Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '

DigiTrad:
DIRTY OLD TOWN


Related threads:
Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning??? (318)
Dirty Old Town gasworks going :-( (32)
Dirty New Town? (5)
Which Town is MacColl's Dirty Old Town? (192)
Dirty Old Town - pop single 1959! (12)
Lyr Add: Dirty Old Town - new verse (10)
(origins) Origins: Help with 'Dirty Old Town,' please,... (9)
Chords Req: Dirty Old Town (25)
Tune Req: Dirty Old Town and need some more notes (2)
Chords Req: Dirty Old Town - mando tab (7)
Lyr Req: First line of Dirty Old Town (11)


GUEST,skarpi Iceland. 30 Jan 01 - 07:31 AM
Dave the Gnome 30 Jan 01 - 07:36 AM
GUEST,skarpi Iceland. 30 Jan 01 - 07:38 AM
GUEST 30 Jan 01 - 07:59 AM
Garry Gillard 30 Jan 01 - 09:44 AM
English Jon 30 Jan 01 - 09:48 AM
AndyG 30 Jan 01 - 10:13 AM
Rick Fielding 30 Jan 01 - 10:20 AM
RoyH (Burl) 30 Jan 01 - 10:27 AM
Dave the Gnome 30 Jan 01 - 10:33 AM
English Jon 30 Jan 01 - 10:38 AM
Rick Fielding 30 Jan 01 - 10:41 AM
GUEST,Roger the skiffler 30 Jan 01 - 10:49 AM
Dave the Gnome 30 Jan 01 - 11:03 AM
GUEST,Keith A at work 30 Jan 01 - 11:37 AM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Jan 01 - 01:41 PM
Keith A of Hertford 30 Jan 01 - 07:00 PM
Peter K (Fionn) 30 Jan 01 - 08:01 PM
Peter K (Fionn) 30 Jan 01 - 08:01 PM
manitas_at_work 31 Jan 01 - 08:20 AM
English Jon 31 Jan 01 - 08:56 AM
GUEST,Fergus 31 Jan 01 - 01:11 PM
Bert 31 Jan 01 - 02:23 PM
Keith A of Hertford 31 Jan 01 - 03:19 PM
Bert 31 Jan 01 - 03:21 PM
GUEST,Johnny 23 Feb 02 - 06:50 PM
Murray MacLeod 23 Feb 02 - 07:10 PM
kendall 23 Feb 02 - 07:42 PM
greg stephens 23 Feb 02 - 07:50 PM
Murray MacLeod 23 Feb 02 - 07:59 PM
greg stephens 23 Feb 02 - 08:03 PM
Anglo 23 Feb 02 - 08:13 PM
greg stephens 23 Feb 02 - 08:23 PM
greg stephens 23 Feb 02 - 08:38 PM
The Pooka 23 Feb 02 - 09:12 PM
Big Mick 23 Feb 02 - 09:17 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 23 Feb 02 - 09:28 PM
Roughyed 24 Feb 02 - 03:29 AM
Liz the Squeak 24 Feb 02 - 04:14 AM
greg stephens 24 Feb 02 - 04:44 AM
Fiolar 24 Feb 02 - 05:21 AM
greg stephens 24 Feb 02 - 05:30 AM
Skipper Jack 24 Feb 02 - 05:48 AM
Dave Bryant 24 Feb 02 - 06:02 AM
Tam the bam fraeSaltcoatsScotland 24 Feb 02 - 07:21 AM
Susanne (skw) 24 Feb 02 - 06:53 PM
sheila 24 Feb 02 - 07:35 PM
Rick Fielding 24 Feb 02 - 11:45 PM
Jon Bartlett 25 Feb 02 - 03:03 AM
Dave Bryant 25 Feb 02 - 04:57 AM
Steve Parkes 25 Feb 02 - 06:15 AM
Steve Parkes 25 Feb 02 - 09:07 AM
Ringer 25 Feb 02 - 09:44 AM
Dave the Gnome 25 Feb 02 - 09:54 AM
Steve Parkes 25 Feb 02 - 10:38 AM
Susanne (skw) 25 Feb 02 - 05:01 PM
Llanfair 25 Feb 02 - 06:45 PM
Steve Parkes 26 Feb 02 - 12:11 PM
GUEST,Tim'Bo' 26 Jun 03 - 11:20 AM
Dave the Gnome 26 Jun 03 - 11:44 AM
nutty 26 Jun 03 - 12:14 PM
zanderfish3 (inactive) 26 Jun 03 - 01:36 PM
GUEST 19 Mar 04 - 03:55 PM
jacqui.c 19 Mar 04 - 04:24 PM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Mar 04 - 04:28 PM
Strollin' Johnny 20 Mar 04 - 04:44 PM
The Borchester Echo 20 Mar 04 - 04:44 PM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Mar 04 - 05:18 PM
s&r 20 Mar 04 - 05:33 PM
Keith A of Hertford 21 Mar 04 - 08:20 AM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 21 Mar 04 - 07:27 PM
Snuffy 21 Mar 04 - 07:33 PM
Manitas_at_home 22 Mar 04 - 01:35 AM
GUEST 23 Mar 04 - 07:03 AM
Dave Hanson 23 Mar 04 - 07:09 AM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 23 Mar 04 - 02:59 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 Mar 04 - 04:32 PM
GUEST,harleypaul 20 Mar 11 - 02:38 PM
Dave the Gnome 20 Mar 11 - 03:17 PM
Bernard 20 Mar 11 - 03:30 PM
GUEST,Betsy 20 Mar 11 - 04:22 PM
Jim Carroll 20 Mar 11 - 04:36 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 20 Mar 11 - 05:02 PM
Tootler 20 Mar 11 - 05:04 PM
Bernard 20 Mar 11 - 06:02 PM
Tattie Bogle 20 Mar 11 - 08:47 PM
Bernard 20 Mar 11 - 08:59 PM
Rob Naylor 21 Mar 11 - 06:19 AM
Dave the Gnome 21 Mar 11 - 06:46 AM
Jim Carroll 21 Mar 11 - 07:06 AM
Mick Woods 21 Mar 11 - 07:07 AM
Bernard 21 Mar 11 - 07:08 AM
Rob Naylor 21 Mar 11 - 07:25 AM
freda underhill 21 Mar 11 - 07:30 AM
GUEST,Desi C 21 Mar 11 - 07:35 AM
GUEST,guest -jim younger 21 Mar 11 - 08:21 AM
Mick Woods 21 Mar 11 - 08:39 AM
Manitas_at_home 21 Mar 11 - 08:57 AM
harmonic miner 21 Mar 11 - 09:02 AM
harmonic miner 21 Mar 11 - 09:11 AM
Steve Parkes 21 Mar 11 - 01:33 PM
Raggytash 21 Mar 11 - 02:05 PM
GUEST,laszlo 21 Mar 11 - 02:34 PM
Dave the Gnome 21 Mar 11 - 02:38 PM
Dave Roberts 21 Mar 11 - 03:02 PM
Dave the Gnome 21 Mar 11 - 03:36 PM
GUEST 21 Mar 11 - 07:28 PM
harmonic miner 22 Mar 11 - 06:15 AM
GUEST,Desi C 22 Mar 11 - 07:20 AM
GUEST,henryp 22 Mar 11 - 07:24 AM
GUEST,susanc 28 Mar 11 - 12:42 PM
Dave the Gnome 28 Mar 11 - 02:36 PM
GUEST,Peadar (formerly) of Portsmouth 28 Mar 11 - 03:20 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 29 Mar 11 - 10:57 AM
Dave Roberts 29 Mar 11 - 11:22 AM
GUEST,Alan whittle 30 Mar 11 - 02:52 AM
Dave Sutherland 30 Mar 11 - 03:31 AM
Rusty Dobro 30 Mar 11 - 04:05 AM
Smedley 30 Mar 11 - 04:48 AM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 30 Mar 11 - 05:00 AM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:









