Dire Straits – Money For Nothing—- Songs That Reference Money

Money for nothin’ and chicks for free 

This was the first video played on MTV Europe. The network went on the air on August 1, 1987, six years after MTV in the US… This was back when MTV (Music Television) actually played music but now has questionable shows.

The clipped guitar sound won me over the first time I heard this.

In the US, this stayed at #1 for three weeks. It also won a Grammy in 1986 for best Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.

Dire Straits recorded this in Montserrat. Sting was on vacation there and came by help. Sting sings on this and helped write it…Sting and Knophler were credited as songwriters. Sting did not want a songwriting credit, but his record company did because they would have earned royalties from it. It’s been said that the line “I Want My MTV” sounded very similar to a song Sting wrote for The Police: “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.”…well the same amount of syllables anyway.

The song was banned in Canada in 2011.

One offended listener complained to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council in 2010 about the song’s inclusion of a homosexual slur, and the CBSC ruled that the use of the gay slur breaches the national broadcast authority’s code of ethics. The CBSC ruled that the song can be played on the radio in an edited form without the slur.

The CBSC ruling panel said that even though the song has been accepted for the past 25 years it does not mean that its lyrics are acceptable today. 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.

Later in the year, the CBSC left it up to the stations to decide and the ban was lifted.

Mark has said he was writing it to show how narrow-minded people could be. He was a journalist at one time.

Mark Knopfler: “I was reporting, verbatim, what a particular guy thought about music,” he said. “I transcribed his words there and then. He was a meathead. To him being a rock star was easy, hence ‘that ain’t working.'”

“Weird Al” Yankovic parodied this for his movie UHF. The parody is called “Beverly Hillbillies (Money For Nothing).” Strait’s frontman, Mark Knopfler, OK’d the parody under one condition: Knopfler would play guitar on the song.

The song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada, #4 in the UK, and #4 in New Zealand.

 

From Songfacts

This song is about rock star excess and the easy life it brings compared with real work. Mark Knopfler wrote it after overhearing delivery men in a New York department store complain about their jobs while watching MTV. He wrote the song in the store sitting at a kitchen display they had set up. Many of the lyrics were things they actually said.

The innovative video was one of the first to feature computer generated animation, which was done using an early program called Paintbox. The characters were supposed to have more detail, like buttons on their shirts, but they used up the budget and had to leave it as is. It won Best Video at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards.

The video was directed by Steve Barron, who also directed the famous a-ha video for “Take On Me” and Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science.”

Mark Knopfler took the directive to write an “MTVable song” quite literally, using the network’s tagline in the lyrics. The song ended up sounding like an indictment of MTV, but Les Garland, who ran the network, made it clear that they loved the song and were flattered by it – hearing “I Want My MTV” on the radio was fantastic publicity even if there were some unfavorable implications in the lyrics.In the book I Want My MTV, various people who worked at the network explain that Dire Straits’ manager asked the network what they could do to get on the network and break through in America. Their answer was: write a hit song and let one of the top directors make a video. 

Steve Barron was dispatched to do the video, and charged with the task of convincing Mark Knopfler, who hated videos, to do one that was groundbreaking. Barron says that Knopfler wasn’t into the idea, but his girlfriend – an American – was at the pitch and loved the idea. Knopfler agreed (in part because he didn’t have to appear in it), and Barron hired a UK production company called Rushes to work on it. Said Barron: “The song is damning to MTV in a way. That was an ironic video. The characters we created were made of televisions, and they were slagging off television. Videos were getting a bit boring, they needed some waking up. And MTV went nuts for it. It was like a big advertisement for them.”

The line “I want my MTV” was the basis of the cable network’s promotional campaign. They played clips of musicians saying, and often times, screaming the line between videos.

The album version runs 8:26 with an extended outro. The single was cut down to 4:38.

Mark Knopfler played a Les Paul Junior plugged into a Laney amp on this track. Producer Neil Dorfsman recalled in Sound On Sound magazine May 2006: “We were going for a ZZ Top sound, but what we ended up getting was kind of an accident.”

Twenty-five years after the song’s release it was banned from public broadcast in Canada after one person complained about it being homophobic. The original version included a description of a singer as “that little faggot with the earring and the make-up” plus two other uses of the word “faggot,” although a cleaned-up edition was made available, Oz-FM in Newfoundland played the first edition in February 2010 at 9:15 at night. The result was a single complaint and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled that the unedited version of the song was unacceptable for air play on Canadian radio stations because it “refers to sexual orientation in a derogatory way.”

