Monday, October 5, 2009

Perfect Solos: "Tunnel Of Love" (1981)

Dire Straits, performing in Sydney in April 1986

I acutely recall being in a department store in San Diego in 1979 and hearing "Sultans of Swing" for the first time on the PA system, Mark Knopfler's evocative, tightly focused song about a Dixieland band performing in a south London club.

"Tunnel of Love," the first song on 1981's "Making Movies," is notable for Knopfler's long, liquid fingerstyle solo. The eight-minute studio version expanded to 14 minutes on Dire Straits' 1984 live album "Alchemy." A shorter version, not quite as good, appeared on the band's "Live at the BBC" album. When iTunes finally released "Alchemy" last month to coincide with the release of Knopfler's latest solo album, "Get Lucky," I was dismayed to find that it included the "Live at the BBC" version of "Tunnel of Love."

My complaints about this bait and switch to iTunes and on Knopfler's web site have been unavailing. The song is famous for opening with a few bars of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical "Carousel," which is duly noted in the songwriting credits. On "Alchemy," before Knopfler swings into the meat of his solo, he quotes Leonard Bernstein's "Maria" from "West Side Story." It's more subtle on the "BBC" version of the song. Could the longer version have fallen afoul of Bernstein's executors?

In any event, this YouTube version is also outstanding. Oh, those long, wasted, wonderful hours of air guitar!

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