Dire Straits’ single “Money For Nothing” was one of the iconic songs of the 1980s when it came out in 1985. Chock full of reference to MTV and the styles of the era, and featuring a video that was fairly bleeding-edge computer animation (albeit very, very stylized) for the time.
It also created a brouhaha; the original, album version included a naughty word; three times, in fact. “The little f***ot in the earring and the makeup? Yeah, buddy, that’s his own hair…” and so on. As songwriter, singer and guitar legend Mark Knopfler said at the time, the entire song was written in the second person, and was a conversation between a couple of delivery guys at a furniture store in New York, commenting on the MTV videos they were watching during the glory days of big new-wave hairdos.
It’s been a quarter century – but the controversy is baaaaaaack:
Classic Dire Straits track Money for Nothing has been banned from public broadcast in Canada – after receiving just one complaint 25 years after its release.
The global hit single came out on the band’s iconic fifth album, Brothers in Arms, in May 1985 and won a Grammy for best rock performance the following year.
But the original version included the word “faggot” referring to homosexuals, and although a cleaned-up edition was made available, Oz-FM in Newfoundland played the first edition in February last year.
The result was a single complaint – but the self-regulating Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has upheld it, and no outlet in the nation can now play Money for Nothing the way Dire Straits intended it to be heard.
The complaint said: “Money for Nothing was aired and included the word ‘faggot’ a total of three times. I am aware of other versions of the song and yet Oz-FM chose to play and not censor the version I am complaining about. As a member of the LGBT community I feel there is no reason for such discriminatory remarks to be played on air.”
And that’s all she wrote – notwithstanding that this is a very, very old rhubarb:
Dire Straits mainman Mark Knopfler has fielded angry reaction to the lyrics since the song first came out. He has pointed out the song is written from the viewpoint of a stupid character who thinks musicians make their “money for nothing” and his stupidity is what leads him to make ignorant statements.
Speaking in 1985 he said: “Apart from the fact that there are stupid gay people as well as stupid other people, it suggests that maybe you have to be direct. I’m in two minds as to whether it’s a good idea to take on characters and write songs that aren’t in the first person.”
Now, I’m not bringing this up because it’s a great case of PC run amok – although it is.
And I’m not bringing it up because it’s a great example of the lunacy of Canadian “Human Rights” law – although, again, it is.
I’m bringing it up because it’s the shape of things to come, if Julius “Seizure” Genachowski and Representative James Clyburn want with all their proposed interventions into the First Amendment – from the “Fairness Doctrine” to “Net Neutrality”; they want, and if not stopped they will get, a system where the First Amendment will be subject to the tastes, whims and tantrums of those who complain the loudest.
Alan Cross of Canadian service ExploreMusic comments: “The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is run by Canada’s private broadcasters. In exchange for the government not meddling, broadcasters have long promised to regulate themselves.
“It’s seen as much preferable to the arrangement in the US where the FCC – a government organization run by political appointees – carries a very heavy hammer when it comes to regulating broadcast content; or in the UK where Ofcom plays a similar role.
“In Canada, if no one complains, the feeling is that there’s no need to censor it. But all it takes is one person making one complaint for the entire apparatus of the CBSC to come to full gallop.
All of the proposals to return the “Fairness Doctrine” involve returning a frightening degree (if you care about free speech) of control over broadcast licensing to pressure from citizens – and not even a lot of them; organization will count for more than numbers, just as it did before 1987.
The little jagoffs with the suits and the Yale ties? Yeah, buddy – they want control.