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THOSE SUITS COULD GLOW IN THE DARK:n (from top left) Ronnie Wood all redolent; Keith Richards takes up all the room on the couch; bass player Bill Wyman in the background; Mick Jagger in bright yellow pimp pants; drummer Charlie Watts tries to sleep his way through it.


1. One Hit (To the Body)
2. Fight
3. Harlem Shuffle
4. Hold Back
5. Too Rude

6. Winning Ugly
7. Back to Zero
8. Dirty Work
9. Had It With You
10. Sleep Tonight

Dirty Work

A low point in the Mick Jagger-Keith Richards relationship results in a mediocre Stones album

March, 1986

Rock On Rock Recommends:

Dirty Work; One Hit (To The Body)

The Harlem Shuffle single
The Harlem Shuffle single

ATTEMPTS to muster hard-rock muscle on Dirty Work fall mostly flat due to a lack of great songs.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were at loggerheads > the rhythm guitarist fuming at Jagger releasing his first solo album, She’s The Boss > the singer himself seemingly uninterested in the Rolling Stones partnership and seeking re-relevance in the pop world.

So strained was the relationship that Jagger-Richards relinquished their tight hold on Rolling Stones songwriting credits. Stones guitarist Ron Wood has co-writing credits with the Glimmer Twins on four tracks and session musician Chuck Leavell also shares a writing credit.

The band brought in an outside co-producer for the first time in over a decade > one Steve Lillywhite, who had worked with U2 and going on this effort  should have kept doing so with U2 > or USpew as I like to call them.


THERE’S lyrically strong songs of violence and hatred on Dirty Work, with titles including One Hit (To The Body), Dirty Work, Fight, Winning Ugly and Had It With You.

The video from album opener One Hit has Mick Jagger and Keith Richards crashing into each other > producer Australia’s Russell Mulcahy harnessing the combatant energy. The song itself kicks off with a mix of acoustic and electric guitars and develops into sold riff rock.

It and title track Dirty Work are the best two tunes here. The frantic Dirty Work kicks you in the guts from the start as the singer rails with contempt against the captains of the corporate world.

The song dismantles itself at the end, rather than rocking right out.

Had It With You is > depending on your preference > a charged-up adrenaline rush or a nothing-new throwaway. The B-side to Dirty Work single Harlem Shuffle, I first heard Had It With You on the radio and it sounded like such a young and rejuvenated Rolling Stones > wasn’t even sure it was them until the DJ said so.

But Had It With You didn’t for some reason have the same impact when played on the vinyl album at home > most peculiar, mama.

Harlem Shuffle is a fairly standard rendition of the soul classic from the 1960s, but made it to the top 10 for the Rolling Stones in the US.

The fast Fight is hard to take seriously. Multi-millionaire Michael Phillip Jagger > now darling of the estate > lacks street cred as he spews out lines such as “gonna pulp you to a mass of bruises”. Yeah right, sure you are > or you talking ’bout sending your bodyguard to do your dirty work.

Keith Richards shares reggae vocals with genre pioneer Jimmy Cliff on Too Rude >, a Stones-do-reggae flop.

Richards also closes the album  with Sleep Tonight. A tired Keef sounds like he’s trying to lullaby himself to golden slumber > must have been after one of those stay awake for five days straight party binges he is infamous for.

Back to Zero is a ponderous ponderance on the threat of nuclear war, while Winning Ugly and Don’t Hold Back  are OK rock numbers.

Living high, sitting in the sun
Sit on your ass till your work is done
You lazy mother, your hands are clean
You pull the strings and you got the clout
There’s something filthy living in your mouth
> Jagger-Richards

BUT > there is a certain hard edge to this album that could appeal.


1980s hit group Duran Duran popped into the studios during the Dirty Work recording sessions, which prompted Keith Richards to tell British magazine New Musical Express:

“You get Duran Duran come down for a day, walk into our fucking sessions and say ‘what are you doing in that room together’. It’s called playing music, man. That’s the only way we record, you snotty little turd.”


Mick Jagger performed a duet of State of Shock and It’s Only Rock and Roll with Tina Turner at the Bob Geldof-inspired Live Aid concert in July, 1985, to aid famine relief in Africa.

During the performance, after showing his ribbed torso Jagger rips off the bottom part of Tina Turner’s dress to reveal a crutch-hugging pair of black something or others.

Eat your heart out Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson (Super Bowl 2004) > this was a deliberate wardrobe malfunction.


THE Dirty Work album closes with a brief boogie-woggie tinkling of the ivories in tribute to founding Rolling Stones member Ian Stewart.

The keyboardist had been pushed to the background by manager Andrew Loog Oldham as stardom beckoned. He was deemed unsuitable for the Rolling Stones rock and roll rebel image.

Ian Stewart was the band’s road manager in the early years and continued to play with them until his death of a heart attack in December 1985.

He was renowned for keeping the Stones grounded by yelling at them when they were due on stage: “Come on my little shower of shit, you’re on”.




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