Subject: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,skarpi Iceland.
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 07:31 AM

Hallo all, who wrote Dirty old town? and is it about Salford town I think its in England?.

All the best skarpi Iceland.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 07:36 AM

Ewan McColl - you are correct on all other scores. The gas works still stands btw - I drive past it every morning!

Cheers

Dave the Gnome


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,skarpi Iceland.
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 07:38 AM

Thank you Dave. skarpi Iceland.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 07:59 AM

Or Jimmy Miller............


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Garry Gillard
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 09:44 AM

Dave, Anything else you can tell us about the words of Ewan MacColl's song? For example, I don't know what a "gasworks croft" is. Or why the girl "springs". Anything really ...

Garry


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: English Jon
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 09:48 AM

Dirty Old Town was definitely written by Ewan McColl in about 1968. My Dad used to know Ewan, longtimeago.... so we know this is true.

Cheers,

Jon


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: AndyG
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 10:13 AM

A croft is a piece of waste-ground. At the time the song was written this was often a WWII bomb-site. The "gasworks croft" would be a desolate piece of ground hard by the gasworks.

Spring is a season of the year :)
ie Spring's a girl... note my apostrophe, (not in the DT).

AndyG


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 10:20 AM

Great song Skarpi. Probably one of the most Mis-identified pieces of music ever written. I've had people INSIST that it was about Glasgow, Newcastle, Dublin(!!) and even Liverpool. MacColl told of fishermen scoffing at the idea that he wrote "Shoals of Herring". "That song's been in my family for 100 years" they'd tell him.

That's when you know you've been successful as a "folk" writer.

Rick


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 10:27 AM

Yes, the 'Dirty Old Town'is Salford, scene of Ewan MacColl's childhood and adolescence. He wrote the song in 1950 to cover a set change in the Theatre Workshop production of 'Landscape with Chimneys', a Ewan MacColl play. There is a good version of it on 'BLACK & WHITE, EWAN MAcCOLL -THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION'on Cooking Vinyl Records,COOKCD 038.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 10:33 AM

Hiya Gary - Gasworks Croft is an easy one. A croft in this sense of the word is a bit of urban wasteland - Imagine old demolished building re-claimed by nature; full of Rose-Bay willow herb, dock, dandelion, old bricks etc. and you have a croft. Unlike the Scotish or Irish crofts which are 'small-holdings'. I guess the words have the same roots though.

The gasworks is where the coal gas for lighting/heating/cooking etc. was manufactured by heating coal until it gave off the gas to be stored in the Gasometers - which are the remaining bits! The other by-product was coke - coal with the combustible gases extracted. Dunno the full implications but it was used in other industries. So - Gasworks croft - bit of waste land at the side of the gasworks!

Springs a girl etc. Bit more difficult. Clever play on words by McColl??? A girl springs from nowhere? Spring is like a girl? I guess some 'McCollogists' in the cafe will know:-)

You need to know Salford, in particular 'Hanky (Hankinson)Park' to realy get into what McColl was trying to put across but his song is still a pretty good description of old Salford.

Try watching the 1961 film "A taste of honey" for a feel for Salford in the late 50's/early 60's. As well as being, IMO, a classic northern-gritty drama, a lot of it was filmed on location in Salford. For earlier history "Hobsons Choice" would be a goodread. Lowry's paintings give a good view as well and to round off the picture check out Salfords web site here to see how (again in my opinion) the council is now bugering things up!

Enjoy anyway and if you want answers to specific questions please fire away.

Cheers

Dave the Gnome


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: English Jon
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 10:38 AM

1950... older than I thought. Definitely by Ewan though. Shoals o' herrin' is a mighty song too.. might dig that one out.

Jon


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 10:41 AM

Thanks for the Salford info Dave. Interesting.

Rick


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 10:49 AM

Now I don't like to be pedantic (LOL!) but I believe what I have always called gasometers as Dave does, are officially gasholders. Unrelated trivia thread creep: I understand the ones by King's Cross station in London are being demolished for development of the site and then re-erected afterwards as listed industrial heritage structures, though no-one knows what use to make of them!
RtS( who was brought up within sight and smell of Saltley gasworks in Birmingham so this song has always held resonances for me).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 11:03 AM

I guess there must be something politicaly incorrect in gasometers if the powers that be now call them gasholders then...;-)

Use for old gasholders then????

New millenium dome (better than the last one)
Wall of death (Richard Thompson related thread)
House the contents of the Tate gallery (The new Lowry centre in Salford looks like a gasometer - why shouldn't London art suffer the same fate?)

Any more ideas???

