Day 86: A song you wish you heard often on the radio.

“Industrial Disease” – Dire Straits

Industrial DiseaseBefore Mark Knopfler wanted his MTV and Dire Straits had massive (and I mean massive) success, they had “Industrial Disease.” It didn’t fare so well on the Hot 100 chart, but did reach #9 on the Top Tracks chart (now called Mainstream Rock) which measures airplay specifically on rock-oriented stations. It was during this buzz of airplay that I originally became acquainted with the song.

Unfortunately, it didn’t get then and doesn’t get now as much play as I would like, generally eschewed for more popular fare like “Money For Nothing,” “Sultans Of Swing” and “Walk Of Life” if Dire Straits gets played at all.

Dire Straits is a band I appreciate more and more as I get older. Mark Knopfler, in general, writes challenging, nuanced music that you need to work a little bit to get into. There are exceptions, of course. Most of Brothers In Arms, their 1985 breakout hit, was much more accessible compared to much of the rest of their catalog, and then there were the radio favorites such as the aforementioned “Sultans Of Swing.” And today’s song.

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Love Over Gold, the album from which “Industrial Disease” sprang, contains only 5 songs. At 5:55, “Industrial Disease” is the shortest of the lot, which tells you something right there. The album also includes “Telegraph Road,” a 14+ minute opus based around the theme of the roads that stretch across the United States. That song spends about seven minutes slowly building up (because, I guess it’s hard to spend seven minutes quickly building up) to its main story of a modern-day man and his struggles in Detroit (near the titular Telegraph Road). I’ve owned this album for about 15 years, and over that time my appreciation has slowly grown, but I have to admit, I still struggle with it a little bit (and this is from the guy who has no problem with “Supper’s Ready.”)

This is not an album that you immediately “get.”

“Industrial Disease,” though, was pretty accessible and a song I’ve always liked. It was really the only reason for me buying Love Over Gold. I didn’t know anything else on the album, and I bought it only because the song is simply not available anywhere else. Not live, not on greatest hits packages, nothing. It’s like Knopfler disavowed this song for some reason. Otherwise I probably would have skipped Love Over Gold completely.

As a keyboard guy, that’s what originally grabbed me, and I love the walking bass line but the lyrics are interesting as well. “Industrial Disease” is about a fictitious malady, but is symbolic of the state of the manufacturing industry. Or so I’m told. I’m in it for the humor, really.

Doctor Parkinson declared “I’m not surprised to see you here
You’ve got smoker’s cough from smoking, brewer’s droop from drinking beer
I don’t know how you came to get the Bette Davis knees
But worst of all young man you’ve got Industrial Disease”

But by far my favorite line in the song (and one that at various times I’ve used as my email signature) is:

Two men say they’re Jesus
One of them must be wrong.

That never fails to make me smile.

Once Brothers In Arms came out, this song had no chance of airplay, really. I mean, what are you going to pick if you’re a programming director? The massive, former #1 hit or the song that some guy in Massachusetts and maybe twelve other people like? (Being the guy in Massachusetts, I know what my answer would be, but I’m a little wacked anyway.)

Maybe I need one of the Jesuses (Jesi?) to intervene. The problem is picking the right one.