The Sultans Of Swing

You get a shiver in the dark
It’s been 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 all right when you hear that music ring

You step inside but you don’t see too many faces
Coming in out of the rain to hear the jazz go down
Too much competition too many other places
But not too many horns can make that sound
Way on downsouth way on downsouth London town

You check out Guitar George he knows all the chords
Mind he’s strictly rhythm he doesn’t want to make it cry or sing
And 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 honky tonk just like anything
Saving it up for Friday night
With the Sultans with the Sultans of Swing

And a crowd of young boys they’re fooling 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 playing band
It ain’t what they call rock and roll
And the Sultans played Creole

And then the man he steps right up to the microphone
And says at last just as the time bell rings
‘Thank you goodnight now it’s time to go home’
and he makes it fast with one more thing
‘We are the Sultans of Swing’

This song was all over the radio when I was sixteen.  It made a big impression on me for a number of reasons–Mark Knopfler’s warm honey& whiskey voice, the jazz guitar on “regular radio” (as opposed to the soundtrack of the B-movies I’d already fallen in love with) but mostly the lyrics, which introduced me to the concept of a “working artist” in a poignant and lasting way.

I had the idea that there were ARTISTS, whether musicians or writers or actors or what-have-you, who lived in the Olympian heights and dispensed their creative largess on us poor unwashed shlubs below.  The idea of writing for living–my dream, even then–was tied up with a vision of a new world, of wealth and fame and limo rides and champagne every day.

But here there was a vision of a struggling band playing a bar, not surrounded by groupies, but practically ignored by the clientele, but playing on anyway, not for fame or fortune, but just because they loved to jam for a while.

In the decades since then I’ve learned that the Sultans are the norm.  My ex-wife was a musician and I was drafted as unpaid sound/light/roadie/van driver/guy who untangles the mic cords.  She was good, honestly, a talented guitarist with a fine voice, and played with a couple of other good musicians, but, I don’t think we ever made a profit on a gig.

That’s the way it works.  The MegaStars and SuperGroups are few and far between.  For every Anne Geddes there are a hundred photographers who are lucky to get the occasional  shot in the local Super Saver Shopper.  For every Brad Pitt there are a hundred guys who wait in line half the day for a shot at thirty seconds in a shampoo commercial.

I’m not Stephen King or John Grisham, nor do I particularly want to be.  I don’t think that celebrity would agree with me–I have a way of saying really stupid things when strangers ask me questions.

My ambitions are much more earthbound.  I’d like to be able to quit my day job and not have to get out of bed in the middle of the night to work on a door or unstop a toilet.  But I don’t need limo rides and champagne, I am perfectly happy with beer and my ’86 Mercury.

I don’t need to be a rock star.  I’d be happy being the Sultans Of Swing.  I just want a place to play my songs, to tell my stories, and jam for a while.

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About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Sultans Of Swing

  1. lala1966 says:

    I love that song! I never viewed it quite as well as I do now that you have made it personal! 😉

  2. changeforbetterme says:

    Thanks for the follow! I’ve always liked this song. 🙂

  3. nice post. i had to chuckle a little when i read, ‘I have a way of saying really stupid things when strangers ask me questions.’ — we all wish we’d been more witty or clever when caught off guard, but with time and experience, we learn to wean out of our introverted side just long enough to perform when necessary, then return to the comfort of our creative world!

    sultans of swing is such a classic song; incredible music, great story, and yes – mark knofler is an amazing artist! but even if he had not made the big time, he’d still have stayed on track and played music because he loved it – like your former wife did/does.

    this past year i had three museum exhibitions of my paintings in three months and was at home maybe five days in all of that time. it totally depleted my energy, and i thought, ‘i don’t want to be an author on book tour!’….

    if only we could stay home, stay out of trouble, and create while someone else did the promotion for us… ahem, where is theo? on second thought, he did a horrid job of selling his brother’s art, so perhaps it is in our best interest to step up to bat and play ball when necessary!

    z

    • MishaBurnett says:

      I’m finding that it’s a big balancing act–you can’t sell your work if you don’t spend some time promoting it, but on the other hand if you spend all your time (and energy) on promotion you won’t be able to create any work to sell.

      Still looking for that happy medium…

      • Playamart - Zeebra Designs says:

        si! and for me as a visual artist, if i spent too much time on wordpress, i don’t have time for quality painting! you’re right – balancing plays a critical part!
        z

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