Band: Dire Straits
Album: Brothers in Arms
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: The first album marketed specifically towards CD sales (it was the first album recorded in DDD), “Brothers in Arms” contains one of the first songs about the brave new world of music video, “Money for Nothing.”
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Well, the album isn't very good, it contains the wildly overplayed “Walk of Life” and the hit song is homophobic.
Best song: "Money for Nothing” is problematic, though it has a good riff.
Worst song: I've heard “Walk of Life” too many times at baseball games.
Is it awesome?: No.
I'm of two minds about Dire Straits:
1. Mark Knopfler is clearly an interesting guitar player. His arpeggio-style solos are pretty different from the straight blues-based soloing from his generation.
2. Dire Straits is, like BTO and ZZ Top, simply blue collar white guy rock. The famous single from this record was – according to Knopfler, though I don't know that I believe him – was supposedly written in the character of a hardware store worker first hearing about MTV.
Needless to say, the two controversial lines rub me the wrong way entirely. The first -- “banging on the bongos like a chimpanzee” -- is more subtle in its awfulness. You could easily argue that calling a drummer a chimp isn't necessarily racist, but considering black music gained popularity in the 1980s, it's a little too convenient.
Of course, the cover of “character” is what Knopfler always tries to use as his excuse for the infamous verse:
See the little faggot with the earring and the makeup
Yeah buddy thats his own hair
That little faggot got his own jet airplane
That little faggot hes a millionaire
Robert Christgau takes on the controversial lines himself:
We know Mark Knopfler's working-class antihero is a thicky because he talks like Randy Newman and uses the same word for homosexual that old bluesboys use, a word Knopfler has somehow gotten on the radio with no static from the PMRC. I mean, why not "little nigger with the spitcurl" instead of "little faggot with the earring," Mark?
It's a great point, only backed up by the fact of the “chimpanzee” line.
Look, the song is catchy and the guitar riff is pretty amazing. Certainly, Sting's falsetto is remarkable to start the song and the fact that the song actually made MTV is cool. But, I just can't get behind those lyrics. Not cool.