“I want my MTV,” intones the distinctive voice of Sting at the beginning of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing.” Europe finally got its MTV on August 1, 1987, when the music channel began broadcasting to the entire continent from Amsterdam, Holland. As if by magic, the first video to be shown on the new channel was of course that Dire Straits clip, directed by Steve Barron. He was the man who was also behind such landmarks of the format as a-ha’s “Take On Me” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
By 1987, Mark Knopfler’s often-misunderstood song was not only an established smash, with three weeks at No.1 to its name in America in 1985. The promo film had also won Video of the Year at the 3rd MTV Video Music Awards, held in Los Angeles and New York the previous September. Here it is, with its famous Quantel Paintbox effects and innovative blend of live action and animation.
The European launch of the network came six years to the day after MTV had begun broadcasting in the United States, where the station launched at 12.01 EST on August 1, 1981 with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” They were spoken by John Lack, and were heard over footage of the first Space Shuttle launch countdown of Columbia, from earlier in the year. With prescient humor, the first video to be played on the US MTV channel was Buggles’ era-defining 1979 hit “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
And the rest, of course, is history. MTV continued to dominate and define the video era in global pop, and its Video Music Awards have taken their place on the music calendar every summer. The August 2021 event was the 38th in the history of the ceremony, with three wins apiece for Lil Nas X, Olivia Rodrigo, and BTS.
Listen to uDiscover Music’s Dire Straits Best Of playlist.