Cheers

DtG


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,Keith A at work
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 11:37 AM

Compare with his other song of love in the city "Sweet Thames Flow Softly" I think he must have lost his hard Northern edge when he came to London.
If you know them , it,s hard to think of Wapping and the Isle Of Dogs as romantic placenames.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 01:41 PM

"It,s hard to think of Wapping and the Isle Of Dogs as romantic placenames."

No it's not - it all depends what happens to you there. I think that's part of what Ewan is getting at - in the context of a romance, all places become romantic. Anyway you get great sunsets from the Isle of Dogs sometimes.

I can never hear the line "springs a girl in the streets at night" without getting a vision of some Jill the Ripper character.

One thing about the old gasworks - they realy were smelly places, and the whole area around reeked of them. That wouldn't have needed pointing out at the time, but nowadays people don't have that association, because the gas pumped in from the North Sea doesn't have the smell.

I've got the feeling the song is a bit earlier than 1968. I'm sure I remember Ewan singing it in the Ballads and Blues Club in Soho Square in the late 50s.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 07:00 PM

He wrote it in 1950.
I think he meant that the sight of a pretty young girl in a summery frock was the only sign of the easing of Spring.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 08:01 PM

Keith at work, as a northerner, I've got to say that some of those east London placenames sound evocative to me: Spitalfields, Whitechapel, Limehouse, Canary Wharf, Walford.... (only kidding). English Jon, our guest is also right, the song was definitely written by Jimmy Miller, who became better known as Ewan McColl.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 30 Jan 01 - 08:01 PM

Keith at work, as a northerner, I've got to say that some of those east London placenames sound evocative to me: Spitalfields, Whitechapel, Limehouse, Canary Wharf, Walford.... (only kidding). English Jon, our guest is also right, the song was definitely written by Jimmy Miller, who became better known as Ewan McColl.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: manitas_at_work
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 08:20 AM

DtG wrote: House the contents of the Tate gallery (The new Lowry centre in Salford looks like a gasometer - why shouldn't London art suffer the same fate?)

Well the modern Tate is housed an the old Bankside powerstation - will that do?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: English Jon
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 08:56 AM

He changed his name? Never knew that either. Just goes to show you learn something new every day here.

Cheers, Jon

Deptford, incidentaly, IMHO is the most romantic place in the world.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,Fergus
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 01:11 PM

A great Ewan McColl song, being done to death these days but yet it survives. One thing I find interesting about the words is the fact that it is a non-rhyming poem.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Bert
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 02:23 PM

Way to go Skiff!

It's a Gasholder or sometimes Gas Holder, because that's what it does. A gasometer is a device that measures gas, some of which look like small gasholders. The public acceptance of the wrong term is due to the press who often manage to get things wrong.

If you're interested, Fulham Gasworks, claims to have the oldest gasholder in the world. 1860 something, I think.

Bert.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 03:19 PM

But the gas holder goes up and down according to how much gas is in it. That means that the gas holder is a gasometer.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Bert
Date: 31 Jan 01 - 03:21 PM

Yup, but that's not what it's for, that's just a side effect.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,Johnny
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 06:50 PM

A year to late but Ewan Macoll wrote it


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 07:10 PM

Well, I am glad that's finally been settled ...

Murray


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: kendall
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 07:42 PM

met my love by the gasworks croft..romantic it aint!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: greg stephens
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 07:50 PM

ok, but who played (a) guitar (b) harmonica and(c) clarinet on the 45 single (the one by ewan mccoll i mean). and what was on the flipside? youve got five minutes


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 07:59 PM

Diz Disley ? Larry Adler? Acker Bilk ?

Murray


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: greg stephens
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 08:03 PM

(a) no (b) no (c)no. sorry, no Suckadork LP


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Anglo
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 08:13 PM

Well greg, I have a record with sons Calum & Neill on guitar, Chris Taylor on harmonica, and Bruce Turner on clarinet. But that's probably not the one you mean :-)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: greg stephens
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 08:23 PM

that is very interesting. when was that? was it a single ? i am thinking of a Decca single,not sure what year, i havent unpacked everything since moving house, so i cant check.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: greg stephens
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 08:38 PM

this is even more interesting, i just thought i'd check myfacts and found a pretty definitive looking website with discography, and my single isnt on the list. maybe i've got a COLLECTOTS ITEM?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: The Pooka
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 09:12 PM

Great information. Thanks.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Big Mick
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 09:17 PM

One of the most interesting threads in a while. Thanks for correcting a misconception I had.

I love the bit about "The Shoals of Herring", Rick.

Mick


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 23 Feb 02 - 09:28 PM

Whereas Kieran Kane wrote a great song titled, Dirty Little Town.

Jerry


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Roughyed
Date: 24 Feb 02 - 03:29 AM

You have to remember that this song was written before the clean air acts. Salford, like the rest of industrial Lancashire was a smoky, dirty wasteland. Ewan was trying to reclaim romance for the industrial working class from the pastoral moon spoon June Tin Pan Alley stuff . His point is that for the working class the surroundings were awful but they were still special when you were in love. And growing up just next to Salford, it is true.

I once sang this song on a march for jobs as we were marching through Salford. I looked behind me and the banner behind was for the Communist Party of Great Britain. One of those moments when everything comes together.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 24 Feb 02 - 04:14 AM

He changed his name? Never knew that either. Just goes to show you learn something new every day here.

English Jon - he changed EVERYTHING about himself. He totaly re-wrote his own life history. There are two seperate histories, Jimmy Miller and Ewan McColl, and at some point they were one and the same person, but only fleetingly. It's almost like the plot of Total Recall (We can remember it for you wholesale, by P K Dick), Jimmy Miller suddenly became Ewan complete with memories of a fake childhood and working history.

