The self-titled debut album from Dire Straits had many memorable tracks, but is remembered by most as the home planet for Sultans of Swing. As with so many written by Mark Knopfler, these songs are tales of semi-fictional characters in real life situations. In The Gallery is an almost bitter lamentation, the story of an artist who couldn't quite mix himself in amongst the trends of the day. In life he never made it to "the gallery" where art dealers and "critics" decide one's fate. Harry, you see, just didn't work in the right mediums or play the right games. In death, however, he ascends to the gallery. The works of a dead guy are always measured differently than those of a living artist...
Harry made a bareback rider proud and free upon a horse
And a fine coalminer for the NCB that was
A fallen angel and Jesus on the cross
A skating ballerina you should have seen her do the skater's waltz
What you create is your own, and in many ways you should not have to rely on others to justify your art. There is so much goodness floating around in the void of the unknown. Musicians, writers, painters, dancers, sculptors, you name it... playing to a small host of eager eyes and ears but never making it to the promised land of immortality. There is this part of any artistic person who creates art as part of his or her being that longs for widespread recognition. There is another part that knows it doesn't really matter. You won't be able to find information on the Internet or the public library about the millions of "undiscovered artists" of the world. If you want to find them the best place to look may be in your hometown.
I know a guy in Indiana who is one of the best songwriters and guitar players you'd ever have the pleasure to meet. He also suffers from a great deal of social anxiety. At times he toured with bands and played in clubs. He could never do his own material and no one was really paying attention. He decided he was better off writing music at home, recording it and giving it to his friends. There are dozens of CDs of his work floating around my home. You won't hear him on the radio or find him in the record stores. You'll find people with talent who knew how to play the game and got some lucky breaks. Yet, for every band or performer with an album in your local music store there are hundreds with equal or better talent playing alone in their basements.
The latest trend and the most marketable concepts make it to the gallery. Some people fool themselves, especially here in America where profitability is far more important than artistic talent. The dealers find a way of getting a mix of the two so they can announce the latest, greatest thing that you need to buy into. You could have all the talent in the world, but unless you have the right means and methods to connect with the masters of the gallery, you'll continue creating in your little room dreaming of the gallery. When you think about it, what is the difference? Money and exposure is the only real difference, and so, how can we truly criticize the dealers? They want money and exposure, so if we long for the same things, we need to learn to be like them. If you don't need these things, it isn't so bad to live in your own little gallery writing, singing, playing, painting and creating for those who really matter to us...
No lies he wouldn't compromise
No junk no bits of string
And all the lies we subsidise
That just don't mean a thing
I've got to say he passed away in obscurity
And now all the vultures are coming down from the tree
So he's going to be in the gallery
Lyrics sample from lyrics copyright Mark Knopfler
As recorded on Dire Straits' self-titled debut album
Dire Straits 1978 WEA International
Purchase it now and listen to the lyrics in their entirety.
"NCB" is an abbreviation for National Coal Board