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Dirty Water

For other uses, see Dirty Water (disambiguation).
"Dirty Water"
Single by The Standells
from the album Dirty Water
B-side "Rari"
Released 1966
Genre Garage rock, protopunk[1][2]
Length 2:48
Label Tower/Capitol
Writer(s) Ed Cobb
Producer(s) Ed Cobb

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


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

Its Boston and Charles River references are reportedly based on an experience of Cobb and his girlfriend with a mugger in Boston in the mid-1960s.[3] In addition to the river, other local interest items in the song include the Boston University women's 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)." Boston is also home to Simmons College, a women's college that, like many such institutions, had a curfew for students. There is disagreement regarding the identity of the "frustrated women". In a city with many colleges and universities, as well as a large Navy presence (historically), it could be purposefully unspecific.


First issued in late 1965 on the Tower label, a subsidiary of Capitol Records, 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.

Although "Dirty Water" is beloved by the city of Boston and its sports fans, the song actually first became a hit in the state of Florida, first breaking out on WLOF in Orlando in January 1966.

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 is traditionally played by Boston sports teams following victories. The Boston Bruins ice hockey team began playing the song in 1991, and the Boston Red Sox baseball team followed suit after home victories beginning in the 1997 season.[citation needed] The surviving Standells have performed the song at Fenway Park from atop the Green Monster. The song's famous guitar riff was recorded with a Fender Stratocaster through a Vox AC30 amplifier by Standells' guitarist, Tony Valentino. The song is also included in the soundtrack for the film Fever Pitch, which includes the Boston Red Sox leading up to the 2004 World Series.

Dirty Water was included in the influential compilation album Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968, and is listed in the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll."[4]

Covers and samples


  1. ^ Houghton, Mick, "White Punks on Coke," Let It Rock. December 1975.
  2. ^ John Powers, Ron Driscoll. (2012). Fenway Park: A Salute to the Coolest, Cruelest, Longest-Running Baseball Park in America. Running Press. p. 252. ISBN 0762442042. 
  3. ^ O'Nan, Stewart, and Stephen King. Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season. (Note that this book incorrectly refers to The Standells as a Boston proto-punk group, rather than a California garage band.)
  4. ^ "Experience The Music: One Hit Wonders and The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Retrieved 18 December 2014.