LTS


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: greg stephens
Date: 24 Feb 02 - 04:44 AM

Anybody ever heard the legendary Ewan McColl recording of "John Henry" from the skiffle era? If you're not au fait with the details of political squabbles on the English folk scene inthose days, the reason why it was so funny wasthat in later years Ewan was adamant and quite ruthless in imposing on younger singers his theory that you should only sing songs from your Own Culture ( he had a few problems in deciding what his own culture was, part of the whole Jimmy Miller/Ewan McColl bit). But it is fairly clear that his own life history did not include being a steel-drivin' man at the Big Bend tunnel on the C&O road. Just having a little laugh, by the way: he was a genius and his "Radio Ballads" completely changed my life.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Fiolar
Date: 24 Feb 02 - 05:21 AM

I worked in Lancashire before the Clean Air Act and working in a hospital, a regular part of the hygiene was to wash the window ledges. If the wind was from the South (ie from the industrial area) you could guarantee that 30 minutes after cleaning there was soot again on the surface. As for the ultimate recording of "Dirty Old Town" it is definitely by The Dubliners.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: greg stephens
Date: 24 Feb 02 - 05:30 AM

People justiying singing contemporary songs in folk clubs tend to justify it all by some wonderful thing that will happen to the songs when they are "accepted by the people" and "absorbed into the tradition" or however the concept is expressed. Judging by pub sing songs all over the country, songs you get requested everywhere etc etc, i think this wonderful thinghas only happened once in england since the folk revival started (not a great success rate considering how the singer songwriters have been churning it out for 50 years). And it happened with the Dubliners record of "Dirty old town". fair play to the lads.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Skipper Jack
Date: 24 Feb 02 - 05:48 AM

Dirty Old Town could be a description of any old industrial town. Maybe That was what Ewan MacColl intended?

I remember going past the docks area in my home town and "Dirty Old Town" was and apt description of the area.

From my bedroom, I could hear the old steam engine shunting goods wagons all through the night. I grew up with that.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 24 Feb 02 - 06:02 AM

Poor Ewan/Jimmy was the butt of many jokes on the folkscene in the mid-60s (probably due to jealousy), when he was often referred to as "God". I think this came from a joke which went as follows:

A man knocks on the pearly gates and asks to come in to Heaven. St Peter asks him what he did on earth and he says that he was a doctor. "What sort of doctor ?", asks Peter. "A General Practioner", answers the man. "Oh we don't need any of those" says Peter, "Nobody ever gets ill here - go down to purgatory and come back in a thousand years". Another doctor, a gynecologist, asks for admission and is also sent down to purgatory because "No one gets pregnant up here". A third doctor asks for entry and when he tells Peter that he's a psychiatrist, Peter exclaims, "Come in we need you - God thinks he's Ewan McColl !".

I have also heard Ewan and Peggy called "Jimmy Miller and Mrs Campbell". While I won't go into the origins of this, a clue may be found in Cyril Tawney's song "New names for Old".


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Tam the bam fraeSaltcoatsScotland
Date: 24 Feb 02 - 07:21 AM

there's a Ewan McColl song book out called the essential Ewan McColl songbook it's published by oak publications.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 24 Feb 02 - 06:53 PM

Let's hear the man himself - even if this was written after he'd metamorphosed into Ewan MacColl for good (incidentally, his ex-wife Joan Littlewood claims the name-change became necessary after Jimmy Miller had deserted from the army)

[1990:] Sometimes from the vantage point of the Peel Park reading room I would gaze out over [Salford] with its endless streets of identical houses, its rampart church spires and its innumerable factory chimneys pointing accusing fingers at the sky. Even from a distance it looked moribund, a 'place much decayed', and yet I was stirred by it, filled with a disturbing kind of enthusiasm. In the shabby wilderness, with its mean streets and silent cotton mills looking like abandoned fortresses, in those geometrically arranged warrens and occasional clusters of bug-infested dwellings built in the reign of daft George for 'the better class of artisan', in that wasteland of rotten timbers and rusting iron, of a fouled river and an abandoned canal, a quarter of a million people are born, live and die. It is my Paris. [...]

What is it I feel for this place? Hatred? Yes, most of the time, but not all the time. Not all the time. [...] Sometimes lying in bed at night I am overcome with the awful fear that I will never escape from this place, that I am trapped and destined to live out my life in this awful ratpit. [...] Of course I hate it, I loathe it, I am scared of being devoured by it; and yet, though I live to be a hundred, it is unlikely that I will ever come to know any place as well as I know this one. That smoke-encrusted brick was among the first things I ever saw. I have absorbed this place through the palms of my hands; the soles of my feet have walked, run, slid, hopped, jumped and skipped along its flagstones and cobbles, through its roads and alley-ways, ist detours and short cuts, its dumps, cinder-crofts and parks.

My nose is equally familiar with the place. If I were to walk blindfold through this labyrinth of odours, my nose would guide me like a well-trained bloodhound. [...] There's smells and smells, of course. On the whole, the smells of winter are bearable; half the time we don't even notice them. After all, you've had them in your nostrils since the day you were born. In the summertime they are less easy to put up with because then, in addition to the smell of this or that factory or industrial process, there is the stink of sewers and - even worse - the stench that issues from the few houses in the street where the struggle against dirt and squalor has been abandoned. It isn't easy to live in a constant state of siege, with dirt as the enemy. (MacColl, Journeyman 180ff)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: sheila
Date: 24 Feb 02 - 07:35 PM

Dave Bryant - I believe there was a thread about Mr & Mrs Campbell and Jimmy Millar, a year or so back (unless I'm thinking of uk.music.folk?)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 24 Feb 02 - 11:45 PM

MISTER Campbell was the first UK folksinger I ever saw live in the flesh, when he visited the Riverboat in Toronto (The Clancy's don't count). Considering that I thought MISSUS Campbell to be the sexiest banjo player (from her 8 by 10) that I'd ever seen...I was SOOOO jealous!! ...till the ACTUAL story came out.

Rick


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 25 Feb 02 - 03:03 AM

I know that Ewan wound a lot of people up with his notion of singing songs from your own culture. It's very easy to cut large holes in the theory, and I've done it myself (what is a middle class southerner like myself to sing? Copper family rubbish? Rural shepherdesses? How is this stuff closer to me than a) Durham mining songs or b) picking bales of cotton? NONE of it is relevant to me in the sense that it's my own culture: these three above named are all equally foreign.

BUT, that said, does anyone want to argue that there'd be any British folk song at all if someone like Ewan hadn't DEMANDED that Brits make and reflect on their own culture? I'm speaking from the perspective of Canada, which never made its own such demands in the 60's and is now left with either a spurious "Celtic" culture or Stan Rogers fan clubs.

Ewan took up the challenge of thinking through the relevancy of rural-based folk song and searching, with others, for the industrial parallels. I don't think he found much, but he made valiant attempts to fill the lacunae he found, with his own and others' songs, in the pages of New City Songster.

