Money for Nothing (song)

"Money for Nothing"
Single by Dire Straits
from the album Brothers in Arms
B-side "Love over Gold" (live)
Released 24 June 1985
Format Gramophone record
Recorded December, 1984
Genre Roots rock
Length 8:25 (full-length)
7:04 (vinyl LP edit)
4:38 (official single edit)
4:06 (promo single edit)
Label Vertigo (UK)
Warner Bros (US)
Writer(s) Mark Knopfler, Sting
Producer Mark Knopfler, Neil Dorfsman
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 album Brothers in Arms. 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 U.S. Mainstream Rock chart. In the band's native UK, the song peaked at number four. The recording was notable for its controversial lyrics, groundbreaking music video and a cameo appearance by Sting singing the song's falsetto introduction and backing chorus, "I want my MTV," who also co-wrote the song with Mark Knopfler. The video was also the first to be aired on MTV Europe when the network started on 1 August 1987.[1]

"Money for Nothing" won the Grammy for the Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with a Vocal in 1985 at the 28th annual Grammy Awards.[2]


Musical and lyrical themes

The recording contains a very recognizable 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 full during each chorus, and played in muted permutation during the verse.

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.

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....

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 classic 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.

Writing credits

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 was sung to the identical melody of the verse of his own song "Don't Stand So Close to Me," originally recorded by The Police. Sting was reportedly embarrassed when his publishing company insisted on a co-writing credit (and royalties).[3][dead link]


The first-person narrating character in the lyrics refers to a musician "banging on the bongos like a chimpanzee" and another female musician "stickin' in the camera" (adding that "we could have some fun"), 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." These lyrics were criticised as being sexist, racist, and homophobic and in some later releases of the song the lyrics were edited for airplay; "faggot" for example is often replaced with "mother" (itself a shortened version of "motherfucker").[original research?]

When the song is included in rotation as part of a music feed played in stores or restaurants, "faggot" is usually edited.[citation needed] The entire second verse was edited out, for shortened length and to remove objectionable content, for radio and video airplay. This edited version, as on the 7" vinyl single, is the one included in the compilation albums Sultans of Swing: The Very Best of Dire Straits and Money for Nothing and also the single disc version of the 2005 compilation The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler: Private Investigations. (However, in the U.S., the Warner Brothers 7" single did not edit out the offending word or verse. The double disc version of The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler: Private Investigations includes the full-length, studio version of the song found on the CD of Brothers In Arms).

The version that Music Choice plays has the word "faggot" distorted.

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.[4]

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 July 10 1985 concert (televised in the United Kingdom on The Tube on Channel 4 in January 1986[5]), 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 millionaire."

For Dire Straits' final album, On The Night, recorded in France and Holland some seven years after the song's initial release, Knopfler can be heard singing the lines with 'mother' then 'mothertrucker' in place of the original 'faggot'.

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 he heard the clerks in the store were commenting on Mötley Crüe videos shown on the in-store television sets.[6]


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.[7][8] 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."[7] 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.[7][9]

Not all stations abided by this ruling; at least two stations, CIRK-FM in Edmonton[10] and CFRQ-FM in Halifax,[11] played the unedited version of "Money for Nothing" repeatedly for one hour out of protest. The CBC-owned Galaxie also continues to play the song.[12][13] On January 21, 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.[14]

On August 31, the CBSC reiterated that it found the slur to be inappropriate; however, due to 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.[15]

Music video

The song's music video featured early computer animation.

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. It was the second computer-generated music video shown on MTV.[citation needed]

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."[16]

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.[16]

Ian Pearson and Gavin Blair created the animation, using a Bosch FGS-4000 CGI system[17] and a Quantel Paintbox system.[18] The animators went on to found computer animation studio Mainframe Entertainment (today Rainmaker Animation), 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.

The video was awarded "Video of the Year" (among many other nominations) at the third annual MTV Video Music Awards in 1986.[17][19]

Videos within the video

Two other music videos are also featured within "Money for Nothing," to correspond with the lyrics. The Hungarian pop band Első 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 "első emelet" translates to "first floor," and the song is credited as being on "Magyar Records": "Magyar" is the native name for Hungary). Első Emelet were extremely popular at the time in Hungary, although their videos might not have appeared on Music Television. This was used as reference to the English band, Duran Duran, to take pot shots at their global popularity. The other is a fictional, supposed MTV video for "'Sally' by the Ian Pearson Band" (Pearson was one of the animators of the video) which also contains scenes shot in Budapest, Hungary, appearing during the third verse's line about a female singer "stickin' in the camera" and continuing as the singer comments on another performer "banging on the bongos like a chimpanzee." 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," perhaps as a reference to Rushes Postproduction.


Knopfler modelled his guitar sound for 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 on how to replicate the tone, adding, "He didn't do a half-bad job, considering that I didn't tell him a thing!" Knopfler's "not a half-bad job" included his duplication of 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.[20][not in citation given] The specific guitar sound in the song was made with a 1958 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 Monserrat, at which that particular guitar part was recorded, Neil Dorfsman attempted to recreate the sound during subsequent sessions the Power Station in New York but was unsuccessful in doing so.[21] (Knopfler also chose to use the Les Paul on a couple of other Brothers in Arms tracks).



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."[22]

Notable performances

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 during the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute and 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.

"Money for Nothing" and "Brothers in Arms" were performed at the 1997 Music for Montserrat concert, with Clapton on rhythm guitar, Sting performing background vocals and Phil Collins on drums.


"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.[23] The famous video was also parodied by Yankovic, with the removal men replaced by blocky, computer-generated versions of Jed Clampett and Yankovic himself. The parody video was used as a dream sequence midway through the film.

Satirical puppet show Spitting Image also parodied this song, randomly calling it "Making Nice Curtains." It features a puppet of Mark Knopfler singing about yuppies and that their music "can be played to your granny and aunts." Sting appears as he does in the real video to claim his "royalty," but is silenced as a guitar hits him in the head.

Saturday morning children's television show Pete McTee's Clubhouse had commercials parodying the song with the lyrics, "I want my Pete McTee."

The 1984 University of Florida football team used a parody of the song, "I Want My SEC," in response to being stripped of its Southeastern Conference title.

Other uses

  • An ID short for VH1 Classic's "We Are the '80s" uses an animated Michael Jackson done in the same style as the "Money for Nothing" music video.
  • The song appears on the set list for the video game Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock.
  • The song also appears on the opening credits of the movie Second String.
  • The song's lyric-'I want my MTV" is currently being used (as of July 2011) on commercials for MTV's 30th Anniversary.


  1. ^ "MTV ready to rock Russia". BBC news. 1998-25-9. 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." 
  2. ^ GRAMMY Winners Search Retrieved on 11 May 2007.
  3. ^ Police FAQ at Police FAQ at
  4. ^ Tucker, K.; Fricke, D. Fearless Leader, Rolling Stone, 21 November 1984.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Higginbotham, A. Dear Superstar: Nikki Sixx, Blender, September 2007.
  7. ^ 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. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 
  8. ^ Edmonton radio fights Dire Straits ban. Toronto Sun, January 13, 2010.
  9. ^ "‘Faggot’ lyric disqualifies Dire Straits hit from Canadian radio play". The Globe and Mail (Toronto: Canadian Press). Jan. 12, 2011. 
  10. ^ Piazza, Jo (January 14, 2011). "No Way, Eh! Canadian Station Defies 'Money For Nothing' Ban". Fox News Channel. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  11. ^ "What you can and can't say on the radio". CKWX, January 14, 2011.
  12. ^ "Ma Galaxie". 2011-02-22. 
  13. ^ Dire Straits keyboardist calls song ruling 'unbelievable'. CTV News, January 14, 2011.
  14. ^ CTV: "CRTC seeks review of 'Money for Nothing' ban," January 21, 2011.
  15. ^ "'Money for Nothing' slur inappropriate, council says". CTV News, August 31, 2011.
  16. ^ a b Knight, D. Money For Nothing: The Beginnings of CGI, Promo Magazine, September 2006.
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^ Liam Allen (29 November 2010). "Adam Ant to Michael Jackson: Shaping the MTV landscape". BBC News. 
  19. ^ MTV Video Music Awards | 1986 Retrieved on 10 October 2008.
  20. ^ Bacon, Tony Mark Knopfler: On '58 Les Paul and hearing 'voicings',, August 2002.
  21. ^ CLASSIC TRACKS: Dire Straits 'Money For Nothing' - Interview with Neil Dorfsman in SoundOnSound
  22. ^ Rolling Stone - The Greatest Songs of All Time. Retrieved 2011-01-24
  23. ^ liner notes for Yankovic's album UHF - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff. Retrieved on 25 September 2009.

External links

Preceded by
"St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" by John Parr
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
21 September 1985 - 5 October 1985
Succeeded by
"Oh Sheila" by Ready for the World
Preceded by
"Cherish" by Kool & the Gang
Canadian RPM Singles Chart number-one single
26 October 1985
Succeeded by
"Part-Time Lover" by Stevie Wonder

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Look at other dictionaries:

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