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Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???

DigiTrad:
DIRTY OLD TOWN


Related threads:
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Who wrote ' Dirty Old Town ' (120)
Chords Req: Dirty Old Town (25)
Tune Req: Dirty Old Town and need some more notes (2)
Lyr Req: First line of Dirty Old Town (11)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
Dirty Old Town


Clinton Hammond 25 Jun 02 - 04:55 PM
GUEST 25 Jun 02 - 04:59 PM
Clinton Hammond 25 Jun 02 - 05:02 PM
nutty 25 Jun 02 - 05:03 PM
GUEST 25 Jun 02 - 05:21 PM
Clinton Hammond 25 Jun 02 - 05:22 PM
Clinton Hammond 25 Jun 02 - 05:25 PM
GUEST 25 Jun 02 - 05:28 PM
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GUEST 25 Jun 02 - 05:38 PM
Clinton Hammond 25 Jun 02 - 05:47 PM
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Clinton Hammond 25 Jun 02 - 05:51 PM
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breezy 25 Jun 02 - 06:07 PM
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Subject: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 04:55 PM

I just had the pleasure of typing up the lyrics to Dirty Old Town after years of singing this song in pubs...

And it struck me...

What the hell do these lyrics even mean?!?!?!?!?!

Paints a few good images, but c'mon... There needs to be more than that in a good song...

What am I missing?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 04:59 PM

Don't have the misfortune to live in Salford if you can help it.

That's what it really means. Nothing more, nothing less


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 05:02 PM

That makes about as litte sense as the lyrics really...

I don't even know where Salford is...

thanks...


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: nutty
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 05:03 PM

I believe that McColl wrote the song for a play about Salford - Manchester, England - in the 1950/60's. I lived on the outskirts of Salford in the 1960'S. For me the song is very emotive and (in my opinion) gives the true flavour of the area at that time.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 05:21 PM

The song is about courting a girl in Salford which was at the time a very smoky dirty industrial city. The gas yard croft is a bit of spare ground in front of the gas works. There was nowhere very romantic to take a girl in Salford so a walk down the canal tow path would be a reasonable option. Many factories were built along the canal banks. Salford docks is at the end of the Manchester Ship Canal and at the time was a very busy thoroughfare and the ships did sound their sirens for whatever reason (I remember them doing it all together to bring in the New Year.

Staem trains in a dark and smoky town would look as if they were setting the night on fire with a bit of poetic imagination. The bit that seems far fetched is being able to smell the spring on the wind in Salford then. Chemicals, yes. Spring, no. But then when you are young and in love wherever you are, anything is possible.

The last verse is of course how he hates the town and wants to destroy it because of it's ugliness and sterility.

Now they've swept up most of the people in Salford into nice neat high rise piles and made the docks area into posh offices. Does that help?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 05:22 PM

"I met my love by the gasworks wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
I kissed my girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town, dirty old town"

This guy doesn't even seem to know where he is... Is it the gasworks or the factory???

"I'm gonna make me a good sharp ax
Shining steel tempered in the fire
I'll chop you down like an old dead tree
Dirty old town, dirty old town"

So what does that have to do with anything???


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 05:25 PM

Bit of cross posting there guest...

Ya that does help... it doesn't make me appreciate the song much more... but it does help explain the vagaries and such...

I guess it's just a poorly written song in my book...

Catchy tune though, and it can be played so that it really swings...


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 05:28 PM

A poorly written song!?!

I've no idea what 'your book' is, but I'd take a guess that it isn't written nearly as well...


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: nutty
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 05:28 PM

Clinton ..... if it doesn't mean anything ...... leave it alone - don't sing it
A song is what it is in it's entirity. Some songs mean absolutely nothing .... this happens to mean a great deal to people who have experienced living in such a town. The whole of the North of England was filled with such places when industry was a job provider now call centres tend to take priority.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: John Routledge
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 05:34 PM

This thread illustrates perfectly why singers should not sing songs which they cannot understand.

It also illustrates that on Mudcat you never know what is an old fashioned wind up!!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 05:38 PM

Sorry you don't like the song. I think it's brilliantly written. Very direct, evocative if you know the area at the time and yet with a genuine lyricism and good imagery. It was originally intended to be sung with a jazz accompaniment but I'm sure it will survive even Clintons lack of respect. It means a lot to me too.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 05:47 PM

It's a song I don't mind not meaning anything... I don't really care much for it, but like I said above, it can be sorta fun to play and 'swing' to... and audiences do sorta tend to get off on it...

I was just wondering if the lyrics seemed as vacuous to anyone else as they seem to me...

What was it Edger Allen Poe said?

"Music, when combined with a pleasureable idea, is poetry. Music, without the idea is simply music. Without music or an intriguing idea, colour becomes pallor..."


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Slickerbill
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 05:48 PM

I think it's a great song. i'm actually most familiar with Rod Stewart's old version (y'know, back when the guy had some soul; pre "Sexy"...). Sometimes songs are just evocative; give you a sense of being in a certain type of place. I never realized it was about Salford; thought it could relate to just about any steel town in the American north east, for example. I'm a canuck, but actually spent about a week in Salford in the late '70's. By that time they had tried to put in the "fix"; they knocked down much/most(?) of the row housing and put up these huge high rise apartment blocks, which were a complete disaster, destroying any sense of neighborhood or community (or so I was told). Wasn't the population density there the highest in Europe for awhile? Sorry for the thread drift, but thanks for the background on this one. sb


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 05:51 PM

There are places in Windsor (Ontario) where I WISH They'd knock down and put up blocks of flats... I'd prefer that to the current slums that are all over the place...


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Slickerbill
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 05:59 PM

I know what you mean; inner city Winnipeg was pretty crappy in places too. The problem is that you stack all these people above one another and they become very isolated, and eventually these kinds of development actually can get dangerous. It's kind of like how they seriously screwed up downtown Winnipeg years ago; knocked down the older buildings and put in a bloody mall! It's been a problem area ever since. See, I think a tune like 'Dirty Old Town" is great because in a sense it's timeless. Whether now or 50 years ago, you can appreciate someone wanting to take a good sharp axe/ chainsaw/ jackhammer to some of these places. sb


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: breezy
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 06:07 PM

an axe has been taken to Salford and it has and is being transformed. The G mex centre is nearby. Costs a bit to park and thats where the commonwealth games will be contested. At least the canadians have a world class women's weightlifter, is she coached by the same guy who coached Ben Johnson?
Perhaps Clinton is winding up us Brits or is he a 'thicky' or is this the old peculiar late at night?.
Hooray Germany made it.They had a few Dirty old Towns too
Goodnight


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 06:07 PM

Timeless as a slum!

LOL!!!

Interesting concept...

;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 06:17 PM

Clinton, I can't see anything wrong with the first verse. He meets the girl by the gasworks, walks down the towpath with her and stops by the factory for a kiss. Is that not simple enough? The last verse is more like Blake's Jerusalem - you couldn't expect him to do that literally. Perhaps change the words 'good sharp axe' to 'JCB' and continue in that vein.

