I Want My MTV: Money For Nothing by Dire Straits - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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I Want My MTV: Money For Nothing by Dire Straits

You play the guitar on the MTV.
On August 1st 1987, six years to the day since MTV first began broadcasting in the USA, MTV Europe launched in a similar tongue-in-cheek style to its US counterpart. Whereas 1981 had seen Video Killed The Radio Star kick proceedings off on the parent channel, the first video shown on MTV Europe was Money for Nothing by Dire Straits, which, appropriately, starts and finishes with repetition of the line "I want my MTV", voiced by Sting. 

Considered groundbreaking at the time of its release in June 1985, thanks to its use of CGI graphics, the music video for the song was a literal interpretation of lead singer Mark Knopfler's lyrics. As he explained in an interview, he was in New York City in 1984 and had visited an appliance store. At the back of the store was a wall of televisions which were all tuned to MTV. Knopfler then said there was a male employee dressed in a baseball cap, work boots, and a checkered shirt delivering boxes who was standing next to him watching MTV with him. Knopfler remembers the man coming up with lines such as "what are those, Hawaiian noises?...that ain't workin'," etc.
"I wrote the song when I was actually in the store. I borrowed a bit of paper and started to write the song down in the store. I wanted to use a lot of the language that the real guy actually used when I heard him, because it was more real..."
The songwriting credits are shared between Mark Knopfler and Sting, yet Sting has stated that his only compositional contribution was the "I want my MTV" line (which followed the melody from The Police track Don't Stand So Close to Me). Dire Straits bass guitarist John Illsley recalled how the collaboration came about...
"Sting used to come to Montserrat to go windsurfing, where we were recording the album [Brothers in Arms], and he came up for supper at the studio. We played him 'Money for Nothing' and he turned round and said, 'You've done it this time, you bastards.' Mark [Knopfler] said if he thought it was so good, why didn't he go and add something to it. He did his bit there and then."
Not exactly known as a hit singles band (although scoring previous UK top 5 hits with Sultans of Swing and Private Investigations) but incredibly successful in shifting albums, record label Vertigo recognised the strength of Money For Nothing. Given the channels repetitive name-checking throughout, Vertigo made sure to clear the track first with MTV. They were impressed, but they insisted an equally impressive music video was needed to accompany the single if they were to hand over valuable promotional airtime.
Vertigo's parent company Warner Brothers paid out for one of the finest and most in-demand music video directors of the day, Steve Barron of Rushes Post-production in London. With a resume including Billie Jean by Michael Jackson, Summer of '69 and Run to You by Bryan Adams, Don't You Want Me by The Human League, and Africa by Toto, you'd think that any act would be happy to work with Steve Barron. Mark Knopfler? Notsomuch. As Barron explained...
"The problem was that Mark Knopfler was very anti-videos. All he wanted to do was perform, and he thought that videos would destroy the purity of songwriters and performers. [Warner Brothers] said, "Can you convince him that this is the right thing to do, because we've played this song to MTV and they think it's fantastic but they won't play it if it's him standing there playing guitar. They need a concept."
Coming up with the CGI angle, combined with a live performance aspect to placate Knopfler (albeit later rotoscoped with neon effects), Barron flew to Budapest in May 1985, where Dire Straits were about 16 dates into their Brothers In Arms world tour, to explain the full video to Knopfler and the band. Meeting together after a gig, Knopfler was reportedly still unimpressed, but his then-wife, Lourdes Salomone, was present and was more enthusiastic. According to Barron:
"Luckily, Mark's girlfriend [sic] said, "He's absolutely right. There aren't enough interesting videos on MTV, and that sounds like a brilliant idea." Mark didn't say anything but he didn't make the call to get me out of Budapest, so we just went ahead and did it."

The CGI animations were produced by Ian Pearson and Gavin Blair who went on to found computer animation studio Mainframe Entertainment, today known as Mainframe Studios (probably best known for producing the world's first ever CGI-animated TV series, ReBoot; the Transformers spin-off TV series, Beast Wars: Transformers and Beast Machines: Transformers; and for producing the majority of the entries in the Barbie film series for Mattel). Their work on Money for Nothing, widely considered to be the first instance of computer-animated characters broadcast on a television network, was a smash hit, entering heavy rotation on MTV and sweeping the third-ever MTV Video Music Awards in 1986. The track and accompanying video took home a total of eleven nominations and two awards, including Video of the Year, which it beat the equally stunning Take On Me by A-Ha (which just happened to be the next video Steve Barron directed after Money For Nothing!), which won six other awards that night.
Thanks to that heavy rotation on MTV, the band known primarily for their albums had a massive hit single. Money For Nothing reached number 1 for three weeks on both the US Billboard Hot 100 and Top Rock Tracks chart, and number 4 in the UK. In July 1985, the month following its release, Dire Straits and Sting performed the song at Live Aid, and at the 28th Annual Grammy Awards in 1986, Money for Nothing won Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, plus was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year as well.

So maybe playing the guitar on the MTV does work after all?

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