Money for Nothing (song)

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"Money for Nothing"
Money for Nothing single.JPG
Single by Dire Straits
from the album Brothers in Arms
B-side"Love over Gold" (Live)
ReleasedJune 1985[1]
StudioAIR Studios (Montserrat)
  • 8:25 (Album Version)
  • 7:04 (Vinyl LP Edit)
  • 4:38 (Official Single Edit)
  • 4:06 (Promo Single Edit)
  • Neil Dorfsman
  • Mark Knopfler
Dire Straits singles chronology
"So Far Away"
"Money for Nothing"
"Brothers in Arms"

"Money for Nothing" is a single by British rock band Dire Straits, taken from their 1985 studio album Brothers in Arms. The song's lyrics are written from the point of view of two working-class men watching music videos and commenting on what they see. The song features a guest appearance by Sting singing background vocals, providing both the signature falsetto introduction and backing chorus of "I want my MTV." The groundbreaking video was the first to be aired on MTV Europe when the network launched on 1 August 1987.[4]

It was Dire Straits' most commercially successful single, peaking at number 1 for three weeks in the United States, number 1 for three weeks on the US Top Rock Tracks chart and number 4 in the band's native UK. "Money for Nothing" won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1986 at the 28th Annual Grammy Awards[5] and the video won Video of the Year at the 3rd MTV Video Music Awards.



Knopfler modeled his guitar sound on ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons' trademark guitar tone, as ZZ Top's music videos were already a staple of early MTV. Gibbons told Musician in 1986 that Knopfler had solicited Gibbons' help in replicating the tone, adding, "He didn't do a half-bad job, considering that I didn't tell him a thing!"

The guitar sound was made with a Gibson Les Paul going through a Laney amplifier, with the sound coloured by the accidental position of two Shure SM57 microphones without any processing during the mix. Following the initial sessions in Montserrat, at which that particular guitar part was recorded, Neil Dorfsman attempted to recreate the sound during subsequent sessions at the Power Station in New York but was unsuccessful.[6] (Knopfler also chose to use the Les Paul on a couple of other Brothers in Arms tracks.)

The recording contains a very recognisable hook, in the form of the guitar riff that begins the song proper. The guitar riff continues throughout the song, played in permutation during the verses, and played in full after each chorus. The song's extended overture was shortened for radio and music video.


Mark Knopfler described the writing of the song in a 1984 interview with critic Bill Flanagan:

The lead character in "Money for Nothing" is a guy who works in the hardware department in a television/​custom kitchen/​refrigerator/​microwave appliance store. He's singing the song. I wrote the song when I was actually in the store. I borrowed a bit of paper and started to write the song down in the store. I wanted to use a lot of the language that the real guy actually used when I heard him, because it was more real....[7]

In 2000, Knopfler appeared on Parkinson on BBC One and explained again where the lyrics originated. According to Knopfler, he was in New York and stopped by an appliance store. At the back of the store, they had a wall of TVs which were all tuned to MTV. Knopfler said there was a man working there dressed in a baseball cap, work boots, and a checkered shirt delivering boxes who was standing next to him watching. As they were standing there watching MTV, Knopfler remembers the man coming up with lines such as "what are those, Hawaiian noises?...that ain't workin'," etc. Knopfler asked for a pen to write some of these lines down and then eventually put those words to music.[citation needed] The first-person narrating character in the lyrics refers to a musician "banging on the bongos like a chimpanzee" and a woman "stickin' in the camera, man we could have some fun". He describes a singer as "that little faggot with the earring and the make-up", and bemoans that these artists get "money for nothing and chicks for free".[8]

Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx claimed that the song was about his band's outrageous lifestyle. In an interview, he related an apocryphal story that the members of Dire Straits were in a store that sold televisions, and a row of TVs were all playing Mötley Crüe videos.[9]

The songwriting credits are shared between Mark Knopfler and Sting.[10] Sting has stated[citation needed] that his only compositional contribution was the "I want my MTV" line, which followed the melody from his song "Don't Stand So Close to Me". "Sting used to come to Montserrat to go windsurfing," recalled John Illsley, "and he came up for supper at the studio. We played him 'Money for Nothing' and he turned round and said, 'You've done it this time, you bastards.' Mark said if he thought it was so good, why didn't he go and add something to it. He did his bit there and then."[11]


