Tuesday, November 25, 2008

77. Dire Straits -S/T

Every album - even every song - in my collection evokes a memory; music is my life's scrapbook, as it is for most people. Some songs have stronger memories attached than others. The obvious ones are tunes that remind me of emotional moments in my life; 0heartbreak, happiness, milestones. But there are also those albums that, for whatever reason, lodged themselves in my brain, hanging onto a memory that seems rather insignificant in retrospect.

Dire Straits is one of those albums. Upon hearing the very first note Down to the Waterline, I will be immediately transported to:

Winter, 1978. I'm 16 years old. My bedroom is in the front of the house, looking out onto the street. I have a wooden desk - it's a real classroom desk my uncle brought me from some school he was renovating. There are all kinds of names and designs carved into the wood by many a hand. My desk is right in front of the window. I'm a nosy kid. I like to see what's going on outside my door, especially if I've been forced by my parents to stay in my room because of some perceived wrong I have committed. The windows are covered with Venetian blinds. Not the little, bitty mini-blinds of today, but the old, three inch, comes-in-white-only- aluminum blinds that ended up misshapen from me constantly bending the slats to see what's going on in the world of the un-grounded.

I'm studying for a social studies exam by copying all of my class notes onto loose leaf paper. It's the only way I can study and remember the facts - forced repetition. It's dark out, but not quite night. It's 6pm-during-winter dark. Tonight I have my blinds closed because it's snowing and I know that if I start to stare at the falling snow, I will become hypnotized by the way the flakes swirl under the street lights and I really, really need to study for this test.

I can hear them laughing outside. I hear car tires crunching through the fresh, packed snow and then a skritching, which is the sound that winter boots make when being dragged against snow. My friends were skitching, right outside my window, while I was being held captive by the intricacies of early Greek civilization.

So I turn up the radio to drown out their fun. I'm listening to WNEW FM (102.7), the premiere rock station in the world. Sultans of Swing comes on. I stare morosely at my social studies textbook while singing along. I take a peek or two out the window, bending the blinds back just a bit so no one can see me spying. I watch the snow fall, I watch my next door neighbor grab hold of the bumper of a car, I watch the neighbor's Christmas lights come on and the whole scene is so winter wonderland, so perfectly choreographed that I, being a 16 year old female, instantly feel a wave of self pity wash over me. Sultans of Swing plays on and the music itself feels isolating and stark; a perfect match for my sudden bleak mood.

I push the school work aside and drag the Olivetti over and I type out a piece of over-the-top, morbid, morose poetry.

And that is my history with this album; it reminds me of snow, of winter's beauty, of Greek history and awful teenage poetry. I swear that when I hear this song, I can smell the polish on the desk and hear that skritching sound of boots on snow.

Favorite song: Down to the Waterline
Dire Straits wiki


Al said...


I haven't heard that in years. I remember once telling someone upstate about it and they looked at me like I was out of my mind. When I hear the word, for some reason, I think of Traffic.

Arjun said...

I totally here you on Down to the Waterline. The song was so...mellow. I remember a summer spent in a hazy fog, listening to Dire Straits. They went off all wrong later. But this album was one of the first ADULT albums I bought. At least it made me feel like an adult.

steelopus said...

Yeah, I live in Rochester and have never heard the term Skitching. I had to look it up.

Here we call that "grabbing onto the the back of cars and skiing through the snow..." ;)

Jim said...

This may be my favorite album that I no longer have. It never made the transition from vinyl to CD. Sad.

I know what I'm going to get on the next to the record ... err ... CD store.

Chuck said...

I saw their very first show in the United States -- the Paradise Theatre in Boston in 1979. They opened with "Let's go Down to the Waterline" -- it was an absolutely killer version too. I still get happy when it turns up on the ipod.