Meaning of Money for Nothing by Dire Straits

Money for Nothing has proven to be the most commercially successful track in Dire Straits ‘ extensive discography and perhaps the legendary rock band’s best-known song. This is not surprising, because the composition has all the features of a major hit.

Any music lover will recognize the famous guitar riff from the first notes. The track is remembered for its characteristic sound. The innovative video was shot specifically for MTV, and the video opened the air of the European version of the main music channel. And the ambiguous words of the song caused a loud scandal, which always attracts the attention of the public.

As a result, the single became the first record in the history of modern music to sell a million copies.

The story and meaning of the song Money for Nothing

The authors of the composition appear Mark Knopfler (Mark Knopfler) and Sting (Sting). Gordon Sumner claimed that he only wrote and sang the line “I want my MTV”. In addition, the song features a melody from his track Don’t Stand So Close to Me.

Dire Straits bassist John Illsley described how Sumner ended up on the track:

Sting came to Montserrat to windsurf. He came to the studio for dinner. We played him Money for Nothing. He turned around and said, “You bastards did it this time. Mark remarked that he should add something to the song if he liked it so much. And he immediately recorded his passage.

Classic Rock, Paul Rees, 2015

In an interview with Bill Flanagan, author of Written in My Soul: Conversations with Rock’s Great Songwriters, Mark Knopfler talked about the history behind the track and explained what Money for Nothing is about:

The main character in Money for Nothing is a guy who works in the electronics department of a hardware store that sells televisions, custom kitchens, refrigerators, microwaves, and so on. He sings this song.

I composed it when I was actually in the shop. I asked for a sheet of paper and right there I began to write down the lyrics of the song. I wanted to use as many of the words that I heard in this real guy’s speech as possible, because it seems very natural. It did the song good, it gave it a “muscular” feel. Actually, I used the phrase “little fagot”, but also the word “motherfuckers” appeared a couple of times in the text.

I think that’s what people say. I think they got the basic idea though. You can use other words, but still convey the general idea.


As a young man, Mark Knopfler was a contributor to the Yorkshire Evening Post. He credits his experience as a reporter with helping him write Money for Nothing:

I literally conveyed what a certain guy thought about music. I wrote down his words on the spot. He was a complete dumbass. It seemed to him that being a rock star is very easy, because “it’s not a job.”


In 2000, Knopfler appeared on the TV show Parkinson on BBC One. He was once again asked how the song was written, what Money for Nothing is about and so on. Mark again told the story of the electronics store, expanding on the mise-en-scene and characters.

He remembered a huge wall of televisions, which simultaneously broadcast MTV. The prototype of the protagonist was wearing a baseball cap, work boots and a plaid shirt. He dragged boxes and grumbled, commenting on what he saw on the screen. This loader was convinced that the entire music industry is not a job at all, and musicians are just rowing money with a shovel, doing nothing.

Money for Nothing scandal

After the release of the track, critics attacked the author. They were outraged by the words of the song Money for Nothing. Homosexual rights advocates were especially outraged .

Nofleur does not believe that the text offends anyone:

I was protested by the publisher of a London gay newspaper. He actually said it was below the waist. Not to mention that there are both stupid gay people and stupid other people, this suggests that you probably shouldn’t allow so many meanings – you have to be direct. In fact, I’m still not sure if it’s a good idea to write non-first person songs to sing them as another character.

The singer in Money for Nothing is a real ignoramus with a reactionary mindset. He measures everything in money. I mean, this guy has a grudging respect for rock stars. He looks at it like this: “Well, he doesn’t work, but still this guy is rich. It’s a great divorce.” He doesn’t laugh.

Rolling Stone, 1985

Mark also commented on the use of rough language in Money for Nothing:

The context in which the song is perceived is also very important. If we walk into an electronics store and hear someone say, “Look at that jerk,” we don’t care, but if you hear it in a popular song…

If you hear it in New York, it doesn’t mean anything. If you live in Tallahassee, things are probably different. I don’t expect people to take the song the way it was meant to be. They’ll probably think I’m just being rude.


Song recording

Money for Nothing was recorded at Air Studios, located on the island of Montserrat.

The distinctive guitar sound came about by accident when the engineer was experimenting with different mic placements while Mark was playing a Gibson Les Paul. They tried to achieve a sound similar to ZZ Top ‘s style .

Billy Gibbons said that Knopfler begged him to help, and this is how he assessed the result:

He didn’t do too bad considering I didn’t tell him a damn thing!

Musician, 1986

Money for Nothing is known for its signature guitar riff throughout the song.