The lyrics for the song have been criticised as being homophobic.[12]

In a late 1985 interview in Rolling Stone magazine, Knopfler expressed mixed feelings on the controversy:

I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London – he actually said it was below the belt. Apart from the fact that there are stupid gay people as well as stupid other people, it suggests that maybe you can't let it have so many meanings – you have to be direct. In fact, I'm still in two minds as to whether it's a good idea to write songs that aren't in the first person, to take on other characters. The singer in "Money for Nothing" is a real ignoramus, hard hat mentality – somebody who sees everything in financial terms. I mean, this guy has a grudging respect for rock stars. He sees it in terms of, well, that's not working and yet the guy's rich: that's a good scam. He isn't sneering.[13]

Dire Straits often performed the song in live concerts and when on tour, where the second verse was included but usually altered slightly. For the band's 10 July 1985 concert (televised in the United Kingdom on The Tube on Channel 4 in January 1986[14]), Knopfler replaced the word faggot with Queenie (in this context also a term that implies homosexuality):

"See the little Queenie got the earring and the make-up" and "That little Queenie got his own jet airplane, he's got a helicopter, he's a millionaire."

In January 2011, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) ruled that the unedited version of the song was unacceptable for air play on private Canadian radio stations, as it breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' code of ethics and their equitable portrayal code.[15][16][17] The CBSC concluded that "like other racially driven words in the English language, 'faggot' is one that, even if entirely or marginally acceptable in earlier days, is no longer so."[15] The CBSC's proceedings came in response to a radio listener's Ruling Request stemming from a playing of the song by CHOZ-FM in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, which in turn followed the radio listener's dissatisfaction with the radio station's reply to their complaint about a gay slur in the lyrics.[15][18]

Not all stations abided by this ruling; at least two stations, CIRK-FM in Edmonton[19] and CFRQ-FM in Halifax,[20] played the unedited version of "Money for Nothing" repeatedly for one hour out of protest. Galaxie, which was owned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (the CBC) at the time of the controversy, also continues to play the song.[21][22] On 21 January 2011, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission asked the CBSC for a review on the ban, in response to the public outcry against the CBSC's actions; the commission reportedly received over 250 complaints erroneously sent to them, instead of the CBSC. The regulator requested the CBSC to appoint a nationwide panel to review the case, as the decision on the ban was reviewed by a regional panel for the Maritimes and Newfoundland.[23]

On 31 August, the CBSC reiterated that it found the slur to be inappropriate; however, because of considerations in regard to its use in context, the CBSC has left it up to the stations to decide whether to play the original or edited versions of the song. Most of the CBSC panelists thought the slur was inappropriate, but it was used only in a satirical, non-hateful manner.[24]

Music video[edit]

The song's music video features early computer animation

The music video for the song features early computer animation illustrating the lyrics. The video was one of the first uses of computer-animated human characters [25] and was considered ground-breaking at the time of its release.[citation needed]

Two other music videos are also featured within "Money for Nothing". The Hungarian pop band Első Emelet[26] and their video "Állj, Vagy Lövök!" ("Stop or I'll Shoot!") appears as "Baby, Baby" by "First Floor" during the second verse (The name "első emelet" translates to "first floor", and the song is credited as being on "Magyar Records": "Magyar" means "Hungarian" in the Hungarian language.) [27] The other one is fictional, "Sally" by the "Ian Pearson Band". The fictional album for the first video was listed as "Turn Left" and the second was "Hot Dogs". For the second video, the record company appears as "Rush Records", and it was filmed on Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest, Hungary.[27][28]

Originally, Mark Knopfler was not at all enthusiastic about the concept of the music video. MTV, however, was insistent on it. Director Steve Barron, of Rushes Postproduction in London, was contacted by Warner Bros. to persuade Knopfler to relent. Describing the contrasting attitudes of Knopfler and MTV, he said:

The problem was that Mark Knopfler was very anti-videos. All he wanted to do was perform, and he thought that videos would destroy the purity of songwriters and performers. They said, "Can you convince him that this is the right thing to do, because we've played this song to MTV and they think it's fantastic but they won't play it if it's him standing there playing guitar. They need a concept."[29]

Barron then flew to Budapest to convince Knopfler of their concept. Meeting together after a gig, Knopfler was reportedly still unimpressed, but this time his girlfriend was present and took a hand. According to Barron:

Luckily, his girlfriend said, "He's absolutely right. There aren't enough interesting videos on MTV, and that sounds like a brilliant idea." Mark didn't say anything but he didn't make the call to get me out of Budapest. We just went ahead and did it.

