On this day in 1985, rootsy-rockers Dire Straits’ track Money for Nothing peaked at number 4 on the UK singles chart. The song is remembered for it’s controversial lyrics and ground-breaking video; the 2nd computer animated video to air on MTV, and the first music video ever to be aired on MTV Europe when the channel launched on August 1, 1987. Both the song and video became highly acclaimed and award winning – the song won the Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo in 1986 and the video won the MTV Video of the Year Award at the 3rd annual VMA’s that same year.
The irony behind the video’s success is that lead singer Mark Knopfler had no interest in putting out a music video at all. He was all but forced by his representatives to deliver something to the keen, new MTV audience. Not only did they demand a video, they demanded a “concept”; they were sure the newfound audience wouldn’t be excited about watching footage of some guys with guitars. What manifested was one of the very first animated music videos, a fairly new concept in the early 80s – back when MTV actually played music videos.
A cameo from Sting singing the famous falsetto intro, “I want my MTV”, warranted him a co-writing credit on the track, though he is rumoured to have been embarrassed that his publishers demanded the credit for such a small contribution to the song.
The then-controversial, and now almost completely taboo lyrics are said to be inspired by working class men watching MTV commenting on what they see from an old-man point of view. Doubtful that the word faggot would be thrown around so loosely today, especially going on to garner so much acclaim and so many awards.
A lot has changed since the 80s, but the album the infamous song appears on, Brothers in Arms, is still one of the world’s best selling records and we won’t soon forget Dire Straits, this album, or this music video.