released as the first single from the Dire Straits album. It peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at number eight on the UK chart. It was later included in Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits best of collections.

The track is featured in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. He is also in several other authoritative ratings of popular compositions.

Video of Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

Now let’s watch the music video for Sultans of Swing.

Allegations of plagiarism

Session musician Bill Wilson claimed to have contributed to the composition of Sultans of Swing. Some little-known label released a disc with 24 tracks by various musicians. One of the songs is sung by Bill Wilson. The footnote states that the recording was made during a concert at The Warehouse in Indianapolis. Before singing the song, he says:

I was a co-author of the composition that I will now perform. About twelve years ago I wrote this text. A friend of mine often worked in sessions with my old producer Bob Johnston and also played with an Englishman named Mark Knopfler. He has his own band called Dire Straits. And he had a little tune. It was called something like “Walk, Don’t Run”. It was a little story about a band that no one wanted to listen to. Only a few people came to their concert. One evening after the session, we got together and scribbled the text on a napkin. It seems that it was I who composed most of the lyrics to the melody …

Wilson then performs a version of Sultans of Swing, which is slightly different from the Dire Straits version. It’s hard to say how true his story is. Surely, if Bill had solid evidence, we were witnesses to the trial.

Let’s hear Bill Wilson sing Sultans of Swing.

Interesting Facts

  • In the verse about the company having fun, there may be an allusion to the famous DJ Alan Freed, who is credited with the authorship of the term “rock and roll”. He played trombone in the Sultans of Swing as a teenager.
  • There is a statement that George and Harry mentioned in the text are musicians George Young, brother of the founders of AC / DC, and Harry Vanda. Together they played in the rock band The Easybeats, and also took part in the work on some AC / DC albums.

Sultans of Swing Lyrics by Dire Straits

You get a shiver in the dark
It’s a raining in the park but meantime-
South of the river you stop and you hold everything
A band is blowing Dixie, double four time
You feel alright when you hear the music ring

Well now you step inside but you don’t see too many faces
Coming in out of the rain they hear the jazz go down
competition in other places
Uh but the horns they blowin’ that sound
Way on down south, way on down south London town

Check out Guitar George, he knows all the chords
Mind he’s strictly rhythm he doesn’t want to make them cry or sing
They said an old guitar is all he can afford
When he gets up under the lights to play his thing

And Harry doesn’t mind, if he doesn’t, make the scene
He’s got a daytime job, he’s doing alright
He can play the honky tonk like anything
Savin’ it up, for Friday night
With the Sultans
With the Sultans of Swing

Then a crowd of young boys they’re a foolin’ around in the corner
Drunk and dressed in their best brown baggies and their platform soles
They don’t give a damn about any trumpet playin’ band
It ain’t what they call rock and roll
Then the Sultans
Yeah the Sultans they play creole, creole

And then the man he steps right up to the microphone
And says at last just as the time bell rings
Goodnight, now it’s time to go home
And he makes it fast with one more thing
We are the Sultans
We are the Sultans of Swing

Lyrics Sultans Of Swing by Dire Straits Alternate

You tremble in the dark
It’s raining in the park, but in the meantime
On the south bank of the river you stop and freeze
Some band playing dixie on four quarters
You calm down when you hear the sound of music

And then you go inside, but there are not very many visitors,
Gathered in the rain to listen to jazz
Competition elsewhere
But their trumpets make such a sound
On the road, on the road to south London

Look at George the guitarist, he knows all the chords
Remember, he clearly keeps the rhythm, and his guitar does not cry and does not sing
An old guitar is all he can afford
When comes on stage to play this thing

And Harry doesn’t give a damn if he doesn’t show up
He has a day job and is generally fine.
He’s great at the bar
But only on Friday night
Together with the Sultans,
With Sultans of Swing

And in the corner a group of young guys are fooling around
They are drunk and dressed in their best brown shorts and platform shoes.
They don’t care about any horn band
‘Cause this ain’t what they call rock and roll
And then the Sultans
Yeah, the Sultans rock the Creole beats

And then a man comes up to the microphone
Who says to the final ringing of the bell:
“Good night, it’s time for everyone to go home”
And finally he adds:
We are Sultans
We are the Sultans of Swing

Song quote

Sultans of Swing was a breath of fresh air on the airwaves of the seventies.

Rick Moore, American Songwriter

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