Best known for being the bass guitarist with rock group Dire Straits, John Illsley was born 24 June 1949. Formed in 1977 by Brothers Mark (lead vocals and lead guitar)and David Knopfler (rhythm guitar and backing vocals), and friends John Illsley (bass guitar and backing vocals, and Pick Withers (drums and percussion), Dire Straits recorded a five-song demo tape which included their future hit single, “Sultans of Swing”, as well as “Water of Love”, “Down to the Waterline”, “Wild West End” and David Knopfler’s “Sacred Loving”.
The group’s first album, was intitled Dire Straits and had little promotion when initially released in the United Kingdom. However, the album came to the attention of A&R representative Karin Berg, working at Warner Bros. Records in New York City. She felt that it was the kind of music audiences were hungry for, That same year, Dire Straits began a tour as opening band for the Talking Heads after the re-released “Sultans of Swing” which scaled the charts to number four in the United States and number eight in the United Kingdom. The song was one of Dire Straits’ biggest hits and became a fixture in the band’s live performances.
The group’s second album, Communiqué, Was released in June 1979. It Featured the single “Lady Writer”, the second album continued in a similar vein as the first and displayed the expanding scope of Knopfler’s lyricism on the opening track, “Once Upon a Time in the West”. In 1980, Dire Straits werenominated for two Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for “Sultans Of Swing. In July 1980 the band started recording tracks for their third album. Making Movies which featured longer songs with more complex arrangements, a style which would continue for the rest of the band’s career. The album featured many of Mark Knopfler’s most personal compositions. The most successful chart single was “Romeo and Juliet” and was released in October 1980.
Dire Straits’ fourth studio album Love Over Gold, an album of songs filled with lengthy, experimental passages, was well received when it was released in September 1982, going gold in America and spending four weeks at number one in the United Kingdom, its main chart hit, “Private Investigations”, gave Dire Straits their first top 5 hit single in the United Kingdom, where it reached the number 2 position despite its almost seven-minute length, and became another of the band’s most popular live songs. along with “Industrial Disease”, a song that looks at the decline of the British manufacturing industry in the early 1980s. In 1983, a four-song EP titled ExtendedancEPlay was released while Love Over Gold was still in the album charts. It featured the hit single “Twisting By the Pool”. Dire Straits also embarked on a world tour. A recording of two live concerts at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in July 1983, was subsequently released in March 1984 as the double-album Alchemy Live.
Dire Straits returned to the recording studios at the end of 1984 to record their biggest selling album to date, Brothers in Arms, which has so far sold over 30 million copies and contains the songs “Money for Nothing”, “Walk of Life”, “So Far Away”, “Your Latest Trick” and “Brothers in Arms”. Released in May 1985, Brothers In Arms entered the UK Albums Chart at number 1 and spent a total of 228 weeks in the charts, It went on to become the best-selling album of 1985 in the UK, “Money for Nothing” was also the first video ever to be played on MTV in Britain and featured guest vocals by Sting, who is credited with co-writing the song with Mark Knopfler, although in fact, it was just the inclusion of the melody line from “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”. Brothers in Arms was among the first albums recorded on digital equipment due to Knopfler pushing for improved sound quality The album’s title track is reported to be the world’s first CD single. The album is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first compact disc to sell a million copies, and has been credited with helping to popularise the CD format.
The sound of Many of Dire Straits’ compositions drew from a variety of musical influences, including jazz, folk, blues, and came closest to beat music within the context of rock and roll. Despite the prominence of punk rock during the band’s early years, the band’s stripped-down sound contrasted with punk, demonstrating a more “rootsy” influence that emerged out of pub rock. Dire Straits went on to became one of the world’s most commercially successful bands, with worldwide album sales of over 120 million. making them One of the world’s best selling music artists, and their fifth album, Brothers in Arms, has won many accolades. In November 2009, Dire Straits were honoured by the new PRS for Music Heritage Award. A special blue plaque was erected at Farrer House, Church Street, Deptford in south London, where the original group, Mark Knopfler, David Knopfler, John Illsley and Pick Withers once shared a council flat and performed their first ever gig in 1977. PRS for Music has set up the Heritage Award to recognise the unusual “performance birthplaces” of famous bands and artists. Dire Straits have also won numerous music awards during their career, including four Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards—winning Best British Group twice, and two MTV Video Music Awards. The band’ most popular songs include “Sultans of Swing”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Tunnel of Love”, “Private Investigations” .Dire Straits’ career spanned 18 years. There were several changes in personnel over that period, leaving Mark Knopfler and John Illsley as the only two original bandmates who had remained throughout the band’s career. Dire Straits disbanded in 1995 when Mark Knopfler launched his career full time as a successful solo artist.