The guitarist adds a folky spin to the 1976 hard-rock track, belting about political corruption in a Bob Dylan-esque tone over a stark acoustic riff. “You got a head of state; you want him gone, but you ain’t got the guts,” he sings. “They won’t do what Uncle Sam says, drives the world bank nuts.”
The song veers into a spastic, robotic clavinet solo before building back into a folk-rock direction, as Morello rails against “stolen elections” and “forced confessions” and a president “willing to lie, send young men to die to make a little money for my friends.”
The reworked “Dirty Deeds” will appear on Appleseed’s 21st Anniversary: Roots and Branches, an upcoming compilation celebrating protest music label Appleseed Recordings. Bruce Springsteen, Donovan, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and Tim Robbins also contributed to the 57-track set, out October 19th.
In a statement announcing the compilation, Appleseed founder-president Jim Musselman detailed his goals for the project and Morello’s cover. “Tom is someone I deeply admire for his music and commitment to social justice. ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ is a parody of the original song; Tom wrote it to reflect US foreign policy. It hits at the core of so many things our country is dealing with,” Musselman says. “With the new songs on the first CD of Roots and Branches, I wanted to cover many major issues facing this country: gun control, heroin deaths, the US border, anti-war and violence, the environment, racism and so much more. We as a label have taken stances on so many issues over the 21 years we have been around. We are proud of being on the right side of so many of those issues with our music and our artists.”
Morello also contributed a cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” to the collection. One week prior to the Appleseed release, the guitarist will issue an all-star solo album, The Atlas Underground, featuring collaborations with Big Boi, Killer Mike, RZA and Gary Clark Jr., among others.