Written by frontman Mark Knopfler "Sultans of Swing" is a song by British rock band Dire Straits from their eponymous debut album. Released in 1978, its 1979 rerelease made it a hit in the United Kingdom and United States.
The demo of the song was recorded 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 February 1978 at Basing Street Studios for the band's debut album.
The lyrics were inspired by a performance of a jazz band playing in the corner of an almost empty pub in Deptford, South London. At the end of their performance, the lead singer announced their name, the Sultans of Swing; Knopfler found the contrast between the group's dowdy appearance and surroundings and their grandiose name amusing.
Mark Knopfler has improvised and expanded the solo during live performances. The coda of the live recording on the 1984 album Alchemy stretches the song to nearly 11 minutes.
You get a shiver in the dark
It's a 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
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 a 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
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"
Songwriters: Mark Knopfler
Sultans of Swing lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group