Posted by: Liza Rosenberg | August 12, 2007

80s Music Video Sunday #34

I don’t even remember his name anymore, but for a while, he was one of my pen pals. Back in the 70s and 80s, it was very much the in thing in certain crowds to have pen pals, whose names you received via a variety of organizations created especially to facilitate such cross-cultural connections. I filled out the forms, stating my interests and hobbies with care, and was shortly rewarded by my efforts with letters from boys my age (don’t ask why they didn’t present me with female pen pals – I have no idea!) who lived in Israel and Egypt. In this pre-Internet era, we exchanged letters for a while, but given the inherent difficulties of filling pieces of paper with handwritten words, carefully folding the pages so they’d fit in the envelope, addressing said envelope and determining the proper amount of postage needed, these pen friendships, while well-intentioned, did not last for too long.

If I were to spend a few days rummaging through my old keepsakes (all conveniently boxed when my parents moved house just under two years ago), I might find the old letters and photos, reminding me of long-forgotten facts and nuggets of information shared by my pen friends in Egypt and Israel, at a time when I was too young to know about global issues and conflicts, and wished only to make friends with people in far away lands (apparently, some things never change!). Though it’s probably been around 25 years since these connections were made, there is one detail that I still remember – the boy from Israel was really into a band called Dire Straits.

I’ve always enjoyed their music, not least of which because Mark Knopfler wrote the score for one of my all-time favorite movies, “The Princess Bride“. Given that today is Mr. Knopfler’s 58th birthday, it seems only fitting that today’s 80s Music Video Sunday entry feature this incredible band. And, as opposed to last week’s entry that featured the first video ever shown on MTV in the US, today’s video was the first video ever shown on MTV Europe, on August 1st, 1987. Clearly, Europe wanted their MTV…

The song “Money for Nothing” is shrouded in controversy. Written by Knopfler from the point of view of a blue-collar worker watching MTV, the lyrics were criticized as being anti-gay, sexist and racist, and the entire second verse was often edited out due to both its content and the overall length of the song in its complete version. This edited version later appeared on a Dire Straits compilation album. In some instances, the word “faggot” was apparently replaced by “mother”. While I was rather naive when the song was released in 1985, today I’m more than a little surprised that the public was so accepting of lyrics that make me somewhat uneasy.

Money for Nothing
Dire Straits

I want my
I want my MTV

Now look at them yo-yos 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 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 tvs

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 hes a millionaire

We gotta install microwave ovesns
Custom kitchens deliveries
We gotta move these refrigerators
We gotta move these colour tvs

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 kitchen deliveries
We gotta move these refrigerators
We gotta move these colour tvs, lord

Now that ain’t workin’ 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
Money for nothin’ and chicks for free

I want my
I want my MTV

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Responses

  1. I swear to G-d, I was having a conversation about this three days ago. If you read the Wikipedia profile, the lyric isn’t from Knopfler, but from the blue-collar character. I guess a lot of people (myself included) missed the artistic irony. That aside, classic song.

  2. I LOVED Dire Straits (and of course there is the Knopfler/Scottish issue). The words never bothered me because as the previous commenter mentioned, they are in the language of the character in the song, talking to his buddy about the guy he sees on the TV. And yes, it is supposed to be ironic – here we are, big tough guys and that weeny little dude has a ton more than we do and a way better life….
    Maybe it is British humour that just doesn’t translate well, in the ’80’s the US was WAY more PC, it was a running joke in the UK about American cities changing the names of manhole covers to make them gender neutral.

  3. Yes, I remember this one too, liked it – words notwithstanding 😉


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