Knopfler has pointed out the song was written from the viewpoint of a stupid character who thinks musicians make their “money for nothing” and his stupidity is what leads him to make ignorant statements. Speaking in late 1985 to Rolling Stone the Dire Straits songwriter expressed his feelings about people who react angrily to the song. He said: “Apart from the fact that there are stupid gay people as well as stupid other people, it suggests that maybe you have to be direct. I’m in two minds as to whether it’s a good idea to take on characters and write songs that aren’t in the first person.”

Common sense finally prevailed on August 31, 2011 when the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council put an end to the ban and allowed individual radio stations to once again decide for themselves whether to play the classic rock tune.

In 2005, the duo Deep Dish sampled this on their song “Flashing For Money,” which was based on their song “Flashdance” (not the Irene Cara song). It was the first time Dire Straits allowed one of their songs to be sampled. “Flashing For Money” was released on the B-side of Deep Dish’s single “Say Hello.”

Reel Big Fish released an album in 2007 called Monkeys For Nothin’ And The Chimps For Free. The title is a takeoff on this song. 

Money For Nothing

(I want my, I want my MTV)
(I want my, I want my MTV)
(I want my, I want my MTV)
(I want my, I want my MTV)

Now look at them yo-yo’s, that’s the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free

Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Lemme tell ya, them guys ain’t dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb

We got to install microwave ovens, custom kitchen deliveries
We got to move these refrigerators, we gotta move these color TV’s

See the little faggot with the earring and the make up
Yeah buddy that’s his own hair
That little faggot got his own jet airplane
That little faggot he’s a millionaire

We got to install microwave ovens, custom kitchen deliveries
We got to move these refrigerators, we gotta move these color TV’s

We got to install microwave ovens, custom kitchen deliveries
We got to move these refrigerators, we gotta move these color TV’s

I shoulda learned to play the guitar
I shoulda learned to play them drums
Look at that mama she got it stickin’ in the camera man
We could have some-

And he’s up there, what’s that?
Hawaiian noises?
Bangin’ on the bongos like a chimpanzee
That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Get your money for nothin’, get your chicks for free

We got to install microwave ovens, custom kitchen deliveries
We got to move these refrigerators, we gotta move these color TV’s

Listen here
Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain’t workin’, that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and chicks for free
Money for nothin’ chicks for free
Money for nothin’ chicks for free
Money for nothin’ chicks for free
Money for nothin’ chicks for free
Money for nothin’ chicks for free
Money for nothin’ get your chicks for free
Money for nothin’ and the chicks for free
Money for nothin’ and the chicks for free

Look at that, look at that
Money for nothin’ chicks for free (I want my, I want my MTV)
Money for nothin’ chicks for free (I want my, I want my MTV)
Money for nothin’ chicks for free (I want my, I want my MTV)
Money for nothin’ chicks for free (I want my, I want my MTV)
Easy, easy money for nothin’ (I want my, I want my MTV)
Easy, easy chicks for free (I want my, I want my MTV)
Easy, easy money for nothin’ (I want my, I want my MTV)
Chicks for free (I want my, I want my MTV)
That ain’t workin’

Money for nothing, chicks for free
Money for nothing, chicks for free

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

47 thoughts on “Dire Straits – Money For Nothing—- Songs That Reference Money”

  1. Great song from a great album, and I might add, a great video for the time. Canada looks foolish for trying to ban it but the US has basically self-edited it; haven’t yet heard one radio station play the original version in all my time in the country. (Almost a moot point because most stations play the edited single version which omits that whole part of the song)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One person…One complaint. I’m glad they lifted it anyway and stations have a choice…so does the audience…they can turn it off.
      I just have a problem with someone making a choice for me. If you listen to the song you can tell where he is coming from… Kinda like Born in the USA…people who didn’t listen only picked on a patriotic message…not the way vets were treated when they came back.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great track! Unique and recognisable. Builds up at the intro, fun lyrics and strong guitars and keyboards. But I think they knew the MTV line would guarantee high world wide sales especially with the accompanying video.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. The self-ironic tone of the song is shown by the fact that Knopfler denounces the music scene to which he belongs through the figure of a worker. In the video makes the fictional worker fun about the spoiled rock musicians on television, with the band shown being The Dire Straits itself. It’s just about the show, the superficial, which is not least thanks to MTV.

