In Dire Straits’ perfect storm of 1985, the month of September saw them add singles supremacy to their spectacular success on album and as as a live attraction. On the September 21 chart, “Money For Nothing” started a three-week reign as their only No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Mark Knopfler may have been using a touch of irony when he asked Sting to provide the vocal in which he said he wanted his MTV, but MTV certainly wanted Dire Straits. As the video for the track went into their maximum rotation, the single entered the US chart for the week of July 13. It was the very date on which the band took their place in history on the Live Aid bill at Wembley Stadium. The Brothers In Arms album that the song came from was already making huge strides, not just in America but around the world.
A chart lockout
Knopfler was less than enamoured with the famous video for the song, with its CGI effects that helped the technology to go mainstream. But there was no doubt that it helped take the track into the stratosphere. “To me it was almost like a dream sequence,” he later told Ultimate Classic Rock Nights of how he had envisaged the clip. “I’d visualized a kid in his bedroom with that ‘I want my MTV’ thing happening and the camera rushing over the landscape – as I’ve said before, it’s a good thing I never had anything to do with the video!”
With the album already at triple platinum status in the US and rising fast, those September 21 charts showed the Straits in the fourth of nine weeks at the album summit, a run that would last into November. But now, they dominated the singles market too, as “Money For Nothing” took over from John Parr’s film theme smash “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion)” at No.1.
This was at the height of the so-called “Second British Invasion” of the US, and to underline that point, Dire Straits thus became the fourth UK act in just six months to top the American singles and album charts at the same time. Wham!, Phil Collins, and Tears For Fears had all done it before them in 1985; five other artists had done it in the earlier 1980s. Three of those were in 1980, when Pink Floyd, Queen and John Lennon all achieved the rare feat. Paul McCartney did it in 1982 and The Police in 1983.
Listen to uDiscover Music’s Dire Straits Best Of playlist.
Incredibly, “Money For Nothing” was the ninth No.1 by a British artist out of 11 to top the Hot 100. It was also Knopfler’s second US top ten success as a writer in some five months: Tina Turner’s recording of his “Private Dancer” had reached No.7 in March.
Buy or stream “Money For Nothing” on Brothers In Arms.