The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work

Dirty Work (1986)


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


Oh, no. No way this piece of shit is getting any critical revaluation out of me. Undercover may be misunderstood, but there’s absolutely no way to interpret Dirty Work in any way other than as an utterly embarrassing 80s yuppie rock abomination completely beneath the talents and legacy of the Rolling Stones. Only a perfect storm of dysfunction, lack of inspiration and substance abuse could have combined to create such crap. The background: Keith and Mick were publically feuding because Mick was expending all his time and effort on his shitty solo career instead of the Stones. And with Mick being preoccupied by said solo career, Keith was left to do most of the album more or less by himself. And, to top it all off, Charlie, who had spent the last 20-plus years being the straight man in the band, said “fuck it” and got hooked on smack. I mean, Charlie? A junkie? Ugh. It’s heartbreaking. But if all that weren’t a clear enough indication that Dirty Work would suck harder than your mom on my dick, the cover should make it obvious – it’s actually an astoundingly accurate representation of the album itself. All the gross neon colors match up pretty well with the kind of 80s horrors found on the disc, Charlie looks asleep like he just OD’d, and KEITH IS KNEEING MICK IN THE CROTCH! RIGHT THERE! LOOK AT THAT SHIT!

I know C- is a pretty bad grade, but, since I was forced to bump it up due to the presence of a few actually solid tunes, I don’t think it reflects how shockingly awful most of this album is. I mean, “Back To Zero?” Are you fucking kidding me? A moronic “political commentary” song as musically heinous as any of the worst 80s synth pop trespasses I’ve ever heard? Are you sure this wasn’t supposed to be a Duran Duran B-side or something? “Hold Back?” Can you even call that a song? It’s not just a random collection of loud, ugly sounds recorded at a construction site and thrown together in a blender? “Dirty Work?” A rewrite of “Respectable” so ass poor that I get more enjoyment out of picking my toenails? And did Keith really think no one would notice that he starts playing “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” in the middle of the dunderheaded rocker “Fight?” I have to hope he just put that in there to fuck with the few people on earth, like me, who are stupid enough to actually listen to it – it’s the only way I’ll be able to maintain my respect for the guy. And forget about the material, the performances are bad enough… Charlie is on drugs and sounds none too good – it’s reverb-raped 80s drums all the way on here. I mean, the most interesting drum part on the album is played by Ronnie, for fuck’s sake (on Keith’s anemic reggae cover “Too Rude”). And Mick sounds like absolute shit. Squeezing every note out of his throat as if he were puking them up. Like, knowing the album was Keith’s baby and would be viewed as such, he was intentionally trying to sabotage the material. Just horrible. And Keith actually wanted to go on tour behind this piece of crap. If there’s one thing Mick’s solo career was ever good for, it was preventing the worst Rolling Stones tour of all time. Yeesh.

If the entire album was made up of songs as bad as “Hold Back” and “Back To Zero,” I’d give it an F without even thinking about it. However, there are some good parts at the beginning and the end, so just skip the whole “middle” bit and enjoy tunes like the opening hard rocker “One Hit (To The Body).” It’s actually really good! It’s got a nice mean, heavy Keith riff, and Jimmy Page, who of course we all know as the guitarist of the greatest band of all time, the Firm, plays lead guitar! Mick still sounds terrible, and the backup singers are annoying, but it sounds like it was actually made by the Rolling Stones and not a bunch of neon-loving imposters. You should also be able to sit through the single, a cover of Bob & Earl’s 60s R&B number “Harlem Shuffle.” And even if it’s unquestionably the worst lead single the Stones have ever put out, it’s not horrible. It’s got some guest vocals from two of the Stones’ heroes, Don Covay (who did “Mercy Mercy”) and Bobby Womack (who did “It’s All Over Now”). Did you know that during this time, Keith was considering kicking Mick out of the band and replacing him with one of those guys? No shit. And I wouldn’t have minded, either.

Anyway, if you somehow make it to the end of the album, you will be rewarded with the stripped down boogie “Had It With You” (god, hearing them sound like a real blues band comprised of actual human beings again after all the hideous over-processed crap that comes before it is like getting to sleep on a comfy mattress after spending a week sleeping in a muddy, alligator-infested swamp) and Keith’s nice ballad “Sleep Tonight.” And, finally, the hidden track – a 20 second clip of Ian Stewart playing the piano, included as a tribute to Stu, who died in 1985 while they were recording the album. It might just be the best 20 seconds of music on the whole damn thing. But it doesn’t have much competition, does it?