I suspect it made more sense to us in the British Isles. I certainly thought it referred to Bethnal Green when I was a child.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 06:20 PM

Breezy,

Not sure when you last visited the Salford Precinct, or had a walk around Broughton?

It's still very grim, and very far from being 'transformed' It's not all like the Quays you know..


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 06:26 PM

ClintonHammond said:

What was it Edger Allen Poe said?

"Music, when combined with a pleasureable idea, is poetry. Music, without the idea is simply music. Without music or an intriguing idea, colour becomes pallor..."

I think the music Poe was speaking of was the music of the poetry, of which he was a consummate master, not literal music. Read aloud his poem, "Bells", for example. The sounds and the rhythm is what it's about, with very slim content.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 06:44 PM

Never try to sing anything you don't understand, that's a good principle. Though I can't think of many songs which are more straightforward in saying what they mean than this.

In a dirty old town, instead of courting amidst fields and woods and running rivers, the way you might in a lot of songs, you have to do it in between factories and gasworks, and down by the old canals that you find in old industrial towns. So that's what the guy in the song is doing - but he's dreaming of a future where things get better and the dirty old town is torn down and a splendid new town is built instead. And at the same time the dirty old town stands for the whole system that needs changing.

"This guy doesn't even seem to know where he is... Is it the gasworks or the factory??? " Well, gasworks and factiories both have outside walls, otherwise the roof wouldn't stay up. So he's in the streets where those walls run, and down by the old canal, where the barges used to collect and deliver for the factories. Those are the places he meets his girl - lovers lane, but it's in back alleys.

It's a song from a time and a viewpoint where people tended to think that the way to make things better was to tear down the old and put up the new, and that the new buildings would inevitably mean a new and better life, and it was all more straighforward.

The irony is that when people sing it now the buildings they often have in mind as the key features of the dirty old town, which need pulling down, are the very buildings that were put up to replace the older ones. I live in a New Town, built from the 50s on, but when people here sing this song they tend to set it here in their minds.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 07:12 PM

The biggest irony is that most people think that it's an irish song about dublin


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: firínne
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 07:41 PM

The way I always knew the song was that the 3rd line in the 3rd verse was: 'Smelt the smoke....in the sulphured wind, dirty old town,etc.' I have also heard it sang 'in the Salford wind, etc.'


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 07:45 PM

firínne

'Salford wind' is the correct lyric

'sulphured' and other mishearings are corruptions of the original


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 08:31 PM

"Salford wind"

Neat... I'm not changin' the way I sing it, but neat...


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 08:53 PM

G'day all ... and Clinton,

Well, I live about as far from the scene of this song as is possible - but I live in the inner suburbs of Sydney ... on the industrial side of the Parramatta River ... and Dirty Old Town has always looked enough like my surroundings for it to make sense to me! (And my Bolton ancestors came from the Manchester region only 90 years ago.)

What is amazing is that such an evocative and poetic song was whipped up by Ewan MacColl at short notice ... to cover a bad scene change in Landscape With Chimneys And I think that was early 1950s ... at the latest ... when Ewan was still principally involved with Joan Littlewood's theatre group (... ?).

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: firínne
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 08:57 PM

Bob...the best things were always written in a hurry! when people have time to start re-phrasing and refining, they lose the essence of what they were saying in the first place!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 11:34 PM

G'day firínne,

You are, of course, dead right! I know that things that have been dredged from the last grey cells awake - to get the Mulga Wire issue finished and away ... often look much better than the most prepared and worked-over bits.

Anyway, I find it an intensely descriptive song ... and rank it with ewan's First Time Ever ... apparently written ... well, composed, in the course of a UK - California 'phone call to Peggy Seeger, c. 1958!

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 01:56 AM

I was born and brought up in the industrial North West of England. From its very first hearing, I have never needed any explanation of this song. The visions conjured up were right there before my eyes.

Doug C


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: caz2ufolk
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 02:35 AM

Clint-He met her by the croft and kissed her by the wall!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 04:13 AM

I was born and have lived on the outskirts of Salford all my life - Swinton to be precise which is now the administrative centre of the Salford metropolitan district.

I certainly agree with the interpretations given about the Salford of the past and present! There are exeptions of course but generaly Salford, the city as opposed to the Metro area, was very grim indeed and went from bad to worse when it demolished the terraced slums and built high rise ones. It is getting better. All the advertising for Manchester now shows the Lowry Centre - so at least out neighbours are proud of it! When the Imperial War museum is ready that will add to the attractions as well.

My biggest gripe with the 'new' Salford though is although it has a past to be proud of, industry, a large population, a cathederal, eveything a city should have - It has NO city centre to speak of! Nowhere to go. No central focus - apart from the quays, which are just show. Before there was Cross Lane, the Cattle market and Regent Road which were busstling. Now? Nothing!

Out of interest, Guest of 6:20pm, yes - the precinct is awful - worst of the 70's! Broughton however - yes again, there are bad bits - but Mrs G and I had a walk up Lower Broughton Road on Sunday night, past Uniteds training ground at the Cliff and finished up with a drink in the Horseshoe on Back Hope Street. Talk about an oasis! Lovely Victorian and Edwardian houses. Imitation gas lights. Cobbled streets - the full urban regeneration thing. It is a fine place to visit - although I'm not sure I'd live there;-)

To anyone else intersted in Salford try Starting Here

Cheers and if anyone wants any info on Salfords past Elaine (Mrs G) has the REAL knowledge (and local hostory books coming out of here ears!) - PM me.

Cheers

Dave the Gnome


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 04:24 AM

WHOOPS! The above link ain't a bad one (John Adams Music village thing used to be there but I can't find it now!) Anyway, what I REALY meant was - Starting Here

Sorry:-(

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: greg stephens
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 09:14 AM

Interesting that Swinton produced that gem of rural celebration the "Swinton May Song", and not all that long ago either.
Re Dirty Old Town words. My recollecton is that McColl did not sing "Salford wind", though he may have written that for the original production. I'm sure the original recording, andhow he sung it generally, was "smelt the spring on the smoky wind". Made it more universal, and of wider appeal I suppose.That's purely my memory, from way back, by the way. The record's buried in some box, I moved house recently. He made no secret of it's being written about Salford, though, and I think otherpeople started singing "Salford".I certainly remember making that change, in the mid 60's I suppose. Anyone else remember that?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 10:22 AM

We always sang 'Smoky Wind' when I first learned it at school as well. Out of interest (well - to me anyway;-)) there are two Swinton May Songs - The old and the new. A search of the forum will find them both posted from a direct transcription of Chambers book of days by me.

It's also odd how things come round in a circle. Pre local gvt. re-org in 1974 Swinton was a Borough Council - nothing to do with Salford. Many years before that however it WAS part of Salford - the Hundred of Salford.

And Salford is not only famous for Mr MacColl - We also produced actors like Albet Finney and Ben Kingsley. LS Lowry was a Salford/Swinton man of course but, also getting well known now, is local artist Harold Riley. Salford can also claim the first proper sewage system apparantly - as well as slightly less salubrious claims of the first workhouse and the first all-electric mill!

