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My Life in Dire Straits: The Inside Story of One of the Biggest Bands in Rock History

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The first, and only, inside story of one of the greatest bands in rock history--Dire Straits--as told by founder member and bassist John IllsleyOne of the most successful music acts of all time, Dire Straits filled stadiums around the world. Their album sold hundreds of millions of copies and their music--classics like "Sultans of Swing," "Romeo and Juliet," "Money for Not The first, and only, inside story of one of the greatest bands in rock history--Dire Straits--as told by founder member and bassist John IllsleyOne of the most successful


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The first, and only, inside story of one of the greatest bands in rock history--Dire Straits--as told by founder member and bassist John IllsleyOne of the most successful music acts of all time, Dire Straits filled stadiums around the world. Their album sold hundreds of millions of copies and their music--classics like "Sultans of Swing," "Romeo and Juliet," "Money for Not The first, and only, inside story of one of the greatest bands in rock history--Dire Straits--as told by founder member and bassist John IllsleyOne of the most successful music acts of all time, Dire Straits filled stadiums around the world. Their album sold hundreds of millions of copies and their music--classics like "Sultans of Swing," "Romeo and Juliet," "Money for Nothing," and "Brothers in Arms"--is still played on every continent today. There was, quite simply, no bigger band on the planet throughout the eighties.In this powerful and entertaining memoir, founding member John Illsley gives the inside track on the most successful rock band of their time. From playing gigs in the spit-and-sawdust pubs of south London, to hanging out with Bob Dylan in LA, Illsley tells the story of the band with searching honesty, soulful reflection, and wry humor. Starting with his own unlikely beginnings in Middle England, he recounts the band's rise from humble origins to the best-known venues in the world, the working man's clubs to Madison Square Garden, sharing gigs with wild punk bands to rocking the Live Aid stage at Wembley. And woven throughout is an intimate portrait and tribute to his great friend Mark Knopfler, the band's lead singer, songwriter, and remarkable guitarist.Tracing an idea that created a phenomenal musical legacy, an extraordinary journey of joy and pain, companionship and surprises, this is John Illsley's life in Dire Straits.

24 review for My Life in Dire Straits: The Inside Story of One of the Biggest Bands in Rock History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Leon "The Kilted Scotsman" McNair

    My Life In Dire StraitsJohn Illsley recollects his time as the bassist in the band Dire Straits with remarkable ease, well reflected within each new page as he pours out his passion for the music-making, content-creating, band detailing all sorts of troubled beginnings, hardened refusals, and grafted dedication between him and his band members, notably Mark Knopfler, to make it to the top as the most successful band in the World with one of the most sold albums ever made. Evidently, the reason b My Life In Dire StraitsJohn Illsley recollects his time as the bassist in the band Dire Straits with remarkable ease, well reflected within each new page as he pours out his passion for the music-making, content-creating, band detailing all sorts of troubled beginnings, hardened refusals, and grafted dedication between him and his band members, notably Mark Knopfler, to make it to the top as the most successful band in the World with one of the most sold albums ever made. Evidently, the reason behind this particular band's end was unique: it was not, as is often, creative differences or disagreements between band members that led to the - arguably early - dissolution of Dire Straits, it was that as a band they'd achieved all that could be achieved.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    It used to be said that if you bought a new CD player in the 1980s you weren’t allowed to leave the shop unless you also had a Dire Straits disc – such was the huge appeal of the band at that time. John Illsley, the band’s bassist, chronicles his life recording and on tour with the group.This isn’t a tale of rock and roll excess, though it doesn’t shy away from the downsides – Illsley suffered two failed relationships as a result of the pressures of touring – but it does offer an insight into li It used to be said that if you bought a new CD player in the 1980s you weren’t allowed to leave the shop unless you also had a Dire Straits disc – such was the huge appeal of the band at that time. John Illsley, the band’s bassist, chronicles his life recording and on tour with the group.This isn’t a tale of rock and roll excess, though it doesn’t shy away from the downsides – Illsley suffered two failed relationships as a result of the pressures of touring – but it does offer an insight into life with a hugely successful band. If you believe in the power of fate you’ll also find affirmation here. Joining his first band at school to find it already has two guitarists forces Illsley to learn bass. Then moving to London he finds himself sharing a flat with Mark Knopfler’s brother, and when the group needs to pay to record demo to make the transition from pub band to serious players he receives a timely legacy on the death of an elderly relative.This isn’t one of the great music memoirs, but Illsley writes in an engaging style that will keep you entertained and produce a few wry smiles along the way.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I pre-ordered this book the day I found out that it was coming out. I really like Dire Straits' music and own every studio album they released, as well as several of Mark Knopfler's solo releases. I never managed to see them live which after reading this book really surprises me since the band seemed to live on the road after the release of their first album.Illsley has written a non-typical rock & roll memoir; it's not a chronicle of wild parties, excessive drinking and parades of women. He spe I pre-ordered this book the day I found out that it was coming out. I really like Dire Straits' music and own every studio album they released, as well as several of Mark Knopfler's solo releases. I never managed to see them live which after reading this book really surprises me since the band seemed to live on the road after the release of their first album.Illsley has written a non-typical rock & roll memoir; it's not a chronicle of wild parties, excessive drinking and parades of women. He spends a few chapters on his life before meeting Mark & David Knopfler in London, but the book really got interesting for me after Mark Knopfler asks Illsley one night "Do you want to start a band?"If you are a Dire Straits fan you will enjoy reading about how they recorded all of the albums that we all remember so fondly. It's a well written memoir, especially compared to others in this genre.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alasdair MacCaluim

