Awhile ago I came across this McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: “Toto’s Africa” by Ernest Hemingway. The author is Anthony Sams. It inspired me to re-write one of my favourite songs into a story in the style of Hemingway. I’ve long been a fan of Hemingway and Dire Straits. I discovered Hemingway a few years ago with A Farewell to Arms. Dire Straits has been in my life since I was a child. Some of my earliest memories of music include my father cranking the radio whenever “Sultans of Swing” or “Money for Nothing” came on the air. I hope you enjoy this homage.
You arrived in the square near sunset off the bus from New York. It’s raining and you shiver. There isn’t much to see. The townsfolk have all gone home to their dinners so you begin walking. You find yourself south of the river and you stop and you hold everything. A band is blowin’ Dixie double four time. You take comfort in the sound.
You step inside but you don’t see too many faces. They don’t notice you shake off the rain from your coat. They’re too busy watching the stage. There’s a competition brewing. The horns are blowin’ and the jazz is swingin’. You’re a long way away from London town.
You pay for your drink and watch the action from the bar. The man they call Guitar George gets up to play. He knows all the chords but he’s strictly rhythm. He doesn’t want to make it cry or sing. The guitar he plays is beat-up and old. They say it’s all he can afford.
Harry introduces himself. He’s here to play honky-tonk. He doesn’t mind if he makes the scene every night. He’s got a daytime job and he’s doin’ alright. He saves it up for Friday night with the Sultans.
“Who?” you ask.
“The Sultans of Swing.”
In another corner of the bar a group of young boys are fooling around. They’re drunk and dressed in their best brown baggies and their platform shoes. They don’t give a damn ’bout any trumpet playing band. They know the score. It ain’t what they call rock and roll.
“What are they playing?” you ask.
The bartender thinks for a minute. “Creole,” he says.
Then the man steps right up to the microphone. He says just as the time bell rings, “Goodnight, now it’s time to go home.”
But they’re not done playing yet. He makes it fast with one more thing: “We are the Sultans. The Sultans of Swing.”