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Dirty Water

by

The Standells



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

"Dirty Water" was written by Capitol Records producer Ed Cobb, who was with The Standells at the time. In spite of the fact that the Standells were in California, this song is about the city of Boston and Boston Harbor and Charles River, which were notoriously polluted at the time. This was their first hit single.
The line, "Frustrated women have to be in by twelve o'clock" refers to the curfew observed by Boston University co-eds at the time.
As much of a hit as this song was, Ed Cobb had another song in 1966 that would become even more famous: he wrote a song for then-obscure gospel and R&B singer Gloria Jones. That song languished in obscurity until it was covered in 1981 by a band called Soft Cell. That song is "Tainted Love."
The Standells were pretty happinin' by 1966 standards. They made appearances in 1960s B-list films such as Get Yourself a College Girl and Riot on Sunset Strip. But that's not their greatest credit - that would be an appearance in the TV series The Munsters, episode #26 "Far Out Munsters!" In it, The Standells appear as themselves and offer to pay the Munster family a handsome sum to use their house as a recording studio for a week. The Munster family goes to stay at a hotel, but gets homesick for 1313 Mockingbird Lane and comes back early, only to find The Standells throwing a wild party.
To this day, "Dirty Water" is played at Boston sporting events, specifically after every home victory won by the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, and Boston Bruins.
This song is now considered a classic of the Garage Rock genre. Garage Rock is an under-valued genre of Rock. It starts with late '50s/early '60s bands like The Wailers, The Kingsmen, The Trashmen ("Surfin' Bird"), and The Standells. It continues through The Shondells, Shadows of Knight, ? & the Mysterians ("96 Tears"), and Patti Smith. And it comes all the way up to the present time with The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Von Bondies, and The Detroit Cobras. Other genres spun out from Garage Rock, including Surf Rock, Indie, Proto-Punk (Hello, Velvet Underground!), and Punk Rock.
Drummer and lead singer Dick Dodd bought his first snare drum from fellow Mouseketeer Annette Funicello for $20.
The Standells
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Comments (3):

On January 28th 1967, the Standells performed "Dirty Water" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
Nine months earlier on April 17th, 1966 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on July 3rd, 1966 it peaked at #11 (for 2 weeks) and spent 16 weeks on the Top 100...
It was track five on their album of the same name, the album reached #52 on Billboard's Pop albums chart...
One other track off the album also made the Top 100, "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White", it peaked at #43...
"Dirty Water" was composed by Ed Cobb; he wrote three other songs that made the Top 100; in 1964 Brenda Holloway took his "Every Little Bit Hurts" to #13 (for 2 weeks), then in 1982 Soft Cell reached #8 (for 2 weeks) with "Tainted Love" and it stayed on the Top 100 for an amazing 43 weeks (and only 3 of those 43 weeks were on the Top 10)...
His biggest success was "SOS"; and on May 7th, 2006 Rihanna peaked at #1 (for 3 weeks) with it.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Posting with sadness; Dick Dodd, the Standells' vocalist and drummer, died of cancer on November 29th, 2013 at the age of 68...
May he R.I.P.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
In 1979 the English band The Inmates covered this song, it peaked at No. 51 and it was the only charted record they had in the U.S.A.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
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