Money for Nothing (song)
|"Money for Nothing"|
|Single by Dire Straits|
|from the album Brothers in Arms|
|B-side||"Love over Gold" (Live) (7")|
|Released||24 June 1985|
|Dire Straits singles chronology|
"Money for Nothing" is a single by British rock band Dire Straits, taken from their 1985 album Brothers in Arms. The song's lyrics are written from the point of view of a working-class man watching music videos and commenting on what he sees. The recording was notable for its controversial lyrics, groundbreaking music video and cameo appearance by Sting singing the song's falsetto introduction and backing chorus, "I want my MTV". The video was also the first to be aired on MTV Europe when the network started on 1 August 1987.
It was one of Dire Straits' most successful singles, peaking at number one for three weeks in the United States, and it also reached number one for three weeks on the US Top Rock Tracks chart. In the band's native UK, the song peaked at number four. "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.
- Mark Knopfler – guitar, lead vocals
- John Illsley – bass, backing vocals
- Alan Clark – keyboards
- Guy Fletcher – synthesizers, backing vocals
- Omar Hakim – drums
- Terry Williams – drum fill overdubs
- Sting – backing vocals
30 seconds (of 8:26)
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Knopfler modeled his guitar sound on the recorded track after ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons' trademark guitar tone, as ZZ Top's music videos were already a staple of early MTV. Gibbons later told a Musician magazine interviewer 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!" Knopfler duplicated Gibbons' use of a Gibson Les Paul guitar (rather than a Fender Stratocaster), which he plugged into a Marshall amplifier. Another factor in trying to recreate the sound was a wah-wah pedal that was turned on, but only rocked to a certain position.[not in citation given] The specific guitar sound in the song 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 in doing so. (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 song is also notable for its extended overture, which was shortened for radio and music video.) The guitar riff continues throughout the song, played in permutation during the verses, and played in full after each chorus.
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....
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".
In 2000, Knopfler appeared on Michael Parkinson's interview program 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.
Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx, in an interview with Blender magazine, claimed that the song is actually about his band's excessive lifestyle, and that Knopfler heard clerks in a store commenting on Mötley Crüe videos shown on the in-store television sets.
The songwriting credits are shared between Mark Knopfler and Sting. Sting was visiting Montserrat during the recording of the song, and was invited to add some background vocals. Sting has stated 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".
The music video for the song featured early computer animation illustrating the lyrics. The video was one of the first uses of computer-animated human characters and was considered ground-breaking at the time of its release.
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."
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 and a Quantel Paintbox system. The animators went on to found computer animation studio Mainframe Entertainment (today Rainmaker Entertainment), and referenced the "Money for Nothing" video in an episode of their ReBoot series. The video also included stage footage of Dire Straits performing, with partially rotoscoped-animation in bright neon colours, as seen on the record sleeve.
Rolling Stone magazine listed it 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."
In a late 1984 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.
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), 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' (CAB) Code of Ethics and their Equitable Portrayal Code. 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." 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.
Not all stations abided by this ruling; at least two stations, CIRK-FM in Edmonton and CFRQ-FM in Halifax, played the unedited version of "Money for Nothing" repeatedly for one hour out of protest. Galaxie, which was owned by the CBC at the time of the controversy, also continues to play the song. On 21 January 2011, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) asked the CBSC for a review on the ban, in response to the public outcry against the CBSC's actions; the CRTC 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.
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.
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 during the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute and the Prince's Trust concerts in 1988, 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 by Knopfler, backed by Eric Clapton and Phil Palmer.
Other versions and parodies
"Weird Al" Yankovic wrote a parody titled "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*" for his 1989 film UHF. As the title implies, this song merges the lyrics from The Beverly Hillbillies theme song ("The Ballad of Jed Clampett") with the tune of "Money For Nothing". Dire Straits members Mark Knopfler and Guy Fletcher perform guitar and keyboards respectively on the track.
It was also parodied on the comedy puppet show Spitting Image in a segment entitled "Making Nice Curtains". The parody criticised the Yuppie culture of the 80s, with puppets of Sting and Dire Straits featuring in the video.
A hip hop re-imagining of the song—retaining the instrumentation and chorus with new verses—appeared in the seventh episode of the first season of the American television drama series Empire, performed by cast members Jussie Smollett and Bryshere Y. Gray in-character as music artists Jamal and Hakeem Lyon.
Charts and certifications
Certifications and sales
- "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.
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written by Sumner, Gordon Matthew / Knopfler, Mark
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- "CRTC seeks review of 'Money for Nothing' ban". CTV News. 21 January 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
- "'Money for Nothing' slur inappropriate, council says". CTV News. 31 August 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
- "Liner notes for Yankovic's album UHF - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff". Com-www.com. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
- "Spitting Image - Dire Straits" on YouTube
- Breihan, Tom (16 February 2015). "Hear Empire 's Hip-Hop Version Of "Money For Nothing"". Stereogum. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
- "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
- "Austriancharts.at – Dire Straits – Money For Nothing" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
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- "Musicline.de – Dire Straits Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
- "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Money for Nothing". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
- "Dutchcharts.nl – Dire Straits – Money For Nothing" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
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- "MONEY FOR NOTHING – Dire Straits" (in Polish). LP3. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
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- "Canadian single certifications – Dire Straits – Money For Nothing". Music Canada.
- "British single certifications – Dire Straits – Money For Nothing". British Phonographic Industry. Enter Money For Nothing in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
- Mix Online Classic Tracks: Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing"
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
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