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Why Dire Straits broke up and never reunited

Dire Straits


Why Dire Straits broke up and never reunited

Dire Straits was formed in London, England in 1977 by the brothers Mark Knopfler (Vocals and guitar) and David Knopfler (Guitar), alongside John Illsley (Bass) and Pick Withers (Drums). Their self-titled debut album released in the following year quickly achieved worldwide success mainly because of the smash hit “Sultans of Swing”, which was written by Mark Knopfler, like all the other tracks.


Their success continued in the 80s achieving a peak with the release of their most famous album “Brothers in Arms” in 1985. That record consolidated them as one of the biggest bands in the world at the time. It had other new huge hits like “So Far Away”, “Money For Nothing” and “Walk of Life” with that record.

Three years after that record, in 1988, they paused their activities for the first time, returning from 1990 to 1995 but since then they never recorded or toured together again. But why did the Dire Straits break up in 1995 and never reunited again?

The reason why Dire Straits broke up and never reunited again

Dire Straits came to an end really because Mark Knopfler had enough of the magnitude the band had achieved. During their existence, the only two members who were part of all the albums and line-ups the band had were Mark Knopfler and John Illsley. The original drummer Pick Withers left in 1982 after their fourth album “Love Over Gold” and David Knopfler already had left in 1980, being part only of their first two albums. From then on the group had many other members over the years with many hired touring musicians.

In 1988, Mark Knopfler announced that they would pause the band’s activities for a few years. The main reason was because the group needed a time to rest after years of the incredible demand they had after the success of “Brothers In Arms”, which made them one of the biggest bands in the world. That happened less than a decade before they were only trying to make a living playing in the bar circuit in England. They finally returned in 1990 and released in 1991 their final album “On Every Street”.

Their final tour to promote that album had about 300 shows and they played to more than 7 million people. Although it was highly successful, that tour not only costed the band’s future but also Knopfler’s marriage. So he finally decided to put an end to that because they had become so huge and were so successful that he really didn’t want to live that way. As the told The Telegraph in 2012, he just wanted to have “some kind of reality” again.

Mark Knopfler said the huge size of Dire Straits and the tour was “dehumanising”

“I put the thing to bed because I wanted to get back to some kind of reality. It’s self-protection, a survival thing. That kind of scale is dehumanising. I always enjoy talking with the truck drivers because they are independent-minded, interesting people. I remember going into catering on the last Straits tour and not recognising the drivers. (And) I just knew then that it wasn’t right,” Mark Knopfler said.

In the same conversation he recalled that he worked since he was 14. He had many different jobs like in a factory, building sites, farming, warehousing and also became a journalist later. But as he said, nothing anyone does can prepare you to deal with the magnitude of dealing with all the fame and success. He also revealed that he is still a good friend of John Illsley and also said he is lucky to have survived those years. “I feel lucky to have got through it. (Also) lucky not to be going through it any more,” Mark Knopfler said.

The band’s final show happened back in 1992 in Zaragoza, Spain. Since then the band keeps getting offers to get back together again. The bassist John Illsey told The Telegraph in 2023 that every time he meets with the manager Paul Crockford he hears an offer. The manager says people keep asking him to get the band back together. “Every time we have lunch (he) says to me, ‘I wish people would stop offering me huge amounts of money to put (Dire Straits) back together’”.

Mark Knopfler’s and John Illsey’s solo career

After Dire Straits came to an end in 1995, Knopfler started to focus on his solo career. Already during the following year he released his debut “Golden Heart” already in 1996. Since then the musician released eight more studio albums, the most recent one being “Down The Road Wherever” in 2018. He also made many soundtrack albums, something that he started to do already in the 80s. Besides that he also recorded a few collaborative albums with Chet Atkins and Emmylou Harris.

The bassist John Illsey also focused on his solo career, releasing 8 solo albums. The most recent one “VIII” was released in 2022.

Other ex-members of Dire Straits “kept” the band on the road with the creation of the “Dire Straits Legacy“. As the band’s social networks says: “DSL: The closest you’re going to get!” Since it’s unlikely that the band will ever play together again.

The current line-up of the group has the keyboardist Alan Clark, who was a member of DS from 1980 to 1995. Also the ex-touring members: Danny Cummings (Percussion – from 1990 to 1992), Mel Collins (Saxophone – from 1982 to 1983).

Dire Straits were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but Mark wasn’t present

That didn’t even happen at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, because Mark Knopfler didn’t go. In fact everything in their induction was quite weird. They were the first band to ever be inducted that didn’t have another famous artist giving a speech. The bassist John Illsey and the keyboardists Alan Clark and Guy Fletcher were the only ones present. It was Illsey himself who inducted the band.

“As a fellow member I found I might be the most qualified one to do this. It’s a bit weird, but life’s strange. I know it’s a little bit odd, but it’s my honor to welcome Dire Straits into the Hall Of Fame.”

“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,” John Illsey said.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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