Saturday, September 21, 1985

Dire Straits hit #1 with “Money for Nothing”

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 GR, 13 RR, 13 AR, 4 UK, 11 CN, 4 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.6 UK, 3.13 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 5.0 radio, 417.61 video, 496.49 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Money for Nothing” was significant in reframing how Dire Straits were viewed as a band. Through four albums, they’d established themselves as a critics’ favorite, but they’d slipped a bit commercially since their debut album reached #2 in the U.S. and sold two million copies. With their fifth album, Brothers in Arms, the band became a commercial juggernaut. The #1 album sold 32 million copies worldwide on the strength of songs like “Walk of Life” – “a delightful, jaunty single with a touch of rockabilly” – TC and “Money for Nothing,” “the knockout punch” which “satirized MTV and rock stardom while getting high rotation MTV exposure.” TC

The song “is proof that inspiration can strike anywhere.” SJ It 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. As Knopfler said, “I managed to eavesdrop for a couple of minutes, then I got a piece of paper and started writing down the lines.” TB He wrote down lines 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.” FB

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.” FB

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.” FB


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First posted 11/15/2019; last updated 4/29/2024.

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