Brothers in Arms (album)

Brothers in Arms is the fifth studio album by British rock band Dire Straits, released on 13 May 1985 by Vertigo Records internationally and by Warner Bros. Records in the United States. It charted at number one in several countries, spending a total of 14 non-consecutive weeks at number one on the UK Albums Chart (including 10 consecutive weeks between 18 January and 22 March 1986), nine weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 in the United States and 34 weeks at number one on the Australian Albums Chart. Brothers in Arms was the first album certified 10-times platinum in the UK[2] and is the eighth-best-selling album in UK chart history, is certified nine-times platinum in the United States, and is one of the world's best-selling albums, having sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.[3][4][5][6]

Brothers in Arms
Studio album by
Released13 May 1985 (1985-05-13)
RecordedOctober 1984 – February 1985
StudioAIR Studios, Montserrat
GenrePop rock[1]
Length55:07 (CD)
47:21 (LP)
Dire Straits chronology
Brothers in Arms
Money for Nothing
Singles from Brothers in Arms
  1. "So Far Away"
    Released: 1985
  2. "Money for Nothing"
    Released: June 1985
  3. "Brothers in Arms"
    Released: 1985
  4. "Walk of Life"
    Released: 1985
  5. "Your Latest Trick"
    Released: 1986

The album won a Grammy Award in 1986 for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, the 20th Anniversary Edition won another Grammy in 2006 for Best Surround Sound Album, and also won Best British Album at the 1987 Brit Awards.[7][8] Q magazine placed the album at number 51 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.[9] It was also among ten albums nominated for the best British album of the previous 30 years by the Brit Awards in 2010, ultimately losing to (What's the Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis.[10]


Brothers in Arms was recorded from October 1984 to February 1985 at AIR Studios on the island of Montserrat, a British overseas territory in the Caribbean.[11] The album was produced by songwriter Mark Knopfler and Neil Dorfsman, who had engineered Dire Straits 1982 album Love over Gold and Knopfler's 1983 soundtrack album Local Hero.[12]

Brothers in Arms was one of the first albums recorded on a Sony 24-track digital tape machine. The decision to move to digital recording came from Knopfler's constant striving for better sound quality. "One of the things that I totally respected about him," Dorfsman observed, "was his interest in technology as a means of improving his music. He was always willing to spend on high-quality equipment."[12]

Before arriving at Montserrat, Knopfler had written all the songs and rehearsed them with the band. The studio lineup included Knopfler (guitar), John Illsley (bass), Alan Clark (piano and Hammond B3 organ) and Guy Fletcher, who was new to the band, playing a synth rig that consisted of a huge new Yamaha DX1, a couple of Roland keyboards and a Synclavier. Terry Williams was the band's then-permanent drummer. The studio itself was small, with a 20-by-25-foot (6 m × 8 m) recording space that offered virtually no isolation. "It was a good-sounding studio," Dorfsman later recalled, "but the main room itself was nothing to write home about. The sound of that studio was the desk," referring to the Neve 8078 board.[12]

Knopfler and Dorfsman utilised the limited space to best effect, placing the drum kit in the far left corner, facing the control room, miked with Sennheiser MD421s on the toms, an Electro-Voice RE20 and AKG D12 on the kick drum, a Shure SM57 and AKG C451 with a 20 dB pad on the snare, 451s for overheads and the hi-hat, and Neumann U87s set back a little to capture "some kind of ambience".[12] They placed the piano in a tight booth in the far right corner of the studio, miked with AKG C414s. The Hammond B3 was placed nearby, with its Leslie speaker crammed into an airlock next to the control room. Illsley's bass amplifier was recorded inside a small vocal booth with a Neumann FET 47 and a DI unit. Knopfler's amplifiers were miked with 57s, 451s, and Neumann U67s. Fletcher's synths were placed in the control room.[12]

During the recording of "Money for Nothing", the signature sound of Knopfler's guitar may have been enhanced by a "happy accident" of microphone placement. Knopfler was using his Gibson Les Paul going through a Laney amplifier. While setting up the guitar amplifier microphones in an effort to get the "ZZ Top sound" that Knopfler sought, guitar tech Ron Eve, who was in the control room, heard the "amazing" sound before Dorfsman was finished arranging the mics. "One mic was pointing down at the floor," Dorfsman remembered, "another was not quite on the speaker, another was somewhere else, and it wasn't how I would want to set things up—it was probably just left from the night before, when I'd been preparing things for the next day and had not really finished the setup."[12] What they heard was exactly what ended up on the record; no additional processing or effects were used during the mix.[12]

