S is for “Sultans of Swing”

My theme for this year’s A to Z Blogging Challenge is classic rock songs. Each day during the month (except for the first four Sundays, I will post a classic rock song: a video from YouTube, along with a brief bit of background about the song and the recording artist(s).

This is much more difficult than I thought it would be. For every letter of the alphabet there are dozens of fantastic classic rock songs to choose from and picking just one song for each letter is maddening. But this is what I signed up for.

My S song is “Sultans of Swing” from Dire Staits.

“Sultans of Swing” was written by Mark Knopfler, the lead vocalist of the British rock band Dire Straits. The demo of the song was recorded in July 1977 and quickly acquired a following after it was put in rotation on BBC Radio London. Its popularity soon reached record executives, and Dire Straits was offered a record contract. The song was then re-recorded in February 1978 for the band’s self-named debut album.

Originally released in May 1978, the song did not chart. Following its re-issue in January 1979, the song entered the American music pop chart. Unusually, the success of this single release came more than six months after the relatively unheralded release of the band’s debut album in October 1978. The song reached the top 10 in both the UK and the U.S., reaching number 8 on the UK Singles Chart and number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, which helped drive sales of the album.

This song is about guys who go to a club after work, listen to music, and have a good time. They are there for the music, and not for the image presented by the band. Knopfler got the idea for song this from watching a lousy club band perform. As the story goes, Knopfler was in Ipswich on a rainy night. He ducked into a bar where a mediocre band was closing out the night to an audience that was maybe four or five drunks unaware of their surroundings. The hapless band ended their set with the lead singer announcing, “Goodnight and thank you. We are the Sultans of Swing.” Knopfler said, “When the guys said ‘Thank you very much, we are the Sultans of Swing,’ there was something really funny about it to me because sultans, they absolutely weren’t. You know they were rather tired little blokes in pullovers.”

Here are the lyrics to “Sultans of Swing.”

You get a shiver in the dark
It's 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 alright when you hear the music ring

Well now you step inside but you don't see too many faces
Coming in out of the rain they hear the jazz go down
Competition in other places
Uh but the horns they blowin' that sound
Way on down south
Way on down south
London town

You check out guitar George, he knows all the chords
Mind, it's strictly rhythm he doesn't want to make it cry or sing
They said 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 the Honky Tonk like anything
Savin' it up, for Friday night
With the Sultans
We're the Sultans of Swing

Then a crowd a young boys they're foolin' 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 playin' band
It ain't what they call Rock and Roll
And the Sultans
Yeah, the Sultans, they play Creole

And then the man he steps right up to the microphone
And says at last just as the time bell rings
"Goodnight, now it's time to go home"
Then he makes it fast with one more thing

"We are the Sultans
We are the Sultans of Swing"

Previous 2023 A to Z posts: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R

23 thoughts on “S is for “Sultans of Swing”

  1. Ritish Sharma April 22, 2023 / 6:30 am

    Classic rock songs are timeless and always a great choice. Sultans of Swing is one of my favorite classic rock songs, and it’s fascinating to learn more about its background and how it became a hit. It’s always interesting to hear the stories behind the music we love. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lauren April 22, 2023 / 6:40 am

    A great song. Thanks for the back story. I hope you are feeling better day by day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango April 22, 2023 / 11:22 am

      Some days I feel better. Other days, not so much. But I’m sure you can relate.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. bushboy April 22, 2023 / 6:55 am

    Good one I haven’t heard in ages 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Steve Tanham April 22, 2023 / 7:44 am

    One of the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. rugby843 April 22, 2023 / 8:01 am

    One of my faves 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

  6. tiredhamster April 22, 2023 / 1:23 pm

    I have mixed feelings about Dire Straits and this song for some reason. But the lyrics do paint a scene well and the guitar work is fantastic. I hope the members of the “Sultans of Swing” did OK.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fandango April 22, 2023 / 1:41 pm

      I like a lot of their music. Not my favorite classic rock band, but think they had some great songs. Even “I Want My MTV.”


  7. leigha66 May 3, 2023 / 1:34 pm

    I can listen to Knopfler play all day, a damn good guitarist!

    Liked by 1 person

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