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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