AC/DC Classic “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” Was Actually From a 1960s Cartoon – Here’s How
In 1949, the famous Looney Tunes animator and puppeteer Bob Clampett made his television debut with his imaginative puppet show, Time for Beany. This one-of-a-kind production—which captured viewers’ attention and ran until 1955—staged a colorful comeback when Clampett animated them once more in Beany and Cecil, an ABC television series that debuted in 1962.
A colorful cast of characters, including Beany Boy, astute Cecil, Crowy, and Captain Horatio Huffenpuff, appeared in the animated series. However, among the fanciful stories, an intriguing foe materialized in the shape of Dishonest John.
One particularly interesting set of business cards that this character carried with him said, menacingly, “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Holidays, Sundays, and Special Rates”. Dishonest John’s participation in the animated story had a lasting impact on unexpected places in addition to Beany and Cecil’s universe.
The lines on Dishonest John’s business card reappeared in Angus Young’s mind as AC/DC began recording their third album. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap also turned into a hit song catchphrase that eventually affected and motivated the band’s musical pursuits.
A hard rock gem from the Australian rock titans
“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” is an iconic AC/DC hard rock song written by Angus Young, Malcolm Young, and Bon Scott, the single served as the title piece for their album of the same name, released in September 1976.
It was first released in Australia in October 1976 as a single with “R.I.P. (Rock in Peace)” on the B-side. It then became a maxi-single in the UK in January 1977, with “Big Balls” and “The Jack” serving as B-sides.
With the release of the Dirty Deeds album in the US in 1981, the song acquired even more momentum, with the single (supported by “Highway To Hell”) peaking at number four on the newly created Top Tracks list.
The song’s importance was recognized by VH1, which placed it at number 24 on their list of the 40 Greatest Metal Songs. The song came in at number thirty-one on VH1’s list of the greatest hard rock songs ever recorded in 2009.
The song and lyrics weren’t done cheaply
In keeping with their signature style, AC/DC added a provocative twist to the first half of the lyrics of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”. The story then takes a turn towards the sensual, with the lyrics suggesting a girl’s departure from her unfaithful boyfriend in search of a more satisfying connection: “Pick up the phone, I’m here alone / Or make a social call / Come right in, forget about him.”
The narrative tension builds, moving from the playful flirtation to a darker, more urgent plea for decisive action. The song’s lyrical tone evolves into a more ominous register as it goes along, centering around a persistent woman who refuses to leave a situation: “She keeps naggin’ at you night and day… It’s time you made a stand.”
The lyrics of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” exhibit a dual thematic progression that highlights AC/DC’s skill at incorporating a variety of aspects into their tale. The contrast between the sly and the flirty gives the song more depth and demonstrates the band’s ability to include both subtle narrative depth and raw enthusiasm in their songs.
Essentially, AC/DC skillfully uses lyrical dynamics to tell a complex tale that speaks to the depth and variety of interpersonal interactions.
Lawsuit controversy due to a phone number in the lyrcs
A couple from Libertyville, Illinois, Norman and Marilyn Whitem, filed a lawsuit against Atlantic Records shortly after the publication of AC/DC’s smash song, claiming they were entitled to $250,000 in damages.
Pointing to the line “Just ring, 3-6-2-4-3-6, hey,” which they said sounded like the number eight, the pair claimed that their phone number had been included in the lyrics. They might be reached at 362-4368.
Even with that strange lawsuit, “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” became one of AC/DC’s most well-known songs, peaking at No. 4 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
It is noteworthy that Bon Scott, who sadly died in 1980 at the age of 33, was a part of the song’s initial recording. But later on, AC/DC gave the song another listen and recorded a live version including veteran singer Brian Johnson. This version was included on the group’s 1992 live album “Live,” which helped audiences connect with the classic hymn once more.