Dire Straits formed in 1977 in hardworking Newcastle, England. The group consisted of Mark Knopfler (guitar, vocals), David Knopfler (guitar), John Illsley (bass), and David "Pick" Withers (drums). Their stripped-down, pub-friendly, straightforward rock 'n' roll appealed to many English patrons, who had grown disillusioned with the glitzy arena rock of groups like Genesis, Styx, and Queen. Ironically, the young pub band would soon find themselves filling arenas with ease.
The group's debut, Dire Straits (Warner Brothers, 1978) was a guitar-driven affair that introduced listeners to Mark Knopfler's understated vocals and poetic lyrics. It featured "Sultans of Swing," which became one of their biggest hits, and boasts one of Knopfler's best known guitar solos. From there, they released Communiqué (Warner Brothers. 1979), Making Movies (Warner Brothers, 1980), and Love over Gold (Warner Brothers, 1982), all of which were commercial successes. Those discs set the stage for their next full-length studio release, the seminal, Brothers in Arms (Warner Brothers, 1985). It has sold over 20 million copies in the U.S. and the U.K. combined, and it spawned their biggest hit, "Money for Nothing." Brothers in Arms is the sound of a band hitting its stride, by perfectly combining their blues-rock roots with a polished stadium-friendly sound.
After an extremely popular world tour in support of the record, the band went on hiatus, as Mark Knopfler began focusing on solo records. Finally, five years later, the group reformed in 1991, releasing On Every Street (Warner Brothers), which most critics called subpar. That said, it still was certified platinum. The band broke up in 1995, and, since then Mark Knopfler has enjoyed a successful solo career, and was even nominated for a Grammy for his 2007 album with Emmylou Harris.
Over Dire Straits' 18-year career, all six of their full-length albums were declared platinum, with total sales of over 100 million. While they underwent myriad line-up changes (only Mark Knopfler and Illsley stayed with the band all 18 years), Knopfler's impressive songwriting and strong ear for melody consistently drove the band to impressive commercial and critical success.