Ian Pearson and Gavin Blair created the animation, using a Bosch FGS-4000 CGI system[30] and a Quantel Paintbox system.[31] The animators went on to found computer animation studio Mainframe Entertainment (today Rainmaker Studios), and referenced the "Money for Nothing" video in an episode of their ReBoot series. The video also includes stage footage of Dire Straits performing, with partially rotoscoped animation in bright neon colours, as seen on the cover of the compilation album of the same name.


Rolling Stone listed the song as the 94th greatest guitar song of all time, noting how Mark Knopfler "traded his pristine, rootsy tone for a dry, over-processed sound achieved by running a Les Paul through a wah-wah pedal on a track that became one of the [MTV] network's earliest hits."[32] The video was awarded "Video of the Year" (among many other nominations) at the third annual MTV Video Music Awards in 1986.[30][33] WhatCulture ranked "Money for Nothing" at No. 5 in their "10 Best Music Videos of the 1980s" in 2020, and illustrated the song to be a "ZZ-top indebted hard-rocker".[3]

Notable performances[edit]

When Dire Straits performed "Money for Nothing" at the 1985 Live Aid Concert at Wembley Stadium, the performance featured a guest appearance by Sting. Knopfler performed "Money for Nothing" using his Pensa-Suhr signature MK-1 model guitar with a pair of Soldano SLO-100 tube/valve amplifier heads and Marshall speaker cabinets[original research?] during the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute and the Prince's Trust concerts in 1986 with Sting,[34] as well as the Nordoff-Robbins charity show at Knebworth in 1990 and the On Every Street world tours in 1991/1992. These versions featured extended guitar solos[according to whom?] by Knopfler, backed by Eric Clapton and Phil Palmer.

