Love Over Gold was something of a calm before the storm for Dire Straits.
Released on Sept. 24, 1982, the LP burnished their reputation as one of mainstream rock’s leading musos, three years before the multiplatinum Brothers in Arms transformed Dire Straits into superstars.
“There was a great deal of space in the music on this album,” bassist and co-founder John Illsley wrote in his memoir My Life in Dire Straits. “It was truly a collaborative effort. … It was certainly a very different studio undertaking to anything we had experienced up to then, and all the more satisfying for that.”
Love Over Gold was marked by its five lengthy tracks – the shortest, the peppy and tongue-in-cheek “Industrial Disease,” came in at 5:50. Particularly noteworthy was “Telegraph Road,” an intricately composed and arranged piece that frontman Mark Knopfler had begun working up at sound checks during Dire Straits’ Making Movies world tour.
The final version is more than 14 minutes long, as Dire Straits weave an epic tale inspired by traveling on the titular roadway (also known as U.S. 24) that stretches from Michigan to Colorado, at the same time Knopfler was reading the Knut Hamsun novel Growth of the Soil.
“He actually wrote it by-by-bit when we were on the road,” keyboardist Alan Clark, who made his recording debut with the band on Love Over Gold, told UCR in 2014. “At every soundcheck for every gig afterwards, [Knopfler] and I would get together and we’d sort of formulate the next bit of the song. He’d written where we’d gotten up to, and we would then start making it work between us with the piano part and his [guitar] part – and that’s how the song was built up.”
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 would lose tension along the way. The two parts were sliced together by engineer Neil Dorfsman during sessions at the Power Station in New York.
“Private Investigations,” which became the first single from Love Over Gold, was also developed during the Making Movies tour, while other tracks were eventually excised and landed elsewhere: “Private Dancer” on Tina Turner‘s 1984 comeback album of the same name, and “The Way It Always Starts” for Knopfler’s soundtrack to the 1983 film Local Hero, with vocals by Gerry Rafferty.
Love Over Gold also marked Knopfler’s first outing as Dire Straits’ producer after working previously 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 hand-picked Dorfsman, who had worked with him on Local Hero. Dorfsman was an “amusing man, too,” according to Illsley, “and he made all the hard work an absolute delight to look forward to each morning.”
Love Over Gold gave Dire Straits its first No. 1 album in the U.K., where it was also certified double-platinum. “Private Investigations” was a No. 2 hit in the U.K. as well. The album’s U.S performance was a bit disappointing, however: Love Over Gold was certified gold and shared a No. 19 peak with Making Movies on the Billboard 200. But that was lower than the previous two albums, so Dire Straits elected not to tour North America to support the album.
This also proved to be Withers’ last LP with Dire Straits. He departed after the sessions and was initially replaced by Terry Williams of Rockpile. The album’s homeland success, however, netted Dire Straits its first Best British Group honors at the 1983 Brit Awards, setting the stage for even greater triumphs to come.
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