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,MCP
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 10:39 AM

I had a look at a whole lot of versions of the song on the net earlier. Hardly anyone gives croft at the end of the 1st line. Most common variations were wall, cry, door and in one I think croft fall (to rhyme with the 3rd line I suppose).

The Salford wind was rendered usually as smokey/smoke-filled and sulphured (this latter in Rod Stewart's version).

And at least one had a note something like I learned this song in Dublin, the "dirty old town"

I think ho-hum covers it.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Orac
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 11:02 AM

I've nerver heard anyone sing anything but "I met my love by the Gasworks Croft" for the first line ... anything else is just plain wrong. ... paints a pretty good picture of what used to be a pretty awful place to try to court a girl. James Miller, who wrote it, obviously was ashamed of his childhood in Salford as he adopted the name Ewan MacColl and pretended to have a Scottish accent.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Brakn
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 11:26 AM

I have McColl/Millar singing it with Peggy Seeger and it's "I found my love, by the gasworks crofts" and "on the smokey wind".


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Joe_F
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 11:29 AM

Salford is also the setting of a remarkable play, _A Taste of Honey_ by Shelagh Delaney (1959). It was later made into a movie, which I believe was shot there.

It joins on pretty well to the mood of the song.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Nerd
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 11:29 AM

I don't think Jimmie Miller (aka Ewan MacColl) was ashamed of his Salford roots-- he was just proud of his Scottish heritage (his mum was from Auchterarder, after all). He was also an internationalist/communist, so his urban working class Salford roots were important to him. Remember, he wrote songs like "The Manchester Rambler" clearly indicating where he was from.

I agree it was dodgy to pretend he spoke in broad scots, especially when he imposed his guideline of "don't sing songs from outside your own culture" on others. But I think he saw himself as a Scot by breeding and a man from industrial northern England by birth, and believed he could fit into both categories, not deny one of them.

Clint--it's a great song. I agree it's not as sweet as "First time ever I saw your face" or as magical as "Sweet Thames Flow Softly," but it's fierce and emotional and vividly descriptive if you understand the words and have been in towns like that.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,greg stephens
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 11:36 AM

I think "croft"has a tendency to be displaced because it's a fairly obscure bit of northern dialect, not currently much in use these days onthe Manchester side of the Pennines, though still around more in Yorkshire. Mark Burke,our very Mancunian and youngest member of the Boat Band, not only doesnt sing "croft", he didnt even know what a "croft" was.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Orac
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 11:40 AM

The Manchester Rambler was written for the mass tresspass of Kinderscout in 1933 when James Miller was 19. (He didn't start calling himself MacColl until the 1940's)Quite young to write a song like that... except for the bit about the spotwelder.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,JohnB
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 12:45 PM

My wife comes from Salford, so she always sings "Salford" wind, always sang the "croft" bit as well. In Ireland recently a group played this bloody awful "swinging" version and sang "DUBLIN wind, we just sat there and cringed. We courted mostly in Folk Clubs, and a little bit on Kersal Moor. JohnB


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: greg stephens
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 01:01 PM

Are you sure about McColl writing the Manchester Rambler in 1933, Orac? It seems a very unlikely bit of writing for a teenager. Are you sure it wasnt written for the Ballad of John Axon which would have been in the 50's? The spotwelder sounds like a very knowing and semi-humorous bit of Socialist realism and not the work of an ingenuous 19 year old.Mind you, he was a hell of a good writer, and if he'd hung around in the right sort of left-wing mancunian circles as a kid it's not beyond the realms of possibility. Where did you get that bit of information?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 01:04 PM

I'm pretty certain he wrote the Manchester Rambler pre-war.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,MCP
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 01:20 PM

According to WCML - Ewan McColl - Singer & Songs he wrote the Manchester Rambler in 1932, when he was 17, to celebrate the mass trespass of Kinder Scout - the anniversary of which was made much of just recently (including the use of the Manchester Rambler).

Mick


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 02:14 PM

So, it sounds like this song might make more sense to me if I had the proper lyrics...

can someone post 'em?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 09:21 PM

G'day MCP,

Ewan also gave the 1932 date in his old song book.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 02:30 AM

The tune Ewan set the song to is an American variant of "The Wife of Usher's Well" (Child 79).


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Subject: Lyr Add: DIRTY OLD TOWN (Ewan MacColl)
From: Wolfgang
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 05:38 AM

Lyrics as in the new Ewan MacColl songbook (which by the way is not reliable):

DIRTY OLD TOWN

I found my love by the gasworks croft,
Dreamed a dream by the old canal;
Kissed my 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 streets 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 a good sharp axe,
Shining steel tempered in the fire;
We'll chop you down like an old dead tree.
Dirty old town, dirty old town

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Declan
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 06:00 AM

By coincidence the movie version of "A taste of Honey" was shown on RTE (Irish National TV) last night. I didn't watch it all, but from what I did see the setting seemed to echo the words of the song very well - scenes of people walking/ running along canal banks lined with factories, gas yards etc.

Incidentally when I visited the North of England I expected everything to look very grey, but was pleasantly surprised. I think I'd seen too many of those early 60s Black and White "gritty reality" movies.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Wolfgang
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 06:07 AM

Note in the MacColl songbook:
This superb song was written to cover a scene-change in a play which was set in Salford, Lancashire, the city which provided the philosopher Friedrich Engels with most of the information for his book 'The condition of the working class in 1844'.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Joe_F
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 09:04 AM

_The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook_ confirms the date 1932 for "Manchester Rambler". The copyright date, however, is 1978.

Incidentally, and IMO even more astonishingly, Delaney wrote _A Taste of Honey_ when she was 18. Evidently, if you are brought up in Salford, you learn as much in the one-year time as the other ones do in five.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Snuffy
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 09:12 AM

Wasn't the earlier "Love On The Dole" also set in Salford? How many other towns have three plays?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 10:51 AM

WG??

How unreliable is the new EmC songbook?

Are those lyrics you posted 'close enough'?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Wolfgang
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 11:05 AM

Clinton, I have posted what I have found in the songbook.
As for reliability, I have found several misprints of names and there is a website already listing several other errors. Make your guess what that could mean regarding lyrics.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: manitas_at_work
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 11:11 AM

How many towns have three plays? Lots, I should imagine. Isn't Casey's 'Juno and the Paycock' part of a trilogy? Then there's Arnold Wesker's trilogy set in East London.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 11:27 AM

Fair nuff WG...

Ta!

;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Nerd
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 01:45 PM

In its defense, the EM songbook is huge, and was bound to contain some errors. The website listing the errors is maintained by Peggy Seeger, as a means of addressing them. it seems to me she is being more responsible than most editors! Also, some discepancies may reflect differences in the "official" verses as published, vs. the way EM actually sang the song after it was in his repertoire for a while. To paint it in broad strokes as unreliable may not be fair.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Wolfgang
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 02:09 PM

I think you are right in your defense, Nerd, and I sounded harsher than I had wanted.

So please let me add that I am more than glad to have bought that book and that many many aspects of it (especially, but not only the notes to the songs and the remarks about tunes and where they come from) show a lot of love to detail and accuracy. This songbook has more information about the songs than most other songbooks I have bought. It belongs into the top ten percent of singer/songwriter songbooks in my opinion.

