It’s well known that “Money for Nothing” is one of the greatest songs in popular music, with Dire Straits and Sting delivering a musical tour de force. However you might not have heard just how wild the song can get when Mark Knopfler, Sting, Phil Collins AND Eric Clapton rock out together on the song.
What’s more – it was all for a good cause too! The Beatles’ producer George Martin organised Music For Montserrat in 1997 at the Royal Albert Hall to raise funds for Montserrat residents following a series of devastating volcanic eruptions over the previous three years in the Caribbean territory. With so much rock royalty on one stage, of course the groove is absolutely cooking, as you can hear below.
With Dire Straits inactive since 1995, Mark Knopfler led the performance of his band’s hit as a solo artist. The guitar legend opens the song with a brief wah improvisation before playing the riff heard in a million guitar stores across the planet every day. The band then rumble into action, with Collins driving the band hard behind the drum kit.
Collins is more known as a singer due to his solo career, but he is also possibly the greatest drummer in pop music, which is on full display here. The sticksman adds a lively groove to the song as well as inventive fills, even playing off the lyrics when Knopfler sings “banging on the drums.” Believe it or not, Knopfler was not the biggest star onstage at Music For Montserrat, as later in the show he joined Paul McCartney, Elton John, Sting, Collins and Clapton for a performance of “Hey Jude.”
Earlier in the show Knopfler led his band on three songs, while Collins, Sting, Elton John and Clapton each played several of their hits during the gig as well. McCartney closed the show with four songs, three of which were Beatles numbers.
“Money for Nothing” quickly became a setlist staple for Dire Straits after its release in 1985 as the second single from their fifth studio album Brothers in Arms. Despite being released towards the end of the band’s recording career, the song has become the sixth most performed song on Dire Straits setlists in the years since.
The rocking number has also remained a firm fan favourite, as it’s currently the third most played Dire Straits songs on Spotify, behind only megahits “Walk of Life” and “Sultans of Swing.” The song came out of a writing collaboration between Knopfler and Sting, and the latter added backing vocals to the track, including the iconic line “I want my MTV.”
“Money for Nothing” was fittingly originally recorded in George Martin’s studio in Montserrat, along with the rest of the Brothers in Arms album across 1984 and 1985. The band re-recorded the song at the Power Station studio in New York City, but the album’s producer Neil Dorfsman was unsuccessful in recreating the tone of the classic opening guitar riff, so ultimately the tracks from Montserrat made it to the final release.