Album: Dirty Work
. . .
Written and recorded smack dab in the middle of their nadir, Dirty Work has often been slagged as one of their worst albums, but I like it more than any of their records between Tattoo You and A Bigger Bang.
It’s true that Mick Jagger had snuck a solo deal on top of the Stones’ contract with their new distributor, CBS, and it’s true that Mick immediately went out and cut his solo debut, She’s The Boss, dreaming of glory outside of the context of the band that had helped define him. The apotheosis of all of this was probably Live Aid, when Mick performed as a solo artist and with Tina Turner and Keith and Ronnie backed up a fucked-up Bob Dylan.
As you can imagine, this pissed Keith Richards off, and he wrote a bunch of angry songs in response, which Mick angrily sang. Oh, and toss in Ian Stewart’s death and Charlie Watts dealing with a weird smack addiction, and you have a Rolling Stones album that is no fun whatsoever, recorded in the midst of what Keith called “World War III.”
Which might be what I liked about it, given that 1986 was a no fun year for me, I guess I could relate. And not only it was amazing that the album existed at all — I guess that’s what happens when they back up a dumptruck of money to your house — it rocked the fuck out, even if co-producer Steve Lillywhite made Charlie’s snare sound too much like Larry Mullen, Jr’s for comfort.
But that didn’t bother me: especially compared to the production of contemporaries Bob Dylan on Empire Burlesque and Neil Young on Landing on Water, two albums that got way way way more eightiesized than Dirty Work.
Also helping: Dirty Work starts with an all-time classic rocker, “One Hit (To The Body)” which opens with Ronnie Wood’s guitar tweedling around Charlie’s hi-hat and kick drum and one of those off-balance Keith riffenings where it’s infinity between each chord until Charlie’s snare kicks the song off proper. There’s some amazing guitar interplay between Ronnie — who gets a co-write! — and Keith throughout, even as they play punky chords under the opening verse.
You fell out of the clear blue sky
To the darkness below
The smell of your flesh excites me
Blood starts to flow, so help me God
You burst in in a blaze of light
You unzippered the dark
One kiss took my breath away
One look lights up the stars
One of the more interesting things about “One Hit (To The Body)” is that while the music (and Mick’s vocal) is all lean-ass meanness, they add slick-sounding backing vocals by what is one of the weirdest combinations of people ever: Bobby Womack, Don Covay, Patti Scialfa, Kirsty MacColl & Beverly D’Angelo. But it worked, especially on the chorus.
And it’s, it’s one hit to the body
It comes straight from your heart
(Straight from the heart)
One hit to the body
Sure went straight to the mark
So help me God
This is why I’ve never understood the slaggening of Dirty Work: everything that ever made the Rolling Stones great is all packed up in this song, including the lead guitar, provided by Jimmy Page, who you might remember originally made his name as a session person, and is on fire during the entire song.
Oh your love is a sweet addiction
I can’t clean you out of my veins
It’s a life long affliction
That has damaged my brain
Near the end of the song — after the first solo and after Mick has sung the above verse — there’s a breakdown, and Page and Woody and Keith all trade licks, and it’s really fucking cool. Also really fucking cool: the part near the end where Mick lets one of the background singers — pretty sure it’s Kirsty MacColl — wail “one more straight from the heaar-rrrr-rrrrr-ttt!”
At the end Mick is just pleading “so help me, so help me god / so help me, so help me go-ahha-aaahhh-d” twisting the last syllables of “god” around like a, well, like a Jimmy Page guitar solo, which leads directly into a Jimmy Page guitar solo, twisting and corkscrewing around the fade of the song. After which, of course, Jimmy Page is never heard from again.
“One Hit (To The Body)” was the second single from Dirty Work, which meant, by law, it wasn’t going to chart as well as the first single did. And so while that first single, the tepid “Harlem Shuffle,” made it all the way to #5, “One Hit (To The Body)” topped out at 28, maybe on the strength of the video, which essentially visualized the feud between Keith and Mick.
“One Hit (To The Body)”
“One Hit (To The Body)” Official Promo Video
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