(the spelling of the few German names, which was in my mind when I wrote the other post is awful, but from that minor detail one should not infer to accuracy in general)

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Llanfair
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 05:42 PM

Declan, Things were very grey in the early '50's in the city, there wasn't a lot of colour about.

All the city centre buildings were a uniform black....I can remember being really surprised when Manchester Museum was cleaned up, and it was SANDSTONE!!!

As for smelling the spring on the air, our Ewan was quite right, but I think you had to be young and optimistic to smell it properly through the polluted air.

I was brought up close to the Mersey, and that, too, was black and looked thick and poisonous.....probably was!!!

Cheers, Bron.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Lyrical Lady
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 12:55 AM

Thank you Clinton for starting this thread. My buddy Danny Burns used to sing this song and I always enjoyed the tune but now I know so much more about it. Great stuff.

LL


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 05:50 AM

I didn't realise that Jimmy (sorry Ewan) was actually into folk song as early as that either. His original occupation was theatrical direction. I once heard him say that his inspiration for "The Manchester Rambler" was the late Afred Wainwright - although he originally came from Blackburn - somewhat north of Manchester.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Hrothgar
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 07:56 AM

Two things: I think "Landscape With Chimneys" was in 1948.

..and I have always thought it should be "gasworks tall." This fits in with the rhyme ("wall") and also with the architecture of gasworks. There is as much poetry as there is songwriting in it.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Watson
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 08:00 AM

Fits in with the rhyme???

What rhyme?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 11:01 AM

BTW - forgot to say that the gasworks is still there! And its croft. I pass it twice a day. There was a fire in the scrapyard next door some time last year. That was fun. When they found there was not enough mains pressure they managed to drop the level of the Irwell pumping water out of it onto the gasometers to keep them cool. I would have thought pumping Irwell water onto a fire was pretty dangerous but I guess they must have known what they were doing...!

Cheers

Dave the Gnome


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 04:47 PM

Dave, in my recording of Ewan as well as the five I have by other people, they all sing 'croft'. I think you must have got your version from someone more bent on 'proper' rhyming that Ewan ...


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 04:53 PM

What is a croft (in this context)?

Guest says that "The gas yard croft is a bit of spare ground in front of the gas works"

Greg says that "it's a fairly obscure bit of northern dialect, not currently much in use"

Was Guest right? I can't find any mention of such a meaning in any of my dictionaries.

Jim


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 05:19 PM

A croft, in this case, is definitely a bit of spare ground. Usualy waste ground. Imagine old bricks, bicycle frames and tyres with rose bay willow herb and couch grass growing through them and yoou have a Salford croft!

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Bullfrog Jones
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 07:22 PM

I've avoided this thread until now, because (a) it 's bloody obvious what it means, and (b)I've heard it sung badly too many times ever to want to hear it again.
I now concede that (a) it helps if you grew up in an industrial inner city (Birmingham, in my case) and (b) I was right the first time!

BJ


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: firínne
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 07:23 PM

A croft is a small piece of land adjoining a house, or a small farm. But like Dave says, in the case of Salford, it would be waste or derelict land. [You forgot to add the supermarket trolley, Dave!!]


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 07:37 PM

Recently home from a pub singalong in Sheffied (30 odd miles from Salford)

Depressed to have to report that it was introduced as an Irish song with "a Dublin wind"


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 09:13 PM

Oh dear... Please name the guilty parties (or at least the pub) so that I can embarrass them when they are least expecting it!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: ard mhacha
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 05:00 PM

As long ago as 1957 I heard Dominick Behan on the old BBC Third Programme Singing dirty old town. This was the first time I heard the song and even being introduced to the song by Dominick`s awful singing, it has always remained a favourite. Ard Mhacha.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Hrothgar
Date: 30 Jun 02 - 05:26 AM

Dominic Behan and Ewan MacColl put out a recording many years ago called "The Singing Streets" which compared their urban upbringings and the songs they remembered.

I only have a second hand tape of it, so I don't know any more about the it's provenance.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 30 Jun 02 - 02:27 PM

So I sang it yesterday at my matinee, with the 'proper' lyrics, and man oh man, did -I- get the hairy eyeball from some folks...

So you folks out there who say idiotic stuff like "It's obvious what it means" can pucker up... I am NOT the only person who knows 'wrong' lyrics to this song...

It might be a regional thing... maybe everyone in this area has the song screwed up...


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Phillip
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 01:31 PM

MacColl was publicity officer for the mass trespass on Kinder, and The Manchester Rambler came from that role. I haven't bought the new Ewan MacColl songbook, but I have one from 1963 which contains only one other pre-War song in its collection of 51, the not so great Plodder Seam. So, perhaps Ewan's exploits in Catterick and such places from 1939 onwards were a time for artistic development, although The Second Front Song, and Browned Off are not among his best.

Like others here from Manchester and the sprawl around it I feel Dirty Old Town is an excellent song. The best version I know is at the end of The Singing Streets, far better than the more arranged versions Ewan recorded later. He prefaces it with this passage:

"The minstrels go, and the searchers take over. It is their world now... a world where adolescents walk in an ecstasy of loneliness or stand in idle groups where streetlamps shed their pools of light... a world where young Prometheus becomes a trembling-kneed Apollo on the gasworks' croft."

O to be young again on that very croft, by Tyldesley's flowering redbrick walls! To kick the can across the waste, crying "Best!", to be pulled back into the shadows by womanly-jiggly women with hungry...

Oops.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Phillip
Date: 01 Jul 02 - 01:45 PM

Rod Stewart was mentioned earlier, and I was reminded of a song of his I was discussing with my daughter this weekend. I think he used the tune of Farewell He, for his song Farewell, and just straightened it out a bit. Those with better musical ears might prove me wrong.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: IanC
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 06:32 AM

Manitas

Just to put the record straight, the Wesker Trilogy is set in East Anglia (a region) not East London.#

:-)
Ian


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 09:18 AM

I remember it as being about East London with the thirs part set in a housing development in the suburbs? See http://www.methuen.co.uk/weskerplays1.html.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: IanC
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 11:40 AM

Manitas

Well, "Chicken Soup with Barley" is set in East London, but the other two Roots and I'm Talking About Jerusalem are both set in Norfolk with no real reference to East London at all.

I read all three plays at school in the late '60s but I could only really bring to mind "Roots" for some reason, so I suppose we're both wrong!!!

;-)
Ian


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 05:17 PM

I think everyone read them at school in the late 60's. Weren't they set plays for O-level? I can't remember that much about them now. Obviously the first location stuck in my mind most, being an East Ender myself.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 06:21 PM

Once again, Clinton "Never try to sing anything you don't understand, that's a good principle."

If you find it difficult to understand it, then presumably you aren't the only one in your part of the world with the same difficulty, whatever that may be.

Is it something to do with people needing to take things literally, and not recognising figurative language? So that when the song talks about chopping down a dead true, as an image for demolishing old buildings and an old community, people get confused?

