August 12

Happy birthday Mark Knopfler.

It’s no surprise that I would pay tribute to you in this little blog… you were a touchstone to me in my musical genesis, proving that smart and complex recordings could compete for my attention with the big, dumb, awesome rock of the day. Your eponymous first release was part of my pre-pubescent record collection… along side sis’s Beatles, Monkees and whatever else I managed to not completely destroy:

My copy of your first record was an unplayable mess! Played, uncleaned, dozens of times on the family console… you deserved better. My replacement is still kind of a crackly, but fills the bill nicely. The hitless and wonderful side A of Dire Straits transports me back to 1978. Journey and Ted Nugent were huge, NYC punk was going mainstream, southern rock was migrating northward and Down to the Waterline/ Water of Love knocked my socks off!

Sultans of Swing, on side B, cemented the deal and I’ve been a fan ever since.

June 23

While I’m on the subject of my favorite records of all time, I might as well mention Dire Straits – Making Movies:

making_movies

The band’s third album, released in 1980, is the album I use to evaluate stereo equipment. I recently pulled it back into service to shake down my “new” Fisher receiver.

I own it on both vinyl and CD and tend to break it out in one format or the other every month or so. I don’t know if it is the songwriting or the band dynamic or the Jimmy Iovine production, but this is one of those records that’s pure joy from start to finish.

My copy is a weird Yugoslavian pressing I came across new in around 1985 in a grocery store somewhere outside Tacoma, Washington. I was in the Air Force and stationed at McChord Air Force Base south of town. I remember stopping in some shopping center for groceries and there being an end display… more of like a discount bin… of vinyl records at 3 for $10 or some such thing. I nabbed Making Movies and a couple of Ramones records (Portuguese pressings of all things), added them to my cart full of Cup-O-Noodles, bananas and beer, and heading back to the dorms.

I wonder what else was in that discount bin that I took a pass on?

Anyway, I loved the video for Skateaway (featuring Jayzik Azikiwe, R.I.P.) but did not expect to be bowled over by the rest of the record.

Especially beloved is the song Romeo And Juliet. With that open C dobro and those ripped down to the bone lyrics, it was like nothing I’d ever heard before or since:

February 24

When I started this endeavor I knew I was going to be both adding new vinyl to The Collection… but also culling out stuff that I no longer care about, or stuff that is and odd fit. What to cull, what to add?

I knew I wanted to expand certain genres… jazz/fusion, easy listening “cocktail party” music, classic country. I also made a list of artists and individual albums I wanted; things I thought I could listen critically to, maybe even over and over, and not get tired of. The Police, U2… but especially Dire Straits.

Dire Straits debut album is one of the few of my teenage collection that I still own. The cover is gone, the inner sleeve is torn and the vinyl is trashed, but I still have it. I’ve been a fan since the beginning and know that a more complete collection on LP is in my future.

This brings me to the next gem from the Spokane Public Radio Recordings & Videos SaleAlchemy: Dire Straits Live.

On the way in my wife and I worked out a plan: divide and conquer! I’d go left, she’d go right and we would keep an eye out for records for each other. In that first hour, I managed to find a half-dozen potential keepers… and then I saw her. My wife must’ve been packing around 50 records when we met to assess out loot!

One of these was a warped, musty, peeled copy of Alchemy. Great. “I know you are looking for Dire Straits” she said. Once I pried the vinyl out of the cover I saw that the vinyl was kept out of the mold by a couple of anti-static protectors. In the florescent light of the venue, they looked surprisingly good!

Anyway, this copy made the $3 cut and came home with us. After a bath, the moment of reckoning came… I dropped the needle on the lead-in grove and, silence! It’s always a great feeling when, against all odds, you find a used record that you really want and will enjoy for the rest of time that exceeds your expectations.

Normally, I’m not a big fan of live records, but in this case, the extended (10+ minutes) versions of Once Upon a Time in the West, Sultans of Swing, Tunnel of Love and Telegraph Road trump any negatives.