        Like

  3. I never knew about Sting’s collaboration on this. Why does it not surprise me that the SJW ‘thought police’ got into a fit about this spectacular song. I was just showing it to my kids a few weeks ago and they were blown away.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know…it was good for 25 years and now it was a problem? If you or I don’t like something…what do we do Matt? We turn it OFF…it’s as easy as that. I dont’ want someone to make the choice for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t read from my traditional news sources now because they have converted into activist propaganda machines. Did you know the BBC cut one of the Fawlty Towers episodes ‘The Germans’ because of its racist smears! The only news I now get are from some local Colombian sources. We are entering dangerous territory when they cut out history and or rewrite it which is happening left, right and center.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. When they took “Gone With The Wind” off of HBO I went off. I sent the Director an email and he didn’t respond back….
        I did take satisfaction that the next day that movie was the biggest selling movie on Blueray.
        They try to create a utopia…NOT going to happen. The more they mess with it the more they mess it up.

        Matt before Trump got elected I leaned toward being a moderate liberal…when I saw what the extreme liberals did across the country…crying, “safe places,” and the such…I was totally embarassed…I don’t affiliate with either party now at all.

        I’m to the point where I’m wondering what will happen next.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, I read that about Gone With the Wind. I commend you for writing to the director about it. Now that is a movie I must see again. I haven’t seen it since I was a kid.

        I’m incensed also about what’s going on. We hold very similar political views it appears. If I was in the US I wouldn’t be voting for either of them as well. I like Brett Weinstein’s proposal that a Presidential duo of rational patriots run (one a moderate conservative and the other a moderate liberal). But it’s probably too late now and I doubt they could make an impact given party alliances.

        I agree I don’t know also what will happen next. Hmm.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Bailey had never seen it so we watched it together around a month ago…

        Matt I’m hoping it will pass but it doesn’t look like. How dare someone decide what I can or cannot say, watch, and read…what’s next? Control my thinking?

        I know I’m going too far but I am pissed off. I try to have common sense and I believe you do also.

        That idea does sound good. We need a check and balance… Matt I think I’ve said this before but the last president I liked…he had no moral compass but it was Bill Clinton…now the reason is because he actually worked with the republicans and American hasn’t since seen such growth since then.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I also don’t think this postmodernist PC movement will go away anytime soon. Of course social media has been instrumental in its coming to fruition as well as the reaction to Trump. The only glimmer of hope I see on the horizon is that day by day these radical leftists are eating their own and other liberals too so hopefully they will just die out. The problem is they have all the power at the moment in the Law, press, multinationals, Hollywood, and of course the Universities.

        I imagine you feel similar, but this movement to my mind poses the biggest threat to our lives in our lifetime. The left used to be about Freedom of Speech and expression and now it’s exactly the opposite. Trump looks almost sane in comparison to these collectivists.

        I likd Obama a lot. I know now people are looking back and dishing him for his foreign policy and inability to reduce the inequity, but at least he had the smarts and acted as a statesman.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Matt… do me a favor please… google “Chaz” Seattle…please.

        What a cluster f**k. The mayor declared it “police free” and now people have got shot and now they want the police and are mad when the police doesn’t show up…. It’s extreme leftist at it’s very worse.

        It does pose a threat I totally agree.

        We have talked about this before but one of the reasons Trump was elected was because of Political Correctness…some people have had enough. He was the one touting hate toward it and that helped him. Bill Mayer has said that also…I do agree with him on that point.

        I did like Obama…. my biggest complaint with him…and I have them about most presidents but sometimes he wanted to please too many people….but yea he is miles ahead of what we have now!

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Yeh I’m familiar with the police free zones. I imagine people are arming themselves well and proper in the red states. I don’t imagine they would tolerate it.

        Yes, Trump got in because because of PC and people’s disenchantment with Corruption and hope in Trump’s pledge to clean out the swamp.

        I agree with you about Obama. I mean if he couldn’t fix up wallstreet/banks after 2008, stamp on semi automatics, or reduce the inequality then who could? I think its beyond anyone anymore because of lobbyists. Politicians serve their lobbyists first and foremost. The whole system seems to me CORRUPT!

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Now the businesses are suing the city in this one zone and the mayor finally gave up and the police are coming back in. I just don’t understand or comprehend the world I’m living in at times.

        I’m glad you agree about Trump…some just don’t believe it…they think…why wouldn’t everyone want the world a better place because of PC? It’s so frustrating. The funny thing is I rarely if ever meet those people. Maybe it’s because I live in the south and not the west coast.

        Lobbyists and kick backs…it is corrupt. We need a 3rd common sense party in the worse way but they will not be allowed. They are bullied by the left and right.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. I don’t blame the businesses for being up in arms. It’s almost like saying to the anarchists, ok lets play your kindergarten games and run amok. The Mayors and local constituents are to blame for this.

