This was inspired by A Room Forever, a short story by the late West Virginia writer Breece D'J Pancake. Knopfler told Mojo he was inspired by "this one character in this one story."
A Room Forever is the tale of a tugboat mate who spends New Year's Eve in an cheap hotel room. He spends the evening there drinking cheap whiskey out of the bottle and eventually ends up with a teenage prostitute.
Phil Oakey recorded his vocals for "Don't You Want Me" in the studio bathroom. The recording was disrupted by guitarist Jo Callis reaching through an open window from outside to repeatedly flush one of the toilets.
The song "Sadeness" by Enigma (the one with the chanting monks), got its name from the French novelist Marquis de Sade, who believed sex had to be painful in order to be pleasurable - thus the word "sadism."