I’d exhausted myself writing the words of Sultans of Swing, Lions, Down South Again, Wild West End and the rest of the lyrics that made up the nine songs that would make up the Dire Straits album, plus those that went into the Brothers in Arms album. I was gratefully heading for the door of the flat that Knopfler and Illsley shared in Deptford, south of the Thames from where I was staying in Bethnal Green.
I’d almost made my exit, when Mark Knopfler asked me, “What instrument was it that I played myself,” I told him that “I can play the Harmonica,” and not to my amazement, for the guy had been surprising me since we’d been introduced, he leisurely produced a Harmonica from his top jacket pocket, and handed it to me. I looked at it, and thought inwardly, “not another test to my abilities”, surely not after what I’d produced in confirming my talent for writing? Anyway I blew into it with Knopfler and Illsley watching my every move, and I made a sound of some kind, to which I said handing him back his mouth organ, sarcastically, “There’s a tune in there,” to which he replied in the same tense, “I know?” He then went back into the small sitting area, and came back with a tape recorder and asked me for another lyric.
This I thought was taking the piss, for he had already whispered to Illsley, “He doesn’t think he’s going to be in the band?” and Illsley had answered,”What band?” for Illsley and I had not discussed anything about starting a band. That had only happened when Mark Knopfler and I began writing, anyway I began to recite the lyrics of Money For Nothing, that must have taken John Illsley by surprise, for as I’ve said before, he had little to do with Knopfler and myself during the writing of the lyrics. And since my endeavours with Knopfler had been for him to take my lyrics seriously, and get a band together, to then suddenly pounce on Illsley with Money For Nothing, when he had taken no part in the discussions, probably freaked him.
For the lyrics are insulting, in a nice way, but are certainly directed straight at them. And when I started it with, Look at those Yo yo’s, (I was pointing at them), so imagine what John Illsley was thinking, I invite this stranger back to my house and he’s slagging me off? Now that’s the way you do it, You play the guitar on the I.T.V. (No MTV at that time), That aint working that’s the way you do it, Money for Nothing and cheques for free. Now that aint working, that’s the way you do it? Now if you have Illsley, who hasn’t a clue what’s going on, and Mark Knopfler staring at you, with two different thoughts about you in their head.
You have to add. Let me tell you these guys aint dumb, (Now you’re being nice) Maybe get a blister on your little finger, maybe get a blister on your thumb, with Mark Knopfler playing lead guitar, he gets a blister his little finger, the Bass players play with their thumb, makes sense. Now it was back to my own life when I told them, I can get you microwaves, ovens, kitchen appliances, colour T.V.s. which I could living in the East End of London. Especially if they fell of the back of a lorry, and I directed those words at the lack of household necessities in their shared flat in Deptford, that seemed to have a few basic items, that an honest burglar would have thought was a squat.
“The little Faggot with the earing and the make up,” I wont tell you who he is or was, but that little faggots got his own Jet Airplane, that little Faggot is a millionaire, now he’s not working, that’s the way you do it, Money For Nothing, Cheques for free? Now again the next part of the lyric, is about me trying to encourage them to put away the idea of working for a living, and get this band together. And what I’m saying is if I’d had the chance, I should have learned to play the guitar, I should have learned to play the drums, and the rest about Hawaiian noises, and banging on the bongos like a chimpanzee. Something the chick I’d been going about with had said, when I’d taken the liberty of using the drum kit of the band Carl Douglas was touring with, which I thought that was quite funny. But I did tell Mark Knopfler not to use Money For Nothing, as I was unsure of its lyrical worth, and that he should go and learn to write lyrics, that I see he has done. But in all honesty I FELT THAT MONEY FOR NOTHING should have been left as I had written it, about two sceptical people who take a lot of convincing about starting a band, and when they do, they forget about who wrote the lyrics. Robert Marshal