Monday, 14 June 2010

Sultans of Swing

This is the self-titled debut album by Dire Straits, the British rock group fronted by Mark Knopfler. I reckon that it's one of the best of all Dire Straits albums before the group became labelled as too commercialised. In addition, it featured that hit single, Sultans of Swing.

There's a little history behind this song in Malaysia because for years, it was banned over the local airwaves. No local station, least of all RTM's Radio Four, was allowed to play this song from the 1980s to the early 1990s simply because the title contained the word "Sultan". Those zealots at the Information Ministry thought they were doing the country a big favour by banning all manner of intellectual works which contained this supposedly sensitive word without investigating further into its usage. As a result, this song fell victim to their misplaced patriotism.

It was left to the ingenuity of one local radio announcer named Alan Zechariah to get the government to lift the ban on this song. I think it was in the early 1990s that Angkasapuri, the home of Radio Television Malaysia, was celebrating one of its numerous anniversaries and one of the live programmes from Angkasapuri showed the infamous Mohamed Rahmat, who was then the Minister of Information, touring the premises before midnight. You've got to remember that it was an anniversary, so the politician had to show his face at Angkasapuri. So there he was, walking from studio to studio, visiting the duty radio announcers, with the television cameraman towing behind him so that everything could be recorded and televised live across the nation.

Eventually, Mohamed reached the Radio Four studio where Zechariah was on duty. In the midst of their small talk, Zechariah suddenly whipped out this record, put in on the turntable and asked Mohamed to listen to it. "How do you like the music," asked Zechariah, hopefully. Mohamed said that it sounded nice. Obviously, it was the very first time he had ever heard of this song. So Zechariah pressed on further and asked whether it could continue to be played over the airwaves. To his credit, Mohamed listened further to the song and said: "Why not? There's nothing wrong with it."

Watching this episode at home, I was floored. Because of the courage of Zechariah (who must have been a Dire Straits fan in order to have the album lying around conveniently enough in the radio studio) to corner Mohamed before a nation-wide audience looking and listening in live on television, we now have Sultans Of Swing freely playable by all radio stations in Malaysia.


stephen said...

That is a good piece of info!!! interesting. well at least mohd rahmat came out with a clean slate before he passed on. i admire his courage, a man with principles and a gnawing conscience.

I just love listening to dire straits especially money for nothing.we'd sing it when we go out shopping for an electric appliance!!

piringhitammelayu said...

Hi Mr Quah,

I hope you could snap some pictures of your hifi set up. My hobby hear LP too.

Thanks in advance