Dirty Old Town
|"Dirty Old Town"|
|Single by The Dubliners|
|Genre||Folk, Irish, Pop|
|The Dubliners singles chronology|
The song was written about Salford, Greater Manchester, England, the city where MacColl was born and brought up. It was originally composed for an interlude to cover an awkward scene change in his 1949 play Landscape with Chimneys, set in a North of England industrial town, but with the growing popularity of folk music the song became a standard. The first verse refers to the Gasworks croft, which was a piece of open land adjacent to the Gasworks , and then speaks of the old canal, which was the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal. The line in the original version about smelling a spring on “the Salford wind” is sometimes sung as “the sulphured wind”. But in any case, most singers tend to drop the Salford reference altogether, in favour of calling the wind “smoky”.
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||-|
Recordings and performances
Notable renditions of the song include:
- The first public performance may have been in the play "Landscape with Chimneys", written for Theatre Workshop, produced by Joan Littlewood, 1951
- The first recording, by McColl himself, "Dirty Old Town / Sheffield Apprentice", TRC 56 / 1952
- The flip side of "Hard Case / Dirty Old Town", vocals by McColl and Peggy Seeger, Alan Lomax and the Ramblers, Decca F 10787 (single, UK, 1956)
- Folk singer Jackie Washington on his 1962 album Jackie Washington
- Esther Ofarim in 1963 and 1964
- The Spinners, the Settlers, Donovan, Gary Shearston, and Chad & Jeremy, all in 1964
- The Broadway cast of Wait a Minim! on 1966 London LP, Original Cast Recording by Frank Productions. Featuring Andrew and Paul Tracy, Dana Valery and Nigel Pegram
- Roger Whittaker, on his 1968 album Durham Town
- The Dubliners, charting in the Top 10 in the Irish Charts. Also appeared on their 1968 album Drinkin' and Courtin'
- Rod Stewart, on his 1969 first album, An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down
- The Clancy Brothers, on their 1970 album Flowers in the Valley, sung by Liam Clancy
- Eddie Carr sang "Dirty Old Town" ("F. Virtuoso") as a B-side 45 rpm single on People Records (Hollywood, Ca) produced by Virtue-Stiles 1970
- The Pogues, on their 1985 second album, Rum, Sodomy and the Lash and was later included at the end of the Rescue Me series finale.
- Townes Van Zandt as a limited edition single, recorded September 1996
- The Specials, on their 1996 covers album Today's Specials
- Father Noel Furlong (Graham Norton) sang part of the song in the 1997 Father Ted episode Hell.
- Emscherkurve 77 as "Alte Dreckige Stadt" in German, on their 2001 Album Die Macht Vom Niederrhein
- The Mountain Goats, on their 2002 EP Devil in the Shortwave
- Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, on their 2003 EP, Tell Balgeary, Balgury Is Dead and 2003 film, Dirty Old Town
- Donovan, on his 2004 album, Sixty Four (recorded 1964)
- Frank Black (accompanied by Marty Brown) on his 2006 double album, Fast Man Raider Man
- Lorraine Leckie and her Demons on the 2008 album Four Cold Angels (with Spider Stacy of the Pogues and Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre)
- Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, on their 2009 live album, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Live
- Jon Christos, 2009 limited edition single CD
- Nolwenn Leroy on the 2011 re-release of her album Bretonne
- Bettye LaVette on her 2012 album, Thankful N' Thoughtful
- Played at the memorial service for Stéphane Charbonnier, Paris 2015
- Josh Klinghoffer Of The Red Hot Chili Peppers performed the song in Manchester Arena, Manchester, England during The Getaway World Tour in 2016.