Telegraph Road

We always like to think of ourselves as individuals but the truth is our parents pass on certain personality traits and tastes whether we like it or not. When it comes to music, I inherited a closet liking for Dire Straits. My father (whose liking for them was not closet in any way) played their albums endlessly, and with the Love Over Gold album I can clearly remember him being blown away by it as a piece of work.

Telegraph Road is a song that I find exceptional for an unusual reason in music – the sheer scope of what it covers. If a film started with a single man creating a settlement in the Old West, and ended centuries later with the failure of the huge industrial machine that grew up from that settlement, it would be impressive stuff. But Telegraph Road achieves this in a song. That’s unheard of. By the standards of radio friendly singles, it’s an epic with a 14 minute running time, but considering the story it tells, it’s a work of genius.

One thing I was ignorant of about Telegraph Road is the inspiration for the song, and when I found out the story, it surprised me to learn that it is a place I’d already been fascinated by for the last few years – Detroit. This is a huge topic and something I will keep for future posts, but the stories from this troubled city are incredible. Apparently Mark Knopflier was in a tour bus on US Highway 24 (also known as Telegraph Road), when the inspiration for the song arrived. He certainly hit the mark with the story, and the latter verses of an unhappy man looking romantically back on the good old days are still hugely relevant to Detroit nearly 30 years later.

Love Over Gold also includes a song called Industrial Disease. Although it sounds like it could also be about Detriot, it’s apparently about early 1980’s Britain – our industrial decline and the associated social problems. The song is humourous rather than serious, but remains surprisingly relevant. One line in particular says ‘these are classic symptoms of a monetary squeeze’ which is very apt for the credit crunch era

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