Toro toro, taxi: Dire Straits, “Skateaway” (1980)

Last week’s post about Revolver being one of my Top Five albums got me spiraling into a sort of High Fidelity argument with myself about what would be in that Top Five list.  The album that I keep going back and forth on is Dire Straits’ Making Movies from 1980.  Is it simply good or truly great?  While I may not resolve that argument quickly – and as always welcome your input – I can certainly enjoy one of my favorite LP tracks of all time in the process.

In 1985 Dire Straits was all the rage.  Brothers In Arms, the first digitally-recorded LP (trivia!) was selling thousands of copies a day. The iconic video for “Money For Nothing,” which poked at MTV, was in heavy rotation on MTV. (As with all things, the Weird Al parody from UHF is superior.) The inexplicably sports-themed video for “Walk of Life” followed it and sold more copies of the LP.

Being the sort that is always just a few years behind the times, it was in 1985 that I dove into the back catalog of Dire Straits and discovered Making Movies. I wandered into Discount Records in Oak Forest (I think that was the name of it – perhaps a classmate can help me out on this?  It was on 151st and Cicero before it moved) and took a gamble on the LP.  I was instantly hooked.  Since at the time I was getting seriously into Dylan, and Mark Knopfler was branded one of the “new Dylans” when the band first surfaced in 1978, it made sense that I would like the sound of this album. The stories weaved through “Romeo and Juliet” and “Expresso Love” appealed to me.  But it was this track that stood out, and went into a heavy rotation in my house for most of my senior year of high school.

Music often created visuals for me.  Music videos provided visuals for us, and sometimes the visions don’t mesh so neatly.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered, late one night on MTV, the video for “Skateaway.”  The images had absolutely nothing to do with what I had come up within my mind.  Of course, as a sixteen-year-old my worldview would have been limited by geography, so I guess I was expecting some suburban girl with big hair at the Tinley Park Roller Rink to be in my version of the video. But this was a pleasantly different interpretation of the music, and it replaced what I had come up with. In a sense both the song and the video kicked open a door of sorts.

I’m pretty sure that the copy of the LP that I bought in 1985 was long ago lost at a party or perhaps at the college radio station, where I often snuck the song in when I needed a break. At six and a half minutes, it was useful for those times when you need to leave the studio for one reason or another.  (Remind me to one day tell the story of the proposed “DJ Takes a Dump” contest at WLRA. I still maintain we should have done that game.)

The original video, complete with non-south-suburban scenery, can be seen here.

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