With a minimalist sound that sold a lot of records, Dire Straits, one of the most commercially successful rock bands of all time, joined an elite club tonight.
Three former members walked onstage with a brief overhead introduction as they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Bassist John Illsley and keyboardists Alan Clark and Guy Fletcher showed up, but band leader Mark Knopfler did not. Neither did another artist to induct the band, so Illsley had the honors of inducting himself.
“I know it’s a little bit odd, but it’s my honor to welcome Dire Straits into the Hall of Fame,” he said.
He acknowledged Knopfler’s absence by saying:
“I know there’s been a lot of speculation about the fact that Mark is not here, but I can assure you, it’s just a personal thing. It’s personal reasons, let’s just leave it at that. This is really more about a group of people more than one person, it’s a collective, a brotherhood and that’s something that needs acknowledging tonight.”
Eligible for induction since 2003, Dire Straits were voted in this year on their first nomination. Brothers Mark Knopfler and David Knopfler formed the band along with Illsley and drummer Pick Withers in 1977 in London. The following year, their self-titled debut produced their first Top 10 hit, ‘Sultans of Swing.’
But that was only the beginning, with songs like ‘So Far Away,’ ‘Money for Nothing’ and ‘Walk of Life’ all keeping them on the charts and helping them achieve four platinum albums, including the bestselling Brothers in Arms in 1985.
The group first disbanded in September 1988, with Knopfler wanting a break from the stress of the spotlight and time to work on other projects. The pause was over by 1991, when Dire Straits released their final studio album, On Every Street, and hit the road for a massive two-year tour.
It was a short lived reunion, and they quietly split again after the tour, before Knopfler announced the dissolution of the band in 1995.
In 1996, Knopfler released the first of several solo albums, and has since reunited with members of the band for a few charity shows and Illsley’s wedding in 1999. In 2011, some former members banded together to perform as the Straits, but Knopfler has repeatedly held up attempts to fully reunite the group.
All three former members took turns at the mic, starting with Fletcher, who joined the band in 1984. “I never thought of Dire Straits as a particularly cool band,” he said. “I’m massively thrilled to have been part of it. A small wheel in a big machine. There’s a few parts missing, but these things happen.”
Clark, who joined in 1980, kept his speech short. “How cool is this, eh?” he said and then gave the stage to Illsley, who looked back at the early days. “We played where we could, pubs, clubs, anywhere in fact that we could, actually,” he said.
“Absolutely none of this would have happened without one man, who sadly is not here tonight, Mark Knopfler…Mark gave this band its unique style and made it stand out from the crowd,” finished John Illsley.
The 2018 induction ceremony will be broadcast on May 5, 2018 at 8PM ET on HBO.