1. one hit (to the body)
j: I’ve been looking forward to this post, because I’ve never actually heard Dirty Work before. I heard Harlem Shuffle on the radio when I was in high school, that’s it. It’s weird because I remember thinking back then that this was some old, warmed-over version of the Rolling Stones and in retrospect I didn’t know much of their body of work outside of a few classic rock radio standards and Some Girls, which my older sister had a copy of and I knew pretty much backwards and forwards. One great thing about Dirty Work is that it’s easy to get a mint copy for three or four bucks. You rarely see worn-out copies. And my god, the album art--the seventies are long gone, people. The colors remind me of the 1984 movie Ruthless People (Mick Jagger sang the theme song). The band is situated around a turquoise corner section of a sofa. Mick has one skinny leg up on the sofa, and Keith’s leg is bent so his knee bends right on Mick’s crotch. Mick has a look on his face like “Yeah, so what of it?” Charlie Watts may be touching himself lovingly out of frame. And there in the corner next to Charlie, what’s up with Ron Wood’s footwear? Fluorescent striped socks and... ladies’ Reeboks? What the fuck? The sleeve and inner sleeve are nice heavy stock (the inside of the outer sleeve is pink). The inner sleeve features an original comic by Mad Magazine’s Mark Marek about a couple of domineering fitness instructors (???).
The album kicks off with One Hit (To The Body). The drums sound great considering it was produced in 1986. Guitars sound good as well, nice and crisp. The song is not bad. I guess it’s missing that sense of menace or danger that you get with a lot of Stones songs, even as late as Undercover of the Night. It’s definitely the Rolling Stones, I’ll give it that. Jimmy Page plays the solo, apparently.
c: i have also been looking forward to this post, but for a different reason... it is high time to put to good use all the piss & vinegar i have been storing up in my body. john sums up the cover nicely & is mostly correct. what a piece of shit other than the cartoon & the card stock they used. the stones, up to this point, were not only on the cutting edge musically throughout most of their career, but so were their record covers... this was the first sign for me that this LP would be a big turd when it was released, along with the fact that jagger & richards have been having prissy fights since "undercover of the night" was released & that they all stopped using drugs (though i am certain ron & keith & charlie kept it going on the sly just to be able to cope with their bitch of a wife, mick...)
the song itself is promising, musically... nice sound to it and it would still hold up today if it wasn't for the fact of the crappy lyrics & the backing vocals during the chorus. it ruins any potential the song had. what the hell happened? it is like the stones were neutered at some point during the recording of "undercover" and "dirty work." perhaps they were on tour in southeast asia somewhere & they all woke up in some hilton hotel one morning in tubs of ice water & their nuts were surgically removed. is there a market out there for the testicles of members of the rolling stones? now that i think about it, there probably was... one shot deal though & someone must have really cashed in. who could have it been?
j: The first song was kind of about boxing, this one is called Fight. “Gotta get into a fight. Gonna put the boot in.” This song is pretty good, reminds me a bit of Rip This Joint from Exile, though not quite in the same league. It’s a solid rocker, though. I would put this on a mix tape.
c: i would not put this on a mix tape, not even as a joke... i would rather put on "the great white hope" by styx or something... these lyrics are so terrible they are not even funny... "got to get into a fight. gonna put the boot in. gotta get into a fight. yeah watch me now. what i need is power more power." at this point, if jagger challenged me to fight, i would laugh in his face and just walk away... this is a fucking joke right?
3. harlem shuffle
j: And here is The Harlem Shuffle. I remember this tune. This was a bad choice for a single. This just reminds me of everything that was unappealing about the ‘older’ Rolling Stones to 16 year-old me. It reminds me of Mick Jagger prancing and cavorting and touching David Bowie’s bottom in that Dancing in the Streets video they played on Live-Aid day. In retrospect it’s kind of cool, but no, it’s not that cool. It’s a pretty boring song. Is this a cover? Writing credit is Relf/Nelson. Just checked, yes it’s a cover, originally Bob & Earl in 1963. Covered by Booker T & The MGs and the Edgar Winter Group, among others. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that all those other versions are a lot better, even though I haven’t heard them. I’m going to keep my eye out for the Edgar Winter version.
c: ugh... if i never listen to this song again after today, i will suffer no loss whatsoever... john is right, terrible choice for the single & in the past, this would have never made the cut to a rolling stones record. it would maybe have been a b-side, maybe. more likely, they would have just erased the damn thing & recorded over it. when i first listened to this LP way back when, this single broke the camel's back for me in regards to the stones. ever since i just pretend they stopped making LPs and stopped touring after "undercover of the night."
4. hold back
j: Mick Jagger sounds kind of crazy on this one. But not ‘good’ Mick Jagger crazy. Crazy like he didn’t put enough thought into it beforehand, or he didn’t do enough takes. “You’ll end up in the madhouse shouting the cold walls down.” It sounds genuinely crazy, I’ll give it that. But there are no hooks to hang the craziness on here. It’s a disorganized rant of a song, which can be cool if it’s done right, but I don’t think it works here.
c: i don't know about crazy... it just sounds like the band as a whole is trying way too hard for a good ol' fashioned rocker that they knew how to crap out at will only three years prior before they inexplicably lost their nuts. i do love the cool strat part at the end of the song... that must have been ron wood, no? good for you, ron.