According to a Sound on Sound magazine interview with Neil Dorfsman, the performance of then-permanent drummer Terry Williams was considered to be unsuitable for the desired sound of the album during the first month of the recording sessions. Williams was temporarily replaced by jazz session drummer Omar Hakim, who re-recorded the album's drum parts during a two-day stay before leaving for other commitments.[12] Both Hakim and Williams are credited on the album,[13] although Williams' only contribution was the improvised crescendo at the beginning of "Money for Nothing". Andy Kanavan was briefly with the band as a drummer. Williams rejoined for the music videos and the promotional concert world tour.[13]


"Money for Nothing" became one of the most-played music videos on MTV. It is one of only two Dire Straits songs on a studio album not to be solely credited to Knopfler (the other being "The Carousel Waltz" which opens Making Movies), with guest vocalist Sting given a co-writing credit due to the melody of the repeated "I want my MTV" (sung by Sting) in the song's fadeout echoing the melody of the Police's "Don't Stand So Close to Me".

"Walk of Life" was a number two hit for the band in the UK in early 1986 and a number seven hit in the United States later that year. The song was nearly left off the album, but was included after the band out-voted producer Neil Dorfsman.

On the second side of the album, three songs ("Ride Across the River", "The Man's Too Strong" and "Brothers in Arms") are lyrically focused on militarism. "Ride Across the River" uses immersive Latin American imagery, accompanied by synthesized pan flute, a reggae-influenced drum part and eerie background noises. "The Man's Too Strong" depicts the character of an ancient soldier (or war criminal) and his fear of showing feelings as a weakness. "Brothers in Arms" deals with the senselessness of war.


The guitar featured on the front of the album cover is Mark Knopfler's 1937 14-fret National Style "O" Resonator. The Style "O" line of guitars was introduced in 1930 and discontinued in 1941. The photographer was Deborah Feingold.[14] The back cover features a painting of the same guitar, by German artist Thomas Steyer. A similar image was also used, with a similar color scheme, for the 1989 album The Booze Brothers by Brewers Droop.


Brothers in Arms was one of the first albums directed at the CD market, and was a full digital recording (DDD) at a time when most popular music was recorded on analog equipment. It was also released on vinyl (abridged to fit on one LP) and cassette. Producer Neil Dorfsman says the digital multitrack was mixed on an analog board with the resulting two track mix re-digitized via a Prism A/D converter and recorded on a DAT machine.

Brothers in Arms was the first album to sell one million copies in the CD format and to outsell its LP version. A Rykodisc employee would subsequently write, "[In 1985 we] were fighting to get our CDs manufactured because the entire worldwide manufacturing capacity was overwhelmed by demand for a single rock title (Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms)."[15]

It was remastered and released with the rest of the Dire Straits catalogue in 1996 for most of the world outside the United States and on 19 September 2000 in the United States. It was also released in XRCD2 format in 2000, then the 20th Anniversary Edition was issued in Super Audio CD format on 26 July 2005 (becoming the 3000th title for the SACD format) and DualDisc format with DVD-Audio 24 bit/96 kHz track on 16 August 2005, remixed in 5.1 by Chuck Ainlay[16] and winning a Grammy for Best Surround Sound Album at the 48th Grammy Awards ceremony.[17]

In 2006, a half-speed-mastered vinyl version of the album was issued. Mastered by Stan Ricker, this version consists of four sides on two 33 1/3 rpm discs, containing the full-length songs on vinyl for the first time.

In 2013, a hybrid SACD mastered from the original tapes was released by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab.

In 2014, a new master was released in Japan on SHM-SACD - it's made from the original tapes and contains the original LP length of the album: 47:44 min.

