Song of the Day: “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits

DS_Brothers_in_ArmsOn this date (September 5) in 1986, Dire Straits won Music Video of the Year at the MTV Music Awards with “Money for Nothing”. This is truly one of the most iconic music videos of the ’80s. This song was released as the second single off of Dire Straits’ fifth studio album, Brothers in Arms. 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.”
This song was Dire Straits’ most commercially successful single, peaking at number 1 for three weeks on both the US Billboard Hot 100 and Top Rock Tracks chart and number 4 in the band’s native UK. In July 1985, the month following its release, Dire Straits and Sting performed the song at Live Aid. Sting did not want a songwriting credit, but his record company did because they would have earned royalties from it. They claimed it sounded very similar to a song Sting wrote for The Police: “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.”
The innovative video was one of the first to feature computer generated animation, which was done using an early program called Paintbox. The characters were supposed to have more detail, like buttons on their shirts, but they used up the budget and had to leave it as is.
In the book I Want My MTV, various people who worked at the network explain that Dire Straits’ manager asked the network what they could do to get on the network and break through in America. Their answer was: write a hit song and let one of the top directors make a video. Mark Knopfler took the directive to write an “MTVable song” quite literally, using the network’s tagline in the lyrics. The song ended up sounding like an indictment of MTV, but Les Garland, who ran the network, made it clear that they loved the song and were flattered by it – hearing “I Want My MTV” on the radio was fantastic publicity even if there were some unfavorable implications in the lyrics.
In addition to winning Music Video of the Year, the video won Best Group Video. Also, at the 28th Annual Grammy Awards in 1986, “Money for Nothing” won Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year as well.

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