Please excuse the rant and interpret my words broadly. I sing Copper family songs myself but only for personal pleasure. I do draw the line at Celtic twilight and S. Rogers, both for me unbearably sentimental.

By the by, can anyone place the tune of Dirty Old Town? I've found a possible source - a US version of "Lady Gay" (i.e. "The Wife of Usher's Well", Child 79).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 25 Feb 02 - 04:57 AM

"New Names for Old" is definitely about Peggy's marriage (of convenience) to Alex Campbell while he was waiting for his divorce to come through. I believe that the subsequent divorce/anullment took longer than planned because Alex found other uses for the money he was sent to start the legal proceedings.

One of the things that used to annoy some people was that Ewan used to drive (what was then) a quite upmarket car (Citroen DS) and lived in a house in Park Langley, Beckenham - hardly in the price range of the average manual worker that he championed

The song "Sweet Thames flow softly" was written as a commision for a BBC program. I think that the title line was borrowed from a much older book title.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 25 Feb 02 - 06:15 AM

"Sweet Thames ..." is from a poem by ... aagh! The Brain Fairies strike again! He was Dean of St Paul's in the 18th century--any offers?

Twenty-odd years ago, ITV (UK tv network) serialised the "Flambards" novels by someone else whose name escapes me. It was set in a big country house in the early years of the twentieth century, and towards the end of the series, the two sons, home from the Great War, sat in the kitchen with the heroine; they gradually worked their way through the remainds of the wine cellar and sang a number of real ol-time folk songs, like "The foggy, foggy dew" (American version) in front of a respectable English young lady and "The shoals of herring". Laugh? I nearly joined the PRS!

Steve


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 25 Feb 02 - 09:07 AM

It was John Donne, of the Metaphysical Poets, 16th-17th century. "My mind is going, Dave ..."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Ringer
Date: 25 Feb 02 - 09:44 AM

Not Edmund Spenser, Steve?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 25 Feb 02 - 09:54 AM

I think Mr Mac may have been indulging in a little poetic license - not that I begrudge him that, I have been known to stretch the facts a little on occasion!

I am not sure where the reading room at Peel Park would have been in his day but the building is surrounded by 1. The Old Salford Art College (now part of the Universty) - A beutiful gothic style red brick building. 2. A magnificent row of Georgian Houses and 3. Peel Park - One of the most open and green places in the City. The fourth side now holds Maxwell Hall - part of the Uni built since his day but, as far as I remember, there were never any terraced streets on that site and if there were they only covered a tiny area.

I think he was quite correct in his observations however and I distinctly remember the awful old slum dwellings as they were peeled away like layers of decay in the 1960's to make room for Salfords very own brave new world. Which in turn became the high rise nightmare that a mere 30 years later needed demolishing itself! Why did the planners not learn? Or did they - but were just as greedy as the mill owners themselves?

Come back Jimmy, all is forgiven. Write us a song about the clean new town, with all it's drug problems, crime and social imperfections...

Cheers

Dave the Gmome
(Feeling rather moribund himself at the mo;-) )


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 25 Feb 02 - 10:38 AM

You prove my point, Bald Eagle!

Dave (the Gnome), "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions" as Dr Johnson (definitely!) said. I remember the wonderful scale models of proposed town centre developments that were exhibited in Walsall in the sixties. They were originally made in the late forties by council planners expecting government grants--not developers looking for huge profits--when the post-war reconstruction was being planned (not that Walsall town centre got much in the way of bomb damage). They would have looked rather like the centre of Birmingham today, with tunnels and flyovers taking the traffic right into (or under) the heart of the town; all bright and clean and modern and exciting, not dirty and polluted and scruffy, and symolising the Rise Of The Nation From The Horrors Of War, etc. etc.

Even that old favourite nuclear power was intended to make something beneficial and clean out of something evil and foul (at least by many scientists with bad feelings about Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

But man proposeth and God disposeth (who said that?), and the best-laid plans turn out as lemons. I sometimes have a dreadful worry that when our children take their turn at clearing up the mess that their parents' generation bequeathed them, they'll make as bad a pig's ear of it as we have.

Steve (I'm not sure I want my mind back now!)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 25 Feb 02 - 05:01 PM

Dave, Ewan's eyes probably were a lot better in the Thirties than yours! :-) Thanks for the feedback! This is what makes the Mudcat so interesting ...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Llanfair
Date: 25 Feb 02 - 06:45 PM

To get a good idea of life in Salford earlier last century, "Shabby Tiger" and "Rachel Rosing" by Howard Spring are the most evocative.

Being born and brought up in post-war Manchester, I love the song. It reminds me of a summer evening when I was doing a gig at a club in Salford in the '60's. As we approached by car, the air smelled of chips, exhaust fumes, pollution, and an indefinable excitement about the evening ahead.

The pavements were still hot, and there were weeds growing in a neglected, tiny front garden. Even these had a smell of their own.

I remember nothing about the gig itself!!!!

Cheers, Bron.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 26 Feb 02 - 12:11 PM

BTW, I've read Walter Greenwood's "Love on the dole", so I know about Salford in the thirties ...

Steve


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,Tim'Bo'
Date: 26 Jun 03 - 11:20 AM

Where can I find the complete word's and music to 'Dirty Od Town'?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 26 Jun 03 - 11:44 AM

Words and tune are right here Tim 'Bo'. Not sure where you would get the dots.

Cheers

DtG


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: nutty
Date: 26 Jun 03 - 12:14 PM

The tune is here on the alternative Digital Tradition

Dirty Old Town


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: zanderfish3 (inactive)
Date: 26 Jun 03 - 01:36 PM

Ewan actually wrote ' Dirty Old Town ' in 1946 for a Theatre Workshop
production called ' Landscape With Chimneys '


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 03:55 PM

Don't forget that Ewan McColl also wrote "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" which has since been covered by many international artists.

A good Salford lad!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: jacqui.c
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 04:24 PM

And that's one of the most beautiful love songs ever written. I wasn't keen on the Peggy Seager version but loved Roberta Flack's. Oh to be able to sing that one!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 04:28 PM

I prefered it when Ewan sang it. I remember when he sang it at Ballads and Blues Club in Soho Square. First time I'd heard it - I'm not sure it wasn't the first time he'd sung it in public. Not the kind of song you really expected from him. Could have heard a pin drop.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Strollin' Johnny
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 04:44 PM

DtG et al, it's nothing to do with being PC, their correct name has ALWAYS been Gasholders. In 1957, aged 10, I was taken on a tour of our local gasworks and the guide was at great pains to tell us that the proper name for the large round tanks was 'Gasholder' and definitely NOT 'Gasometer'. 'Gasholder' = vessel for storage of gas (which is what they were), 'Gasometer' = instrument for measuring gas (which is what they were not).