Maybe there are parts of the world where that way of using language really isn't done too much, or rather where the expectation is that it needs to be signalled, so that people are alerted to it. There was a discussion here about irony recently which got into that idea.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Yorkshire Tony
Date: 13 Aug 02 - 10:28 PM

Croft was certainally still in use in Leeds where I grew up - in a house called "Woodcroft".

"Smelt the spring on the smokey wind" - the smells of industry were ever present but you still got the occasional wiff of a blossom tree or other scent of spring from someone's garden - perhaps this was what inspired the line.

I've often pondered "Spring's a girl in the street at night" - to me it conjours an image of something delicate a beautiful against the dirty backdrop of the town.

Like Lanfair in Salford, I can remember when all the public buildings in the centre of Leeds were black with soot - my mother used to think they were built of coal when she was a girl.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,J.A. Gilbert, daughter of late James A. Gilb
Date: 10 Oct 02 - 12:48 PM

hello!... - i was looking up the origins of 'dirty old town' out of curiosty - my dad passed away dec 05/01, and he used to sing this song ALL the time, in fact my friends and i inherited it as a 'leaving the pub drunk' kind of song a few years back and sang it whilst drunkenly exiting many pubs, both here in canada and visits to the uk! (mum & dad came to canada in '64)
i just came across your forum - well, thanks for satisfying my curiosity! i've never posted a reply in any forum before, but i had to put in my two cents for this old gem - i think it was 'nutty' and a nearby post from a GUEST who both gave this old tune the thumbs up, and obviously it has a lot of meaning and emotion for me, too, as it sure did for my dad, so cheers to all you guys who actually LIKE the song! i guess i just wanted to confirm that dirty old town was written in/about salford; that's where my dad was from.

the part irish, part limey band 'the pogues' covered it, much to my amusement - i thought it was great, and gave a tape to my dad and he and his pals thought it brilliant! imagine me and my dad listening to the same band, and listening to dirty old bloody town! they also did tunes like 'waltzing matilda, too!) so a new generation of pub goers adopted 'dirty' thinking it is an old irish tune (including some of my friends, whom i had the opportunity and salfordian insight to set straight!!)

anyway, i can't believe anyone actually thinks this is a badly written song! even if you don't know what a 'gasworks croft' is (the pogues changed it to wall, coz i guess they didn't know either!) it's still a fine old tune! i've love it since i was a kid, and i think it makes a lot of sense. i saw, with my dad, how they have 'gentrified' the dirty old place, too. i'm not a big fan of 'gentrification', per se, but i'm glad that salford has maintained and improved it's identity, rather than been let run down, or just swallowed up altogether in good old Manchester (me mum's from there!)

i'm glad there's actually people out there still talking about this tune! thanks again!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Deda
Date: 10 Oct 02 - 02:05 PM

Dirty Old Town is also mentioned
here. Bull Am (still busing in France, but only for another week and a half) still gets asked to play it all the time.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 10 Oct 02 - 06:15 PM

Clinton, you could explain the song to your audience with the information that's been supplied here; and so that you can sing it convincingly, picture in your mind the decrepit industrial parts of Windsor.
Works for me. Not Windsor, but Belfast in my case.

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 10 Oct 02 - 06:18 PM

"explain the song to your audience with the information that's been supplied here"

Most bar/pub audiences don't give a rat-ass... I was more curious for my own mental health...


"picture in your mind the decrepit industrial parts of Windsor"

There are parts of Windsor that aren't???

LOL


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Leadfingers
Date: 10 Oct 02 - 08:18 PM

I was dragged up in Birmingham(Warwickshire,U.k.)and never had any
difficulty with this song until the Irish took it up.IT AINT IRISH!
its English with a Scots influence. I can appreciate that anyone
from the other side of the pond can have troub;e with this,cos it
is SO English and not at all American.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: The Admiral
Date: 11 Oct 02 - 09:20 AM

Give 'em hell Leadfingers! Why don't people just accept that 'Dirty Old Town' is a beautiful love song written about one of the few real things in Ewan McColls' life - he was born and did actually grow up in Salford, the son of expatriot Scot parents. As much as I admire what he achieved in his life, most of what he was after Salford was fake - change of name, phoney accent, change of nationality, so on and so forth. But to get back to the song, if you don't understand it, leave it to those who do love and appreciate it. Bring up those whistles Leadfingers and we'll give it another go!

The Admiral, in the not so industrial Windsor, Berkshire.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Oct 02 - 08:02 AM

Expatriate - expatriot would mean something completely different. (Only it's a mistake that seems to be sneaking in quite a lot these days.)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: belfast
Date: 12 Oct 02 - 11:37 AM

I can understand some people's irritation at the cultural imperialism of the paddies. And "Dirty Old Town" wouldn't be the only MacColl song that has been hibernicized. I've heard that "The Shoals Of Herring" has been sung as "The Shores Of Erin". And I lately heard a recent recording of "Dirty Old Town" where the words are occasionally changed to "Dirty Ardoyne".   But, after all, it's not like the Elgin Marbles. When we steal the song it's still there where it started. It's a victimless crime.

As for the expatriate/ expatriot thing (and my computer refuses to recognize the existence of the latter), I recently pointed out that misuse or misspelling in a friend's MA thesis. She looked at me as if I was the dreariest pedant who ever lived.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Wotcha
Date: 13 Oct 02 - 09:41 AM

I first heard this song in Germany a decade ago ... sung on European MTV by the ... Pogues. Probably explains why it got it's "Irish" connection. Yep and it's on a long fogotten music video with a suitably derelict venue and lead singer ... Great song.

Cheers,

Brian


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,wagga wagga
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 04:34 AM

Hi from Australia... I lived in Belfast for some years and heard 'Dirty Ardoyne' playing on the radio... could anyone help me with the name of the singer.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,KT
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 05:09 AM

The sad thing for me living on the edge of Salford is hearing pub bands from Salford singing the song in a cod Irish accent in keeping with the general belief these days by the general public (including many Mancunians) that it's an Irish song! We really have the Pogues to thank for that one, AND Shane McGowan sings "gasworks wall"......

Incidentally, regarding the reference to the "old canal", the old Manchester, Bolton and Bury canal passes through Salford and was largeley disused by the 1930's.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 05:18 AM

Bloody incredible... all these songwriters and people avowedly interested in performing and folk music....

Ewan wouldn't have given a tinkers todger if you thought it was about Blackpool or Bangkok - and that's why people all over the world respond to it.

