Dire Straits – Money for Nothing

First Hit #1: September 21, 1985

While there are innumerable pop songs about pop music, Money for Nothing is at least a little original in that it tries to approach it from an outside perspective. Here’s a song from the perspective of a somewhat curmudgeonly appliance salesman, or perhaps appliance mover, that spends a lot of time lamenting that he’s not a rock star. Being a slightly curmudgeonly character, it also means some of the lyrics can be a bit offensive to some people, but to remove those lines would weaken the character – it’s a very specific portrayal of a certain kind of person, and Knopfler and crew accurately portray the person they’re trying to create. I suspect everyone know someone quite similar to the character portrayed in the song.

But then again, the lyrics aren’t why anyone cares, it’s all in the guitar riff that opens the song, and in the end that’s what propels it.

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One Response to Dire Straits – Money for Nothing

  1. RBerman says:

    The song was actually popular for two reason. One is the guitar solo. Not so much the notes, but the tone, just as Van Halen’s “Jump” was more about the keyboard patch than the notes it was playing. Mark Knopfler plays with his fingers instead of a pick, and it gives his guitar work an unusual character, in this case a honking guitar tone that belongs to him as much as The Edge’s sonics belong to him.

    The other reason was Sting chanting “I want my MTV!” This was a popular catchphrase in commercials about MTV, aired on MTV, to people who were already sold on the idea of watching MTV but enjoyed seeing their choice affirmed by various enthusiasts. If Sting wanted MTV, we should too! MTV was the first postmodern network. In the early years, it created no content. It just played commercials (the usual kind, for toothpaste and acne cream appropriate to its teen audience) in between commercials (music videos, arranged by the record labels, charged to the accounts of the musicians and recouped by album sales). Plus the aforementioned commercials for MTV itself.

    Mark Knopfler writes lots of character sketch songs like “Sultans of Swing” and “Walk of Life” and “Sailing to Philadelphia.” “Money for Nothing” is one of his more humorous efforts, poking fun both at his own profession and at a simpleton who would disparage music as something any idiot could just do.

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