Dirty Work (The Rolling Stones album)

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Dirty Work
Studio album by The Rolling Stones
Released 24 March 1986
Recorded 5 April – 17 June, 16 July – 17 August 1985, 10 September - 15 October 1985
Genre Hard rock, pop rock
Length 40:03
Language English
Label Rolling Stones, Columbia
Producer Steve Lillywhite, The Glimmer Twins
The Rolling Stones chronology
Dirty Work
Steel Wheels
(1989)Steel Wheels1989
Singles from Dirty Work
  1. "Harlem Shuffle"
    Released: 28 February 1986
  2. "One Hit (To the Body)"
    Released: 9 May 1986

Dirty Work is the Rolling Stones' 18th British and 20th American studio album. It was released on 24 March 1986 on the Rolling Stones label by CBS Records. Produced by Steve Lillywhite, the album was recorded during a period when relations between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards soured considerably, according to Richards' autobiography Life.[1][2]


The sessions for Dirty Work, the first album under the Rolling Stones' recording contract with CBS Records, began in April 1985 in Paris, running for two months before breaking for a short spell.[3] Mick Jagger had just released his first solo album, She's the Boss (1985), much to Richards' annoyance, since the latter's first priority was the Rolling Stones and he was stung that Jagger was pursuing a career as a pop star.[4] Jagger was often absent from the Dirty Work sessions while Richards recorded with Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts; Jagger's vocal parts were added later on.[citation needed] The divide between Jagger and Richards was on public view on 13 July 1985, when Jagger performed a solo set at Live Aid while Richards and Wood supported Bob Dylan's set on acoustic guitars.

Charlie Watts' involvement in the recording sessions was also limited; in 1994 Watts told Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes that during the 1980s he had been addicted to heroin and alcohol. Steve Jordan and Anton Fig play drums on some tracks; Ronnie Wood plays drums on "Sleep Tonight". Jagger would later cite Watts' personal state as one of the reasons he vetoed a tour in support of Dirty Work in 1986, preferring to start work on his second album, Primitive Cool (1987).[citation needed]

Four of the album's eight original compositions are credited to Jagger/Richards/Wood and one to Jagger/Richards/Chuck Leavell. Only three are credited to Jagger/Richards, the lowest number on any Rolling Stones album since Out of Our Heads (1965). Dirty Work is the first Rolling Stones record to feature two tracks with Richards on lead vocals ("Too Rude" and "Sleep Tonight").

Following a further month of final recording in July and August 1985 (which saw guest appearances by Jimmy Page, Bobby Womack and Tom Waits), co-producer Steve Lillywhite supervised several weeks of mixing and the creation of 12-inch remixes. On 12 December, Ian Stewart, one of the Stones' founding members and their longtime pianist and road manager, died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 47. As a tribute, a hidden track of Stewart playing Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway" was added to close the album.

Outtakes and demo versions[edit]

Outtakes and demo versions from the Dirty Work sessions are available on various bootlegs, and include numbers like:[5]

  • "Strictly Memphis"
  • "You're Too Much" (Keith Richards on vocal)
  • "Treat Me Like a Fool" (Richards on vocal)
  • "She Never Listens to Me" (Richards on vocal)
  • "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever" (Ivy Jo Hunter, Stevie Wonder)
  • "Deep Love" (Richards on vocal)
  • "What Am I Going to Do with Your Love"
  • "Crushed Pearl" (Richards on vocal)

Artwork and packaging[edit]

The original vinyl release of Dirty Work came shrinkwrapped in dark red cellophane. Breaking with Rolling Stones tradition, Dirty Work was the first of their studio albums to contain a lyric sheet in the US, apparently at the insistence of then-distributor CBS Records. Also included was a comic strip, drawn by Mark Marek, called "Dirty Workout".[6]

In 2005, Pitchfork Media included the album cover in their list of "The Worst Record Covers of All Time", with Brent DiCrescenzo saying that no other cover "goes so far to completely tarnish the reputation of a Valhalla-ensconced band while demonstrating the crushing awfulness of 1980s aesthetics".[7]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[8]
Christgau's Record Guide A[9]
MusicHound 2.5/5[10]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[11]
Uncut 3/5[12]

In March 1986, the Rolling Stones' cover of "Harlem Shuffle" (their first lead single from a studio album not to be a Jagger/Richards original since the band's earliest days) was released to a receptive audience, reaching #13 in the UK and #5 in the US. The follow-up single "One Hit (To the Body)" was a US top 30 hit and featured a revealing video of Jagger and Richards seeming to trade blows.

