Sultan of Swing by Dire Straits Lyrics Meaning – The Uncelebrated Heroes of Music


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Dire Straits's Sultan of Swing at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning

Lyrics

You get a shiver in the dark
It’s raining in the park but meantime
South of the river you stop and you hold everything
A band is blowing Dixie, double four time
You feel alright when you hear the music ring

Well now you step inside but you don’t see too many faces
Coming in out of the rain they hear the jazz go down
Competition in other places
Uh but the horns they blowin’ that sound
Way on down south
Way on down south
London town

You check out guitar George, he knows all the chords
Mind, it’s strictly rhythm he doesn’t want to make it cry or sing
They said an old guitar is all, he can afford
When he gets up under the lights to play his thing

And Harry doesn’t mind, if he doesn’t, make the scene
He’s got a daytime job, he’s doing alright
He can play the Honky Tonk like anything
Savin’ it up, for Friday night
With the Sultans
We’re the Sultans of Swing

Then a crowd a young boys they’re foolin’ around in the corner
Drunk and dressed in their best brown baggies and their platform soles
They don’t give a damn about any trumpet playin’ band
It ain’t what they call Rock and Roll
And the Sultans
Yeah, the Sultans, they play Creole
Creole

And then the man he steps right up to the microphone
And says at last just as the time bell rings
“Goodnight, now it’s time to go home”
Then he makes it fast with one more thing

“We are the Sultans
We are the Sultans of Swing”

Full Lyrics

In the echelons of classic rock, few songs resonate with the storytelling prowess and graceful melody of Dire Straits’ ‘Sultans of Swing’. A masterful depiction of an underdog narrative set against a backdrop of an unassuming London pub scene, this intricate composition strikes chords both literal and metaphorical.

On its surface, ‘Sultans of Swing’ may read as a simple homage to a group of ragtag musicians. But a deeper dive reveals layers of commentary on passion, authenticity, and the dichotomy between commercial success and artistic purity. Let’s embark on a lyrical voyage to uncover the truths that mark this Dire Straits’ classic as a timeless piece of musical poetry.

A Rainy Setting and A Melodic Oasis

The song opens with a palpable sense of atmosphere – a shiver in the dark, rain in the park, and the invitation to an aural escape south of the river. There’s poetry in the juxtaposition – the dreariness of the city against the solace found in the spirited jazz rhythms. The scene is more than an anecdote; it’s a gateway to a subculture where the music isn’t just sound, but a lifeline.

As we step inside the venue along with the narrator, we’re met with a sparse crowd seeking refuge. They, like us, are drawn by the siren call of jazz – a music scene that thrived in competition with other places, other genres. Here, in this microcosm, jazz reigns supreme.

Guitar George and Harry’s Modest Dreams

In the character of Guitar George, Dire Straits introduces the epitome of a heartfelt artist. George knows ‘all the chords’ but his expression is limited not by talent, but by economic means – ‘an old guitar is all he can afford.’ There’s an underlying social commentary here; music as a pursuit for those who can’t afford the gaudy luxuries of stardom.

Harry stands as a counterbalance. While he nurtures a love for the Honky Tonk, he’s grounded in the reality of his ‘daytime job.’ Their shared revelry is saved for ‘Friday night,’ shedding light on the distinction between passion projects and the grind of everyday life.

Youthful Rebellion and Misplaced Disdain

The ‘young boys’ with their ‘brown baggies and platform soles’ represent the antithesis of the Sultans’ humility. Drunk on both spirits and youthful rebellion, they criticize the trumpet playing that strays from what they deem ‘Rock and Roll.’

There’s irony in their dismissal. ‘Sultans of Swing’ contrasts the genuine musicianship of the Sultans against the fickle trends of the music industry, perhaps alluding to the band’s own stance on their contemporaries who may have been more preoccupied with style over substance.

Creole and the Crossroads of Genres

Notably, the Sultans ‘play Creole,’ an important thematic element. Creole music, known for its blend of influences, becomes a symbol for the melting pot of musical fusion where jazz, blues, and rock intersect. It’s symbolic of the cultural diversity and harmony that music has the power to create, breaking barriers and conventions.

The Sultans’ adoption of Creole signifies not just an embrace of genre blending, but also an openness to innovation and inclusivity. It’s here that Dire Straits sews the seeds of universality in music, celebrating the community that it fosters regardless of background.

‘We Are the Sultans’: The Anthem of Unsung Maestros

One cannot discuss ‘Sultans of Swing’ without revering its closing lines. Delivered like a nightly benediction, the phrase ‘We are the Sultans of Swing’ transcends mere self-identification. It crowns the band not as monarchs of wealth or power, but of their craft, their passions, and their league of loyal followers within that dim-lit room.

In these memorable lines lies the heart of the song’s hidden meaning. The title ‘Sultans of Swing’ evokes a royalty attainable not through materialistic triumphs, but through the currency of joy, mastery, and the communal spirit of music. This anthem applauds the unsung maestros who play for the love of the art, not for the adoration of the masses or the allure of fame.

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