AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
No one wants to admit it, but we’ve all fallen prey to it. You’re driving down the road, taking the tube, shopping in the mall, and all of a sudden, it happens. The song comes on the radio, or on the headphones, and you know it instantly, reflexively. You slowly crank up the volume, tap your toes and start quietly humming along. And you wait for it patiently, the break in the song that signals your participation, the invitation to join in, to wail along at full volume. And then it happens. Without warning you scream or shout the lyrics, to your personal glee and to the embarrassment of your friends and neighbours. Yes, folks, you’ve just become a victim of that most frightening and wonderful category of pop song: the Fist Pump Anthem (FPA).
The FPA comes in many shapes and colors. There are the obvious rawknroll candidates, such as Song 2 by Blur (“WOO HOO!”), the Rolling Stones (“I can’t GET NO! SATISFACTION!”) and Lenny Kravitz (“AREYOUGONNAGOMYWAY?”) Then there are the dance club monsters, best represented by Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (“HEE, HAW, HOOO!”), Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars (“UP-TOWN, FUNK YOU UP, SAID UPTOWN FUNK YOU UP!”) and Tom Jones’ version of Kiss (“THINK I BETTA DANCE NOW!”). And then there are the category-bridging pop classics, with their own special shout-outs: see, for example, George Michael’s I Want Your Sex (“C-C-C-C-C-C’mon!”), These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ by Nancy Sinatra (“Are you ready boots? START WALKIN’!”) and of course, everyone’s favorite by the Spice Girls (“I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I WANNA REALLY REALLY REALLY WANNA ZIG-A-ZIG HA!”) But for me, the all time greatest FPA comes down to three words: DONE. DIRT. CHEAP.
Yes, kids, I’m talking about Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap, the stone cold butt-rock classic FPA from arguably the quintessential FPA band, Australian rockers AC/DC. The title track of the album of the same name, the song was first released in Australia in September 1976, featuring Bon Scott on lead vocals. Like the best FPAs, the song is designed to offend sensitive listeners and to create controversy, all while permitting true fans to raise their fists in musical solidarity. A truly heartwarming ditty, the song serves as an advertisement for the singer’s nefarious services, a business that involves solving a listener’s problems with the opposite sex for a “dirt cheap” rate with “dirty deeds”. Such dirty deeds include the use of such common household products as concrete shoes, cyanide, neckties, contracts, and high voltage. There’s even a helpful number – 36-24-26 – that the listener can call to procure such services, a number which also – shockingly! – represents the ideal measurements of a centrefold. The number also served as the basis for a lawsuit after the song’s release in the US, when a couple in Illinois with the same phone number was inundated with hundreds of prank call requests for “dirty deeds”.
Beyond the prurient content of its lyrics, what takes the song into FPA heaven is its production and vocals. The guitars start out raw, spare and snake-like, with panting back-up chants accompanying the raspy growl of Scott’s vocals. As the verse progresses, these sounds explode into the chorus of the sung words “dirty deeds” followed by the screamed “DONE! DIRT! CHEAP!” And then in the middle of the song, when reciting the actual dirty deeds, each whispered item on the list is followed again by the screams of “DONE! DIRT! CHEAP!” Try to resist singing along and yelling these three words: you will fail.
When the song was first released in Australia, both it and the accompanying album were rejected by Atlantic Records in the US, who were unhappy with the vocals and production. Of course, when the album was finally released in 1980, it became one of the band’s biggest sellers and the title track one of its defining hits. In the UK, the song crept to a lowly no.47, but that didn’t stop it from becoming one of the decade’s most played rock tracks. AC/DC, of course, went on to even greater chart success, becoming one of the best-selling rock bands of all time, and even more importantly, the creators of many superior FPAs, including Highway to Hell, You Shook Me All Night Long and Back In Black. I’m singing along in the car (badly) to all of these as we speak.
Chart peak: 47
Weeks on chart: 3
Who could sing this today and have a hit? I would love to see this redone as a FEA (Female Empowerment Anthem). Fleur East, anyone?