Dirty Work was released a week after "Harlem Shuffle", reaching #4 in the UK and US (going platinum there), but the critical reaction was less than enthusiastic. Some reviewers felt the album was slight in places, with weak, generic songwriting from Richards and Wood and puzzlingly abrasive vocals from Jagger. Some felt Jagger was saving his best material for his solo records, though the critical reaction to those releases was muted as well. People named it one of the worst albums of 1986, denoting "The worst fears of the Baby Boomers come true: If the Stones are sounding this old and tired, what does it say about their original fans?"[13]

However, in 1986, Robert Christgau called Dirty Work "a bracing and even challenging record [which] innovates without kowtowing to multi-platinum fashion or half-assed pretension. It's honest and makes you like it."[14] In 2004, Stylus Magazine's "On Second Thoughts" feature assessed the album as "a tattered, embarrassed triumph, by far the most interesting Stones album since Some Girls at every level: lyrical, conceptual, instrumental."[15] The re-evaluation of the album finds that despite its change of style to a then current 80s-style production and experimentation, the album features "the most venomous guitar sound of the Stones' career, and Jagger's most committed vocals."[15]

Keith Richards said that songs on the album were structured so they could be played live with a view to touring to support the album, before Jagger decided he wasn't going to tour after all.[16] (As aforementioned, Jagger later cited his concerns about Charlie's health for not doing so.)

Dirty Work went on to sell close to 4 million copies worldwide, a good number considering the bad vibe around the band back then, with no tour support and lack of promotion from the band members. [17]

The album produced a US Top 5 hit for the Rolling Stones, the cover of "Harlem Shuffle," and featured a number of guest appearances, including contributions by Tom Waits, Marku Ribas, Patti Scialfa, Bobby Womack, and Jimmy Page on "One Hit (To the Body)".

In 1994 Dirty Work was remastered and reissued by Virgin Records, and again in 2009 by Universal Music. It was released on SHM-SACD in 2011 by Universal Music Japan.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "One Hit (To the Body)" Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood 4:44
2. "Fight" Jagger, Richards, Wood 3:09
3. "Harlem Shuffle" Bob Relf, Ernest Nelson 3:23
4. "Hold Back" Jagger, Richards 3:53
5. "Too Rude" Lindon Roberts 3:11
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
6. "Winning Ugly" Jagger, Richards 4:32
7. "Back to Zero" Jagger, Richards, Chuck Leavell 4:00
8. "Dirty Work" Jagger, Richards, Wood 3:53
9. "Had It with You" Jagger, Richards, Wood 3:19
10. "Sleep Tonight" Jagger, Richards 5:10
11. "Untitled hidden track" (uncredited excerpt from "Key to the Highway")   0:33
  • This album is dedicated to Ian Stewart. "Thanks, Stu, for 25 years of boogie-woogie".
  • An unlisted and uncredited excerpt from "Key to the Highway" (Big Bill Broonzy, Charles Segar - 0:33) closes the album. It was played by Ian Stewart, who died a few months after recording sessions for the album had ended.


The Rolling Stones
Additional personnel
  • Engineered by Dave Jerden
  • Additional engineer – Steve Parker
  • Assistant engineers – Tom Crich, Mike Krowiak
  • Recorded at Pathe Marconi Studios Paris
  • Mixed at R.P.M. and Right Track Studios N.Y.C.
  • Art direction and package design – Janet Perr
  • Art direction and photography – Annie Leibovitz
  • Inner sleeve artwork – Mark Marek


Year Single Chart Position
1986 "Harlem Shuffle" The Billboard Hot 100[19] 5
Mainstream Rock Tracks[19] 2
Hot Dance Music/Club Play[19] 4
Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Single Sales[19] 5
UK Top 100 Singles[20] 13
"One Hit (To the Body)" Mainstream Rock Tracks[19] 3
The Billboard Hot 100[19] 28
UK Top 100 Singles[20] 80
"Winning Ugly" Mainstream Rock Tracks[19] 10


Chart succession[edit]

Preceded by
Black Celebration by Depeche Mode
Swiss Chart number-one album
20 April 1986
Succeeded by
Wise Monkeys by Phil Carmen
Preceded by
Picture Book by Simply Red
Dutch Mega Chart number-one album
12 April 1986
Succeeded by
Parade by Prince and The Revolution
Preceded by
Rocky IV (soundtrack) by Various Artists
European Top 100 number-one album
17–31 May 1986
Succeeded by
So by Peter Gabriel


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  8. ^ link
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]