Dire Straits are a British rock band, formed in 1977 by Mark Knopfler (guitar and vocals), David Knopfler (guitar), John Illsley (bass) and Pick Withers (drums), and managed by Ed Bicknell. In an era when punk rock reigned, they played subdued, almost old-school rock and roll. Mark Knopfler (the band's frontman) was heard to have asked pub managers to turn down the sound, so people could talk over the music, while they were still in their early days. Despite this complete antithesis to popular culture at the time, Dire Straits still became hugely successful.
Dire Straits recorded and released their first, self-titled album in 1978 to little fanfare but five months later a single release, 'Sultans of Swing' became an unlikely chart hit and album sales took off. The second album followed soon afterwards; these first two albums featured a stripped-down band sound. The third album, Making Movies featured keyboardist Roy Bittan (from Bruce Springsteen's band) and marked a move towards more complex arrangements and production which would continue throughout the band's career. The band's 1985 release Brothers in Arms was an international hit and spawned several singles including the number one hit 'Money for Nothing'.
Aiding the success of Brothers in Arms was the fact that it was one of the first fully digitally recorded and produced albums available in the (then) new Compact Disc format. This had the accidental side effect of making it one of the 'must buy' albums for consumers wishing to demonstrate the new technology. Equally, the new format was an excellent showcase for Knopfler's meticulous production values on the earlier albums, leading many existing fans to repurchase the whole back catalogue. Partly as a result of this (and a successful appearance in Live Aid), Dire Straits were the biggest selling band in the world in the mid 1980s. The popularity of the band extends beyond the UK and US: in many parts of the world including India, Southeast Asia and Africa, Dire Straits has been one of the most well-known and admired western bands.