Thursday, December 10, 2009

SONG #10-- Water Of Love


Apparently, my pod is fascinated with the 70s this week.

I first heard Dire Straits in 1978, when "Sultans Of Swing" was on the radio for weeks.  My mom had a 1969 Volkswagen Beetle that was still going after 200,000+ miles, and we had a 35 minute commute each way to school, so I got to hear a ton of top 40 radio for a few years.

I loved the sound of the band instantly; they seemed mysterious and cool and were a nice change of pace from disco.  I forgot about them almost right away, though, and they were off my radar until 1982.  That year, as a 7th grader, I had to play varsity lacrosse because the school was too small to have a JV, and as a result I spent a ton of time on busses (and the bench) traveling to games with 11th and 12th graders.  I learned a lot, to say the least, including about music.  On his senior page in the yearbook that year, my teammate Andy Murchake (you out there, Andy?) quoted most of the lyrics from Dire Straits' third album Making Movies, and being a respectable, worshipping 7th grader, I paid attention, and got the 2 for 1 cassette of the first and third albums. (Am I the only one who remembers those 2 for 1 cassettes?  I can't find pictures of them anywhere on the internet.)

"Water Of Love" is one of my favorite Dire Straits songs.  It's not a very famous one, but I've always thought you could tell a ton about an album from its second song, and "Water Of Love" is perfectly placed.  On a lot of my favorite records, it's the second song that most captures my attention.  How about five albums where track two is the best one on the album?  Nominations?  I'll start--

"Bargain," Who's Next, The Who
"Manic Depression," Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced?
"Paranoid Android," OK Computer, Radiohead
"Alex Chilton," Pleased To Meet Me, The Replacements
"Animal," Vs., Pearl Jam

"Water Of Love" starts just with claves, and then Pick Withers' restrained but percussive drum pattern.  When the band kicks in, it's a completely acoustic groove.  In fact, it's the only acoustic song on the album, and the song has half a foot in Fairport Convention-style British folk music and another in JJ Cale-style American blues.  Guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Mark Knopfler plays dobro throughout, and the appeal of the track stems from the counterpoint between Knopfler's limited but communicative vocal and his tasty responses on the dobro.  The track feels totally unassuming and light but still meaningful.  Dire Straits are better known for long, orchestrated tracks; "Water Of Love" is the quieter side of the band that has aged much better-- no embarrassing "Money For Nothing" lyrics here.  In fact, this song has one of my favorite couplets about being single:  "Once there was a river, now there's a stone / You know it's evil when you're living alone."  It also has terrific background vocals, the best the band ever recorded, I think.

When Alchemy came out in 1984, I became a downright Dire Straits nut for a year; I loved that live album, and can still play pretty much the whole thing from memory.  Strangely, Brothers In Arms was the beginning of the end for me.  I went to see them that summer (a month after Live Aid), and loved it, and then... that was basically that.  I don't think I've listened to the band on purpose more than a dozen times in the last twenty years. Not many bands have fallen off my "go to" playlist more precipitously than Dire Straits.  It was nice to hear this one again.



  1. You just didn't like monster albums from the mid 80s (Born In The USA, Graceland, Brothers In Arms...). But, you're right, Alchemy is untouchable!

    The first 20 seconds of "Wild West End"- six songs after "Water of Love"- is, I think, my favorite intro to any recording I know.

    Other great "track two" nominations:

    Patty Griffin's "Let Him Fly" from Living With Ghosts- recorded in her bedroom closet.

    Revolver- "Eleanor Rigby"

    David Gray- early album Flesh, track "The Light." For that matter, "Babylon" is track two of White Ladder, I think. That song changed how people made singer/songwriter albums.

    Paul Simon (Paul Simon)- "Duncan."

    Just a few suggestions from "Easy listening Price" over here.

  2. "Expectations," Tigermilk, Belle and Sebastian
    "Free," You Are Free, Cat Power
    "White Winter Hymnal," Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
    "Such Great Heights," Give Up, The Postal Service

    And "Girl from the North Country" on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan is one of my favorites, but it would be pretty bold to call it the *best* on the album when it's up against "Blowin' in the Wind," "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall," and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"... :-)

  3. "We Are Nowhere & It's Now", I'm Wide Awake It's Morning, Bright Eyes
    "10AM Automatic", Rubber Factory, The Black Keys
    "Let The Cool Goddess Rust Away" CYHSY, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
    "Last Post on the Bugle", The Libertines, The Libertines
    "The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine", Gimme Fiction, Spoon

    I've yet to find a pattern in terms of where my favorite songs appear on albums...

  4. OK, I gotta call shenanigans on a couple of things in this post. First of all, "Water of Love" is a great song, but falls short of "Sultans" and "Wild West End," IMO.

    And "Bargain" is amazing, but it is arguably the 5th best song on Who's Next: (Baba, Won't Get, Behind Blue, Goin' Mobile).

    That being said, my nominees for 2nd song greatness:

    "Casino Queen," A.M., Wilco
    "Gentlemen," Gentlemen, Afghan Wigs
    "Someday, Someway," Marshall Crenshaw, Marshall Crenshaw
    "Rattled by the Rush," Wowee Zowee, Pavement
    "Brimful of Asha," When I Was Born for the 7th Time, Cornershop
    "Center of the Universe," Keep it Like a Secret, Built to Spill

  5. "Bargain" is perhaps my #1, all-time favorite song; at some point, I'll get to tell you why.


  6. Fair enough. I just hope we don't have to wait more than 12,000 songs or so to get your take on that particular masterpiece. :)