John Illsley Reflects On The Punk Music’s Impact On Dire Straits’ Success

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Dire Straits bassist John Illsley recently joined Andertons Music for an interview and addressed the effect punk music had on the band’s success in the scene.

Formed in 1977, Dire Straits were active until 1988 and from 1990 to 1995. After releasing the first single, ‘Sultans Of Swing’ from their 1978 self-titled debut, the band began to rise in prominence. However, punk rock rapidly became popular when the band started gaining recognition.

The Straits’ sound was influenced by country, folk, jazz, and blues rock, with a stripped-down sound contrasting with punk rock. At the beginning of their career, the punk subculture emerged in the UK, and bands like Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, and The Clash ended up among the most popular bands in the era.

In a recent interview with Andertons Music, John Illsley looked back on those days and said Dire Straits emerged in the middle of the punk era where bands like the Sex Pistols were prominent. While punk music was about hate, they sang about a jazz band in their ‘Sultans Of Swing.’

So, as Illsley said, they had their style, pretty different from the others. Due to that, the musician questioned whether the Straits would stand out so much if they came out five or ten years later. According to Illsley, the listeners of the era wanted punk bands, but punk music’s kingdom lasted very short, which shifted things around for the Straits.

Here is what John Illsley said during the conversation:

“We came out right in the middle of the punk thing. The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Slaughter & Dogs, and God knows what else was going on. Everybody hated everything, and suddenly, we were singing about a jazz band in South London, ‘Sultans Of Swing.’ That came along, and in a sense, it sat in the middle of all this other stuff.

I often wonder if it had come out five or ten years later whether it would have stood out so much because, in a sense, the Straits had its style. It wasn’t compromising with anybody else’s. It was literally on its own at that particular time.”

He then continued:

“It did stand out, but not many people were prepared to invest in it because everybody wanted punk bands and how much they hated the world, their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and god knows what else. The punk thing lasted for a short period, but it was very important to shift things around at that moment.”

You can watch the full interview below.