Sultans of Swing
|"Sultans of Swing"|
|Single by Dire Straits|
|from the album Dire Straits|
|B-side||Eastbound Train (UK)
Southbound Again (U.S.)
|Released||May 1978 (original)
January 1979 (re-issue)
|Recorded||February 1978 (Basing Street Studios)
April 1978 (Pathway Studios)
Warner Bros. (U.S.)
|Producer||Dire Straits (demo)
|Dire Straits singles chronology|
"Sultans of Swing" was the first single release of the British rock band Dire Straits. Although it was first released in 1978, it was its 1979 re-release that caused it to become a hit in both the UK and USA.
The song was first recorded as a demo at Pathway Studios, North London, in July 1977, and quickly acquired a following after it was put on rotation at Radio London. Its popularity soon reached record executives and Dire Straits were offered a contract with Phonogram Records. The song was then re-recorded in early 1978 at Basing Street Studios for the band's debut album Dire Straits. The record company wanted a less-polished rock sound for the radio, so an alternative version was recorded at Pathway Studios in April 1978 and released as the single in some countries including the United Kingdom and Germany.
The song was written by Mark Knopfler on a rainy day in a bar in Ipswich. The inspiration came from a mediocre jazz band playing in the corner of a practically deserted pub. At the end of their performance, the lead singer came up to the microphone and announced that they were the "Sultans of Swing".
Chart success 
The song was originally released in May 1978 but did not chart. Following re-issue in January 1979, the song entered the American music pop chart. Unusually, the success of this single release came more than six months after the relatively unheralded release of the band's debut album in October 1978. BBC Radio was initially unwilling to play the song due to its high lyrical content but after it became a U.S. hit, their line softened. The song reached the top 10 in both the UK and the USA, reaching number 8 on the UK Singles Chart and number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and helped drive sales of the album, which also became a hit.
It was re-issued again as a single in November 1988, a month after it appeared on the band's greatest hits album Money for Nothing, when it peaked at no. 62. It was also included on Sultans of Swing: The Very Best of Dire Straits and The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler: Private Investigations.
The song is on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list. The album version of the song featured a critically acclaimed extended guitar solo, reaching #22 on Guitar World's list of the greatest guitar solos and #32 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of greatest guitar songs. Mark Knopfler improvised and expanded that solo during live performances. The coda of the live recording on the 1984 album Alchemy features one of Knopfler's most notable guitar improvisations. Another memorable live version of the song came as an 11-minute performance at the 1988 Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert in London when Eric Clapton teamed up with the band to play the song.
- Ingo Raven (18 November 2009). "Sultans of Swing – The alternate single version and the demo version – sound and gear". Mark Knopfler Guitar.
- "Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits". Songfacts. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
- "Humble guitar hero in Istanbul tonight - Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review". www.hurriyetdailynews.com. Retrieved 2009-10-07.
- 100 Greatest Guitar Solos #22
- Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time