Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Winteriest of Winter Albums

Happy New Year! And now for another boring look back at one of my favorite records.

At this time of year in 1983, I was attending a nearby university (Seton Hall; go Pirates!) and literally living in my parents' basement. Oh yes, William Shatner would be proud. It was a great setup -- I had a corner of the room all to myself and I built a little practice apartment out of it, complete with TV, drawing table, crummy bed, boombox, guitar, and comic books. All the essentials. I even smoked like a chimney down there late at night, even though I wasn't supposed to, but my parents slept three stories up and I discovered that the smell dissipated somehow by morning, so they never knew.

That winter was particularly dark and cold and bracing, even for New Jersey. I looked it up, so I know this isn't just middle-aged memory. I spent those long icy nights drawing comics, reading, watching late night TV, and of course listening to music. Of all the albums I associate with that winter, the standout is Dire Straits' Love Over Gold, which first caught my ear with the catchy "Industrial Disease", but the entire album soon had me enthralled. The song I returned to again and again (and still do) was the masterpiece and album centerpiece "Telegraph Road". Clocking in at over fourteen minutes, it's a long and sumptuous piece, more orchestral in structure than it is rock 'n' roll, but there is plenty of that, especially in the last section, or movement, or whatever it is. And it tells of dark, cold winters and of being overtaken by forces beyond one's control.

And my radio says tonight it's gonna freeze/people driving home from the factories/six lanes of traffic/three lanes moving slow 

I don't have to point out the obvious, that the guitar work is beyond superb, but the rest of the instrumentation and arrangement is just as great. Knopfler was about to embark on his side career of composing soundtracks, and Love Over Gold was probably his dry run for that work.

A song that was written for the album but omitted for release was "Private Dancer", which was a hit later that year for Tina Turner. Parts of Knopfler's version survive in the title track, especially the identical chorus.

Lastly, here's "It Never Rains", which is one of the sweetest songs you could ever sing to anyone nursing a broken heart.

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