Dirty Work (Rolling Stones album)

Dirty Work is the 18th British and 20th American studio album by the English rock band the Rolling Stones. It was released on 24 March 1986 on the Rolling Stones label by CBS Records, their first under their new contract with Columbia Records. Produced by Steve Lillywhite, the album was recorded during a period when relations between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had soured considerably, according to Richards' autobiography Life.[3][4]

Dirty Work
Studio album by
Released24 March 1986
Recorded5 April – 17 June and 16 July – 17 August 1985
LabelRolling Stones, Columbia
ProducerSteve Lillywhite, The Glimmer Twins
The Rolling Stones chronology
Dirty Work
Steel Wheels
Singles from Dirty Work
  1. "Harlem Shuffle"
    Released: 28 February 1986
  2. "One Hit (To the Body)"
    Released: 9 May 1986

The album was recorded during a time of turmoil for the band, as its two principal songwriters, Richards and Jagger, had been feuding over the band's direction during most of the 1980s. Almost all of the band members had spent the previous few years working on solo albums or side projects. Some band members, including guitarist Ronnie Wood, drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Bill Wyman, were often absent from the studio during recording sessions; it was rare that all five principal members were together at the same time. (It would be the last album to feature former member and frequent piano contributor Ian Stewart, who died shortly before the album's release.) As a result, a large number of guest musicians appeared on the album, including drummers Anton Fig and Steve Jordan (with whom Richards would form the band X-pensive Winos after recording this album), as well as guitarists Jimmy Page and Bobby Womack. Keyboards were played by Ivan Neville and Chuck Leavell, who would remain with the band for decades. Unlike most Stones albums, there was no supporting tour, as the level of animosity among band members prevented them from being able to work together live onstage.

While the album sold well, reaching platinum or gold status in several countries, including the United States, Canada and the UK, and peaking as a top-10-charting album in over a dozen of markets, it was a critical flop, with most critics at the time finding it uneven and uninspired. Journalist Robert Christgau stood almost alone in his contemporary praise of the album, however, later re-assessments and retrospective reviews have generally been kinder. The album spawned two top-40 hits: a cover of Bob & Earl's song "Harlem Shuffle" and one of the songs written with Ronnie Wood, "One Hit (To the Body)".


The sessions for Dirty Work, the first album under the Rolling Stones' recording contract with CBS Records, began in April 1985 in Boulogne Billancourt,[1] running for two months before breaking for a short spell.[5] Mick Jagger had just released his first solo album, She's the Boss (1985), much to Richards' annoyance, since Richards' first priority was the Rolling Stones and he was stung that Jagger was pursuing a career as a pop star.[6] 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. 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).

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 album 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 versionsEdit

Outtakes and demo versions from the Dirty Work sessions are available on various bootlegs, and include numbers like:[7]

  • "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 packagingEdit

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 United States, apparently at the insistence of then-distributor CBS Records. Also included was a comic strip, drawn by Mark Marek, called "Dirty Workout."

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".[8]

Release and receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [9]
Christgau's Record GuideA[10]
MusicHound Rock2.5/5[11]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [12]
Tom HullB+[13]

In March 1986, the Rolling Stones' cover of "Harlem Shuffle" (the first lead single from a Stones studio album not to be a Jagger/Richards original since the band's earliest days) was released to a receptive audience, reaching No. 13 in the UK and No. 5 in the United States. 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 (although Richards is syncing to Jimmy Page, who played lead guitar on the song).

Dirty Work was released a week after "Harlem Shuffle," reaching No. 4 in the UK and United States (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?"[15]

However, at the same time, 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."[16] 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."[17] 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."[17]

Richards said that songs on the album were structured to be played live with a view to tour in support of the album, before Jagger decided he wasn't going to tour after all.[18] (As aforementioned, Jagger later cited his concerns about Watts' health for not doing so.) The only songs from Dirty Work to be played live have been "One Hit (To the Body)" and "Harlem Shuffle," both performed on the Steel Wheels tour.[19]

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 listingEdit

Side one
1."One Hit (To the Body)"Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood4:44
2."Fight"Jagger, Richards, Wood3:09
3."Harlem Shuffle"Bob Relf, Ernest Nelson3:23
4."Hold Back"Jagger, Richards3:53
5."Too Rude"Lindon Roberts3:11
Side two
1."Winning Ugly"Jagger, Richards4:32
2."Back to Zero"Jagger, Richards, Chuck Leavell4:00
3."Dirty Work"Jagger, Richards, Wood3:53
4."Had It with You"Jagger, Richards, Wood3:19
5."Sleep Tonight"Jagger, Richards5:10
6."Key to the Highway" (uncredited excerpt)Big Bill Broonzy, Charles Segar0:33