Charts and certifications[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "British single certifications – Dire Straits – Money For Nothing". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 12 April 2019. Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Money For Nothing in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  2. ^ Rose, James (15 September 2015). "30 Years Since: Dire Straits' 'Brothers in Arms' Album". Daily Review. Retrieved 28 October 2019. The opening tracks are pretty conventional pop-rock chart shooters
  3. ^ a b "10 Best Music Videos of the 1980s > 5. Dire Straits – Money for Nothing". WhatCulture. 30 April 2020. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  4. ^ "MTV ready to rock Russia". BBC News Online. 25 September 1998. Retrieved 1 April 2007. But the channel's continental incarnation- MTV Europe- (...) was launched in 1987 with the first video- beamed into 1.6 million paying households- being Dire Straits' Money for Nothing.
  5. ^ "Past Winners Search". Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  6. ^ Buskin, Richard (May 2006). "CLASSIC TRACKS: Dire Straits 'Money For Nothing'". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Review of the Atlantic Regional Panel decision in CHOZ-FM re the song "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits". Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. 17 May 2011. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014.
  8. ^ Lasar, Matthew (24 January 2011). "Canada wants unedited "Money for Nothing" back on the radio". Ars Technica. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  9. ^ Higginbotham, Adam (September 2007). "Dear Superstar: Nikki Sixx". Blender. Archived from the original on 14 January 2009.
  10. ^ "Dire Straits: Money for Nothing". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 23 June 2015.
  11. ^ Rees, Paul (June 2015). "The sultan of swing". Classic Rock. No. 210. p. 124.
  12. ^ Collis, Clark (17 January 2011). "Is Dire Straits' 'Money for Nothing' homophobic?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  13. ^ Tucker, Ken; David Fricke, David (21 November 1985). "Fearless Leader". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 10 October 2012.
  14. ^ "Dire Straits Live in '85 at Wembley Arena (1986)". British Film Institute. 1986. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  15. ^ a b c "CHOZ-FM re the song "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits". CBSC Decision 09/10-0818. Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. 14 October 2010. Archived from the original on 15 January 2011. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  16. ^ Roth, Pamela (13 January 2011). "Edmonton radio fights Dire Straits ban". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  17. ^ Michaels, Sean (17 January 2011). "Dire Straits' Money for Nothing banned on Canadian radio". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 June 2017. Canada's radio watchdog is defending a controversial decision to ban the uncut version of Dire Strait's 1985 hit Money for Nothing. Despite many complaints – including criticism from a member of the band – officials are not backing down, insisting the song's offensive lyrics make it unsuitable for broadcast.
  18. ^ "Gay slur in lyrics disqualifies Dire Straits hit from Canadian radio play". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. 12 January 2011. Archived from the original on 16 January 2011.
  19. ^ Piazza, Jo (14 January 2011). "No Way, Eh! Canadian Station Defies 'Money For Nothing' Ban". Fox News Channel. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
  20. ^ "What you can and can't say on the radio". CKWX. 14 January 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  21. ^ "Money For Nothing". 22 February 2011. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012.
  22. ^ "Dire Straits keyboardist calls song ruling 'unbelievable'". CTV News. 14 January 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  23. ^ "CRTC seeks review of 'Money for Nothing' ban". CTV News. 21 January 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  24. ^ "'Money for Nothing' slur inappropriate, council says". CTV News. 31 August 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  25. ^ Schaffer, Claire (11 March 2019). "How The Dire Straits' 'Money for Nothing' Video Helped CGI Go Mainstream". Garage Magazine. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  26. ^ "Biográfia" (in Hungarian). Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  27. ^ a b Klára, Sándor (18 February 2011). "Magánnyomozások". Galamus (in Hungarian). Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  28. ^ "The Voluptuous Horror of Első Emelet". WFMU's Beware of the Blog. 29 March 2008. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  29. ^ Knight, D. (September 2006). "Money For Nothing: The Beginnings of CGI". Promo Magazine.[permanent dead link]
  30. ^ a b "Dire Straits – Money for nothing [version 2]". Mvdbase. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  31. ^ Allen, Liam (29 November 2010). "Adam Ant to Michael Jackson: Shaping the MTV landscape". BBC News Online.
  32. ^ "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 30 May 2008.
  33. ^ "1986 Video Music Awards". MTV. Viacom. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  34. ^ O'Connor, John J. (26 October 1986). "'All-Star Rock Concert,' on HBO, from London". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  35. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Chart Positions Pre 1989". Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  36. ^ " – Dire Straits – Money For Nothing" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  37. ^ " – Dire Straits – Money For Nothing" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  38. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0591." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  39. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
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  41. ^ " – Dire Straits – Money For Nothing". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  42. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Money for Nothing". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  43. ^ " – Dire Straits – Money For Nothing" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  44. ^ " – Dire Straits – Money For Nothing". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  45. ^ "MONEY FOR NOTHING – Dire Straits" (in Polish). LP3. Archived from the original on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  46. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
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  48. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  49. ^ a b "Brothers in Arms – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  50. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles – Week ending September 21, 1985". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 1 October 2012.
  51. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  52. ^ "RPM's Top 100 Singles of 1985". RPM. Vol. 43 no. 16. Library and Archives Canada. 28 December 1985.
  53. ^ "Top 100 Hits for 1985". The Longbored Surfer. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  54. ^ "The Cash Box Year-End Charts: 1985". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 1 October 2012.
  55. ^ "Hot 100 Turns 60". Billboard. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  56. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Dire Straits – Money For Nothing". Music Canada.
  57. ^ "Danish single certifications – Dire Straits – Money For Nothing". IFPI Denmark. Retrieved 9 April 2019. Scroll through the page-list below until year 2019 to obtain certification.
  58. ^ Scapolo, Dean (2007). The Complete New Zealand Music Charts: 1966 – 2006. Wellington: Maurienne House. p. 81. ISBN 978-1877443-00-8.

External links[edit]