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Romeo and Juliet (live) :: The Killers

Juliet, the dice was loaded from the start.
And, I bet and you exploded in my heart.
And I forget,
I forget the movie song.
When you gonna realize it was just that the time was wrong?

The way I feel about this version of this song is hard to explain. I’ve always been a fan of The Killers and Brandon Flowers, but when I encountered this song on the Abbey Road episode The Killers were a part of, I was completely thrown. I loved it so much, beyond so much, and for months and months I could not stop playing it. The way I feel about it – this version – is similar to how I feel about Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat, Bob Dylan’s Tangled Up in Blue, and The Replacements’ Achin’ to Be, and though I do enjoy Dire Straits’ original, it is this one that gets me the way those other songs do, deep and personal and real, and hard to explain. I feel a part of the song, a part of the story sung. Oh how I love when that happens.

Romeo and Juliet is originally by British rock band Dire Straits, written by singer and lead guitarist Mark Knopfler. It first appeared on the 1980 album Making Movies and was released as a single in 1981.

The song subsequently appeared on the Dire Straits live albums Alchemy and On the Night, and later on Knopfler’s live duet album with Emmylou Harris, Real Live Roadrunning (though Harris does not perform on the track).

The track was also featured on the greatest hits albums Money for Nothing, Sultans of Swing: The Very Best of Dire Straits, and The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler: Private Investigations.

The lyrics of the song describe the experience of the two lovers of the title, hinting at a situation that saw the “Juliet” figure abandon her “Romeo” after finding fame and moving on from the rough neighborhood, where they first encountered each other. In addition to the reference to William Shakespeare’s play of the same title, the song makes playful allusion to other works involving young love, including the songs Somewhere – from West Side Story, which is itself based on the Shakespeare play – and My Boyfriend’s Back.

The song opens on an arpeggiated resonator guitar part played by Knopfler, who also sings the lead vocal: The melody on that song opening is reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen’s Jungleland (both records feature Springsteen’s E Street Band pianist Roy Bittan). The introductory arpeggios and melody are played on a National Style “O” guitar, the same guitar featured on the album artwork for Brothers in Arms (Dire Straits album) and Sultans of Swing: The Very Best of Dire Straits.

The instrumentation in the song remains simple during the verses and moves to a full-on rock arrangement in the chorus sections.

The song itself, written by Knopfler, was inspired by his failed romance with Holly Vincent, lead singer of the short-lived band Holly and The Italians. The song speaks of a Romeo who is still very much in love with his Juliet, but she now treats him like “just another one of [her] deals“. Knopfler has both stated and implied that he believes Vincent was using him to boost her career. The song’s line “Now you just say, oh Romeo, yeah, you know I used to have a scene with him,” refers to an interview with Vincent, where she says “What happened was that I had a scene with Mark Knopfler and it got to the point where he couldn’t handle it and we split up.”

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The Killers version was recorded in 2007 at Abbey Road Studios for the Channel 4 show Live from Abbey Road in the UK, and was later featured as a B-Side on the song For Reasons Unknown, and also appeared on their compilation album, Sawdust.

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What do you think of The Killers’ cover? Do you know of any other covers of this song that you enjoy? Are there any other Dire Straits covers that you would recommend?

Romeo and Juliet :: Dire Straits

7 thoughts on “You and me, babe, how about it? :: Under the Covers

  1. A timeless cover that’s very Lou Reed and I swear the The Killers version has a little bit of a laid back “Walk on the Wild Side Vibe.” When I hear this I always think of Sawyer and Juliet from Lost. My favorite line has to be, “Hey, la, my boyfriend’s back.” Just the way Brandon Flowers sang this…such a legendary cover song

    1. I see the Walk on the Wild Side comparison. He puts this laid back spin on it that is so perfect – and that line – yes. His Brandon-esque vocal intonations work so well>

      Why Sawyer and Juliet? Just curious. I loved them.

      1. Why Sawyer and Juliet? I guess their love was at first tragic like Romeo and Juliet. I just love their relationship and feel like the song fits the theme of their eternal love affair.

      2. Yes. They were amazing to me. The way it evolved and came together, the healthiness of it after so much dysfunction with Kate. It was tragic too, yes, but it all came back in the end. That scene with the vending machine! Some times I watch it just because. I love them. and love what you just wrote about them.

  2. I don’t know any other Dire Straits covers or if I do maybe I don’t realize they’re covers. But I love this one, the original song and love Sawdust to pieces!

    1. I’m actually not sure that I do either 🙂

      Also, I agree – I love Sawdust, too!!! I love this track, and Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town and Shadowplay and that glorious Abbey Road version of Sam’s Town, etc.

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