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Flashback Video: 'Money For Nothing' by Dire Straits

Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another. This issue we will cover "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits. It was released in June of 1985 as the second single off of their Brothers in Arms album. The song features guest vocals by Sting (who co-wrote the song with Mark Knopfler) including the now iconic "I Want My MTV" in falsetto during the introduction and backing chorus. That lyric was quite timely as MTV was really growing into the musical influencer it certainly became and made it a perfect anthem for the cable television channel beginning that summer. "Money For Nothing" would steadily climb the U.S. pop charts reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September of 1985 holding the top spot for 3 weeks. It also saw worldwide success reaching the top 5 in at least six other countries. "Money For Nothing" received Grammy nominations for both Song of the Year and Record of the Year (losing out in both categories to "We Are the World"). It's a catchy song no doubt and having Sting sing backing vocals certainly doesn't hurt, but I feel that its groundbreaking music video is a major reason for the song's overall success. "Money For Nothing" was directed by Steve Barron who is responsible for some of the greatest music videos of the decade with this one being no exception. Barron had previously directed videos for The Human League like "(Keep Feeling) Fascination", "Steppin' Out" by Joe Jackson, "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson, "Electric Avenue" by Eddy Grant, a-ha's "Take On Me" and Bryan Adams among many others. This video is notable for its use of multiple animation techniques. The video was one of the first uses of computer-animated human characters which look quite crude looking back now, but at the time was very cutting edge. Ian Pearson and Gavin Blair (who went on to found Mainframe Studios) created the computer animation using a Bosch FGS-4000 CGI system and a Quantel Paintbox system. I don't know what either of those are personally, but they surely helped create an innovative trail-blazing video at the time. The music video also used rotoscoping animation to add the bright neon colors to the parts with the band performing the song on stage. Enjoy the music video for "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits...

At the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, the "Money For Nothing" received 11 nominations, winning Video of the Year and Best Group Video. It also has the honor of being the first video to be aired on MTV Europe when the network launched on 1 August 1987. We can thank Steve Barron for giving us this '80s masterpiece. In Steve Barron's 2015 autobiography entitled Egg n Chips & Billie Jean: A Trip Through the Eighties, he discusses the "Money For Nothing" video and winning that Video of the Year award: There's a lot of irony in Money For Nothing winning Best Video at the MTV awards. For one thing, it's written as a slag-off to all the artists making videos for MTV. For another it's written by Mark Knopfler who'd rather have his eyes popped out with a teaspoon than have to put a bloody concept video to one of his beautifully produced tracks. That's for sure. What's also for sure is when Jeff Ayeroff [executive at Warner Bros. records at the time] hears a hit record before it's a hit record, he knows it's going to be a hit record. He wants his MTV. And this is the MTV era and folks are listening with their eyes. Barron talked Knopfler into making the video in part thanks to Knopfler's girlfriend who sided with Barron and called out what she called a lack of originality on MTV. "Money For Nothing" was certainly original back in 1985 and even helped CGI become a little more mainstream. The song and music video were later parodied by Weird Al Yankovic and featured in his 1989 film UHF. Weird Al's version replaces the lyrics with those of the Beverly Hillbillies theme song. It actually features Dire Straits members Mark Knopfler on guitar and Guy Fletcher on synthesizer. The music video parodies the original video using the computer animation as well as the rotoscoping neon animation. Yankovic's parodies are always done our of respect and admiration.

Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!

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