TIL: An Epic Dire Straits Song Is About Michigan [Video]
I was doing a deep dive on Dire Straits Saturday night, when I came across a song that was inspired by a tour stop in Michigan.
The song is 'Telegraph Road' and its a 14 minute 21 second epic song that opens the 1983 album 'Love Over Gold', which is the first Dire Straits album that was produced by singer/songwriter/guitarist Mark Knopfler.
The song is long because it tells a story, both musically and in the lyrics. Music critic David Fricke, writing in Rolling Stone magazine, praised the song, saying the length will "challenge the average pop music fan's attention span with its historic sweep and intimate tension."
The song first tells the story of history of the road building up, before settling in on a man whose dreams have been drop kicked by the rough economy. "I got a right to go to work, but there's no work here to be found," sings Knopfler.
All of which, says Fricke "enable Knopfler to deploy a variety of surprising instrumental voices, from the synthesized sunrise whistle at the beginning to the baroque piano motif in the middle."
Fricke added that "in a period when most pop music is conceived purely as product (this song) dares to put art before airplay."
It's probably been 20 years or more since I last listened to 'Telegraph Road', so I was surprised that many people in the YouTube comments section for the song mentioned it was about Telegraph Road in Southeastern Michigan.
US-24 starts in Colorado and winds up twisting north at Toledo and continuing through metro Detroit before ending in Unionville, in the Thumb region.
It's named Telegraph Road all the way up to the Genesee County line when it changes to Lapeer Road. It is one of the most traveled thoroughfares in the metro Detroit suburbs. As Knopfler says in the song "six lanes of traffic and three lanes moving slow."
In interviews, Knopfler admits he was inspired to write his magnum opus following a Detroit tour stop when he traveled up the road from his hotel to downtown for a concert at Joe Louis Arena.
In an interview on RockLine, a "rock radio network" call-in show, broadcast live on 10 May 1983, Mark Knopfler said, while on tour, he... "in fact was driving down that road and I was reading a book at the time called Growth of the Soil [by the Norwegian author Knut Hamsun], and I just put the two together. I was driving down this Telegraph Road... and it just went on and on and on forever, it's like what they call linear development. And I just started to think, I wondered how that road must have been when it started, what it must have first been. And then really that's how it all came about yeah, I just put that book together and the place where I was, I was actually sitting in the front of the tour bus at the time."
So enjoy the glory that is, Telegraph Road.