"Dirty Water"
Label on the 1965 US single
Single by The Standells
from the album Dirty Water
ReleasedNovember 1965 (1965-11)
RecordedMarch 5, 1965
StudioUniversal Recorders (Hollywood, CA)
Songwriter(s)Ed Cobb
Producer(s)Ed Cobb
The Standells singles chronology
"Don't Say Goodbye"
"Dirty Water"
"Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White"

"Dirty Water" is a song by the American rock band The Standells, written by their producer Ed Cobb.[4] The song is a mock paean to the city of Boston, Massachusetts, and its then-famously polluted Boston Harbor and Charles River.


According to Standells keyboardist Larry Tamblyn, at least some of the song (notably the references to "lovers and thieves") was inspired by a mugging of Cobb in Boston.[5] 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 12 o'clock"—and a passing mention of the Boston Strangler—"have you heard about the Strangler? (I'm the man I'm the man)."


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 No.8. It reached No.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 No.102 on Billboard's Bubbling Under chart in February 1966.

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

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 No.52 and No.39, respectively, during the summer of 1966.

The song is traditionally played by Boston sports teams following home victories. The National Hockey League's Boston Bruins began playing it in 1995,[6] and Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox followed suit after home victories beginning in the 1997 season.[7] The surviving Standells have performed the song at Fenway Park from atop the Green Monster. The famous guitar riff was recorded with a Fender Telecaster 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 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll".[8]

Though the song is credited solely to Cobb, band members Dodd, Valentino, and Tamblyn have claimed substantial material-of-fact song composition copyright contributions to it as well as contributing to its arrangement.[citation needed]


Chart history

Chart (1966) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[9] 11

Covers and samples

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See also


  1. ^ Unterberger, Richie. Song Review by Richie Unterberger at AllMusic. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  2. ^ Seward, Scott (2004). "Nuggets". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 918–919. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  3. ^ Danial Levitin (1 March 2014). The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature. Aurum Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-78131-112-7.
  4. ^ Bruce Pollock (18 March 2014). Rock Song Index: The 7500 Most Important Songs for the Rock and Roll Era. Routledge. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-135-46296-3.
  5. ^ Chris Sweeney (15 May 2016). "50 Years of 'Dirty Water' by the Standells". Boston Magazine. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  6. ^ "I'm Gonna Tell You a Big Fat Story, Baby". Boston.com. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  7. ^ "Red Sox Fans Love Their Dirty Water". bostonspastime.com. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  8. ^ "Experience The Music: One Hit Wonders and The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Rockhall.com. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles, 14th Edition: 1955-2012. Record Research. p. 797.
  10. ^ "Billboard Hot 100: Week of January 19, 1980". Billboard.com. Retrieved April 23, 2022.