In 2015, the album re-entered the UK Album Charts at #8 following the record being made available at a discounted price on digital music retailers. The album has spent a total of 356 weeks on the UK Album Charts.[18]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Record Mirror[21]
The Daily VaultA-[23]

Initial reviews of Brothers in Arms from the UK music press in 1985 were generally negative. In a scathing review for NME, Mat Snow criticised Knopfler's "mawkish self-pity, his lugubriously mannered appropriation of rockin' Americana, his thumpingly crass attempts at wit". He also accused the album of the "tritest would-be melodies in history, the last word in tranquilising chord changes, the most cloying lonesome playing and ultimate in transparently fake troubador sentiment ever to ooze out of a million-dollar recording studio".[24] Eleanor Levy of Record Mirror dismissed the "West Coast guitars reeking of mega bucks and sell out stadium concerts throughout the globe. Laid back melodies. Dire Straits – summed up... This is like any other Dire Straits album quarried out of the tottering edifice of MOR rock."[21]

The reviews from other UK music papers were less harsh, with Jack Barron of Sounds feeling that "it's only a halfway decent album because it has only halfway decent songs... Knopfler has distilled his sonic essence, via blues, to appeal to billboard romantics with cinemascope insecurities. And he can pull it off well... but not often enough here."[22] Melody Maker's Barry McIlheney observed that Knopfler had recently explored different creative directions with his work on movie soundtracks and on Bob Dylan's Infidels, and bemoaned that "this admirable spirit of adventure fails to materialise... Instead it sounds just a bit too like the last Dire Straits album, which sounded not unlike the last one before that, which sounded suspiciously like the beginning of a hugely successful and very lucrative plan to take over the world known as AOR". He concluded, "the old rockschool restraints and the undeniably attractive smell of the winning formula seem to block out any such experimental work and what you end up with is something very like the same old story."[25]

US reviews were more positive. Writing for Spin magazine, E. Brooks praised Knopfler's guitar work and noted that "when the intensity of his words approaches that of his ravishing stratocaster licks, the song soars. That doesn't happen as often as I'd like on this new album [...] but I find myself returning to certain cuts the way one might come back to a favorite chair." Brooks singled out the "haunting ballad" "Your Latest Trick", the "acerbic satire of vid-rock culture" in "Money for Nothing" and the "outstanding craftsmanship in the words and music" of the title track, which was "not a new message, but at least something other than sex, cars, or drugs is being talked about here. Take that and the quality of the musicianship, and you've got a lot."[26] Debby Bull gave the album a mixed review for Rolling Stone magazine, praising the "carefully crafted" effort, writing, "The record is beautifully produced, with Mark Knopfler's terrific guitar work catching the best light". Although she found the lyrics literate, Bull noted that the scenarios "aren't as interesting as they used to be on records like Making Movies". Despite the production values and notable contributions from guest artists like drummer Omar Hakim and the Brecker Brothers, Bull concluded that "the music lacks the ache that made Knopfler's recent soundtracks for Comfort and Joy and Cal so powerful."[27] In Rolling Stone's end-of-year round-up of 1985's key albums, Fred Schruers said that "Knopfler's nimble, evocative guitar style and gentle vocalizing are still as appealing as they were on previous scenario-rich albums".[28]

Later reviews have praised the record. Reviewing the remastered Dire Straits albums in 1996, Rob Beattie of Q awarded Brothers in Arms five stars out of five, and wrote that "repeated listening reveals it as a singularly melancholic collection – see the guitar slashing of 'The Man's Too Strong' and the title track, where joy is as sharp as sorrow".[20] In a 2007 review for BBC Music, Chris Jones called Brothers in Arms "a phenomenon on every level... a suite of Knopfler's very fine brand of JJ Cale-lite".[29] In his retrospective review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave the album four out of five stars, crediting the international success of the album not only to the clever computer-animated video for "Money for Nothing", but also to Knopfler's "increased sense of pop songcraft". According to Erlewine, Dire Straits had "never been so concise or pop-oriented, and it wore well on them". Erlewine concluded that the album remains "one of their most focused and accomplished albums, and in its succinct pop sense, it's distinctive within their catalog".[19]

In 2010, when Brothers in Arms was among ten albums nominated for the best British album of the past 30 years by the Brit Awards, music broadcaster and author Paul Gambaccini described the list of nominees as "risible" but added, "Brothers in Arms runs away with it for the quality of songwriting and musicianship."[30]


In 1986 Brothers in Arms won a Grammy Award in 1986 for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, while the 20th Anniversary Edition won another Grammy in 2006 for Best Surround Sound Album,[7] and also won Best British Album at the 1987 Brit Awards.[8] In 2000, Q magazine placed the album at number 51 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.[9] In 2003, the album ranked number 351 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time",[31] and 352 in a 2012 revised list.[32] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[33]

In November 2006 the results of a national poll conducted by the public of Australia revealed their top 100 favourite albums. Brothers in Arms came in at number 64 (see "My Favourite Album"). Brothers in Arms is ranked number 3 in the best albums of 1985 and number 31 in the best albums of the 1980s.