    John Illsley's book starts with his middle class upbringing in small-town Leicestershire where he became obsessed with music at an early age in a very un-rock and roll place. It gives a fascinating insight into the time and how the swinging sixties were far less colourful and cosmopolitan for those living outside London. We then learn about John's schooling, career, university education and music. The that he studied sociology was no doubt advantageous in his music career, instilling critical th John Illsley's book starts with his middle class upbringing in small-town Leicestershire where he became obsessed with music at an early age in a very un-rock and roll place. It gives a fascinating insight into the time and how the swinging sixties were far less colourful and cosmopolitan for those living outside London. We then learn about John's schooling, career, university education and music. The that he studied sociology was no doubt advantageous in his music career, instilling critical thinking and a tendency to question everything. We then learn about his friendship with Mark and David Knopfler and about Dire Straits from the earliest days onwards and the rise and rise of the band. The book is very honest about the personal consequences of coping with rapid success and a gruelling tour schedule and gives an account of the reasons for David Knopfler's departure from the band. It also looks at the negative effects of lengthy tours on Illsley's personal relationships. My only complaint is that Illsley writes relatively little about his solo music and about his life after Dire Straits. All in all this is a great book which all Dire Straits fans and rock fans in general will enjoy.

  5. 4 out of 5

    quentin bamford

    The first part of the book detailing Illsley’s early life and the formation of Dire Straits is interesting enough but the story becomes a little bland once the Straits achieve success. Illsley has been very diplomatic in order to avoid upsetting his friends. But that doesn’t make for a particularly interesting read. And let’s face it, he had the easiest gig in the world, being paid a fortune to play simple bass parts for somebody else’s songs. Nevertheless, a must read for Straits fans.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    As a founding member of Dire Straits, one of the most popular rock bands of recent times, bassist John Illsley had a view from the driving seat as the band released hit single after hit single, released one of history’s most popular CDs with Brothers in Arms and toured around the world many times.Illsley offers us a glimpse of life on the other side of the curtain, the travelling, the hotels, the stress of rehearsals, of playing bass with one of rock’s foremost lead guitarists and songwriters Ma As a founding member of Dire Straits, one of the most popular rock bands of recent times, bassist John Illsley had a view from the driving seat as the band released hit single after hit single, released one of history’s most popular CDs with Brothers in Arms and toured around the world many times.Illsley offers us a glimpse of life on the other side of the curtain, the travelling, the hotels, the stress of rehearsals, of playing bass with one of rock’s foremost lead guitarists and songwriters Mark Knopfler, of their early start playing in pubs in Deptford, to breaking America before they had any form of recognition in Britain. We learn of the early tours supporting Talking Heads, the many hours spent in studios around the world, crafting songs and sounds that are still regularly heard on the radio.We also learn much about Illsley’s early life, and he has a great line in evoking the atmosphere of the band’s early days in 1970’s London, of the early rehearsals. We learn about his alternative lives before joining Dire Straits, of the relationship between Mark and his brother David in the early days of the band.As well as the glamour of silver, gold