In the 80s, Dire Straits followed the dismal trajectory of rock colossi like Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen and Pink Floyd, participating in the general flaming tailspin towards plasticated naffness, sacrificing substance and innovation for the dumb-down dollar.
The others managed to pull up out of that nosedive, detoxify and reinvent themselves. Dire Straits, on the other hand, retained that aura of naffness, being forever associated with headbands, bad hair and pastel suits with shoulders you could land a 747 on.
This is probably unfair. Dire Straits’s ratio of fundamental merit to Thatcher-era transgression isn’t much different to a lot of others who also spent the 80s sharing stages with Phil Collins but are now labelled living legends. There was something compelling about Mark Knopfler’s finger-picked electric lead-style, Dylanesque bunged-up mumble and the starkly melancholic tunes he’d use it to murmur along to.
This video, admittedly, is about the worst choice with which to try and convince the unconvinced, not only coming straight out of the band’s crass stadium-rock period, but also featuring Sting, Elton John, Eric Clapton and the inexplicable Phil Collins. All you’d need is Bono on the triangle and you’ve got the whole ‘80s banal rock aristocracy.
Money For Nothing is still up here because a) it contains one of the catchiest guitar riffs in modern music, and b) Mark Knopfler had somehow got rock star millionaires Sting, Elton John, Eric Clapton and the inexplicable Phil Collins to accompany him in singing lyrics about how mucking around being a rock star on MTV isn’t worth the money they get paid for it, taken almost word from word from a conversation he overheard between two deliverymen in a New York department store. Consciously or otherwise, that’s the kind of subversion of the musical mainstream the Bemolution wholeheartedly endorses.
(also, this second version is included purely to exhibit Knopfler and Clapton’s tangerine and pink yuppie suits)