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Dire Straits - Money For Nothing (1985)

  • Video Views 100,309,087
  • 80's Score80's Score 80's score: 2.19
  • Find this song on: Music Stack

“Money for Nothing” is a single by British rock band Dire Straits, taken from their 1985 studio album ...

“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.

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 and the video won Video of the Year at the 3rd MTV Video Music Awards.

Music video
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 and was considered ground-breaking at the time of its release.

Two other music videos are also featured within “Money for Nothing”. The Hungarian pop band Els? Emelet and their video “Állj, Vagy Lövök!” (“Stop or I’ll Shoot!”) appears as “Baby, Baby” by “First Floor” during the second verse (The name “els? emelet” translates to “first floor”, and the song is credited as being on “Magyar Records”: “Magyar” means “Hungarian” in the Hungarian language.) 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.

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 Mainframe 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.

Reception
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.” The video was awarded “Video of the Year” (among many other nominations) at the third annual MTV Video Music Awards in 1986.

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