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How the AC/DC song “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” was written



How the AC/DC song “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” was written

Known for infectious guitar riffs and solos, AC/DC also needs to be noted for their clever lyrics although many music fans can’t always consider them profound. One of their most beloved songs is “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” which became also the name of their third studio album which was first released only in Europe, Australia and New Zealand in 1976. Only in 1981 it was officially released in the United States when the band already was one of the best-selling of all time.


When “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” was recorded, AC/DC was formed by Angus Young (Guitar), Malcolm Young (Guitar), Bon Scott (Vocals), Phil Rudd (Drums) and Mark Evans (Bass). That record was produced by Angus’ and Malcolm’s older brother George Young alongside Harry Vanda.

But who wrote the famous title track and “T.N.T.” how the song was written? The late legendary guitarist Malcolm Young once revealed that in an interview with Mark Blake in 1992

How the AC/DC song “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” was written according to Malcolm Young:

Like most songs from the Bon Scott era, the track was written by the late vocalist and the brothers Young. According to Malcolm he and Angus came up with the title “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”. It became a common thing in the band, they usually came up with the title of a song before writing the music or the lyrics. That specifically song was inspired by a phrase used by a cartoon character. Then Bon came up with more lyrics after he saw an advert for a mosquito spray.

“We didn’t have much time to do that album. After High Voltage we seemed to be touring constantly. Then we signed the record deal to go over to England and just as we’d completed the tour. They told us we had to do another album. All we did was go straight into the studio after doing the night’s gig and knock up some new ideas.”

He continued:

“It was Angus that came up with the song title – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. It was based on a cartoon character that had the phrase as his calling card [Dishonest John in the TV cartoon Beany And Cecil]. He also recalled how Bon Scott wrote one famous line in the track “T.N.T”, another AC/DC hit. “Then Bon stuck in the line ‘I’m dirty, mean, mighty unclean’ from an advert for mosquito spray that was running on Aussie TV at the time. So yes, we were always a very topical band. We looked at what was happening in the world [laughing],” Malcolm Young said.

When the album was released for the first time in the United States it performed extremely well. It peaked at number 3 on the United States Billboard 200 at the time.

Bon Scott tragically passed away in 1980 at the age of 33 being then replaced by Brian Johnson. Malcolm Young died in 2017 at the age of 64, after years out of the band due to his health.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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