OK, I know I'm pedantic, but I like this kind of trivia. Need to get out more.........................

Johnny :0)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 04:44 PM

That's where I first heard him do it, maybe it was the same night? Ewan very rarely sang it. I recall only one other occasion, at the Singers' Club in the Union Tavern when the effect was the same - everyone there was stunned.

It was, after all, written for Peggy which is why I suppose she usually sang it herself. But I too preferred Ewan's version.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 05:18 PM

I don't know if he ever recorded it. Likely not. As well as the ones mentined, you've got Elvis Presley, Shirley Bassey, Celine Dion, Johnny Cash...But not Ewan MacColl. (It must be on tape somewhere though.)
......................

Gasholder may have been correct, but "Gasometers" were what people called them. Except when "gasworks" was used, eqally incorrectly, as in:

Though the gasworks isn't wilets,
they improve the local scene
For mountains they would very nicely pass...

(From If it wasn't for the 'ouses in between.)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: s&r
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 05:33 PM

Concise Oxford Dictionary says that gasometer and gasholder mean exactly the same. You measure gas with a gas meter

Stu


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 21 Mar 04 - 08:20 AM

I assumed they were called gasometers because they went up and down according to how much was stored.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 21 Mar 04 - 07:27 PM

How did the word, "croft" get into the song? It was, "wall," back in '52 when we (George & I) were going to London singing parties in that fleeting time when Ewan was sometimes Jimmy and sometimes Ewan. I remember Isla Cameron getting us tickets to a Theatre Workshop evening, and there was a modern-dance interpretion of the song. It began, "I met my love by the gasworks wall,
       Dreamed a dream by the old canal..." etc.
Also, isn't "croft" a word used in Scotland meaning a small farmhouse and its surrounding fields and buildings? Just curious.   Jean


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Snuffy
Date: 21 Mar 04 - 07:33 PM

Gasworks croft
Factory wall


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 01:35 AM

I'm sure the meaning of croft has come up in other threads. A small area of land. In Hastings there is a street called The Croft and the land on which the Scout Hut stands is known as the Scout-Croft. The area beneath a church is often called the undercroft.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 07:03 AM

I was born in Salford in 1954 and this song is without doubt the best, and most evocative of my childhood i too used to cycle past the "Gasometors" on liverpool street on my way to work on the Cresent overlooking the dirty river Irwell.. oh my i will have to go back and find my roots now being a soft southerner

I met my love by the gas works wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
Kissed a girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

Clouds a drifting across the moon
Cats a prowling on their beat
Spring's a girl in the street at night
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

Heard a siren from the docks
Saw a train set the night on fire
Smelled the spring on the smoky wind
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

I'm going to make me a good sharp axe
Shining steel tempered in the fire
Will chop you down like an old dead tree
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

I met my love by the gas works wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
Kissed a girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
Dirty old town


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 07:09 AM

It's CROFT, I have a very early version of Ewan singing it plus a newer version and he always sang CROFT. In the Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook, croft is used and Peggy explains what it means.
eric


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 02:59 PM

Well I stand corrected, and thanks...never saw the song written out, so one in this case hears the more familiar word (wall), I guess. It matters not to me; what it causes me to remember is the wonderful singing parties we used to have, back in 1952-53 (my year as a Fulbright student). We gathered in each other's flats- Ewan, Isla, Theo Bikel (he was playing in, "Love of Four Colonels" nearby), Alan Lomax, Peter Kennedy, Seamus Ennis, Bert Lloyd, Humphrey Littleton one night, Shirley Collins... what marvellous times! I have the tape made when the party was in our flat- and Louise Bennett was there, passing though town! Ewan and I had a friendly rivalry over ballads- he'd sing one, prefacing his performance by saying how Appalachians always took all the energy and drive out of the ballads- with a grin at me. I'd counter by singing something like, "False Sir John,"a lively one in which the lady turns the tables on her kidnapper by pushing HIM into the sea (his back is turned at her request while she removes her costly clothing- at his request). Much fun and laughter, despite the sad plight of Sir John.

Thanks for the memories.          Jean


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 04:32 PM

Though it's true that "Sweet Thames run softly" is a quote from Edmund Spenser, the most probable source of it, for this purpose, would have been from a 1940 and 1947 book of the same name, by Robert Gibbings, author of a series of small scale travel books with his own beautiful woodcut illustrations.
.........................

"I met my love by the gasworks croft fall" is not really a singable line, though Ewan coukd probabaly have got away with it. Better, "by the gasworks croft" - the rhyme scheme doesn't call for a rhyme there anyway. I can't remember how Ewan sang it, but if he did have the line used in Digital Tradition, I'd reckon he was playing games.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,harleypaul
Date: 20 Mar 11 - 02:38 PM

Rod Stewart covered this song on his An old raincoat will never let you down ,album,he sings "smelled the spring on the Salford wind,dirty old town ,dirty old town."    I was born a hundred yards away from Jimmy Millers home in Coburg st ,Lower Broughton,Salford ,in Dalley st.There is nothing left of the foul two up two down terraced slum area that Miller sings about.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 20 Mar 11 - 03:17 PM

Rod Stewart covered this song on his An old raincoat will never let you down ,album,he sings "smelled the spring on the Salford wind,dirty old town ,dirty old town."

Good reason to sing the original smokey wind I guess then :-)

There is nothing left of the foul two up two down terraced slum area that Miller sings about.

I guess you have not been to Lower Broughton for a long time then, harleypaul. The two up, two down terraced slums, that were not really the 'Hanky Park' slums that everyone has in mind, are now the big Victorian houses in Higher and Lower Broughton, converted into seedy, tiny flats for students, East Europeans and Asians. It has not really changed.

