Sweet harmony, sweet irony

Sox in dirty water
By MIKE MILIARD  |  October 10, 2007


The Yankees’ victory song, the Frank Sinatra anthem “New York, New York,” is a soaring, self-satisfied paean to Gotham’s glimmering skyscrapers and the towering arrogance of those who live in them.

The Red Sox’ victory song, the Standells’ “Dirty Water,” is “a song about a guy who got mugged.”

So said the band’s keyboardist, Larry Tamblyn, who joined his band mates, guitarist Tony Valentino and bassist Gary Lane (but not drummer/singer Dick Dodd), along with Chuck Burgess and Bill Nowlin, authors of the excellent new book Love That Dirty Water: The Standells and the Improbable Red Sox Victory Anthem (Rounder Books), at Borders in Downtown Crossing on October 3.

The Standells, as most everyone knows, are actually from LA. But though the Sox were preparing to play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the first game of the American League Division Series later that evening, they were decked out in Sox gear, ready to sing at Fenway before the first pitch. “Now,” says Tamblyn, “we’re all Sox fans.”

“Dirty Water,” which was released in the summer of 1966 and hit number 11 on the Billboard charts, was written by the band’s producer, the late Ed Cobb, after he was accosted and robbed one dark night on the Mass Ave Bridge.

It’s a song about muggers and pollution, co-eds and curfews. It’s a song that’s inimitably Boston. Says Tamblyn: “Perversely, it makes people proud to be from the city.”

And if it used to be a fib every time Dodd sang “Boston, you’re my home,” now, by legislative fiat, he’s telling the truth. This past week, Beacon Hill pols passed a bipartisan bill declaring “Dirty Water” the official victory song of the Red Sox — and the Standells honorary citizens of the Commonwealth. Such is the power of those six chords.

“It’s a great night when you hear that song play,” says Nowlin, “because it means the Red Sox won.” As the team prepares for the American League Championship Series this Friday, it’s a song that a city and a Nation are hoping to hear eight more times this season.

Related: Boston music news: March 28, 2008, You could look it up, The Boston Red Sox, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Frank Sinatra, Baseball, Sports,  More more >
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