and platinum discs, and the endless number of awards, we also hear of the personal cost that the band members paid in terms of their relationships, their marriages, even the breakdown in relationships between band members. We learn about the meticulous nature of writing and rehearsals, and the release of time spent on stages around the world, playing well-loved songs with talented musicians.The book is told with a deftness of touch, and Illsley’s sense of gratitude for meeting the Knopfler brothers, and the life that he has enjoyed, both in the band and after it all came to an end is evident throughout the band.In the years since Dire Straits has stopped, Illsley has also led something of a charmed life, using the lucrative time he spent in the band to allow him the opportunity to continue as a musician, having now released his eighth solo album, running his own pub and continuing with his career as an artist.My Life in Dire Straits is an honest appreciation of life behind the scenes, and a steady and heartfelt glimpse into the life of a successful musician in the heady days of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, an age for CDs, massive sold-out stadium gigs and musical appreciation on a massive scale that only comes to the lucky few who work hard, play harder, and deliver musically, and happen to be in the right place at the right time.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Martin Peel

    Dire Straits are legendary. Way back as a student I loved their music. The original white album, Communique, then the fabulous Making Movies and the simply stupendous Love Over Gold. It was downhill after that for me but that was the music of my growing up years. I would lie on the floor and play Tunnel of Love ( the opening track on Making Movies) in the dark. I still find that piece tuneful, soulful and beautiful.I was given this book for Christmas and what a great present. Reading it took me Dire Straits are legendary. Way back as a student I loved their music. The original white album, Communique, then the fabulous Making Movies and the simply stupendous Love Over Gold. It was downhill after that for me but that was the music of my growing up years. I would lie on the floor and play Tunnel of Love ( the opening track on Making Movies) in the dark. I still find that piece tuneful, soulful and beautiful.I was given this book for Christmas and what a great present. Reading it took me back to those late 70s early 80s years. There were two gigs, one at the Rainbow Theatre in London and one in a smallish venue in Bridlington of all places. John Illsley describes in some detail many of the tours but my two gigs don't get a mention ( not that I imagined they would). Maybe this is the fallback of the rock auotbiography. Music is so much an evocation of the time it is from, in this case my younger years, that any one else's view of it including the views of those that made the music cannot come close to identifying its personal meaning to you.I felt the book was too much of a blow by blow account of what the band did when and not enough of an account of the making of the music. Too much on where they were and not so much on sense of that journey. Maybe I am being hard. John Illsley writes very personally at times about his own life. He chronicles failing marriages, infidelities, a poor track record as a father; so the book is a personal one. What it can't do, and could never have done is evoke the power of the music because that resides in me.I did enjoy the book, especially the first couple of chapters that take you back not only to John Illsley's beginnings in life but also to the beginnings of the band. As it went on and became more expansive in the life it described, I became less interested. Maybe that was just a repeat of my musical feelings about the band. Fabulous then incredible then a bit boring actually.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Pete

