"Dirty Old Town" is a song written by Ewan MacColl in 1949 that was made popular by The Dubliners and has been recorded by many others since.
A portion of the canal referenced by the song
Salford docks, another thing mentioned in the song
The song was written in reference to Salford, Greater Manchester, England, the place where MacColl was born and brought up. It was originally composed for an interlude to cover an awkward scene change in Ewan MacColl's Salford-set, 1949 play Landscape with Chimneys, but with the growing popularity of folk music the song became a standard.
The first verse referred to the Gasworks croft, which was a piece of open land adjacent to the Gasworks 53°28′50″N 2°16′36″W / 53.4806°N 2.2768°W, and then speaks of the old canal, which was the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal.
When MacColl first wrote the song, the local council were unhappy at having Salford called a dirty old town and, after considerable criticism, the words of the song were changed from "smelled the smoke on the Salford wind" to "smelled the spring on the smoky wind". The Spinners made the first popular recording of the song and they sang "Salford wind". The lead singer on the track was Mick Groves, a Salfordian.
The song was written about an English town; but later became associated with The Dubliners and The Pogues and there were a few word changes.
Recordings and performances 
Notable renditions of the song include:
- Folk singer Jackie Washington on his 1962 album Jackie Washington
- Esther Ofarim in 1963 and 1964
- The Spinners, The Settlers, Donovan, and Chad & Jeremy, all in 1964
- Roger Whittaker, on his 1968 album Durham Town in 1968
- The Dubliners, 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
- The Pogues, on their 1985 second album, Rum, Sodomy and the Lash
- Townes Van Zandt as a limited edition single, recorded September 1996
- The Specials, on their 1996 covers album Today's Specials
- 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
- 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
- Bettye LaVette on her 2012 album, Thankful N' Thoughtful
External links