The Stories Behind the Best Money Songs

The Stories Behind the Best Money Songs

Everyone needs it, the world runs on it, we’re all trying to get some of it and no-one seems to have enough of it – let’s check out the stories behind the best money songs.

6 - Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money) – Pet Shop Boys

UK duo Pet Shop Boys weren’t just happy with SOME money. In 1985 they sang to the world that they wanted to make LOTS of money.


‘Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)’ was a good example of the boys’ determination to do what the song suggests. Their original version of the song didn’t do very well when it was first released in 1985. So after some reflection and a remix, the song was re-released in 1986, not long after the success of West-End Girls. This time it was a big hit in many countries, including the UK and US.

The song came about after Chris Lowe asked duo partner Neil Tennant to make up some lyrics around the idea ‘let’s make lots of money’.

With that instruction, Tennant wrote a satire about 1980’s Thatcherism in the UK, focusing on two losers – one who thinks of himself as being intellectual and educated, telling the other person that by combining the singer’s brains with the friend’s looks and brawn, they will be able to come up with a plan to make lots of money.

Tennant said that he wrote their plotting to show how they were doomed to fail, as is often the case in real-life, in these types of situations.

This satirical story cemented the Pet Shop Boys' reputation as ‘musical ironists’. Neil Tennant compared the song to the movie "Midnight Cowboy", where Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight pair up as a brains-and-brawn hustler combination.

 5 - Money for Nothing – Dire Straits

This next song has one of the most recognizable intros of the 80’s.

 Dire Straits’ 1985 song ‘Money for Nothing’ combined Mark Knopfler’s unique opening riff with the distinctive sound of guest vocalist, Sting’s pleading to watch MTV.

This hugely successful single from the Brothers in Arms album, plus its accompanying video, seemed perfectly timed for a huge global MTV audience. Sting reprised his guest vocals when Dire Straits performed "Money for Nothing" at the Live Aid Concert at Wembley in 1985.

Mark Knopfler says he modelled that guitar sound on ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons' trademark guitar tone. The song has a very recognizable opening hook, in the form of the guitar riff that begins the song and is repeated throughout the track. The well-known video included one of the first uses of computer-animated human characters and was considered ground-breaking at the time

Mark Knopfler says that he came up with the idea of the song when he was in New York, where he noticed a guy who worked in an appliance store, standing next to a wall of TV’s showing MTV at the rear of the shop. He was ranting to a fellow worker who was delivering boxes.

Knopfler quickly borrowed some paper and starting writing down what the man was saying, including phrases such as “that ain’t workin’” and “what are those, Hawaiian Noises?”

By drawing on these real words of an everyday worker, Knopfler was able to show how the excesses of the rock-star life are perceived by the average worker.

"Weird Al" Yankovic recorded a parody based on the Beverley Hillbillies for his 1989 movie UHF. Mark Knopfler OK'd the parody under one condition, he would play guitar on the song.

4 - Money, Money, Money – ABBA

I know – you’re thinking “WHAT, an ABBA song!?” But, you know that at some point when you’ve thought of money, this song has crept into your mind.

You want it so much you’ve got to say it three times. At least that’s what ABBA believed when they released the song in November 1976.

Of course, they got the money. in fact, they made so much from this and their many other hit songs, that they turned down a US$1 billion offer in 2,000, to get back together for a series of concerts.

Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus claimed that they wrote the song to show both the practical and philosophical perspectives of a woman acknowledging her serious debt troubles, in spite of her efforts in working long hours and wallowing in extreme self-pity.

She plots and schemes to come up with a master plan that would solve all of her financial woes, involving successfully romancing and catching a rich man. Well, it has been done before, but not always with a happy ending.

The song was included in the 2008 film Mamma Mia!, sung by Meryl Streep’s character Donna. Hey, at least it was better than Pierce Brosnan singing.

3 - Take the Money and Run – Steve Miller Band

“Woo, Woo!”

‘Take the Money and Run’ was a big hit for the Steve Miller Band in 1976. From their 9th studio album, ‘Fly Like an Eagle’, the song reached number 11 on the U.S. Billboard charts.

Miller’s Bonnie-and-Clyde-type story, about a young couple tired of being stoner TV zombies, takes Billie Joe and Bobby Sue to a bungled robbery that ends up being a murder, with the Texas police in pursuit.

Miller stated that he wrote the song as a salute to the road trip songs he used to sing a long to when he was a kid, in the back seat of his parents’ car. Another characteristic of Miller's road songs is the mention of various locations, this time it was El Paso. In "Rock 'N Me," he does shout-outs to more cities, including Phoenix, Atlanta and Philadelphia

While some music critics have slammed the song for cheering on the wilful murder of an innocent home occupant and stealing their money, maybe they have failed to pay attention to all of the lyrics - where it is clear that Billy Joe ran into a ‘great big hassle and shot the man while robbing his castle. This suggests that the shooting was not intended and that the not-too-bright former stoner TV zombies will now have to spend the rest of their lives on the run from a Texan detective, plus probably other cops who are determined to bring them to justice.

The listener isn’t being asked to cheer Billy Joe and Bobby Sue on, but to actually realize the hopeless situation that they are now in, and that the only way they can survive is to take the money and run.

2 - Money (That’s What I Want) – Barrett Strong

While you’ve probably heard several versions of this well-known song, It was Barrett Strong who gave us the original in 1960.

Written by Motown founder Berry Gordy, with the help of Janie Bradford and Barrett Strong, this became the first hit record for Motown and was listed as number 288 on Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time

The upbeat song, with 18-year-old Barrett loudly insisting his need for money, was Strong’s only hit as a singer. However, Strong soon became a Motown writer lyricist, co-writing some of the biggest soul songs ever to be released by Motown, including ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’; ‘War’, and ‘Papa Was a Rollin' Stone’, plus many others.

The timing of this song was interesting, as it was a hit right in the middle of the Payola scandal, where U.S. disc jockeys were being investigated for taking bribes in exchange for playing records. Berry Gordy was warned that DJ’s wouldn't play a song about craving cash, but that sure didn’t stop them putting it on their turntables.

In 1979, Strong’s original version was used in the movie Animal House, helping establish it as a frat party favourite

The Beatles recorded their own rocked-up version in 1963, after spotting Strong's version in Brian Epstein's NEMS record store. The boys had already played the song during their audition at Decca Records on January 1, 1962, when Pete Best was still on drums.

The quirky 1979 Flying Lizards version was probably the one that was the most accurate in the desperate financial need of the artists. This theory was confirmed during an interview with band founder David Cunningham, who declared that the budget for their recording of Money was less than $10.

1 - Money – Pink Floyd

That easily recognizable opening sound mix has been telling listeners what this song is about, even before the first word is sung, for over 45 years.

Pink Floyd’s Money is from their 1973 album ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’. Ironically, while Money may be about the bad things money can bring. Pink Floyd made lots of it thanks to this song and the album, as the album sold over 34 million copies.

Money was Pink Floyd’s first USA hit, and was the highest-charting single from ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’. The iconic album stayed on the Billboard charts for 14 years.

That mix of coins and cash register sounds was thanks to Roger Waters creating a tape loop that plays throughout the song. It also contains the sounds of tearing paper and bags of coins being thrown into an industrial food-mixing bowl.

The album was engineered by famed British producer and studio genius Alan Parsons at Abbey Road Studios, where he also worked with The Beatles on the ‘Abbey Road’ and ‘Let it Be’ albums. Parsons later started his own band called The Alan Parsons Project.

The powerful lyrics of the song satire the attitude of the world’s wealthy. The line, "Money, so they say, is the root of all evil today" was intended as a paraphrase from the Bible scripture in 1st Timothy 6:10:  that says "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." This is where the boys seem to have misinterpreted the scriptural verse, which was actually talking about GREED and how the LOVE of money is the problem, rather than money itself.

The lyrics are briefly referenced in the film The Wall, when the young student Pink is caught writing poems in class by his teacher.

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Check out Cranky’s video ‘Best Money Rock Songs’ on YouTube

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