It is about the lyricism of being in love, and how when you are in love, particularly young love - one's surroundings acquire a veneer of poetry. Thus the bleak urban landscape becomes the very stuff of poetry. Its that feeling of what being young was like, as we like to remember it.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,KT
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 05:36 AM

What is the problem with people wanting to understand something of the background, circumstances, or whatever inspired somebody to write a song? Anyway, I was under the impression the McColl had a thing about people only singing songs relevant to their area and upbringing - or something like that - though I believe that he didn't consider that the rule applied to him?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: manitas_at_work
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 05:45 AM

As has been pointed out here before, that wasn't so much McColl as the club he was leading and the point was to stop the inanity of people singing songs in languages and dialects they didn't know well enough to give justice to the song. It had the effect of making people look harder for songs from their own culture.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,KT
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 05:57 AM

Thanks for that, Manitas. It kind of goes full circle with my earlier comment about people from Salford singing Dirty old Town in an Irish accent, doesn't it!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 05:59 AM

I had all but forgotten about this thread and have just re-read it with interest because of one of those co-incidences that crop up! Last weekend I had the pleasure of hosting Dick and Susan as part of their UK visit. Monday being bank holiday we had a bit of a drive round (looking for a traffic jam:-) ). Dick mentioned he was in the process of re-releasing some MacColl albums so I thought a MacColl tour was in order. I now live about 2 miles from the gasworks croft (was a car dealership until about 6 months ago - now disused again) so that was the first port of call. The old canal. as KT says, is the MB&B. Disused indeed BUT in the process of being re-opened so the new flats (Middleton Locks) are not defying the trade descriptions act by advertising as 'waterside development'! Go figure as they say over the water. Furthest we went was the quarry (now a car park) which was the start of the mas trespass.

Did you know btw the Dirty old town is one of the few songs that has no rhyming in it at all? Well, town and town in the refrain but I don't count that.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 06:00 AM

Oh yes - 100!

:D


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 06:39 AM

Well no - obviously it does no harm to know what a gas works croft is.

However all these posts ....without anybody talking about the central theme.

And really you could live surrounded by haystacks and pagodas, and never see or experience salford - and yet still identify with the narrator of this song.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Paco Rabanne
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 06:43 AM

I live in a haystack and I understood it.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Betsy
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 07:57 AM

Wee Little drummer says " Ewan wouldn't have given a tinkers todger if you thought it was about Blackpool or Bangkok - and that's why people all over the world respond to it." and I suppose you're dead right. Trouble is - Salford and sulphured can be very close in pronounciation if said quickly especially in various accents.
What causes a little confusion for me reading this thread ,is , I learned the song in the early 60's , from where I can't remember, and I always sang sulphured wind. It made sense after the steam train going past, though, I always appreciated that the song was about Salford. It further begs the question, why did so many people used to discuss which town the song was written about, if, it already contained the name Salford.,Curious. I don't think it did but I'm willing to recieve informed advice. No matter, On the subject of croft - it has a proper meaning in Scotland, but in the N.East where I live , we would use the word " common". A piece of inner-city scrub, waste or derelict land, on occasions used by Gypsies , Fairground shows, bonfires etc. and all the other dumping described by others earlier in this thread.
I suppose McColl was painting a picture of the grim reality of growing up in a dirty Northern town, much as L.S.Lowry did with a paint brush. We must remember that most Northern and many Midland towns and cities were /are heavy industrial towns especially up to the 1970's, and to varying degrees, were filthy places to live because of the use of coal, to power the vast industries. I was born in the late 40's, in a steel town and it was certainly a dirty old town.
A good comparison perhaps of the American and the British way of looking at this type of song - give Billy Joels " Allenstown " a listen. Yeh I know thsi is a Folk site, but .....

Cheers
Betsy


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,number 6
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 08:31 AM

Live in Saint John New Brunswick (Canada) for a while and you will understand.

sIx


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,KT
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 09:52 AM

I suppose the thing with Dirty O T is that the words conjure up such a vivid picture of a town in the era of steam and old industry, and although it's quite correct to say that this is peripheral to the core meaning of the song and could be applied to any industrial town, knowing that it's inspiration was somewhere real you can relate to even if you're miles away and can only see it on a map, somehow seems to matter. End of long sentence.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 11:21 AM

Seeing as you are on the edge of Salford, KT, do we know you at Swinton Folk Club? If not come along one Monday - The White Lion on the A6 near where Swinton Market used to be. Make yourself known and I might even buy you a pint:-)

Not that I would blatantly plug our club on someone elses thread...

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Brakn
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 02:45 PM

Hummmphhhh

You've never bought me a pint. :-(


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 03:57 PM

You never asked, B! Next time - remind me:-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 04:45 PM

I too had forgotten this thread. I remember Dave (the Gnome) pointing out where the Gas Works were. Next to Reg Vardy's if I remember (though that's obviously changed now).

Going back to the original post, I can only say (in my best Lancastrian):

Clinton is a wanker, tra la la la
Clinton is a wanker, tra la la la

Thank you, I feel better now.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: andymac
Date: 02 Sep 06 - 03:26 AM

I used to live in the east end of Glasgow and often walked a couple of miles to school each morning past a gasworks (still there).
I used to sing this song even then, without knowing who's song it was or even where I'd picked up the fragment from.
The song always seemed highly relevant then and still does now. As many others have said already it informs/reminds us of finding love, beauty, happiness even amongst slums and smoke and steam.

I am only talking of going to school in the mid-70s and it wasn't till much later that I realised it was a
McColl song and in turn has led me to others of his, including the Radio Ballad series.
The meaning of the songto me and it seems to others here, is universal. If you don't get it or don't appreciate it? Don't sing it.

Andy


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 02 Sep 06 - 10:10 AM

In the excellent film by Tim May, The Ballad Of Ewan MacColl, talking about his childhood in Salford Ewan mentions " a cinder croft or recreation ground, like the one in ' Dirty Old Town ' "

eric


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Steve - Detmold, Germany
Date: 12 Jan 07 - 03:09 AM

Born in Liverpool in the mid fifties I like many others in the north have no dificulty in relating to the lyrics and sentiments of this great song. I can remember my recently passed on farther talking of the heart and soul of a city being ripped out by well meanibng soviet style city planners who, in colusion with Poulson (remember the scandal) concreted anything and everything over.

The reference to choping down like an old oak tree could be the tall chimmneys (Smoke stacks for our cousins across the pond) that where left from the days of steam. Or his dismay at the loss of such fond memouries being eroded by the onslought of new concreat high rise thanks to the eformentioned council planners and of course poulson.
Yes, my bet is tall chimneys or Concrete high rise.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Scrump
Date: 12 Jan 07 - 04:43 AM

Just read this thread for the first time.

I find it incredible that someone would complain about the song not making sense to the audience - if it doesn't go down well, then don't sing it there again. If it doesn't make sense to you, don't sing it (McGrath's principle above). Sing something else that you understand, and they like.

The Pogues cannot be blamed for the song being thought of as an Irish or Dublin song, as a couple of people above seem to believe. Many well known Irish versions had been done long before theirs, by artists including the Dubliners and Dominic Behan (back in the 1960s when the Pogues were pretty young I would guess). I think a lot of people probably first heard the song from these artists and just wrongly assumed it was an Irish song.

I don't see the problem with saying "I met my love by the gasworks wall, Dreamed a dream by the old canal, I kissed my girl by the factory wall". We can infer that he met his girl in one place and moved to another before kissing her. Does a songwriter always have to spell everything out? Maybe MacColl should have written:

"I met my love by the gasworks wall,
Dreamed a dream by the old canal, which we walked along to the factory, and then
I kissed my girl by the factory wall"

Well, it might be clearer but doesn't scan so well :-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 12 Jan 07 - 04:49 AM

"The reference to choping down like an old oak tree could be the tall chimmneys ..."