    I'm probably not the best person to review musician's autobiographies as I love them all. Well, maybe not the ones that are very obviously embellished and ghost written.I didn't get bored with John's life story, it was my constant companion over Christmas and that is how I felt about his style, very friendly, candid and honest in a gentlemanly fashion.The book encouraged me to go back and visit some of the Dire Straits tracks that John was proud of but perversely I'm not a great fan of anything I'm probably not the best person to review musician's autobiographies as I love them all. Well, maybe not the ones that are very obviously embellished and ghost written.I didn't get bored with John's life story, it was my constant companion over Christmas and that is how I felt about his style, very friendly, candid and honest in a gentlemanly fashion.The book encouraged me to go back and visit some of the Dire Straits tracks that John was proud of but perversely I'm not a great fan of anything other than the first album of which I never tire.If I have one criticism, it's that the final section winds down in a kind of "then I got massively rich and have a happy life" manner but that is to be expected but my goodness, the man has paid his dues and deserves his success.I have great admiration for John being honest about his own failings but discrete and decent when being critical of others.Bottom line, hey I'm a bass player myself, is that it's a comfortable read and worth the money but little in the way of rock and roll excess.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Dire Straits were a big part of my childhood - the Money for Nothing album was always being played at home and "Walk of Life" even managed to pop the overload switch on the big speakers (still got them and they still work!)This book was well written, and again, like Mike Rutherford's book (The Living Years) didn't read like a pharmaceutical reference book. I know that there will be people who complain that there wasn't enough "scandal" but Dire Straits seemed to be one of those bands who never s Dire Straits were a big part of my childhood - the Money for Nothing album was always being played at home and "Walk of Life" even managed to pop the overload switch on the big speakers (still got them and they still work!)This book was well written, and again, like Mike Rutherford's book (The Living Years) didn't read like a pharmaceutical reference book. I know that there will be people who complain that there wasn't enough "scandal" but Dire Straits seemed to be one of those bands who never seemed to fall for the hard drugs - with them, it was a little pot and a few beers. But, if like me, you remember the Straits for the cracking songs (hard to belive they only had 6 studio albums), this is a gentle read with an insight into a massive band of the '80s... And one that has musically speaking, stood the test of time

  10. 5 out of 5

    Byron

    This is one of the most open, insightful insider accounts of being in a successful band that I have read in a long time. Whether you're a Dire Straits fan or not (and I am a big fan) hardly matters in this case, strange as that may sound. Illsley is a talented, perceptive storyteller and his voice is clear, consistent and accessible from start to finish in how he writes about each key contributor (both on stage and behind) and every turning point in the evolution of a band that ended up becoming This is one of the most open, insightful insider accounts of being in a successful band that I have read in a long time. Whether you're a Dire Straits fan or not (and I am a big fan) hardly matters in this case, strange as that may sound. Illsley is a talented, perceptive storyteller and his voice is clear, consistent and accessible from start to finish in how he writes about each key contributor (both on stage and behind) and every turning point in the evolution of a band that ended up becoming one of the best-known, most popular in the world for over two decades, starting in the late 1970s. Worth every minute for anyone who loves music and wants to better understand what it takes to achieve a successful career in the business.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tim Webber

    Decent autobiography. The first half is informative and lively enough, but it begins to wallow when the Straits get really famous and it turns into a list of gigs around the world. John says that most of the gigs they played are just a blur to him now, and that's how it felt to me reading about them. It becomes a travel itinerary. John treats all the other members of the band with decency and fairness in this book. He's still mates with BOTH Knopflers, so I can understand that. I could have done Decent autobiography. The first half is informative and lively enough, but it begins to wallow when the Straits get really famous and it turns into a list of gigs around the world. John says that most of the gigs they played are just a blur to him now, and that's how it felt to me reading about them. It becomes a travel itinerary. John treats all the other members of the band with decency and fairness in this book. He's still mates with BOTH Knopflers, so I can understand that. I could have done with more critique about Mark, but I understand that too. At least I 'know' John a little better after this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jay Dwight

    Nothing salacious, nothing controversial - just a very entertaining read from one of the two permanent members of Dire Straits. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey of John Illsley's life. From his early life in Market Harborough, through his school years, early forays into music, the meeting Mark Knopfler, through the extraordinary success of Dire Straits, and the years beyond . A reminder too of the many small, seemingly insignificant (at the time) events that change our life path so significantly Nothing salacious, nothing controversial - just a very entertaining read from one of the two permanent members of Dire Straits. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey of John Illsley's life. From his early life in Market Harborough, through his school years, early forays into music, the meeting Mark Knopfler, through the extraordinary success of Dire Straits, and the years beyond . A reminder too of the many small, seemingly insignificant (at the time) events that change our life path so significantly.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    An extremely entertaining read, but I'd say you probably need to be, at least, somewhat of a DS fan to fully enjoy this. It is by no means anything mind blowing, or groundbreaking, but it is a well-written and fun read about a great act. I loved all the little insights about all the musicians they worked with, as well as an inside view of the Knopfler brothers. John Illsey wrote this from the heart, and as he seems like a fun and genuine person, that shows in his writing. I will now spend my nex An extremely entertaining read, but I'd say you probably need to be, at least, somewhat of a DS fan to fully enjoy this. It is by no means anything mind blowing, or groundbreaking, but it is a well-written and fun read about a great act. I loved all the little insights about all the musicians they worked with, as well as an inside view of the Knopfler brothers. John Illsey wrote this from the heart, and as he seems like a fun and genuine person, that shows in his writing. I will now spend my next few days going through their whole catalogue!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Murray Sondergard

