"Romeo and Juliet" is a song by the British rock band Dire Straits, written by frontman Mark Knopfler. It first appeared on the 1980 album Making Movies and was released as a single in 1981. Reviewer Dan Bolles has called the song a "classic". 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 original recording of the song has been featured in several motion pictures, including Hot Fuzz, Empire Records, and Can't Hardly Wait.
The song opens on an arpeggiated resonator guitar part played by Knopfler, who also sings the lead vocal. 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 and Sultans of Swing: The Very Best of Dire Straits. In the Sky Arts documentary Guitar Stories: Mark Knopfler, "Knopfler picks up the National and demonstrates how he hit on the famous arpeggio lines in "Romeo and Juliet", from the Making Movies album, while experimenting with an open G tuning." The instrumentation 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."
The song has become a classic love song with a wide range of artists covering the track. Indigo Girls covered the track in a solo rendition by Amy Ray on the duo's album Rites of Passage.
The song was also covered by Australian musician Lisa Mitchell for Australian radio station Triple J for the Like a Version segment on their breakfast show in 2009. It was also included on the 2009 Like a Version Volume 5 compilation CD and DVD.
It was covered by The Killers in 2007. It was recorded live at Abbey Road Studios for the Channel 4 show Live from Abbey Road and featured as a B-side on "For Reasons Unknown" and on their compilation album Sawdust.
Matt Nathanson covered the song on his Live at the Point album
Edwin McCain covered the track on The Austin Sessions.
Michael Stanley covered on the song on his 2012 album The Hang. The song was also covered by the British singer-songwriter Passenger in 2014 for the Sounds of the 80's covers album released in conjunction with the BBC Radio 2 programme of the same name.
American singer/songer Ben Bedford often sings an acoustic version of the song in his performances.Mark Knopfler – National Style O resonator guitar, lead guitar, lead vocals, rhythm guitar
John Illsley – bass guitar
Pick Withers – drums, percussion
Additional personnelRoy Bittan – piano, hammond organ