As of July 2016 Brothers in Arms is the eighth-best-selling album of all-time in the UK.[34] It is also the third-best-selling album of all-time in Australia, and the 18th-best-selling album of all-time in France. In the Netherlands, the album used to hold the record for longest run ever on the Dutch Album chart with 269 weeks (non-consecutive) but lost it to Adele's 21 in 2016.

British music journalist Robert Sandall wrote:

Looked at now with 20/20 vision of hindsight, the image on the sleeve of Brothers in Arms seems uncannily prophetic: that National steel guitar heading up into the clouds—a shiny 6 stringed rocket devoid of any obvious means of propulsion—describes, better than any words can, what happened to Dire Straits after the release of their 5th studio album. Up till the summer of 1985 success had, for them, come as a by-product of the music making process. They had never courted celebrity, chased fads, or played safe. Dire Straits had been loved and respected as one of the few bands to have maintained strong and credible links with the multifarious roots of rock and roll at a time—remember all the desperate pop posing of the early 80s?—when roots were emphatically not a fashionable place to be."[35]

Awards and nominations

1986Grammy AwardAlbum of the YearNominated[7]
Best Engineered Album, Non-ClassicalWon[7]
Juno AwardBest Selling International AlbumWon[36]
1987Brit AwardsBest British AlbumWon[8]
2006Grammy AwardBest Surround Sound AlbumWon[7]

Track listings

All songs were written by Mark Knopfler, except where indicated. The track lengths on the LP version differ from the lengths on the CD and cassette versions, due to the limitations of the vinyl medium. The full tracks would not all fit on a single disc.

CD and cassette

1."So Far Away"5:12
2."Money for Nothing" (Mark Knopfler, Sting)8:26
3."Walk of Life"4:12
4."Your Latest Trick"6:33
5."Why Worry"8:31
6."Ride Across the River"6:58
7."The Man's Too Strong"4:40
8."One World"3:40
9."Brothers in Arms"6:59
Total length:55:07

Original single LP

Side one
1."So Far Away"3:59
2."Money for Nothing" (Mark Knopfler, Sting)7:04
3."Walk of Life"4:12
4."Your Latest Trick"4:46
5."Why Worry"5:22
Side two
1."Ride Across the River"6:58
2."The Man's Too Strong"4:40
3."One World"3:40
4."Brothers in Arms"6:59
Total length:47:21

Double LP

Side one
1."So Far Away"5:12
2."Money for Nothing" (Mark Knopfler, Sting)8:26
Side two
1."Walk of Life"4:12
2."Your Latest Trick"6:34
Side three
1."Why Worry"8:31
2."Ride Across the River"6:58
Side four
1."The Man's Too Strong"4:40
2."One World"3:40
3."Brothers in Arms"6:59
Total length:55:12


Credits adapted from album liner notes.[37]


  • In Australia, the album topped the albums chart for 34 weeks (non-consecutive), and is the album with the second most weeks at number-one in the Australian Albums Chart.
  • In the Netherlands, the album broke the all-time record for most weeks on chart, with 269 non-consecutive weeks (since overtaken by Adele's 21 and the Buena Vista Social Club's eponymous debut album).[40]
  • In the UK, the album spent 14 weeks at number one on the UK Albums Chart,[41] and as of August 2018 has spent 271 weeks on the chart.[42]
  • In the United States, the album reached number one on the Billboard 200 and remained there for nine weeks.[43]

Sales and certifications

Region CertificationCertified units/sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[75] Gold 30,000^
Australia (ARIA)[76] 17× Platinum 1,190,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[77] 4× Platinum 200,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[78] Diamond 1,000,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[79] 5× Platinum 100,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[80] 2× Platinum 116,784[80]
France (SNEP)[81] Diamond 1,995,300[82]
Germany (BVMI)[83] Platinum 500,000^
Hong Kong (IFPI Hong Kong)[84] Platinum 20,000*
Italy (FIMI)[85] Platinum 100,000*
Netherlands 450,000[86]
New Zealand (RMNZ)[87] 24× Platinum 360,000^
Poland (ZPAV)[88] Gold 10,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[89] 3× Platinum 300,000^
Sweden (GLF)[90] Gold 50,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[91] 6× Platinum 350,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[91]
1996 release
United Kingdom (BPI)[92] 14× Platinum 4,300,000[34]
United States (RIAA)[93] 9× Platinum 9,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also


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