Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

Scrambling to find the next English song to post, I remembered this gem. Dusty and glimmering at the same time, this song is full of contrasts in its rhythm and imagery. Yet so harmoniously executed that it feels simple and soothing. This band from the UK, Dire Straits, formed in 1977. This song, Sultans of Swing, was released in 1978 and is considered one of their best songs and probably one of the best rock songs ever. They were highly successful, with fans all around the world. They even toured in Yugoslavia, and were highly popular there. I found out about this song from my mom, because this band was my older cousin’s favorite band back in 1980s’ ex-Yugoslavia, so that just goes to show the extent of their international success. Without even understanding the lyrics, their unique beautiful sound with its blues and jazz influences is captivating.

The narrative lyrics are really interesting though. They were inspired by seeing a small jazz band playing on the corner of some small empty bar in South London, and then at the end, the band referred to themselves as the “Sultans of Swing”. Which was quite ironic and contrasted with their meager appearance, so it was quite amusing to the lead singer, Mark Knopfler, and inspired this song. It showed that this small jazz band was not performing to impress or anything like that, there’s no hope of them making it big, they were just being themselves and doing what they love; so that is what makes them sultans of their music. So throughout the song, there is this sense of respect and appreciative simplicity in the lyrics.

You get a shiver in the dark
It’s been raining in the park but meantime
South of the river you stop and you hold everything
A band is blowing Dixie double four time
You feel all right when you hear that music ring

You step inside but you don’t see too many faces
Coming in out of the rain to hear the jazz go down
Too much competition too many other places
But not too many horns can make that sound
Way on downsouth way on downsouth London town

You check out Guitar George he knows all the chords
Mind he’s strictly rhythm he doesn’t want to make it cry or sing
And an old guitar is all he can afford
When he gets up under the lights to play his thing

And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene
He’s got a daytime job he’s doing alright
He can play honky tonk just like anything
Saving it up for Friday night
With the Sultans with the Sultans of Swing

And a crowd of young boys they’re fooling around in the corner
Drunk and dressed in their best brown baggies and their platform soles
They don’t give a damn about any trumpet playing band
It ain’t what they call rock and roll
And the Sultans played Creole

And then the man he steps right up to the microphone
And says at last just as the time bell rings
‘Thank you goodnight now it’s time to go home’
and he makes it fast with one more thing
‘We are the Sultans of Swing’

And then they end it with such a great guitar solo!! Oh, this song is beautiful, really a masterpiece! ❤ I was thinking about translating the lyrics, but no, it’s not necessary in this case. Especially when the song can be enjoyed so much without translation. So I’ll definitely be exploring and posting more of Dire Straits’ songs in the future. Feel free to post comments, in any language. 🙂