My goal for the Spring semester is to finish reviewing all of AC/DC’s international studio album releases. So I’m hoping to cover all of their albums by mid to late March. I reviewed High Voltage (1976) already, so if you haven’t already, go check it out!
The next album on the list is Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976). While Australia and Europe enjoyed the album the year it was released, the U.S. didn’t get it until 1981, a year after former vocalist Bon Scott passed away. So yeah, that was nice. I don’t understand why it took Atlantic, the band’s record label at the time, so long to release the dang album in the states. The A&R people in the U.S. thought the album was too raw, Scott’s lyrics were hard to understand, and that AC/DC wouldn’t get much airplay on the U.S. radio stations. Ha!
When they finally released Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, the band already introduced their new singer Brian Johnson to the world, and they were working on For Those About to Rock We Salute You (1981). I can’t imagine how confusing that must’ve been for fans after listening to Back in Black (1980) with Johnson and then switching to Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap with Scott, especially since both vocalists sound entirely different. It also took away the spark from For Those About to Rock We Salute You because Dirty Deeds sold more copies than the previously mentioned, and AC/DC had to add songs from Dirty Deeds to their setlist for the respective tour.
The international and the Australian releases had different songs, too. Unlike the original album, “R.I.P. (Rock in Peace)” and “Jailbreak” were replaced with “Love at First Feel” and “Rocker.” That irritates me a lot because I love “Jailbreak,” and if I wanted a physical copy of that song, I’d have to buy ’74 Jailbreak (1984) because apparently, Atlantic didn’t think we needed that song! I’m getting worked up here; let’s move on to the songs that are actually on the album.
The dynamic Young brothers kick off the album with “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” and I like it a lot! I know, original, right? It’s got a great riff, Phil Rudd’s drums are kicking, Malcolm Young sings like he has a frog in his throat (thanks for pointing that out, Mike Ladano!), and I love the references to “T.N.T.” and “High Voltage.” Malcolm’s guitar tone is solid on “Love at First Feel,” and Scott sounds like he could woo any woman he wanted to. I couldn’t stop laughing at “Big Balls,” like seriously, how did people think these guys were devil worshippers? Scott sings sarcastically and puts on a show by bragging about having “the biggest balls of them all.”
“Rocker” is an odd one because Scott sings like he’s out of breath. The tempo of the song and the lyrics don’t match up, and the track sounds chaotic. I have precious memories of “Problem Child” because, as noted in my review for Stiff Upper Lip Live (2001), I downloaded the song after watching that concert for the first time. The Young brothers kick you in the face with those riffs, and Angus’ guitar solo is so tasteful. I downloaded the version from Let There Be Rock (1977), and I had no idea Dirty Deeds had the track as well. I prefer the Let There Be Rock version since it’s 20 seconds shorter. I think the version on Dirty Deeds is too long with the instrumental, and Scott is just singing “Problem Child” repeatedly.
“There’s Gonna Be Some Rockin'” features punchy guitar work by the Young brothers, but the lyrics are lame, and the vibe is unsatisfying. Come on, “there’s gonna be some rockin'”? You can do better than that, boys! I didn’t even hear a big bass drum like Scott mentioned. “Ain’t No Fun (Waiting Round to Be a Millionaire)” is another interesting one. I love the riff, and Rudd’s drums are stomping, but like “Problem Child,” it is a bit too long. If it were two minutes shorter, I would’ve loved it, but no, it’s almost seven bloody minutes! The original is seven and a half minutes.
“Ride On” is hands down the best song on the album because it’s a ballad, and it’s so bluesy! Angus delivers all the feels with his guitar solo. And the lyrics too, have a look: “It’s another lonely evenin’ / In another lonely town / But I ain’t too young to worry / And I ain’t too old to cry / When a woman gets me down.” It’s a major mood change from the previous album tracks, for sure. I was going to complain about not hearing the bass, but then “Squealer” comes on, and that is one sick bass riff! Scott is back to being his charming self, Angus’ wild guitar solo is magnificent, and the boys end the album on a high note.
Dirty Deeds isn’t my favorite AC/DC album, but I like it more now than I did six months ago. Again, I can hear the drums, the guitars, and the vocals, but not the bass. It wasn’t until the last song that I finally heard Mark Evans, former bass player for the band. As for Scott’s singing, I can’t make out his lyrics half of the time, and it sounds like he jams all of his words together. I’ll give Atlantic A&R that one. However, Malcolm did a brilliant job on the backing vocals, considering it was just him before Cliff Williams came along. I would give this album 3.5 out of 5, maybe 3 out of 5 stars, because the only standout tracks to me were the title track and “Ride On.”
Let me know in the comments below what your favorite track is from Dirty Deeds!
Take care and see ya real soon!