    John Illsley was the bass player for Dire Straits, who were huge in the late 70s and 80s. I enjoyed reading about his early life and the initial formation of the band. Lots of interesting stories about touring the world. They did some punishing tours - 220+ dates in a bit more than a year. I'm not surprised they hung it up after that. He seemed to emerge as a decent human being after that whole experience. John Illsley was the bass player for Dire Straits, who were huge in the late 70s and 80s. I enjoyed reading about his early life and the initial formation of the band. Lots of interesting stories about touring the world. They did some punishing tours - 220+ dates in a bit more than a year. I'm not surprised they hung it up after that. He seemed to emerge as a decent human being after that whole experience.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lorelei Tomlinson

    Interesting book. Easy to read. I learned a lot about what it was like for the band when they were touring. I didn't realize that they played so many concerts or were away from their friends and families for so long. Also I didn't appreciate the complex operations that were going on behind the scene or the fact that they were sometimes in places that they would rather not be. They did make a lot of sacrifices for their fame. Interesting book. Easy to read. I learned a lot about what it was like for the band when they were touring. I didn't realize that they played so many concerts or were away from their friends and families for so long. Also I didn't appreciate the complex operations that were going on behind the scene or the fact that they were sometimes in places that they would rather not be. They did make a lot of sacrifices for their fame.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Bennett

    The High RoadWell written & easy to read. Very interesting if you're a Dire Straights fan, as I am! Great positive upbeat attitude with no gossip. Their tours were exceptionally successful as was their music, which is a cut above most rock bands in the 80's. I enjoyed the book & learned a lot about how professionalism, not only talent & good luck, made them one of the best rock groups ever. The High RoadWell written & easy to read. Very interesting if you're a Dire Straights fan, as I am! Great positive upbeat attitude with no gossip. Their tours were exceptionally successful as was their music, which is a cut above most rock bands in the 80's. I enjoyed the book & learned a lot about how professionalism, not only talent & good luck, made them one of the best rock groups ever.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mario Streger

    Very well written, I could picture him in his hometown, then in school, doing his best to please his parents (and what they expected from him) and playing/listening to music, his passion. He describes everything so vividly that I could see what life was back then, so different in all ways from today. And he always has an optimistic view of things, from his early days to the top of his career and fame, being simplistic and enjoying life as it comes.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andre Chiasson

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am a Dire Straits fan for over 40 years and that certainly adds to my appreciation but I think it would be enjoyed by anyone who has an interest in the life of a rock band. The tours, family lives, personnel changes, growth. The small things that make a major impact on a career. It's well written and I loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am a Dire Straits fan for over 40 years and that certainly adds to my appreciation but I think it would be enjoyed by anyone who has an interest in the life of a rock band. The tours, family lives, personnel changes, growth. The small things that make a major impact on a career. It's well written and I loved it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Alexiev

    It was a unusual and unique experience to read and listen to the book at the same time. The calm voice of the bassist and the respectful way he is telling the story of a favourite band of mine was really something to me. I could not leave it till I finished.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ruthie

    A true pleasure to spend time with John Illsley

  21. 5 out of 5

    Richard Barber

    If I could, I would give this 6 stars Review to follow once I've reflected If I could, I would give this 6 stars Review to follow once I've reflected

  22. 4 out of 5

    Boysmithers

    John was my hero when I was learning to play bass!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tom Darling

    Pleasant memoir. Get it from the library.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    A very talented man and a great read.

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