Release and achievements

The single Money for Nothing was released in June 1985. In the US, it topped the Hot 100, Top Rock Tracks and Cash Box charts. It also rose to the top of the Canadian charts and reached the top ten in several countries. In the homeland of Dire Straits , the song peaked at number four.

In 1986, the track won a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. Rolling Stone listed Money for Nothing as one of the greatest guitar songs of all time.

At the legendary Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium, Dire Straits performed Money for Nothing with Sting.

Meaning of Money for Nothing by Dire Straits

Knopfler did not like music videos and, accordingly, did not plan to shoot a video for Money for Nothing. However, MTV management demanded that the video be removed. Mark was to be persuaded by director Steve Barron. What’s more, he was given the task of creating the most cutting-edge video clip that could capture the attention of all viewers of the channel, not just Dire Straits fans.

Steve flew to Mark in Budapest to persuade Knopfler in a personal conversation. The girl of the musician helped to do it. Barron recalled:

Luckily, his girlfriend said, “He is absolutely right. There are few interesting videos on MTV. I think it’s a brilliant idea.” Mark didn’t say anything, but he didn’t call to take me away from Budapest. We just took action and did it.

Barron decided to use computer animation, which was new to the pop music industry. He brought in Ian Pearson and Gavin Blair to work on the video, who created cutting-edge graphics for their time.

Barron described the main idea behind the Money for Nothing video:

The song, in a way, curses MTV. It was an ironic video. We created characters made out of televisions, but they vilify television. The clips then got a little boring. They needed a shake up. And MTV was crazy about him. For them, it became a cool advertisement.

At present, the video no longer seems progressive, because we have become accustomed to more spectacular animation, but it is still interesting in its main idea.

Let’s watch Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing video online, which was awarded Video of the Year at the MTV Video Awards in 1986.

Interesting Facts

  • This is one of only three Dire Straits songs credited with credits other than Mark Knopfler.
  • Nikki Sixx claimed that Money for Nothing described the lifestyle of Mötley Crüe. He even claimed that the musicians of Dire Straits saw in the store how his band’s performance was simultaneously broadcast on all televisions. Allegedly, this prompted Mark Knopfler to write the song.
  • MTV Europe began broadcasting with Money for Nothing.
  • In January 2011, the Canadian authorities banned the original version of Money for Nothing from being broadcast on radio, considering it to be unethical. Many refused to comply and filed complaints. As a result, the complete ban was lifted, leaving the stations themselves to decide which version of the song to put on the air.
  • At some Dire Straits concerts, Mark Knopfler changed the lyrics a little so as not to annoy the tolerant audience. For example, he sometimes sang “queenie ” instead of “gay”.

Money for Nothing in questions and answers

  • Who wrote Money for Nothing?

The words and music were composed by Mark Knopfler with some help from Sting.

  • Who is the song Money for Nothing about?

It is played from the perspective of an ignorant electronics store worker. Not embarrassed in terms, he grumbles at popular musicians, believing that they receive huge money for nothing.

  • Why was the song Money for Nothing criticized?

Most of all, homosexuals were indignant, who did not like the offensive language addressed to them.

  • What is special about the Money for Nothing video?

He was remembered by the audience for its advanced computer graphics and funny overtones.

Lyrics of the song Money for Nothing by Dire Straits

(I want my, I want my MTV) x4

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 got to install microwave ovens,

Custom kitchen deliveries

We got to move these refrigerators,

We gotta move these color TV’s

See the little gay with the earring and the make up

Yeah buddy that’s his own hair

That little gay got his own jet airplane

That little gay he’s a millionaire

Chorus x2

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-And he’s up there, what’s that?

Hawaiian noises?

Bangin’ on the bongos like a chimpanzee

That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it

Get your money for nothin’, get your chicks for free


Listen here

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 chicks for free

Money for nothin’ chicks for free

Money for nothin’ chicks for free

Money for nothin’ chicks for free

Money for nothin’ chicks for free

Money for nothin’ chicks for free

Money for nothin’ get your chicks for free

Money for nothin’ and the chicks for free

Money for nothin’ and the chicks for free

Look at that, look at that

Money for nothin’ chicks for free(I want my, I want my MTV)

Money for nothin’ chicks for free(I want my, I want my MTV)

Money for nothin’ chicks for free(I want my, I want my MTV)

Money for nothin’ chicks for free(I want my, I want my MTV)

Easy, easy money for nothin’(I want my, I want my MTV)

Easy, easy chicks for free(I want my, I want my MTV)

Easy, easy money for nothin’(I want my, I want my MTV)

Chicks for free(I want my, I want my MTV)

That ain’t workin’

Money for nothing, chicks for free

Money for nothing, chicks for free

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