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"Dirty Water"
Single by The Standells
from the album Dirty Water
B-side "Rari"
Released 1966
Genre Rock and Roll
Length 2:48
Label Tower/Capitol
Writer(s) Ed Cobb
Producer Ed Cobb

"Dirty Water" is a 12-bar blues song composed by Ed Cobb and first recorded by the California rock and roll band The Standells in 1966. It is considered a classic of garage rock.

The song debuted April 30, 1966, on the Cash Box charts and peaked at #8. It reached #11 on the Billboard singles charts on June 11. It was the band's first major hit single; their earlier charting record, "The Boy Next Door," had only reached #102 on Billboard's "Bubbling Under" chart in February 1965.

The song is a paean to the city of Boston and its then-famously polluted Boston Harbor and Charles River:

Down by the River...
Down by the banks of the River Charles
(Oh, that's what's happenin' baby)
That's where you'll find me
Along with lovers, muggers, and thieves.
(Ahh, but they're cool people)
I love that dirty water
'Oh oh, Boston, you're my home

In addition to the river, other local interest items in the song include the Boston University co-ed curfew -- "Frustrated women . . . have to be in by twelve o'clock" -- and a passing mention of the Boston Strangler -- "have you heard about the Strangler? (I'm the man I'm the man)".

Dirty Water was also the title of the Standells' most successful LP, their only nationally charting album. This LP charted on both Billboard and Cash Box magazines' charts, peaking at #52 and #39, respectively, during the summer of 1966.

The song was produced by its writer, Ed Cobb, and was originally issued on the Tower label, a subsidiary of Capitol Records.

The Boston Red Sox baseball team is well-known for playing the song immediately following home victories, a tradition that began in the 2001 season. But the tradition started when the Boston Bruins ice hockey team began playing the song following victories in 2000. The surviving Standells have performed the song at Fenway Park from atop the Green Monster.

Covers and samples

  • The song is sampled at the beginning of "These Are the Days," the first track on The Ducky Boys' 1998 album Dark Days.
  • Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band with special guest Peter Wolf closed with "Dirty Water" during their back-to-back shows at Fenway in 2003.
  • U2 included a snippet of the song while playing "Vertigo" during a two-night stand at Boston's TD Garden in December 2005.
  • The Gourds occasionally include the song in their live shows, with Jimmy Smith on vocals.
  • The Buffalo Sabres NHL team plays a cover version of this song before the beginning of the 3rd period. This version substitutes River Charles with Niagara River and Boston is replaced with Buffalo.
  • Dirty Water has been the victory anthem at Fenway Park since 1997.
  • On May 30, 2009, Dave Matthews Band performed this song as part of their encore during a show at Fenway Park.
  • On July 18, 2009, Billy Joel played a snippet of this song during his song, River of Dreams.
  • On July 24, 2009, Steely Dan closed their show at Boston's Wang Theater with this song.

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