Dirty Work is The Rolling Stones' 18th British and 20th American studio album. It was released on 24 March 1986 on the Rolling Stones label by CBS Records. Produced by Steve Lillywhite, the album was recorded during a period when relations between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards soured considerably, according to Richards' autobiography Life.
The sessions for Dirty Work, the first album under the Rolling Stones' recording contract with CBS Records, began in April 1985 in Paris, running for two months before breaking for a short spell. Mick Jagger had just released his first solo album, She's the Boss, much to Richards' annoyance, since the latter's first priority was the Rolling Stones and he was stung that Jagger was pursuing a career as a pop star. Jagger was often absent from the Dirty Work sessions while Richards recorded with Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts; Jagger's vocal parts were added later on. The divide between Jagger and Richards was on public view on 13 July 1985, when Jagger performed a solo set at Live Aid while Richards and Wood supported Bob Dylan's set on acoustic guitars. Dirty Work was the first Rolling Stones studio album since 1971's Sticky Fingers on which Jagger was not credited with any guitar-playing.
Charlie Watts' involvement in the recording sessions was also limited; in 1994 Watts told Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes that during the 1980s he had been addicted to heroin and alcohol, and that this is why replacement drummers are credited on both Undercover and Dirty Work. Steve Jordan and Anton Fig play drums on some tracks; Ronnie Wood plays drums on "Sleep Tonight." Jagger would later cite Watts' personal state as one of the reasons he vetoed a tour in support of Dirty Work in 1986, preferring to start work on his second album, Primitive Cool.
Four of the album's eight original compositions are credited to Jagger/Richards/Wood and one to Jagger/Richards/Chuck Leavell. Only three are credited to Jagger/Richards, the lowest number on any Rolling Stones album since Out of Our Heads (1965). Dirty Work is the first Rolling Stones record to feature two tracks with Richards on lead vocals ("Too Rude" and "Sleep Tonight").
Following a further month of final recording in July and August 1985 (which saw guest appearances by Jimmy Page, Bobby Womack and Tom Waits), co-producer Steve Lillywhite supervised several weeks of mixing and the creation of 12-inch remixes. On 12 December, Ian Stewart, one of the Stones' founder members and their longtime pianist and road manager, died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 47. As a tribute, a hidden track of Stewart playing Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway" was added to close the album.