40 years on: Dire Straits ramp up ‘Love Over Gold’

Love over gold was something of a calm before the storm too Dire Straits.

Released on Sept. 24, 1982, the LP polished their reputation as one of mainstream rock’s leading musos, three years before the multiplatinum Brothers in Arms turned Dire Straits into superstars.

“There was a lot of room in the music on this album,” bassist and co-founder John Illsley wrote in his memoir My life in serious trouble. “It was truly a collaborative effort … It was certainly a very different studio venture than anything we had experienced up to that point, and all the more satisfying for it.”

Love over gold was characterized by its five long tracks – the shortest, the peppy and tongue in cheek “Industrial disease,” came in at 5:50. Of particular note was “Telegraph Road”, an intricately composed and arranged piece, as the frontman Mark Knopfler had started working up at soundchecks during Dire Straits’ Making movies world tour.

The final version is more than 14 minutes long, as Dire Straits weaves an epic tale inspired by traveling the titular roadway (also known as US 24), which stretches from Michigan to Colorado, at the same time that Knopfler was reading Knut Hamsun- the novel Earth’s growth.

“He actually wrote it bit by bit while we were on the road,” keyboardist Alan Clark, who made his recording debut with the band on Love over goldtold UCR in 2014. “At every sound check for every concert afterwards, [Knopfler] and I would get together and we would kind of formulate the next part of the song. He had written where we had reached and then we started to make it work between us with the piano part and his [guitar] part – and that’s how the song is built.”

Listen to Dire Straits’ ‘Telegraph Road’

Illsley, meanwhile, noted that “Telegraph Road” actually had to be recorded in two parts because drummer Pick Withers’ snare drum would lose tension along the way. The two parts were cut together by engineer Neil Dorfsman during sessions at the power plant in New York.

“Private Investigations”, which was created first single from Love over goldwas also developed during Making movies tour, while other tracks were eventually cut out and landed elsewhere: “Private Dancer” on Tina Turner1984’s comeback album of the same name and “The Way It Always Starts” for Knopfler’s soundtrack to the 1983 film Local herowith vocals by Gerry Rafferty.

Love over gold also marked Knopfler’s first outing as Dire Straits’ producer, having previously worked with Muff Winwood, Barry Beckett and Jerry Wexler and Jimmy Iovine. “He had very clear ideas about the sound and shape of the music he wanted the band to achieve,” Illsley wrote.

Knopfler handpicked Dorfsman, who had worked with him on Local hero. Dorfsman was also an “entertaining man,” according to Illsley, “and he made all the hard work an absolute pleasure to look forward to every morning.”

Love over gold gave Dire Straits their first No. 1 album in the UK, where it was also certified double platinum. “Private Investigations” was a No. 2 hit in the UK as well. However, the album’s US performance was a bit disappointing: Love over gold was certified gold and shared a No. 19 peak with Making movies on the Billboard 200. However, it was lower than the previous two albums, so Dire Straits chose not to tour North America in support of the album.

This also proved to be Withers’ last LP with Dire Straits. He left after the sessions and was initially replaced by Terry Williams of Rockpile. The album’s domestic success earned Dire Straits their first Best British Group award at the 1983 Brit Awards, setting the stage for even bigger wins to come.

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