The Standells were a Los Angeles garage rock band, but after their 1966 classic “Dirty Water” hit the charts they were honorary Bostonians for life. Written by producer Ed Cobb, the song is a loving tribute to Beantown, even though it references the Boston Strangler, muggers and “frustrated women” that have midnight curfews at their college dorms. The song hit shelves in April of 1966, and one month later they were playing it on The Mike Douglas Show.
Standells drummer Dick Dodd sings lead on the song. He was a former Mouseketeer, and he must have been horrified when Douglas not only brought up this fact but made him song an impromptu rendition of the Mickey Mouse Club theme song. But Douglas showed incredible interest in the band, devoting a great deal of airtime to speaking to each member, even pointing out that organist Larry Tamblyn is the brother of West Side Story actor Russ Tamblyn.
“Dirty Water” peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 9th, 1966. It was the band’s only real hit. The song might have cracked the Top 10 if it wasn’t up against heavy hitters like “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles, “Wild Thing” by the Troggs and “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones. That’s like a baseball player trying to stand out on the 1927 Yankees.
The song has become one of the unofficial rock anthems for the city of Boston, played countless times at Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins games. The Standells still tour, and Dick Dodd recently rejoined after a long absence. Many bands play the song when their tours touch down in Boston, including Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, the Dave Matthews Band and Steely Dan.