DeG


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Bernard
Date: 20 Mar 11 - 03:30 PM

I've always been particularly fond of the imagery of 'Saw a train set the night on fire' - because I still remember the steam era from my childhood, and that's exactly how a steam train looked at night.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,Betsy
Date: 20 Mar 11 - 04:22 PM

springs a girl - just another way of saying a girl suddenly appeared
(out of nowhere)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Mar 11 - 04:36 PM

"There is nothing left of the foul two up two down terraced slum area that Miller sings about."
Wonder if Robert Zimmerman will ever get round to recording it - or maybe he's too busy finishing off Under Milk Wood!!
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 20 Mar 11 - 05:02 PM

I could never understand why the follow-up, - 'Filthy Old Village' never really took off in quite the same way.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Tootler
Date: 20 Mar 11 - 05:04 PM

Good reason to sing the original smokey wind I guess then :-)

AFIK, the original was "Salford Wind". That was certainly how I first heard it when I was a student at the Royal College of Advanced Technology (which later became Salford University) in the mid 1960s


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Bernard
Date: 20 Mar 11 - 06:02 PM

Yup, Tootler, that's what I always sing, too.

Chris Sugden (aka Sid Kipper) sings:
He sleeps down by the gasworks end
Takes his meals from a rubbish can
Dreams his dreams of scantilly clad blondes
Dirty old man
Dirty old man

Alas, he only ever collected the one verse...

;o)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 20 Mar 11 - 08:47 PM

The Pogues also covered it: we once got asked to sing "that Pogues song" - "Dirty Old Town"!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Bernard
Date: 20 Mar 11 - 08:59 PM

Apparently it's a traditional Irish song...!! Hah!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 06:19 AM

Along with "Fiddler's Green", "Black Velvet Band", "Who Knows Where The Time Goes", "Tom Paine", etc, etc!!!

In fact, anything ever covered by The Clancy Brothers, The Chieftains, The Dubliners or The Pogues automatically becomes "Trad. (Irish)"!!!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 06:46 AM

It's also on a compilation I have called the best of Scottish folk! Sung by the man himself who distincly says smokey wind:-P Don't I remember having this dicussion not to long ago and someone posting that Peggy actualy says it is smokey because, although it was written about Salford, Ewan wanted it to portray any industrial town? Maybe I dreamt it...

D.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 07:06 AM

"Ewan wanted it to portray any industrial town? Maybe I dreamt it..."
No you didn't.
A personal rule for virtually all his own songs was "start at the specific and move to the general - that way you transfer it from a personal experience to one others can identify with".
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Mick Woods
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 07:07 AM

Rob. There is a great tradition alive in Ireland of singing these songs - not just by a tiny minority at small folk clubs, but in the mainstream pubs and at parties & family gatherings. The Irish don't "claim" these songs as many people suggest - they have kept them alive, as part of their own wonderful folk singing tradition.

My Dad was barred from a pub in Brixton in the 1960s for "singing" he couldn't understand why your average Brit thought that anybody who burst into song in a public was a nutter or something. Most folk clubs here unfortunately are in private back rooms. I enjoy sessions that are in the main bar, with mixture of people.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Bernard
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 07:08 AM

I've read somewhere he sang it as 'Salford' in the original play, but changed it to be general afterwards... it was on t'internet, so it must be true!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 07:25 AM

Mick, I appreciate the different traditions, and the fact that there's a lot more singing at normal gatherings, parties etc than you get in England, but the Irish definitely DO "claim" many of these songs...

Fiddler's Green Link 1

Fiddler's Green Link 2

Fiddler's Green Link 3

Just 3 links from many to "Fiddler's Green", for example, all claiming it as "Irish".

I was almost attacked by an Irish mando player in a pub recently who'd just played it and was very vocal about "I only ever play trad Irish tunes" when I pointed out that it was written by a bloke from Grimsby (Irish name but at least 4 generations born and raised there) who is still alive and performing. He simply wouldn't believe that it wasn't "Trad Irish" as he'd heard it so much over there, and seen it listed in Irish songbooks and websites.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: freda underhill
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 07:30 AM

This version by Tinker Duffy is sung in Sydney...


I scored my drugs - at the Bank Hotel
Saw a band at the Sandringham,
I snorted speed off a toilet seat
In dirty Newtown, dirty Newtown.

Dogs are crapping on the street
Queens are prowling on their beat,
Springs a dyke, on a motor bike
In dirty Newtown, dirty Newtown.

I had a wank, down at the Hub
Had a lash, at the Hellfire Club,
I played some tunes, at the Carlisle Pub
In dirty Newtown, dirty Newtown.

Gonna shave my head, gonna pierce my tongue,
Get a celtic cross - tatooed on my bum
Gonna shoot some smack, gonna dress in black,
In dirty Newtown, dirty Newtown,
In dirty Newtown, dirty Newtown...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 07:35 AM

Yes to concur Ewan McColl wrote it about the Salford area whiich is a part of Manchester. Though It often amuses me when journeying back home to ireland that most people there believe it's an Irish song about Dublin or Belfast, and indeed here in england many believe the same. A tribute I feel to McColl's skill of writing in the traditional Style
He illustrated this himself on radio in the 80's telling of how he wrote his song The Travelling People, by interviewing and recording Gypsies and Tinkers around the British Isles as research. Then after writing the song and recording it, took the recording around those same communities, and just about all said it was a trad Gypsy song passed down from generation to generation. As true a Folk Song as can be, written with the words of the people so they all felt it was their own


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,guest -jim younger
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 08:21 AM

'Dirty Old Town' seems influenced in its imagery by the opening pages of Walter Greenwood's novel 'Love on the Dole'. Put them side by side and see for yourself. A good example of intertextuality!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Mick Woods
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 08:39 AM

I still maintain that "The Irish" don't claim to have composed these songs.

All three links that you have given Rob, credit fiddler's Green to John Connoly. The first link is to subpage on a UK website. Link 2 is to a website based in Austin Texas and in Link 3 Martin Dardis does say that he has gathered songs from around the world, especially from England, America and Germany which has a rich culture in folk songs"
With Fiddler's Green however it's easyto see how the non-Irish could assume it is Irish because:

John Connoly is an Irish name
The word Green in the title
The Dubliners sang it!

Or in the case of Dirty Old Town:

The Pogues sang it as well!

But as I said earlier these songs are now part of the Irish tradition ...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 08:57 AM

The Pogues are a London band anyway!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: harmonic miner
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 09:02 AM

Aha, so it's "by the gasworks CROFT"

I always sing it "by the gasworks CALL" (assuming th gasworks had a whistle or siren to call the workers.

