Saturday, September 21, 1985

Dire Straits hit #1 with “Money for Nothing”

First posted 11/14/2019.

Money for Nothing

Dire Straits

Writer(s): Mark Knopfler, Sting (see lyrics here)


Released: June 24, 1985


First Charted: June 1, 1985


Peak: 13 US, 14 CB, 13 RR, 13 AR, 4 UK, 11 CN, 4 AU
(Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: -- US, 0.4 UK, 0.45 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: --


Video Airplay *: 150.2


Streaming *: --


* in millions

Review:

“Money for Nothing” owes its existence to an appliance store. Dire Straits’ frontman Mark Knopfler and his wife Lourdes were shopping for kitchen supplies. They overheard a delivery man commenting on the wall of television sets tuned to MTV. He said things like, “That ain’t workin’” and that these artists got “money for nothing and chicks for free.” WK Knopfler sat down at a table in the store to write down some of the actual comments. As he said, “I wanted to use a lot of the language that the real guy actually used…It just went better with the song. It was more muscular.” BR1

One line about “that little faggot with the earring and the make-up” generated controversy. Knopfler commented on the attacks that the song was homophobic. “An editor of Gay News attacked the song. What surprises me is that an intelligent journalist can misunderstand it.” Knopfler also said, “The same thing happened when Randy Newman recorded ‘Short People,’ a song that was clearly about the stupidity of prejudice.” BR1

The video played up that idea, featuring computer-animated versions of two working-class guys commenting on music videos. It was considered groundbreaking for its early use of computer animation and won MTV’s Video of the Year award. The director, Steve Barron, also helmed A-ha’s “Take on Me,” another widely celebrated video for its innovative use of animation. “Money for Nothing” was the first video played on MTV Europe when the network launched on August 1, 1987. WK

Sting got a reluctant credit on the song. The band were recording in Montserrat. The bassist, John Illsley, said Sting was there windsurfing “and he came up for supper at the studio. We played him ‘Money for Nothing’” and Mark suggested Sting add something to it. WK Sting contributed the classic “I want my MTV” lines, sung to the melody of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” by his band The Police. For that, Sting’s publishing company insisted he get a share of the profits from the song. Illsley relayed that “Sting said that it was completely ridiculous, but you know what record companies are like.” BR1


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Thursday, September 19, 1985

The PMRC Senate Hearings: September 19, 1985

Originally posted September 19, 2012.

Frank Zappa testifying at the PMRC hearings, image from vulture.com

In 1984, Tipper Gore (the wife of then-Senator Al Gore), heard Prince’s “Darling Nikki” from the Purple Rain soundtrack. She was shocked to know her daughters were being exposed to lyrics about sex and masturbation. When she watched other rock music videos, she was alarmed by the images of what she deemed graphic sex and violence. In 1985, she teamed with several other Washington wives to form the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). The other founders were Susan Baker, the wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; Pam Howar, the wife of Washington realtor Raymond Howard; and Sally Nevius, the wife of former Washington City Council Chairman John Nevius. The group eventually grew to 22 participants.

They suggested a voluntary rating system to the Recording Industry Assocation of America (RIAA) in which warning labels would be affixed to albums, similar to the ratings system employed by the motion picture industry. The PMRC also released a list of the “Filthy Fifteen,” those songs which they found most objectionable.

The Filthy Fifteen

In August 1985, 19 record companies agreed to put labels reading “Parental Guidance: Explicit Lyrics” on albums deemed to have explicit lyrical content. In addition, the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee agreed to a special hearing on the issue. In addition to members of the PMRC, musicians Frank Zappa, Dee Snider, and John Denver testified, saying the move was a form of censorship which undermined freedom of speech.

The Senate committee was reportedly surprised by how articulate the musicians were. As Snider said, “They had no idea I spoke English fluently.” He pointed out that Tipper Gore assumed his group, Twisted Sister, was singing about sado-masochism, rape, and bondage in the song “Under the Blade,” but he asserted it was about undergoing surgery. Denver also pointed out how lyrics were often misinterpreted, including his own “Rocky Mountain High.” Zappa noted, “No one has forced Mrs. Baker or Mrs. Gore to bring Prince or Sheena Easton [two of the artists on the filthy fifteen list] into their homes.”

The PMRC Hearings (full)


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