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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 Illsley One 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 Illsley One 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.


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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 Illsley One 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 Illsley One 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.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Leon "The Kilted Scotsman" McNair

    My Life In Dire Straits John 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 Straits John 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.

  3. 5 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. 5 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. 5 out of 5

    Ape

    I am not a big expert on Dire Straits - I have to admit I hadn't heard of John Illsley when I picked up this book. Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler I obviously have heard of and love the music of, so I was interested in reading a history of the band. It's a well written and engaging auto biography, not too heavy on the brain and a good read. They come across as genuine, down-to-earth folk and that's refreshing to read where it's not all self-absorbed bleating and me, me, me. Perhaps it helps that t I am not a big expert on Dire Straits - I have to admit I hadn't heard of John Illsley when I picked up this book. Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler I obviously have heard of and love the music of, so I was interested in reading a history of the band. It's a well written and engaging auto biography, not too heavy on the brain and a good read. They come across as genuine, down-to-earth folk and that's refreshing to read where it's not all self-absorbed bleating and me, me, me. Perhaps it helps that they weren't all 16 when they started out, that they'd done other things, been skint and, well, lived a little. Gives you perspective. You learn all kinds of little nuggets throughout the book. I didn't realise that Mark Knopfler had once been a journalist for the Yorkshire Post, or that he'd written Tina Turner's song, Private Dancer. I hadn't realised that they'd done as many tours as they did. Between those and the albums, it's no surprise Illsley has two failed marriages behind him - he was never home. Fifteen month tours. By God, you've got to love the music to keep up that momentum. It's also eye opening to see how at times they basically made nothing from concerts, whilst everyone else and his mother (and bizarrely once the wife of an Italien mayer) cashed in, which is a little depressing considering they're not the creative talent. And being sent limos to take them to concerts, having producers order food to be flown in from New York, only for all of this to be billed off the money they would earn. And then certain countries sounded demented. Italy in the 70s and 80s, lordy, the concerts sounded like life and death situations. Yikes! I've been listening to their debut whilst reading this - scary to consider all the random chance that brought it all about - must get on and listen to the other albums. Never seen Dire Straits live myself, probably a bit too young, but have seen Mark Knopfler play live. Borrowed from the library.

  6. 4 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.

  7. 4 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 4 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Bennett

    The High Road Well 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 Road Well 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ruthie

    A true pleasure to spend time with John Illsley

  16. 4 out of 5

    Keith Foster

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dizzle729

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alan

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ben

  20. 5 out of 5

    Peter Goldsmith

  21. 4 out of 5

    Judy Horsburgh

  22. 4 out of 5

    Daan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Karlo Cmrk

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andy

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dumitru Malic

  26. 4 out of 5

    Drew

  27. 4 out of 5

    Keith

  28. 5 out of 5

    John

  29. 5 out of 5

    Neil Battersby

  30. 5 out of 5

    Charles

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