You know when you just have the sudden need to listen to a certain song for no reason at all? Even sometimes a song that you’ve not heard in a number of years? I’ve got that today. I’ve got a real urge to listen to Dire Straits’ 1981 classic “Romeo and Juliet”.
I soon find the song on spotify on my phone and touch the play button at the bottom of the screen. The famous guitar riff starts playing through the tinny iPhone speakers. Speaker quality doesn’t matter for a song like this though. You could listen to it through a cup on the end of a string and it’d be just as beautiful a composition. What a classic. What a fucking belter.
I thoroughly enjoy the first verse. Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler really outdid himself with the lyrics. My tension builds as verse leads to chorus. The little drum fill beneath “Anyway, what you gunna do about it”, it’s really excellent songwriting. It’s only when the song gets to the chorus that I do a double take.
“…Juliet, the dice was loaded from the start…”
Sorry? “The dice was loaded”? Did Mr Mark Knopfler just sing “The dice was loaded”? I have to rewind to be sure. I clumsily drag the bar back a bit with my thumb to skip back to before the chorus started. I overshoot it of course and wind up earlier in the song than I intended.
But then when we get to the chorus, there it is again. “The dice was loaded from the start”. I can’t believe it. I have to pause the song just to process this.
Knopfler was no fool when he wrote this song. He’s an educated guy. Surely he knew even then that “Dice” is the plural of “Die”? Surely the correct line would be either “The die was loaded from the start” or “The dice were loaded from the start”. And even if he hadn’t come across that particular nugget of vocabulary knowledge, didn’t any of the other Straits lads have a word? Or even if they didn’t, didn’t they have proof readers for this type of thing? This was an international hit for crying out loud.
I don’t understand. I just don’t. It’s such a great song, how does something like this slip through the net to piss me off? There’s only one thing for it. I do what anyone in my situation would do. I get on twitter.
“Can’t believe that @MarkKnopfler sings ‘The dice was loaded’ in Romeo & Juliet. How did this happen?! Dice is plural, Mark!”
I hit the tweet button and send my message off into the ether, glad of the new extended character limit that actually allows me to say what I want to say without resorting to abbreviating every other word. I know it’s unlikely he’ll read it and even more unlikely that he’ll respond, but it’s worth a shot.
I just sit there for a while, stewing. 10 minutes since my tweet, no replies, no likes, no retweets. It’s the same after 20 minutes, and then 30. Almost 40 minutes after though, I receive a personal message on twitter. It isn’t from Knopfler, but it is from ‘@UMusicPub_UK’ or ‘Universal Music Publishing Group UK’ in normal analogue language. The message simply says “Leave it alone”.
I’m incensed. “Leave it alone”?! Who the fuck do these people think they are? And why isn’t Mark Knopfler fighting his own bloody battles? I get that he may not want everyone realising the flaw in his vocals, I really do. Once someone tells you something like that you can’t un-notice it and it might ruin the song for some people. But they can’t just send little messages telling me to shut up. This is 2017, and as a person with strong opinions over trivial things, I have the right, nay – the duty, to bombard everyone else with my “2 cents” at every opportunity.
But then I have another thought. What if they aren’t trying to shut me up to avoid embarrassment, but to cover up something bigger. Something much bigger. Curious, I do a little internet digging into UMusicPub. I find that they didn’t actually publish Romeo & Juliet for Dire Straits, although they do own the company that did: A company called “Vertigo Records”.
I get to work. I start by googling “dice was loaded”, but the first page of results just shows me videos of R&J and pages of lyrics and guitar tablature and so on. “Vertigo records” and “dire straits conspiracy” are similar dead ends.
No luck there, so I go analogue. I grab a sheet of plain paper and write the individual letters that make up “dice was loaded” in a large circle. I’ve always been told that this was the best way to solve anagrams and I tend to agree. I probably sit there for about half an hour trying to make up a phrase that’ll make sense of all of this. The best I come up with is “Decade Was Idol” but it doesn’t make much sense. Mark Knopfler worshipped the 70’s maybe? Thought that the decade should be idolised? Nah, not for me. But then I start to look for what I expect to see, instead of just looking for random words that I can make. What do I expect to see? Well, if I’m solving a code, where are secret codes traditionally used most? In wars.
“But which war would Mark Knopfler have been writing secret lyrical codes about in 1980?” You ask. Well, it wouldn’t have been a past war, because why would he still need to use a code if the war was over? It couldn’t be the Falklands War as that wouldn’t start for another couple of years. And that’s when it hits me: The Cold War. C-O-L-D. I have the letters for it. There’s no ‘R‘ for ‘War‘, but maybe ‘Cold W‘ is what they called it at the time? After several more minutes, I come up with “Cold W Eased Aid”.
My heart’s beating hard in my chest at this point. Could this be real? Could I be pulling a thread that actually leads somewhere?
I jump back on google, search for “Cold War 1980” and find a timeline for all the major events that made up the 45ish year long war. I look specifically around 1980, when R&J was written, and find 2 key events:
1.4th May 1979 – Margaret Thatcher is elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. This brought about the start of the end of the Coal Mining Industry. In the early 80’s there were rumblings that collieries would start to be closed down, with over a hundred thousand miners nearly going on strike in 1981 before actually performing one of the largest strikes in British history in the mid 80’s. The North of England was severely affected when the collieries were actually closed down, and industrial mining towns like Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, where Mark Knopfler grew up, were particularly affected. Maybe “Eased Aid” refers to the lack of support being given to Northern towns, who would ultimately be devastated by Thatcher’s election.
2.21st March 1980 – The United States and it’s allies agree to boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. A large number of countries from around the globe joined America in not participating in the games, while 7 central European countries only elected not to participate in the opening ceremony. Ireland and The United Kingdom, again where Knopfler was born and raised, were unique in choosing to send one person each to join in the opening ceremony, before boycotting the games proper.
My hand trembles as I scroll down to see who it was that the UK sent to the opening ceremony. I feel like I’m getting close to deciphering the code. And then I see him. I see the name of the person we sent over to Moscow that day.
It’s all so clear now. Mark Knopfler knowingly made an error in his lyrics for Romeo and Juliet to make sure that everyone that looked closely enough saw the connection between The Cold War, Margaret Thatcher, and Richard Palmer, the man who represented his homeland at the 1980 Moscow Olympics Opening Ceremony.
Margaret Thatcher and Richard Palmer.
Margaret Thatcher was Dick Palmer.
Margaret Thatcher was a wanker.
Good one, Mark.