In the 'Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook', Oak, 2001, p.364 the words to this particulr verse are as follows:

"I'm going to make a good sharp axe,
Shining steel tempered in the fire,
We'll chop you down, like an old dead tree."

No mention of oak trees (those wankers 'The Pogues' probably added one of them).
As I understand it, the "good sharp axe" is socialism, which will be used to chop down the "dead tree" of capitalism and, by extension, one of the products of capitalism, the slums of Salford.

As for Poulson type property developers, I can report that they're still very much active in Salford, and other parts of the North West, and local authorities are now, more than ever, nothing more than their 'hand maidens' and 'rubber stampers'.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 12 Jan 07 - 04:51 AM

The fact that so many people recognize and identify with the images painted in this song is why it is so good. People making it their own by changing the odd word ( Dublin, Ardoyne) is fine by me. I think, though, that " Salford" probably came in instead of "smoky" by Smartarses showing off their superior knowledge and putting down people who thought the song was written about somewhere else.

If you don't appreciate the song, leave it alone. Many people really love this song, in different modes and over several generations so perhaps it has got something going for it which some people don't recognize.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Scrump
Date: 12 Jan 07 - 06:33 AM

Yes, I think MacColl probably realised the song could apply to almost any industrial town, not just specifically Salford, so he didn't write anything too specific about locations, etc.

I would prefer to sing "smoky" than "Salford", "Dublin", or any other specific town name. "Sulphured" does sound like a mondegreen to me, invented by someone mishearing "Salford" (possibly someone who didn't know of its existence).


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Grimmy
Date: 12 Jan 07 - 07:20 AM

As an aside:

The word Croft (Saxon) denotes a parcel of land adjoining a homestead or Toft (Norse) - hence Ashcroft, Lowestoft etc

It occurs in many medieval charters but its continued use, meaning 'spare ground', seems to be confined mainly to the northern counties of England.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: IanC
Date: 12 Jan 07 - 07:24 AM

Its meaning as spare space within a building, however, continues throughout England ... see Undercroft.

:-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Paul Burke
Date: 12 Jan 07 - 07:37 AM

There was that hymn parody:

On the croft, on the croft,
Where we played pitch-and-toss,
And a copper come and chased us away,
So I 'it 'im on the yed
With a bloody big lump of lead
And the slimy little bugger run away.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Grimmy
Date: 12 Jan 07 - 07:40 AM

Undercroft, though, has a different origin:

ETYMOLOGY: 14c: from Dutch crofte a vault, cavern, etc, from Latin crypta crypt. (Chambers Dictionary)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Jan 07 - 07:52 AM

"There was that hymn parody"

I've heard that somewhere - wasn't it on 'Deep Lancashire'?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,guest squeezeboxhp at work
Date: 12 Jan 07 - 08:13 AM

in yorkshire just over the hill from Salford CROFT as in tentercroft was the field where the woven cloth was streched on the tenter frames after fulling and stone posts with square holes in can still be seen in fields around huddersfield so croft must mean field adjacent to a working area


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: folk1e
Date: 13 Jan 07 - 09:53 PM

I was under the impresion that the line "saw a train set the night on fire" was the chemical spillage (sulphur?) on to the tracks being ignighted by the following train's wheels! The fire brigade at eccles were well known for having to "clean it up".
Regardless of the validity of the lines...... it is a cracking song!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jim Lad
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 01:50 AM

It's a very clear picture of the town that I and many others like me, was born in. Nothing more, nothing less. Just a perfect image in time.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 04:35 AM

People seem to be complicating what, for me, is a very stark, simple picture of any industrial town, in this case in the first half of the twentieth century. As with Jim Lad it is very much like the city (Liverpool) I grew up in. Whatever the origins of the word, the gasworks croft was simply a piece of waste ground where courting couples used to go for privacy in a busy urban environment. I remember what we called 'the rec', which I think was short for 'recreation ground', a few hudred yards away from Liverpool Football Ground, which was a favourite meeting place for couples when I was growing up.
The train 'setting the night on fire' was a steam train; it was possible to see into the driver's open cab where he and his mate would open the door of the firebox and shovel coal in, lighting the night up. Anybody who has seen the documentary film 'Night Mail' will know exactly what I mean   
I can still remember Salford the way MacColl described it before they knocked down the old terraced houses and smoke blackened factories and put up the soulless high-rise flats.
MacColl's attitude to his childhood and youth in Salford was very much love-hate, as was made clear in Tim May's film, and this comes over perfectly in the song, which is why it is such a good one.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Gazza2
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 11:48 AM

And did they really have to put detergent in the Irwell when filming Hobson's Choice to make it seem dirtier??


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Charley Noble
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 12:03 PM

Not a bad thread about the origins of this fine song. It would use some editing...but what the heck!

Thanks, Clinton, for provoking this response.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Tootler
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 12:26 PM

Gazza2 wrote
"And did they really have to put detergent in the Irwell when filming Hobson's Choice to make it seem dirtier??"

No! It was already there.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Charley Noble
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 04:31 PM

As Bob Bolton posted above, this song had its origin as a cover for a scene change in a radical theatrical production:

Works such as Landscape With Chimneys and Johnny Noble became staple fare at the Theatre Workshop, and it was for the former that the song "Dirty Old Town" was written to cover a rather inexpert scene change [Denselow 1989].

THE BRITISH FOLK REVIVAL: 1944-2002 by Mike Brocken provides a detailed analysis of this early period of the folk song revival and its association with the Workers' Music Association. One may quarrel with some of his conclusions but the details are fascinating.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,the twangman
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 06:27 PM

the dubliners popularised "dirty old town" in ireland, and as a youngster listening to the dubliners recording of dirty old town, i did not know what a "croft" was. even though there was nothing wrong with luke's diction on the recording, i could not hear "croft" in the first line, i didn't know that was what he was saying. but on the dubliners original recording of the song (now that i know what the lyrics are) luke clearly says "gasworks croft", but when repeating the first verse at the end of the song, he fumbled and said "factory wall" by mistake. so my theory is, because people (in ireland) understood "wall", they thought "croft" in the first line was a slurring of "wall" and that's why "gasworks wall" is widely sung nowadays (although i always make a point of singing "croft" myself").


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Tootler
Date: 15 Jan 07 - 11:55 AM

I was at Salford University in the mid 60's which is where I first heard the song (sung by the Spinners, I think) and the words fitted the city as I knew it in those days. But as Jim Carrol rightly said, the words would fit any industrial town in those days.

To expand on my response to Gazza2, there was a weir on the river Irwell close to one of the buildings where I used to have a fair number of my lectures and the churning of the water over the weir created a raft of dense yellow-brown foam of considerable thickness on the surface. This was a result of discharges from a dye works further up river and it stopped when the dye works closed.