        How you can’t defend the Police is beyond me. There are few more stressful and difficult jobs in the world. The only person I know who holds the protesters /anti poilce opinion is Stacey here and we have had quite the debate on the subject, but we remain good mates as far as blog mates go.

        Time is so overdue in American politics for an IDW or centrist alliance party. I don’t know why that hasn’t happened. In Australia there have been many alternative party’s and have held the balance of power.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. I do believe the Police need to be supported more by their cities. Therapists…I do believe they need them. Policemen have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession. People wonder why they are jumpy…they pull over someone for speeding and get a gun pulled on them. They need support…

        I agree it’s overdue…if it will just happen.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Yeh, but who will want to be a Policeman/woman now? This whole movement will just cause less ‘quality’ people from wanting to join and more undesirables joining. And they will carry out more heinous acts. And so the cycle worsens.

        Liked by 1 person

      12. Yes you are right about that…it’s sad but true.

        Some of the acts were awful…I will be the first to admit that but not all were.

        Some of them were justified. When a police officier says “freeze” don’t pick up a gun and run…don’t move…freeze means freeze. What is so hard to understand about that? No matter what they do they get blamed.

        Again…some policemen/women are bad…just like any profession…bad musicians, plumbers, mechanics…it’s human nature…the majority are not bad.

        Liked by 1 person

      13. People fail to recognise what a hard job it is especially in a country highly armed. The Sam Harris podcast about the subject is the greatest community service announcement I’ve heard in years. Can you imagine going out every time to not know whether you will come back o your family and hearing about your best buddies having just been gunned down? How would that affect on your psyche during a 12 hour shift and how would it affect someone after a years doing that? These anarchists have no idea how to put themselves in other people’s shoes. It’s really sad the lack of respect shown especially by the Press towards the Police. It’s almost unforgivable.

        Liked by 1 person

      14. Yes it’s a form of Shell Shock that soldiers get…people have no clue. My uncle was a Sgt in the Vice Squad and he had black roses delivered to his door more than once from gangsters.
        All these people bitching will be the first to call if something happens.

        Liked by 1 person

      15. Yes, the fact that the biggest institutions of society don’t defend those doing the toughest is what really pisses me off. I don’t know how they can live with themselves with such a mindset. I really don’t.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Definitely a cool tune with a signature guitar riff, though it really was heavily overexposed on German radio at the time. When it comes to Dire Straits, I still feel their eponymous debut album and “Making Movies” are the standouts.

    I this the official end of the “money” series? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is not my favorite by them either. I do like their earlier work also. The second I heard Sultans of Swing it was love at first listen.
      Yes today is it. It’s fun doing this every once in a while.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Never knew the back story of it being banned in my country to the point of it being edited! Geez what a bunch of wimps. lol
    That opening guitar riff is one of the best. You know who it is as soon as it starts. Bam!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I remember the music video being one of first ones I saw and being amazed by it. The song rocks no question about it and I like Sting’s part of it. The Weird Al parody was a special surprise today. Very entertaining to see Uncle Jed animated. Good choice for today, Max!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. My area played this to death. I got sick of it. Now, it’s a classic. I heard about the Canadian ban. I’m waiting for it to get banned, again, here. Let’s see…we’ve got the Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum changing their names. How DARE they let a song with a slur in it still be played.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know…we should be living in a Utopia! Don’t they know that?
      Such stupid actions…One person complained…so the hell with the majority.

      Like

      1. Problem is…people make pay attention to the Squeaky well…someone needs to tell Squeaky to turn it off if he/she doesn’t like it.

        Like

    1. Oh he is a great guitar player for sure. I remember this video so well. It was so modern at the time and now.

      Like

    1. That was an adventure…the first thing I saw when I looked that up was a hockey movie…I thought WTH? Then I heard it.

      The reason I never thought about it in this song is because of the context…in any case I would hope he isn’t now.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I first heard this on Live Aid in 1985 (on the TV: I think I watched the whole broadcast from start to finish! I remember I’d been shopping with my parents in the morning and rushed back to see it!) Not my favourite Dire Straits song, but it’s grown on me more over the years.

    I hadn’t known about the pc crap (well most, if not all, pc is crap) but it doesn’t surprise me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I remember watching that day and hoping Cream would reunite after hearing Clapton would play. Yea it’s not my favorite song by them…It’s hard to beat Sultans of Swing to me.

      It didn’t surprise me when I read it.

      Liked by 1 person

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