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Music / Brothers in Arms

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I want my MTV...

Brothers in Arms is the fifth studio album by Dire Straits, released in 1985. It became a massive million seller thanks to the title track, "Walk of Life", "Your Latest Trick" and the song "Money for Nothing", which was noted for its criticism of MTV. It's one of the biggest-selling albums of all time and was one of the first to be released on CD concurrently with the LP release (most CD releases early in the format's life were of albums that had already been out for at least a couple years).

In fact, its CD release is rather notable as the album was specifically designed to take advantage of the format's strengths compared to the then-well-established gramophone record: not only was every song recorded digitally, but the fact that the majority of the tracks were Epic Rocking meant that it was impossible to fit the full album onto a single record. Indeed, up until 2006, all vinyl releases of Brothers in Arms cut a few minutes off of most of the songs (this only changed when Vertigo Records realized they could just release the uncut version as a double LP).


This gimmick paid off quite well for Dire Straits, with the album becoming the first to sell more copies on CD than on vinyl, making it one of two major killer apps for the CD format (the other being a reissue of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon). It helps that the album came out just as CD players were dropping dramatically in price since their introduction three years earlier, becoming affordable for the average rock fan. To this day, the CD release of Brothers in Arms is considered the definitive version of the album.

This album was subject of an episode in the TV documentary series Classic Albums and is also the Trope Namer for Money for Nothing. The album was listed at #352 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.



  1. "So Far Away" (5:12)
  2. "Money for Nothing" (8:26)
  3. "Walk of Life" (4:12)
  4. "Your Latest Trick" (6:33)
  5. "Why Worry" (8:31)
  6. "Ride Across the River" (6:58)
  7. "The Man's Too Strong" (4:40)
  8. "One World" (3:40)
  9. "Brothers in Arms" (6:59)

Principal Members:

  • Alan Clark - keyboard
  • Guy Fletcher - synthesizer, vocals
  • John Illsley - bass, vocals
  • Mark Knopfler - lead vocals, guitar
  • Omar Hakim - drums
  • Terry Williams - drums

Money for Nothing, and your tropes for free:

  • Absentee Musician: Terry Williams for most of the album, replaced by Omar Hakim.
  • Alliterative Title: "Why Worry"
  • Animated Music Video: "Money for Nothing". This video is of special note as the first fully computer-animated music video. The animators later went on to found Mainframe Entertainmentnote . It also won the 1985 Grammy for Best Music Video (beating A-ha's "Take on Me" in an arguable Award Snub). Their video for "Brothers in Arms" also had several animated scenes.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: "Money for Nothing" criticised MTV, while at the same time having a music video that got a lot of airplay on the channel. In fact, Mark Knopfler doesn't like music videos and only agreed to have one done for the song because MTV themselves insisted.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: "Money for Nothing", a criticism of the music industry, especially regarding MTV.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: "Money for Nothing", one of the most notable (and controversial) examples in popular music; the lyrics, according to Mark Knopfler, are narrated by a conservative retail store clerk commenting on the music videos he sees on MTV; among other things, the narrator deems music as not real work (hence the song's title), mocks a singer's effeminate getup via homophobic slurs, sleazily remarks on a woman performer, and makes racist jokes at the expense of a bongo player. The listener is not meant to sympathize with any of these statements, and Knopfler stated that the song is a reflection of everything wrong with rock fans.
  • Epic Rocking: Invoked by the band as a way to promote the CD format. The broad majority of the tracksnote  all exceed five minutes; in fact, the abundance of atypically long tracks on Brothers in Arms meant that the only way to release the album in its entirety on the vinyl record format was as a double LP.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: The unnamed narrator of "Brothers in Arms":
    These mist-covered mountains are home now for me / But my home is the lowlands and always will be / Some day you'll return to your valleys and your farms / And you'll no longer burn to be brothers in arms...
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: The narrator of "Money for Nothing" laments that he should have learned to play guitar or drums, the worst physical discomfort being a blister on his finger or thumb and an easy life of not doing real work.
  • Lower-Class Lout: The protagonist of "Money for Nothing".
    I shoulda learned to play the guitar
    I should learned to play them drums
    Look at that mama, she got it stickin' in the camera
    Man, we could have some
    And he's up there, what's that? Hawaiian noises?
    Bangin' on the bongos like a chimpanzee
  • Lyrical Dissonance: In "Money for Nothing", the word "faggot" pops up a couple of times, and the narrator makes numerous other racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and just plain ignorant statements. Knopfler has repeatedly explained that the song was inspired by an unambitious dumbass he met in an electronics store who struck him as the epitome of everything that was wrong and reactionary about rock fans, so the song is written from his perspective - many of the lines, in fact, were taken verbatim from things Knopfler heard him say ("that ain't workin'", "the little faggot with the earring and make-up", "we got to install microwave ovens...", and so on).
  • Money for Nothing and Money Song: Trope Namer.
    Money for nothing and your chicks for free
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "Money for Nothing" was inspired by the over-night sensation that was MTV. At the time of recording the channel was only four years old, but had already become an international mainstream success dictating the norms for the music industry for years to come.
  • Sex O Phone: "Your Latest Trick".
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Money for Nothing" references the "I Want My MTV" advertising slogan at the start and end of the song.
    • Crossing with Song of Song Titles: The street musician in "Walk of Life" plays oldies, including "I Got a Woman", "What'd I Say", 'Be-Bop-a-Lula', "Mack the Knife", "My Sweet Lovin' Woman".
  • Silly Love Songs: "So Far Away", which is basically the narrator missing his girl.
  • Special Guest: Sting, on "Money for Nothing".
  • Take That!: "Money for Nothing" was a less-than-subtle critique of MTV.
    Now look at them yo-yo's, that's the way you do it
    You play the guitar on the MTV
    That ain't workin', that's the way you do it
    Money for nothing and you chicks for free
  • Time Marches On: The "Money for Nothing" music video had some of the earliest CGI animation, which looks extremely primitive today, but it was considered ground-breaking in its original release.
  • Title Track: "Brothers in Arms".
    Someday you'll return to your valleys and your farms
    And you'll no longer burn to be brothers in arms
  • Trope Codifier: This was the first album to be specifically recorded and produced for the CD market - the CD version contained longer versions of several songs than the vinyl version and was the first album to sell more copies on CD than vinyl.
  • War Is Hell: At least two songs. "Brothers in Arms" is about the tribulations of ordinary soldiers in combat. "The Man's Too Strong" is an extended My God, What Have I Done? from a war criminal.
    • "Ride Across The River" sorta-kinda fits too:
      I'm a soldier of fortune, I'm a dog of war
      And we don't give a damn who the killing is for
      It's the same old story with a different name
      Death or glory, it's the killing game


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