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
- 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.
- Played at the memorial service for Stéphane Charbonnier, Paris 2015