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

Dire Straits – Sultans Of Swing

A masterpiece. I was 12 when this was released and it sounded timeless even then. It was a great song in 1979 and will be great in 2079. Not only are the words inventive but this was most people’s introduction to Mark Knopfler. I wasn’t a guitar player when I was 12 but I knew he was something special.

I’ve heard this one at what seems like a thousand times but I’ll always turn it up when it comes on the radio.

Sultans of Swing peaked at #4 in the Billboard 100, #4 in Canada, #8 in the UK, and #12 in New Zealand in 1979.

Mark Knopfler was inspired by watching a lousy club band perform. Knopfler was in England on a rainy night. He ducked into a bar where a mediocre band was closing out the night to an audience that was maybe four or five drunks unaware of their surroundings. The hapless jazz combo ended their set with the lead singer announcing, “Goodnight, and thank you. We are the sultans of swing.”

Mark Knopfler: “When the guys said ‘Thank you very much, We are the Sultans of Swing,’ there was something really funny about it to me because Sultans, they absolutely weren’t. You know they were rather tired little blokes in pullovers.”

 

From Songfacts

This song is about guys who go to a club after work, listen to music and have a good time. They are there for the music, and not for the image presented by the band. The song was a marked change from the waning disco style and the nascent punk movement. 

Knopfler got a lot of songwriting ideas from observing everyday people, something that got harder to do when he became famous. 

This was Dire Straits’ first single. It was one of five songs on a demo tape they used to get their record deal. The tape got played on London radio and started a bidding war for the band.

Despite the title, the song is not played with a swing rhythm. 

A singer-songwriter from Indiana named Bill Wilson, who died in 1993, claimed that he wrote the lyrics to this song. He would often tell the story in concert, which was recorded for a 24-track CD that was released by a production company which recorded various artists between 1989-1995. One of the tracks is Wilson (identified only as “B. Wilson”) performing “Sultans Of Swing.”

There is an asterisk after his name and on the CD it says that this was from a live show performed at The Warehouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. Before Wilson plays the song he says the following: “I do this thing I co-wrote about, I guess, it’s been about 12 years ago I wrote the lyrics and a friend of mine used to work a lot of sessions for my old producer, Bob Johnston, and worked a session with this fellow from England by the name of Mark Knopfler. Has his own group over there called Dire Straits. He had this little melody. It sounded like ‘Walk, Don’t Run.’ And he had this little story concerning a band that nobody wanted to listen to. Only a few people show up to hear. So we got together one night after the session and tossed these lyrics around on a napkin and I guess I wound up writing most of the lyrics to the tune. Made enough money to buy a new Blazer that year I remember, so… didn’t do too bad. It goes like this…”

Then he starts playing an acoustic guitar, strumming Spanish style and singing “Sultans.” The lyrics are pretty close to what Mark Knopfler recorded but are slightly different. In 2009, this was posted to YouTube.

It is unlikely that Wilson’s account is true. Knopfler has never made mention of him, and Wilson is not credited for any contribution to the song. Also, the timeline doesn’t sync: Mark Knopfler didn’t come to America until after the album was released. The session work he did in Memphis was in the late ’80s and early ’90s when he was on a break from Dire Straits.

Sultans of Swing

You get a shiver in the dark
It’s a raining in the park but meantime-
South of the river you stop and you hold everything
A band is blowing Dixie, double four time
You feel alright when you hear the music ring

Well now you step inside but you don’t see too many faces
Coming in out of the rain they hear the jazz go down
Competition in other places
Uh but the horns they blowin’ that sound
Way on down south
Way on down south
London town

You check out guitar George, he knows-all the chords
Mind, it’s strictly rhythm he doesn’t want to make it cry or sing
They said an old guitar is all, he can afford
When he gets up under the lights to play his thing

And Harry doesn’t mind, if he doesn’t, make the scene
He’s got a daytime job, he’s doing alright
He can play the Honky Tonk like anything
Savin’ it up, for Friday night
With the Sultans
We’re the Sultans of Swing

Then a crowd a young boys they’re a foolin’ around in the corner
Drunk and dressed in their best brown baggies and their platform soles
They don’t give a damn about any trumpet playin’ band
It ain’t what they call Rock and Roll
And the Sultans
Yeah, the Sultans, they play Creole
Creole

And then the man he steps right up to the microphone
And says at last just as the time bell rings
“Goodnight, now it’s time to go home”
Then he makes it fast with one more thing

“We are the Sultans
We are the Sultans of Swing”

Dire Straits – Skateaway

This song is so smooth and has a great groove to it. Add in Mark Knopfler’s guitar and it turns into a very good pop song. It was on the album Making Movies which peaked at #19 in 1980.

Skateaway peaked at #58 in the Billboard 100 in 1981.

From Wiki

After the Communiqué Tour ended on 21 December 1979 in London, Mark Knopfler spent the first half of 1980 writing the songs for Dire Straits’ next album. He contacted Jimmy Iovine after hearing Iovine’s production on the song “Because the Night” by Patti Smith—a song she had co-written with Bruce Springsteen. Iovine, who had also worked on Springsteen’s Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town albums, was instrumental in recruiting E Street Band keyboardist Roy Bittan for the Making Movies sessions.[1]

Making Movies was recorded at the Power Station in New York from 20 June to 25 August 1980. Jimmy Iovine and Mark Knopfler produced the album.

