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39 Years Ago: AC/DC Fashions an Early Classic With ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’

Released internationally in September 1976, AC/DC‘s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap didn’t arrive in the U.S. until after they had already struck platinum with 1980’s Back In Black. The album actually follows paths laid out by initial triumphs like High Voltage and T.N.T.

And it all starts with the classic title song, which features a machine-like riff driving Bon Scott‘s smart, winking lyrics. Like Chuck Berry before him, Scott was capable of taking everyday topics and turning them into street-smart poetry. “Ain’t No Fun (Waiting ‘Round to Be a Millionaire),” “There’s Gonna Be Some Rockin'” and “R.I.P. (Rock in Peace)” aren’t as well known. In fact, “R.I.P” didn’t even make it to the U.S. version of the album, released in 1981. But they’re each prime AC/DC, taking traditional rock ‘n’ roll and making it as loud as possible.

“Problem Child,” which would go on to become a fan favorite, makes its initial appearance here, though it wouldn’t show up in U.S. until 1977’s Let There Be Rock. AC/DC places the song’s main riff at the center, and everything else revolves around it – even the maracas at the end of the song, which elevate it into another dimension. And check out Angus Young: Backed by the killer rhythm section of bassist Mark Evans, drummer Phil Rudd and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, he’s an unstoppable force.

While the double- (and triple-) entendre “Big Balls” is somewhat obvious lyrically, the song at least shows AC/DC’s massive sense of humor. And “Jailbreak” remains a lost classic. It closes the original version of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, but wouldn’t be released in the U.S. until much later. That’s a shame, because, like the rest of this album, it explodes out of the speakers.

When Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap was eventually reconfigured for U.S. ears, it ended up reaching No. 3, going multiplatinum. Today, it remains one of AC/DC’s most popular albums, with or without Bon Scott.

AC/DC Albums, Ranked Worst to Best

This Day in Rock History: September 20

Next: Top 10 Bon Scott AC/DC Lyrics

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