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



  1. ^ a b "Quand les Rolling Stones s'éclataient à Boulogne-Billancourt". www.leblogdeboulogne.com. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  2. ^ Pareles, Jon; Pareles, Jon (24 March 1986). "Dirty Work".
  3. ^ Rich, Motoko (1 August 2007). "A Rolling Stone Prepares to Gather His Memories". New York Times. Retrieved 6 March 2008.
  4. ^ Richards, Keith (2010). Life. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-03438-X. OCLC 548642133.
  5. ^ Zentgraf, Nico. "The Complete Works of the Rolling Stones 1962–2008". Retrieved 20 March 2008.
  6. ^ Richards, Keith. Life. Orion (Kindle edition). p. 464 and 470. ISBN 978-0-297-85862-1.
  7. ^ "The Complete Works of the Rolling Stones – Database". Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  8. ^ "The Worst Record Covers of All Time – Page 8 – Pitchfork". Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  9. ^ link
  10. ^ "Robert Christgau: CG: rolling stone". Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  11. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 952. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  12. ^ "The Rolling Stones: Album Guide". rollingstone.com. Archived version retrieved 15 November 2014.
  13. ^ Hull, Tom (n.d.). "Grade List: The Rolling Stones". tomhull.com. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  14. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work/Steel Wheels/Voodoo Lounge And More – Uncut". Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  15. ^ "Worst of Song". people.com. 22 December 1986. Archived from the original on 31 March 2011. Retrieved 10 November 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  16. ^ Christgau, Robert (15 April 1986). "Winning Ugly: An Essay on Dirty Work". Village Voice.
  17. ^ a b Soto, Alfred (September 2004). "On Second Thought: Rolling Stones – Dirty Work". Stylus Magazine.
  18. ^ Keith Richards – In His Own Words by Mick St Michael, Omnibus Press, 1994, page 33. ISBN 0-7119-3634-X
  19. ^ "The Rolling Stones Tour Statistics – songs played total". setlist.fm. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  20. ^ Saulnier, Jason (8 April 2010). "Chuck Leavell Interview". Music Legends. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  21. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  22. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work – austriancharts.at" (ASP). Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  23. ^ "Top Albums/CDs – Volume 44, No. 5, April 26, 1986". RPM. Archived from the original on 23 September 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  24. ^ "dutchcharts.nl The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work" (ASP). Hung Medien (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  25. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste" (in French). infodisc.fr. Archived from the original on 26 January 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2013.Note: user must select 'The Rolling Stones' from drop-down.
  26. ^ "Album Search: The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work" (ASP) (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  27. ^ a b "Hit Parade Italia – Gli album più venduti del 1986" (in Italian). hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  28. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  29. ^ "charts.nz The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work" (ASP). Hung Medien. Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  30. ^ "norwegiancharts.com The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work" (ASP). Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  31. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  32. ^ "swedishcharts.com The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work" (ASP). Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  33. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work – hitparade.ch" (ASP). Hung Medien (in German). Swiss Music Charts. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  34. ^ "The Rolling Stones > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  35. ^ "Allmusic: Dirty Work : Charts & Awards : Billboard Albums". allmusic.com. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  36. ^ a b c d e f g "Rolling Stones Billboard Hot 100 history". Rovi Corporation / Billboard. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  37. ^ a b "Rolling Stone singles history – Official Charts Company". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  38. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Jahreshitparade 1986". Hung Medien. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  39. ^ "RPM Top 100 Albums of 1986". RPM. 27 December 1986. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  40. ^ "Dutch charts jaaroverzichten 1986" (in Dutch). Archived from the original (ASP) on 21 August 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  41. ^ "Les Albums (CD) de 1986 par InfoDisc" (in French). infodisc.fr. Archived from the original (PHP) on 9 February 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  42. ^ Billboard Magazine – 1986: The Year in Music & Video. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. 27 December 1986.
  43. ^ "International – Mick's Picks" (PDF). Billboard. 5 November 1988. p. 63. Retrieved 30 January 2020 – via American Radio History.
  44. ^ "Canadian album certifications – The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work". Music Canada. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  45. ^ "Les Albums Or :" (in French). Infodisc.fr. Archived from the original on 24 April 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  46. ^ "French album certifications – The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work" (in French). InfoDisc. Select THE ROLLING STONES and click OK. 
  47. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (The Rolling Stones; 'Dirty Work')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  48. ^ "Dutch album certifications – The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Retrieved 16 February 2012. Enter Dirty Work in the "Artiest of titel" box.
  49. ^ "New Zealand album certifications – The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  50. ^ "British album certifications – The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 16 February 2012. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Dirty Work in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  51. ^ "American album certifications – The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 16 February 2012. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit