Song of the Day #1,383: ‘Money For Nothing’ – Dire Straits

Best Albums of the 80s – #18
Brothers in Arms – Dire Straits (1985)

Almost all of the albums on this list belong to artists whose careers I’ve followed obsessively. Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms is the first exception.

It’s not that I’m not a fan of the Knopfler brothers’ British rock band — on the contrary, I’ve liked pretty much everything of theirs I’ve heard. But they just never made their way onto my radar in a way that would line their six albums up on my shelf.

I own two Dire Straits albums: 1980’s Making Movies, notable for the great tracks ‘Tunnel of Love,’ ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Skateaway'; and Brothers in Arms, notable pretty much start to finish.

Every song on this album is wonderful in an entirely different way — the pure pop of ‘Walk of Life,’ the blues jam of ‘One World,’ the hard-edged folk of ‘The Man’s Too Strong,’ the Clapton-esque balladry of ‘Why Worry,’ or the apocalyptic mood music of the title track.

And then there’s ‘Money For Nothing,’ the MTV smash that boasts one of the best guitar hooks ever committed to tape.

Starting off with Sting’s ethereal “I want my MTV” chant (a contribution that earned him a co-songwriting credit, to his embarrassment) and a “something’s coming” barrage of drum rolls, the song really kicks in a minute and a half in, when Mark Knopfler unleashes that fabulous riff.

Singing in the voice of a blue-collar worker watching a pretty boy rock star on a bank of TVs at an appliance store, Knopfler sends up the rock star lifestyle, where the only risk is a blister on your finger or thumb.

I’d forgotten about the controversial second verse, where Knopfler repeatedly dismissed the rock star as a “little faggot.” Hard to imagine that lyric passing muster these days, and even 25 years ago it was edited out of radio broadcasts of the song. I can’t fault Knopfler for capturing the voice of somebody who would use that language, even if it’s unsavory to think of people singing along.

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 gotta install microwave ovens
Custom kitchen deliveries
We gotta move these refrigerators
We gotta move these colour TV’s

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

Gotta install microwave ovens
Custom kitchen deliveries
We gotta move these refrigerators
Gotta move these colour 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 fun
And he’s up there, what’s that? Hawaiian noises?
Bangin’ on the bongoes 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 gotta install microwave ovens
Custom kitchens deliveries
We gotta move these refrigerators
We gotta move these colour TV’s

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

Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free

Look at that, look at that

Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free
I want my, I want my, I want my MTV
Money for nothin’ and chicks for free

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

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3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,383: ‘Money For Nothing’ – Dire Straits

  1. Dana says:

    I recall hearing quite recently that this song was banned in Canada due to the offensive lyrics. Quite honestly, I find such a banning absurd since Knopfler was clearly pointing out the ignorance and bigotry of the person speaking in the song.

    Anyway, I’ve heard this song a million times, and even played/sang it back in the day when I was a budding rock star in The Generics:), but I never grow tired of hearing it.

    Great song. Great album. Well deserved placement on your top 20.

  2. pegclifton says:

    I dare anyone to sit still while they listen to this song. I’ll have to get Dana to sing/play it next time I’m in town :)

  3. Amy says:

    I’m not sure I agree that Knopfler is mocking the speaker/singer in his song the same way that Randy Newman does in a song like “Political Science.” The target of the mockery here seems aimed at the “yo-yo’s.” Funny how I had forgotten the use of the offensive word despite the fact that I have sung and danced along to this song for decades, including to The Generics’ rendition :)

    Recently when we watched Sixteen Candles with the kids, we were mortified to discover John Hughes had peppered that script with the same word, having Anthony Michael Hall utter it not once but a few times. Maddie and I looked at each other in shock the first time we heard it, incredulous that we were watching a sweet and funny movie aimed at teens (albeit teens in the 80’s), written by a man who was equally sweet and funny, that would so casually use a word we devote so much energy to banishing in our school community.

    Those are the subtle reminders that we have made progress these past couple of decades.

    Meanwhile, I still adore the song (though I’d prefer the Canadian version, I’m sure ;)

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