Have you ever put an album on for the first time and then heard your very soul in the music from beginning to end? For me, this is the one.
Eddie Van Halen once said of AC/DC that “They play the same song over and over again. But it’s a great song.” Dirty Deeds, however, makes a clear departure from the rest of the AC/DC catalogue with both its colorful variety–for any band, and its intense musical portrayals of many distinct moods. It deserves a track-by-track review.
(1) “DIRTY DEEDS DONE DIRT CHEAP”–The drums and rhythm guitar come crashing through your speakers at the same time–with no build up to warn the unwary! The distinctive pounding stickwork sets the theme for the boys as they hit the warpath with this mean rocker. The narrator is marketing his services right to you. The calm of the song, where Bon goes through the various execution choices, is pure evil. And he tops that off by yelling out, “High Voltage!”–a clever and funny alusion to their debut album: AC/DC music will fry you up crispy! If most of the song is boldly sinister, then Angus works up something no less than apocolyptic in the guitar solo. You’ve GOT to hear it!
(2) “LOVE AT FIRST FEEL”–Things calm down just a touch here where we get a pure rock and roll celebration of reckless cheap love! At one point in the song Bon’s lead vocals rise out of the gang chorus, and weave through it. The climactic guitar solo captures the glorious release of this kind of sexuality. Like the rest of Dirty Deeds, you’ve just got to hear it to understand what I mean.
I’d like to field some of the accusations–which over the years have fossilized into standard commentary–that this song and “SQUEALER” seem to generate. Some critics state it as a pure matter of fact that AC/DC glorifies or at least talks about sex with minors. But if you actually listen to the lyrics, you’ll find that there’s no reference whatsoever to school girls, and certainly not to sex with school girls–or minors. “SQUEALER” talks about a virgin, but lots of women keep their virginity into majority anyway. “LOVE AT FIRST FEEL” may in fact tease your imagination in various potential directions with vague lyrics. But in the end, anything you come up with here is, at the very least, your own imagination picking up where the lyics left off. Peoples’ accusations read something into the songs that just isn’t there. So listen and enjoy, with a conscience only as clean as your imagination.(But for those whose minds do seem to meander down that path, check out “JAILBAIT” [Motorhead-"Ace Of Spades"]. With that number, you’ll get a quick ticket to the real deal.)
(3) “BIG BALLS”–This song, along with the title track, play regularly on the local classic rock stations. This frustrates me in a way because DJ’s ignore so many of what have been the most popular songs across the band’s career. On the other hand, I have heard this song hundreds of times over the years, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t keep its freshness and make me laugh every single time! It’s a surprisingly clever and shameless in your face satire–right down to Bon’s exaggerated “classy” accent–of aristocratic society. Just the steady taunt of the ambling rhythm guitar alone heaps on the irreverance! The many original double entendres keep you laughing.
(4) “ROCKER”–This frenetic and fun track, with the choppy and impromptu feel of the lyrics, conveys the pace of a rock and roller’s often equally fast and spontaneous lifestyle. It speeds through and ends just as fast as it started.
(5) “PROBLEM CHILD”–At some points ominous and at other points glorying in defiance, this moderate paced mean rocker would definitely play more if Bon, rest his soul, hadn’t started things off with “F*** this.” But then AC/DC have never exactly bowed to popular acceptance either. I’d have you think of it as the problem song sung by the problem singer of a problem rock ‘n’ roll band. The exquisite guitar solo rages with the angst and aggression of a troubled youth, and is really something to hear.
(6) “THERE’S GONNA BE SOME ROCKIN’”–And, as long as AC/DC is around, you can hang your hat on that. Pure rhythm, pure rock and roll. You could absolutely hit the dance floor with this slower cruising track. (Personally, I think I might like to hook up with the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Queen” of the song.)
(7) “AIN’T NO FUN WAITIN”ROUND TO BE A MILLIONAIRE”–Bon drops the second F-bomb here! Apparently he was quite the sailor. The first part of the song carries the ironic tone of a band in good old fashioned self-deprecation. But then the rhythm picks up and the sun seems to come out–they start thinking that they might make big it after all.
In pace and mood, and topic, this track often resembles the previous one. And nothing could be more just pure rock and roll than what you get between the two.
(8) “RIDE ON”–This is the AC/DC ballad. It has a wistful, bluesy feel throughout and stands in a category all it’s own as far as “rock” “ballads” go. For me it calls up the image of a guy on a bus, looking out the window. He’s got all of his things next to him in canvas sack and he’s reflecting about his troubled life so far as he heads to a new city for a new start. Angus plays a melancholy–but often brisk–solo that weaves in and out of the rhythm guitar, his usual approach to soloing. His brilliant guitar work can capture moods like no other.
(9) “SQUEALER”–In many ways this is the most complex track on the CD. To start, there’s nothing fun or celebrational about it. The mood here is completely dead serious! It is the monologue of a seducer telling of a woman he seduces–more by her surrender to impulse than by her conscious will. The back-and-forth between the very simple, but aggressive, rhythm guitar and the sobering bass line, on the one hand, and then the restrained lead vocals and the jagged and explosive chorus, on the other, combine to render a powerful and chilling musical portrayal of the fear and excitement clashing within the woman (a virgin) being seduced. Again, the mood just comes out of the music in a way I can’t really describe.
I love and would recommend anything by AC/DC. But this disk in particular gives you that fleeting moment in their career where they not only serve up the rock and roll, but also demonstrate sheer mood mastery in the process. They resurrect it just two more times–first on their following US release, Let There Be Rock, with the song “OVERDOSE” and then again four albums later, with “SPELLBOUND” on For Those About To Rock–with Brian Johnson.