5. too rude
j: Oh no, it’s a reggae song. I don’t like reggae even if it’s supposedly ‘good.’ Jimmy Cliff is thanked in the liner notes, he must be responsible in some way. Is this Keith singing? I hate this.
c: keith is singing this & his vocal is actually not bad. one of his better vocal efforts. but the song, my god... ok, you like reggae and you want to pull off a tribute to this particular influence in yer life. the stones used to incorporate a certain style & make it their own or at worst do it better than everyone else, including the originators of the style. just listen to the song "emotional rescue." it has a massive disco influence, but they made it their own & wiped up everyone's ass with it who had ever put out a disco tune, save perhaps blondie... this is an incredible failure of a reggae tune. the clash did it much better and they were even whiter than the stones. right about now, i am wondering how the hell this album was ever allowed to be released & i cannot believe i have to tolerate another side of this half-assed bullshit.
1. winning ugly
j: Here we go. My favorite song on the album so far. It suffers a little from the production, which is a little too ringing and clean, but it’s one of the few songs that actually sounds groovy in that Stones kind of way. I’m thinking that’s Patty Scialfa doing the backing vocals on this one. Were Mick and Keith watching a lot of boxing in the eighties?
c: this song belongs on some crappy eighties movie with bette midler & danny devito in it (is that "ruthless people," johnny?) and you only hear about 30 seconds of it after the movie takes some sudden turn of fortune smiling on a character. not sure what is wrong with my counterpart here. it is embarrassing to listen to. this is the stones, right? i mean there is nothing this bad on mick jagger's solo LP "she's the boss" and that LP is pretty lousy as well, though it does have some good tunes. so far dirty work does not have ONE.
2. back to zero
j: I kind of like this song, thought the lyrics are pretty silly. “I worry about my great grandchildren, living ten miles beneath the ground. I worry about their whole existence. The whole damn thing’s in doubt.” There’s an annoying world music element shoehorned in, like they’d heard Paul Simon’s Graceland and wanted to do something like that. I take it back, this song sucks.
c: yes, this song sucks. it sucks so bad that i would shove this LP into the paper shredder, if it would fit. i am beyond the point of trying to take this LP seriously. after all these years, i am still in shock of the sudden fall of the mighty rolling stones in such a short period of time. they never recovered either. i am sure they have had some redeeming moments here & there, but....
3. dirty work
j: The title track. This is one of Jagger’s better performances on the record, the singing has that classic improvised feel. Yeah, this song could fit on Tattoo You or Emotional rescue, can’t say that about too many songs on this record. Again, mixtape-worthy. They were clearly going for the Miss You vibe at the end, it almost works.
c: in my mind, this song would not fit on "tattoo you" or any other previous effort, but i have to admit, so far it is the only tune the stones have offered that i actually might have enjoyed if it was not for the mood that this LP has given me up until this point. the title track should have been the single, no doubt. it is the strongest tune on the LP by far, but that is not saying much in comparison to the remainder...
4. had it with you
j: Had it With You. Wow, this song sounds a lot like Neighbors. Almost too much. I think they ripped themselves off. It’s definitely tolerable, but the original has a lot more charm. “Loved you in the lean years. Loved you in the fat ones.”
c: ok, the stones are reaching back a bit into the ol' magic hat & it almost works... they are ripping themselves off, no doubt. if we could go back in time and the stones decided to make "dirty work" the first track on side A, followed up by "had it with you" and scrapped the rest of the tunes & started over... this might have been a better record. my enduring thought is that they should have just broke up and spared us their cheap money grabbing version of themselves that we have had to suffer through for the past 25 FUCKING YEARS!!!! "had it with you," indeed!
5. sleep tonight
j: Keith sings the album’s last song, a rootsy (did I just use that word? shoot me) piano lullaby. This would have been good as a duet with Tina Turner. Seriously, though, this is totally okay. Reminds me of Tom Waits in a good way. Someone could probably resurrect this song for a movie and give it a second life. A movie about sleeping pills.
There are like four decent tunes on this record. I think it would stack up against Underccover of the Night if it had just one song that’s as good as Undercover of the Night. It doesn’t though. There’s nothing really memorable. But if I were making a mix of eighties Rolling Stones songs, I would definitely draw from it. Who knows, maybe it’s better than Steel Wheels.
c: consider yerself shot, johnny! alright, this song is not that bad & i suppose it would fit nicely in a movie about sleeping pills... i think i would even keep it as the closer for the record. so that makes it what, a total of three songs on this LP that i can tolerate, but will not mind if i never hear them again? sounds right to me. what the fuck is the deal with the 30 sec piano bit at the end? it was the best part of the record by far.
sadly, the rolling stones have never regained the magic that they lost during the recording of "dirty work." i am certain there are fans out there that will argue this point, but it is kinda like defending the looks of yer husband or wife once they turned to sloth & fat... you just have to because you love them.