"Dirty Water" is a 12-bar blues song composed by Ed Cobb and first recorded by the California rock and roll band The Standells in 1966. It is considered a classic of garage rock.
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.
The song is a paean to the city of Boston and its then-famously polluted Boston Harbor and Charles River:
In addition to the river, other local interest items in the song include the Boston University co-ed 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)".
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 was produced by its writer, Ed Cobb, and was originally issued on the Tower...