31 August 2008

"That ain't workin'!"

Money For Nothing is a brilliant record. I defy anyone to say otherwise. However unflatteringly it may have aged, it remains to me a masterly piece of father-friendly rock.

There are numerous things to love about it. It was so confidently arranged by Mark Knopfler that he had the nerve to push his guitar solo into the foreground, forsaking all other noises so that his belting riff could be mimed by players of invisible guitars everywhere. It is an instant classic.

I've taken to playing it lately at my 80s Night, even though Walk Of Life was always the more disco-friendly Dire Straits song off the album and, indeed, of all the band's discography that decade (playing Private Investigations was a mistake ... must remember not to try that again*). Off the back of U2's Pride (In The Name Of Love) or Simple Minds' Alive And Kicking, it segues so well. Sting's slow warbles of "I want my MTV" as the volume builds prompts recognition for the crowd who instantly are waiting for that opening solo to kick in. And it sounds absolutely awesome at ear-splitting levels with the treble turned up, as I've found out. Watching a crowd not wholly in tune with the 80s responding with whoops and pretend chords of their own is ace. Shivers go down your spine.

Then there are the words. Knopfler's tale of how he just memorised the cutting, envious words of some electrical goods trucker watching MTV during a fagbreak ring true. Any chorus which provides a comparison between rock and roll's hedonism and the process of lumping in white goods and audio-visual gear works in my book.

I love the way that the record company panicked over the use of the word 'faggot' in the second verse and just left it on the cutting room floor when the single edit was made. Yet most radio stations now reach for Brothers In Arms when putting their copy on Myriad or RCS and so you hear it all the time. He's a little faggot with an earring and make-up, his own hair, his own jet airplane and a few quid; but in 1985 we weren't allowed to know that. You can imagine him asking his daughter if Boy George was a man or a woman.

I love the gatecrashing by Sting, which prompted his lawyers to insist on a co-writer's credit even though he just did as he was asked when he popped into the Caribbean studio where the band were recording to say hi. I also love the rumours that the legal people behind the boy Sumner tried to stop him performing it with Dire Straits at Live Aid because of technicalities. Talk about missing the point.

And yes, everybody pointed out the contradiction in listening to Mark Knopfler singing "I shoulda learned to play the guitar" while writing and performing one of the most recognisable pieces of axework in rock history.

The video? I was less bothered about the Headroom-esque animation than I was about the flourescent instruments, headband and drumsticks during the clips of the band performing onstage - as 1980s as you could be when putting together a video. And putting together a video which was so obviously made for MTV while also not unkindly namechecking the company was clearly a work of shrewdness.

Maybe it's a song which I've grown to love again because I tried it in the club and that solo just sounded explosively good on very loud speakers. Through your iPod or on the radio it might not draw itself into your being quite as well. But, well, I love it. See for yourself here - faggots all present and correct...

*That was a joke. I've never played Private Investigations in a nightclub. No, really.

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