What does "money for nothing and kicks for free" mean?

Hi,

I couldn’t find any definition for “money for nothing and kicks for free” . I assume it means reap money and benefits and offer nothing in return, but I’m not quite sure. I’ve seen it use in article headings

“TARP Lessons: Money for Nothing and the Kicks for Free”

I look forward to your feedback.
davidmich

google - it is lyrics from a rock song re playing music - it isn’t “work” and you get groupies free.

It is also politically incorrect (ref to a gay performer)

That’s a reference to the 1985 song “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits. (It’s worth noting that the lyrics in the song go, “Money for nothing and the chicks for free.”) The song is sung from the perspective of some blue collar workers who are watching MTV and commenting on the lifestyles of famous musicians. And their perspective is, indeed, that they’re getting money and sex for doing comparatively little, while the workers are doing strenuous labor without getting paid very much.

The full, extended cut of the song is actually even more politically incorrect than usedtobe suggested. There are lyrics that go, “The little faggot with the earring and the makeup / Yeah buddy, that’s his own hair / That little faggot got his own jet airplane / That little faggot he’s a millionaire”. Of course, this is sung from the perspective of lower class men in the mid-1980s, so it’s not unrealistic, but it did cause a bit of a stir.

In one of his best works, IMO, Weird Al spoofed the song to be about The Beverly Hillbillies. Fun fact: The lead guitarist of Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler, played guitar on the spoof as well.

One basic philosophy of mine has always been, “Who needs money when you have good looks?”

You’ve seen it used in one article heading. It’s a play on words; as noted above, the lyric is “chicks for free”.

The video for this song (which got ***endless ***rotation on early MTV) was one of the first to make extensive use of computer graphics, though it looks ridiculously crude today…

Actually quite a few news articles use the phrase “money for nothing, kicks for free” which seems to suggest that the phrase has the meaning of getting something for doing relatively little in return/doing little to merit the wages received.

http://www.bmj.com/content/332/7549/1096.4?tab=responses

davidmich

Not only that, it was the standard for computer animation - even among animators (see the commentary on Simpsons Treehouse of Horror VI) right up until Toy Story debuted.

It’s definitely not unrealistic. In fact, it’s based on a real working class guy.

Mark Knopfler, the guy from Dire Straits who wrote the song (and sings it) was actually in an appliance store, shopping. One of the working guys who did stocking, deliveries, etc. was basically bitching and moaning and pretty much saying everything that ended up in the lyrics. Mark Knopfler heard the guy and immediately grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and started writing down everything the guy was saying, while trying to act inconspicuous so that the guy wouldn’t know he was being watched and his words were being written down.

While the lyrics did end up being controversial, they were in many cases very closely based on what the appliance store worker actually said. And obviously the entire idea for the song also sprang from this incident.

(This is all according to Mark Knopfler himself, from what he has said in interviews)

What makes it even more of a fun fact is that Mark Knopfler actually insisted on this as a condition of letting Weird Al do the song.

[nitpick-clarification]
Not really referring to a gay performer (who is getting chicks, after all), but using “faggot” as an angry insult for someone who, having long hair and wearing an earring, doesn’t fit the blue-collar “manly man” stereotype.
[/nitpick-clarification]

Having that word in the lyrics got the song banned in Canada for most of a year.

Which neatly parallels the fact that Sting insisted upon singing the “I want my, I want my, I want my MTV” on the original Money For Nothing recording, because he overheard Knopfler and thought the melody on that line sounded remarkably like his own song with The Police, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” :smiley:

Since the phrase is from a song lyric, let’s move this over to Cafe Society.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

Of course the “little faggot” being referred to is the singer and songwriter, Mark Knopfler, himself. I don’t think it is politically incorrect to call yourself a faggot (even if you are actually straight, which he is, AFAIK). Surely this like African Americans calling each other by the N word.

Faggot doesn’t mean the same thing in Great Britain as it does in North America. A faggot is a bundle of sticks or a ragged end of a rope. The first meaning is why they call cigarettes a fag. The second meaning is why they call the mop topped singer a faggot.

Funny story. While stationed in Texas we were cross training with some British troops. After the exercise me and a buddy invited a couple of the Brits out drinking. We all piled in a cab to go to our favorite watering hole. (The Bunny Club for those familiar with Ft. Hood in the '80[sup]s[/sup].) On the way one of the Brits asked the driver to pull over somewhere he could pick up a fag. The driver was a large fat redneck. He slammed on the brakes pulling over and said “Get the fuck out.” We all bust out laughing. It took about five minutes to convince him that all he (the Brit) wanted was to buy some cigarettes.

Well, yes and no. Whilst “faggot” does indeed mean all of the things you mention in British English (additionally a faggot is a type of meatball), there’s no doubt that Knopfler is using the term in its derogatory sense, and would be understood as such by virtually all British people.

The British use faggot and fag in multiple ways - a faggot can also be a sort of skinless offal-containing sausage/meatball, and a fag can be a younger student at a public school (I.e. a private boarding school) who is used by an older student as a personal assistant/batman (including implied homosexual overtones in some cases). This allows suitable double entendres on “fag”.

However, in the context of the 80s and the song “Money for Nothing”, it is pretty clear that the sense of faggot being used is a derisive term for a successful gay/androgynous performer (think Boy George or Elton John, or maybe one of the New Romantics). The notes that Knopfler made for the song were made in New York, as I recall, so the US sense is the most appropriate. The whole verse is excised from later releases of the song on collections.

I like performing the song in an acoustic fashion - I use “a-hole” (a less homophobic insult) in that verse.

Curious to know if Canada also banned “Fairytale of New York” from radio play (as it uses the same word)?
The Wiki page for “Fairytale of New York” has a section titled “Censorship” but it doesn’t mention radio in Canada.

I’d assume context has something to do with it. In “Fairytale”, faggot is used as a generic insult to a specific individual (in a very Irish fashion), and does not imply homosexuality - “you scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot”.
As opposed to “Money for Nothing” - “See the little faggot with the earring and the makeup”, which applies “faggot” to a group with somewhat related attributes (while not all big-hair, makeup/jewellery wearing performers in the early 80s were actually gay, a significant proportion were or were thought to be).

For the record, “kicks” can mean pleasure, enjoyment, whatever turns you on.

I refer to the classic lyrics “Get your kicks on Route 66.”

It’s a bit dated (I associate it largely with the beatniks of the 1950s), but I don’t think it’s disappeared from common use entirely.

“Money for nothing and kicks for free” would therefore make perfect sense in any context.

IIRC, the song was briefly banned on Canadian airwaves as a result of exactly one complaint.