It really annoys me when people sing "by the gasworks WALL". A very unimaginative way to rhyme with "factory wall" !

@David el Gnomo, I love that version on 'The Rough Guide to Scottish Folk', sung by the man himself. Must listen again for the "Croft" reference.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: harmonic miner
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 09:11 AM

Re: songs being 'Irish' or not:

John Loesbergs books have a very apt title, "Folksongs and Ballads Popular In Ireland". They come from all over, but are 'popular in Ireland'

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1198194.Folksongs_Ballads_Popular_In_Ireland_Vol_1


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 01:33 PM

Don't forget that other popular traditional Irish song, The Shores of Erin!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Raggytash
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 02:05 PM

I always thought that Hanky Park was demolished and replaced by Salford Precinct, some distance from Lower Broughton. My mate's family had an electrical business on Lower Broughton Road, not far from the cliff. My Mum taught at St James Infant School from about 1969 to 1990, some of you good people were probably taught by her


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,laszlo
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 02:34 PM

I first heard "Dirty Old Town" in the 60's, sung by the Spinners who were based in Liverpool but the singer (of this song) was Mick Groves who was from Manchester way. He sang "Salford wind", "Gasworks Croft"

Great song. What a character Ewan/Jimmy was? His life story would make a good movie. Who would play the lead role?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 02:38 PM

It was indeed, Raggy. Pendleton rather than Broughton.

I think it is a cracking version too, harmonic minor. Seems much more swing influenced than folkie and, given the era, I suspect that is how it was originaly inteded to sound.

Did I mention before, or has anyone ever noticed, that none of the lines rhyme btw - Anyone know if that was intentional as well?

Oh, and as to Ewan McColl wrote it about the Salford area whiich is a part of Manchester. Go and wash your mouth out with warer - preferably from the Irwell. Salford is much older than Manchester. The young upstart is now only more famous because it made it's money on the cotton trade and it has a famous football team that plays closer to Salford than Manchester and stole it's 'Red Devils' name from Salford RLFC :-)

Cheers

D.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave Roberts
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 03:02 PM

As in so many of these matters I am guided by The Spinners, who (on the recording I have, at least), sing 'Salford Wind'. The story I heard was that Salford City Council, mindful of the City's image, objected to this supposed 'slur' and MacColl changed it to 'smoky wind' which is what he himself sings on the semi-jazz version I have on his 'greatest hits' CD,
Sorry if this has been mentioned before in this thread.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 03:36 PM

I find it very unlikely that Salford council would have objected at that time, Dave, and even less likely that Ewan would have taken any notice! Still, it is one more theroy to throw in the pot :-)

D.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Mar 11 - 07:28 PM

I was always under the impression that the song referred to Salford. Indeed, Wikipedia passes more than a passing hint to this:
Dirty Old Town


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: harmonic miner
Date: 22 Mar 11 - 06:15 AM

There are of course songs that were indeed 'traditional' and were never recorded or written down. Then someone does record/write them down and claims (legally in some cases) to be the author or at least copyright holder.

Not saying that's the case with Dirty Old Town but it has happenned a lot


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 22 Mar 11 - 07:20 AM

Indeed Mick, I assumed for many years that Fiddler's Green was an Irish song, but later learned that John Connolly is an English guy from Lincolnshire I believe, and as with Dirty Old Town, it's considered an Irish song by most back home


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 22 Mar 11 - 07:24 AM

There's also The Old Dungarvan Oak recorded by Daniel O'Donnell, but originally written by Frank Hennessy as The Old Carmarthen Oak.

Long ago, broadsheet printers had the same urge to link songs to local places.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,susanc
Date: 28 Mar 11 - 12:42 PM

I always thought "Springs a girl on the street at night" referred to a prostitute. Am I the only one? Glad that it's settled that the town is Salford. I always thought it was Glasgow and a friend thought it was Dublin.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 28 Mar 11 - 02:36 PM

Am I the only one?

Probably, Susan :-) Made me laugh anyway. There is a multiple meaning - IE Spring is like a girl or a girl springs from nowhere - But I never linked a third meaning. It will never be the same again...

DeG


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,Peadar (formerly) of Portsmouth
Date: 28 Mar 11 - 03:20 PM

Actually, I've thought that as well Susan...but then I'm a bit twisted.

:-)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 29 Mar 11 - 10:57 AM

And when you tell people that he changed his name to Roger Miller and recorded King of the Road and England Swings like a Pendulum-doo - people simply won't believe you.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave Roberts
Date: 29 Mar 11 - 11:22 AM

So have I, Susan.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,Alan whittle
Date: 30 Mar 11 - 02:52 AM

Also you never saw him in the same room at the same time as the popular singer Ned Miller, who famously sang 'From a Jack to a King'.

Of his later career as a French footballer named Roger Miller, of that there is little question. However experts differ as to whether he was also working under the name Bob Miller and the Millermen in the BBC radio programme ....Parade of the Pops. On the face of it - not likely - but so rich in musical possibilities - how can we ignore this avenue of research?

The Miller name is the only clue we have as to these activities, and that's why its SO important to keep mentioning what Ewan's real name was.

A big thankyou to all who have strived with the culturally important work of keeping this tradition alive. One day your diligence and devotion, in a largely uncaring world, will reap its reward with a special mention in the Folkmusic 101 course.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 30 Mar 11 - 03:31 AM

I too thought this Susan; in fact when I first saw The Spinners perform it around 1967 I'm sure that they also inferred the same.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Rusty Dobro
Date: 30 Mar 11 - 04:05 AM

Later, of course, he started the Steve Milli Band, very popular in Islington.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: Smedley
Date: 30 Mar 11 - 04:48 AM

Given that it was set in Salford (renamed Weatherfield), 'Coronation Street' had a very Dirty Old Town feel in its early days - smoke coming out of chimneys, mucky doorsteps ans windowsills always neded cleaning.

As for Salford v. Manchester, I was taken on a tour of the 'border' by a Salfordian once but it was very confusing!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town '
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 30 Mar 11 - 05:00 AM

Yes its hard to overstate the importance of this artist and his contribution to children's television under his alter ego of Windy Miller of Camberwick Green.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 16 November 10:30 AM EST

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.