Lex Neon on Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits)

Happy birthday to the “sultan of swing” himself, who celebrates on August 12.

The sound of Dire Straits reminds me of Curt and Ray, two high school friends that allowed me (a painfully shy, bespectacled, tall, chubby, and clumsy freshman) to partake in their wicked, wild, fun teenage lives.  The title track from the album Brothers In Arms is part of the soundtrack of my “growing up,” and a big part of how I would later define the word “brother.”

These two guys, Curt and Ray, had a strange and engaging relationship that kinda co-existed with my then-shy manners.  We watched the movie Woodstock together over tuna sandwiches (yeah, “tuna”), chips and Mountain Dew.  They were my first “concert buddies,” and we caught AC/DC, Rush, and Bruce Springsteen in their mid-80s heyday.

They showed me how to be comfortable around people, especially girls.  They both drove cars, had jobs, and let me in on a secret: if you have a job, you can buy all of the records and tapes you want.  The very concept blew my mind!

So one night as we sat around Ray’s bedroom, Ray pulls out a CD copy of Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms. It becomes sonic wallpaper as we sit around and talk “boy talk;” girls, cars and music, music, music.  They’d kid me about being a virgin, and for liking The Monkees.  I’d kid them for not having all of the albums by the Doors.  What else could I say?  They were no longer virgins.

Then, it happened.  The last track on the CD started to play.

The swell of the music and thunder poured though the speakers of Ray’s totally bitchin’ stereo system.  He stops all conversation and says, “Quiet, guys.  Listen to how cool this sounds on CD instead of tape.”  He turned up the stereo, and turned off the lights.  We sat in the dark, in silence, listening to the sound of the title track, “Brothers In Arms.”  Mark’s courageous but weary vocals filled the air, and that song solidified the brotherly bond I would share for years with Curt and Ray.

When the song was over, all we could talk about was how great the sound was.  Ray made me a cassette copy of the album, which I played until I finally got a CD player.  At that point, Curt gave me the CD as a present – it was one of my first ever CDs.

It was during the summer of ’85 when I finally saw Dire Straits in live performance during their spot at Live Aid.  Mark Knopfler stood like an English gunman in his red cowboy shirt and sweat band.  During the band’s searing live version of “Sultans,” Mark made that guitar sing with a machine gun of bended notes using only his fingers, sans pick.  He played a mixture of rock, country, and mountain music.  The tone he got out of his Strat made the hair on my neck stand up.  The band segued into the main theme from “Local Hero,” a movie scored by Mark.  It was incredible.  I only wish my “brothers” were there to witness this wonderful performance.

All of a sudden, we started growing up.  Curt went off to college in northern California, while Ray and I had some adventures back home.  Ray later got married, and moved to Arizona.  I stayed behind, went to school, and started playing in rock and roll bands.  Sometimes, I’d imitate the way Mark Knopfler bends his notes and makes them cry, like in the song that bonds my “brothers” to my memory.  Thanks, Curt and Ray.  We remain connected by music, which to me is worth more than blood.

And thanks, Mark.  Your song gave me a memory of a time when life consisted of your favorite bands and your favorite friends.  Happy birthday, and thanks for that great song.

(Lex Neon is the musical mastermind behind the music of indie sunshine pop / rock band Poppermost.  For more info, go to http://www.poppermost.com/)

Note: The date listed on the album below is a remastered release.  The original album’s release date was May 1985.

Currently listening :
Brothers in Arms
By Dire Straits
Release date: 2000-09-19
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~ by Poppermost on September 2, 2008.

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