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Dire Straits: How We Made Brothers In Arms

On its 30th anniversary, we look back on the album that turned Dire Straits into the biggest British rock band of the 80s.

In November 1984, Mark Knopfler gathered Dire Straits at Air Studios on the Caribbean island of Monserrat to make their fifth studio album. Subsequently released on 13 May 1985, Brothers in Arms proved to be a cast-iron phenomenon. It topped the charts around the world and went on to win two Grammys and a Brit Award. To date, it has shifted more than 30 million copies, not bad going for an album launched by a video of a cartoon fat bloke moaning on about MTV and Money for Nothing. This is a snapshot of how the eighth best-selling album in British recording history was made…

Ed Bicknell [Dire Straits manager]: “In the entire time I worked with him, I never asked Mark when the next band record would be. He’d tell me when he wanted to. In the run-up to Brothers in Arms he was making the soundtrack to the film Cal. We were driving up to the studio one day and got stuck in traffic. He turned to me and asked me to ring the guys up because he’d got some songs together. I remember going down to rehearsals and hearing Money for Nothing for the first time. When I was an agent I’d done a tour with ZZ Top and I was a big fan of that kind of fuzzy guitar tone that Billy Gibbons uses. I might be wrong, but I have a feeling Mark might have been listening to a bit of ZZ Top. I thought the song itself might be a bit of a hit, but no one could have foreseen what would happen with that album.” 

John Illsley [bass]: “We spent a lot of time in rehearsals playing around with different ideas, so we were quite prepared by the time we went to Monserrat to start recording. Then we had a problem with the tape machine after three weeks of being there. Overnight, the digital tape machine decided to wipe something like 70 percent of all the stuff we’d recorded. This was the early days of digital and we had to start recording all over again.”

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