DIRE STRAITS: First ballot Rock and Roll Hall of Famers
Dire Straits, like The Moody Blues, Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, were elected on their first ballot for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It didn't hurt that they received over 600,000 fan votes, placing them third behind Bon Jovi and the Moodies. The Cars, one this year's other inductees, came in fourth.
They've been eligible for induction since 2003. The Hall will recognize the four original members -- singer and guitarist Mark Knopfler, his younger brother, guitarist David Knopfler, bassist John Illsley and drummer Pick Withers -- along with keyboardists Alan Clark, who joined in 1980, and Guy Fletcher, who came aboard in 1984.
Formed in London in 1977, the stripped-down, rootsy four-piece burst onto the scene with "Sultans of Swing" but eventually grew into a larger sound augmented by more members. They enjoyed worldwide records sales of over 100 million. Among their other notable songs were "Solid Rock," "Romeo and Juliet," "Tunnel of Love," "Telegraph Road," "Industrial Disease," and -- off their biggest-selling album, 1985's Brothers in Arms -- "Money for Nothing" and "Walk of Life." That album sold more than 30 million copies and was the first to sell a million copies on CD.
Their career spanned 15 years, with Mark and John being the only two on board for the whole ride.
Mark Knopfler on where he sees Dire Straits fitting into the history of music:
"It was a little move back to a very stripped down sound. You know, we were just a little four-piece -- no keyboards even. It was just two guitars, bass and drums and it was nice to get that sound back onto the radio in a sense because everything else at that time seemed to be either dance music and then there were a lot of big rock bands -- big rock set-ups where they had names like Boston and Kansas. And it felt like fun to just be doing this diddy little group."
David Knopfler, who's not on the best of terms with older brother Mark since quitting the band in 1980, does have fond memories of his time with the Straits.
David Knopfler talked about his time in Dire Straits:
"It was a remarkable period and we sold an awful lot of records and we played to an awful lot of people. It was a very hectic time. I was very young. It was my first real big entrance into professional performing. I'd always played instruments, I'd always played in bands and stuff, but it's not too often that lightning strikes like that. But it was fun."
Drummer Pick Withers, who, like the Knopfler brothers, will not be in Cleveland Saturday, has mixed emotions about his time in the band, which lasted until 1982 and their fourth album, Love Over Gold.
Pick Withers on being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and his memory of his time in the band:
"I'm really pleased the award's been given and I do feel I made a significant contribution -- that I don't feel like I'm hanging on the coattails to get reflected glory, so I don't have any problem with it. It's great. The music was great, I enjoyed making it, and then it's like all things, you know, success changes you and hopefully I didn't change me too much -- I'm sure I changed. But no, it wasn't as enjoyable as it could have been."
John Illsley, Alan Clark and Guy Fletcher will be in Cleveland Saturday night at the Public Auditorium to accept the award, but they will not perform. In addition, for what could be a Rock Hall first, no one will induct them. Sources tell us that country singer and Straits fan Keith Urban was going to do it, but when he heard Mark Knopfler wasn't attending, he declined. Robbie Robertson, a member of the Hall's nominating committee, was willing to step in, but it was ultimately decided that a video introduction will suffice.
Needless to say, this episode can be filed away with other Hall of Fame induction absences, such as The Band, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Deep Purple, Van Halen, Chicago and Guns n' Roses.
Highlights of this year's show will be shown on HBO on May 5th.