Skateaway

I seen a girl on a one way corridor
Stealing down a wrong way street
For all the world like an urban toreador
She had wheels on on her feet
Well the cars do the usual dances
Same old cruise and the kerbside crawl
But the roller girl she’s taking chances
They just love to see her take them all

No fears alone at night she’s sailing through the crowd
In her ears the phones are tight and the music’s playing loud

Hallelujah here she comes queen roller ball
Enchante what can I say don’t care at all
You know she used to have to wait around
She used to be the lonely one
But now that she can skate around town
She’s the only one

No fears alone at night she’s sailing through the crowd
In her ears the phones are tight and the music’s playing loud
She gets rock n roll a rock n roll station
And a rock n roll dream
She’s making movies on location
She don’t know what it means
But the music make her want to be the story
And the story was whatever was the song what it was
Roller girl don’t worry
D.j. play the movies all night long

She tortures taxi drivers just for fun
She like to read their lips
Says toro toro taxi see ya tomorrow my son
I swear she let a big truck grease her hip
She got her own world in the city
You can’t intrude on her
She got her own world in the city
’cause the city’s benn so rude to her

No fears alone at night she’s sailing through the crowd
In her ears the phones are tight and the music’s playing loud
She gets rock n roll a rock n roll station
And a rock n roll dream
She’s making movies on location
She don’t know what it means
But the music make her want to be the story
And the story was whatever was the song what it was
Roller girl don’t worry
D.j. play the movies all night long

Come slipping and sliding
Life’s roller ball
Slipping and a sliding
Skate away that’s all
Shala shalay hey hey skate away
She’s going singing shala shalay hey hey
Skate away

Dire Straits – Industrial Disease

Love the lyrics to this song and also Knopfler’s guitar. When this song came out my friends and I would quote these lines to one another at school. Any song with I don’t know how you came to get the Betty Davis knees…But worst of all young man you’ve got Industrial Disease’ …..is alright with me.

The song was off of their Love over Gold album which peaked at #19 in the Billboard album chart in 1982. Industrial Disease peaked at #75 in the Billboard 100 in 1983.

From Songfacts

The song focuses on the decline of the British manufacturing industry in the 1980s. The song focuses on strikes, depression and dysfunctionality.

The title of what later became an AC/DC song is mentioned in the lyrics: “Thunderstruck.”

The reference to “brewers droop” as a medical condition is an in-joke, referring both to the effect of alcohol on libido and to the band of the same name that Mark Knopfler played in prior to Dire Straits.

Industrial Disease

Warning lights are flashing down at Quality Control
Somebody threw a spanner and they threw him in the hole
There’s rumors in the loading bay and anger in the town
Somebody blew the whistle and the walls came down
There’s a meeting in the boardroom they’re trying to trace the smell
There’s leaking in the washroom there’s a sneak in personnel
Somewhere in the corridors someone was heard to sneeze
‘goodness me could this be Industrial Disease?

The caretaker was crucified for sleeping at his post
They’re refusing to be pacified it’s him they blame the most
The watchdog’s got rabies the foreman’s got fleas
And everyone’s concerned about Industrial Disease
There’s panic on the switchboard tongues are ties in knots
Some come out in sympathy some come out in spots
Some blame the management some the employees
And everybody knows it’s the Industrial Disease

The work force is disgusted downs tools and walks
Innocence is injured experience just talks
Everyone seeks damages and everyone agrees
That these are ‘classic symptoms of a monetary squeeze’
On ITV and BBC they talk about the curse
Philosophy is useless theology is worse
History boils over there’s an economics freeze

Sociologists invent words that mean ‘Industrial Disease’
Doctor Parkinson declared ‘I’m not surprised to see you here
You’ve got smokers cough from smoking, brewer’s droop from drinking beer
I don’t know how you came to get the Betty Davis knees
But worst of all young man you’ve got Industrial Disease’

He wrote me a prescription he said ‘you are depressed
But I’m glad you came to see me to get this off your chest
Come back and see me later – next patient please
Send in another victim of Industrial Disease’
I go down to Speaker’s Corner I’m thunderstruck
They got free speech, tourists, police in trucks
Two men say they’re Jesus one of them must be wrong
There’s a protest singer singing a protest song – he says
‘they want to have a war to keep us on our knees

They want to have a war to keep their factories
They want to have a war to stop us buying Japanese
They want to have a war to stop Industrial Disease
They’re pointing out the enemy to keep you deaf and blind
They want to sap your energy incarcerate your mind
They give you Rule Brittania, gassy beer, page three

Two weeks in Espana and Sunday striptease’
Meanwhile the first Jesus says ‘I’d cure it soon
Abolish Monday mornings and Friday afternoons’
The other one’s on a hunger strike he’s dying by degrees
How come Jesus gets Industrial Disease