Dire Straits, “Money For Nothing”
If any album marked the beginning of a new era in music, it was Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms. Three years before its release, the first compact disc landed in the analog world: Billy Joel’s 52nd Street, an album that the sobriety-challenged piano man had recorded in 1978. For Sony Music Entertainment, whose corporate parent co-developed the CD with Dutch electronics giant Philips N.V., it was an odd decision filled with portent. Sure, the compact disc would trigger a new gold rush for the big music companies-none benefiting more than Sony, then the world’s biggest record company-but it would also typify Sony’s often ham-fisted strategy in conquering the digital music domain. Why debut a groundbreaking technology with a new piece of music when you can get consumers to repurchase a record they bought four years ago on vinyl-one recorded in analog, no less?
No matter. The compact disc became an instant success, and soon everyone was discussing the merits of digital mastering and bit-rates. Engineering geeks still debate who laid down the very first digital recording-many believe it was Ry Cooder, with his 1979 album Bop Till You Drop. But there is no argument about who delivered the first fully digital CD, from recording and mastering, to transferring the finished music to disc. That honor goes to Britain’s Dire Straits and Brothers in Arms. Driven by the single “Money For Nothing,” which featured guest vocals by Sting, who coolly (yes, there was a time when Sting was actually cool) delivered the refrain “I want my MTV,” Brothers in Arms went on to top the charts throughout Europe and the US, and became the first album to sell more copies on disc than on vinyl and tape.