[Review] Dire Straits: Making Movies (1980)

This is their Born To Run record, a third-time charmer.

Kronomyth 3.0: The soundtrack to your life.

These are the songs you’d sell your soul to write. Maybe Mark Knopfler has more talent in his little pinky finger than most of us could wring out of our whole bodies, or maybe he’d found a way to distill Bruce Springsteen’s iconic essence and separate it from the icon. The similarities between the two are striking this time, a comparison invited by the participation of the E Street Band’s Roy Bittan. Both sprang from the garden of Dylan, so perhaps it was only a matter of time. But Mark Knopfler is a better guitarist than both, and more of a romantic to boot.

The opening “Tunnel of Love” is largely a rewrite of “Sultans of Swing,” replacing the smoky nightclub setting with a carnival, reeking with the romantic idealism of a doomed Jimmy Dean character (another Springsteen trait). It’s a brilliant song, one of the Straits’ finest moments, yet most would concede the lion’s share of their loyalty to the next track, “Romeo And Juliet.” Here is a lump-in-the-throat love song complete with reso-phonic guitar that plays like a staging of West Side Story. If you were making a list of the greatest love songs, you’d do well to start here. “Skateaway” shifts direction to character painting of a woman in her own world, living on her own terms. It has a much sexier gait than the preceding tracks, and finishes off a trio of tracks that would rank with the most polished sides of plastic from the ‘80s.

Little ground is yielded on side two, from the energized “Expresso Love” to the substantive “Solid Rock.” On most albums, these would have been hit singles, but here they’re just part of the foundation. Making Movies closes with “Les Boys,” a dark little joke that drips with condescension. It’s an unusual ending, but after the emotional drain and painstaking detail of the previous songs, it’s good to let a little steam off. Making Movies is my favorite Dire Straits record, and I doubt I’m alone in that opinion. Brothers In Arms, as good as it was, got sidetracked by trying to make an important social statement. Making Movies is instead a direct and personal statement, as close a connection as Knopfler has made with his audience, a point that the live Alchemy confirmed.

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Original LP Version

A1. Tunnel of Love (Extract from The Carousel Waltz by Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II) (8:09)
A2. Romeo And Juliet (5:57)
A3. Skateaway (6:38)
B1. Expresso Love (5:11)
B2. Hand In Hand (4:48)
B3. Solid Rock (3:25)
B4. Les Boys (4:07)

All songs written by Mark Knopfler.

The Players

John Ilsley (bass, vocals), Mark Knopfler (vocals, guitars), Pick Withers (drums, vocals) with Roy Bittan (keyboards). Produced by Jimmy Iovine and Mark Knopfler; engineered by Shelly Yakus.

The Pictures

Design and artwork by Neil Terk. Photography by Brian Griffin.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette on October 17, 1980 in the US (Warner Bros., BSK/M5 3480), the UK and Europe (Vertigo, 6359/7150 034), Canada (Mercury, SRM-1-3857) and Japan (Vertigo, RJ-7690) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #19 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record) and #4 on the UK charts (2X platinum record). Also released as half-speed mastered elpee (Vertigo, HS 6359 034) with lyrics innersleeve.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Warner Bros., 3480-2) [made in Japan] and in Brazil, Poland and West Germany (Vertigo, 800 050-2).
  2. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 1999 in the UK (Simply Vinyl, SVLP-147).
  3. Re-released on remastered 180g vinyl elpee and compact disc on September 19, 2000 in the US (Warner Bros., 47771).
  4. Re-released on super high material compact disc on February 20, 2013 in Japan (Mercury, UICY-25353).
  5. Re-released on super audio compact disc on November 26, 2014 in Japan (Vertigo, UIGY-9636).

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