I never really gave a thought to the "train set the night on fire" line as it so perfectly described a steam train working hard. A hard working steam loco would chuck out sparks from its chimney which could be seen at night. In addition if the train was a passenger train you would also have the effect of the lights from the carriages.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Scrump
Date: 15 Jan 07 - 12:04 PM

And with a steam train, if the fireman was stoking the fire, the light from that would light up the footplate with an orange/red glow, with sparks from the coal dust flying up into the air. This is the picture I have in my mind when I hear the song.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jim Lad
Date: 15 Jan 07 - 12:08 PM

And stopping to lean against The Gas Works Wall with your girl, on the way home from the dancing. It's all there.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: billbunter
Date: 15 Jan 07 - 01:54 PM

An old colleague from Salford who met Mcall and watched hin sing it in Salford told me he wrote it in three minutes in the back of the van before the theatre play. (my mate lived in the street next to Mcall's father and he first heard his Scots father using the expression 'croft' as a wee laddie. It was often used on the streets there.

It was also originally done in the play as a 'swing' number and I think - but can't be certain it had a saxophone on it in the original.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: JeremyC
Date: 15 Jan 07 - 04:35 PM

I think it's a good song and makes a reasonable amount of sense, but I have to say that the Pogues did it better. Then again, I have yet to hear a recording of Ewan MacColl that I can stand to listen to. It seems like the stuff of his that I've heard is either horrendously americanized or sung in this ridiculous patois that's about as effective and listenable as a blackface minstrel performance. If he's recorded anything--even one song--that doesn't fit into those two categories, I'd like to hear it, but for the time being I'll listen to other people performing his songs.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: IanC
Date: 15 Jan 07 - 04:38 PM

Have you ever listened to The Radio Ballads?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Big Phil
Date: 15 Jan 07 - 04:44 PM

Tootler
The old steam trains also had the habit of setting fire to the undergrowth at the side of the tracks when it was dry, due to the sparks. It would be banned these days, health and safety and the like.
Oh for the auld days............


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Tootler
Date: 15 Jan 07 - 05:25 PM

Big Phil, I remember. You would often see the undergrowth smoldering as the train went past, especially in cuttings. It was an effective way of keeping the undergrowth in check <g>

Of course these days you are not allowed to do anything that might pose a risk - a bit like PC really, but that's a topic for another thread.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 15 Jan 07 - 05:55 PM

"Then again, I have yet to hear a recording of Ewan MacColl that I can stand to listen to."

Funny that, 'JeremyC', I have yet to hear a recording of The Pogues that I can stand to listen to. I should be magnanimous and say that 'it's all a question of taste' - or some other such weak-kneed piffle. But I won't - The Pogues were a noisy and profoundly unmusical pop group (whose reputation is already on the wane). Whereas MacColl was a genius in both the world of the theatre and of folk song - his reputation is assured and continues to grow - in spite of a persistent and malignant whispering campaign promoted by those pygmies of the folk world who were jealous of his talent and his integrity. All I can say, 'Jeremy' is that if you insist on parroting this small-minded, petty prejudice, it's your loss!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jim Lad
Date: 15 Jan 07 - 06:07 PM

Yeah! I caught myself cringe a little when he mentioned the Pogues.
Was confused a bit by the "Black Faced Minstrels" thing but then; isn't that why they make chocolate and vanilla?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 11:44 AM

But Fairy Tale of New York is a bit good.

Please lets not get Ewan McColl's trousers out again.

What you enjoy is what you enjoy. What McColl achieved is another discussion entirely!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Scrump
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 01:57 PM

Well I like both Ewan MacColl and The Pogues, so there!

As for the sparks from steam trains burning the undergrowth, round our way the railway company completely denuded (ooerr missus!) the railway embankments by chopping down all the trees and plants that used to hide the ugly overhead power gantries and cables from view. It looks bloody 'orrible now.

This is their way of solving the problem of leaves on the line - instead of sweeping them up, chop down all the trees so there aren't any leaves that can get on the line. What's the point of Tony Blair planting a forest in the garden of Number 10 when Network Rail chops down all its trees?!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: danensis
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 04:16 PM

Going back to the train s"etting the night on fire", I always used to think of this line when I went past the steelworks at Rotherham and saw the trains of tipper trucks depositing slag onto the side of the track. That really did set the night on fire.

John


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: IanC
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 03:53 AM

Steam trains often literally set the night on fire.

I used to stay with some in-laws outside Paignton who had a railway cutting literally at the bottom of the garden. The trains were steam, run by local enthusiasts, and in the dry of summer they'd regularly set the grass in the cutting on fire. Quite impressive.

:-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: JeremyC
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 08:29 AM

I enjoy the Pogues because I have fairly broad taste. I also enjoy Iron Maiden (a fun band), 80s Megadeth (for their sheer anger and aggression), and Marilyn Manson, who's probably a better songwriter than many people think. On the other hand, I'm a huge fan of Phil Ochs, Martin Carthy and his daughter, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Anne Briggs, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and numerous others.

But I still have yet to hear a Ewan MacColl performance that didn't absolutely suck. And no, I haven't heard "Radio Ballads," though I intend to check it out. I would be happy to modify my opinion--I like OTHER PEOPLE's versions of his songs, like Martin Carthy's "Springhill Mine Disaster"...and The Pogues' "Dirty Old Town." But I've heard his performance of both and it was absolute balls. Maybe it is a matter of taste, since unlike one of the posters above, I'm not an artistic fascist who believes that people aren't allowed to appreciate something I'm unable to appreciate equally.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Scrump
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 09:08 AM

I wouldn't put it anywhere near as strongly as JeremyC, but I take the point that some of MacColl's songs have been sung better by other people. But the same applies to other writers - Dylan springs to mind.

And MacColl's voice probably isn't to everyone's taste. I think perhaps his recordings were sometimes not as good as he was live (yes, I did see him perform live on several occasions). This is fairly common in the folk world - I would go as far as to say that most folk artists sound better live, IMO, than on record. Maybe I just think that because I like live music, though.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: JeremyC
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 10:36 AM

Oh, I agree with you there, Scrump. Most folksingers that I've seen or heard live have been far better that way than on a studio album. But I think that's only natural.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Scrump
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 11:55 AM

According to one online dictionary it means:

soiled with dirt; foul; unclean, far advanced in the years of its life, thickly populated area, usually smaller than a city and larger than a village, having fixed boundaries and certain local powers of government.

But there are other meanings.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 05:16 PM

Dear 'JeremyC',

"I'm not an artistic fascist who believes that people aren't allowed to appreciate something I'm unable to appreciate equally."

Now, Jeremy, I've read that several times and I'm still not sure what it means! Too much "80s Megadeath" (whatever that may be?!!) attacking the parts of the brain responsible for grammar, perhaps?

I think that you're accusing me of being an 'artistic fascist' and that I am telling you what you should or should not listen to ... possibly (?)
Far from it! Imbibe as much poison as you like - I couldn't give a toss! It seems to be a common characteristic of you anti-MacCollites to level such accusations when anyone disagrees with your tawdry little opinions. Actually, what really pisses me off is this constant, mindless chipping away at the reputation of a great man. But if you are unable to appreciate his genius - it's your loss!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 08:22 AM

what the f--k's an artistic fascist anyway? Summons up the image of a guy in a smaock with a pallette of paints and brushes, goose stepping into the studio.

For you Tommy......zee theatre workshop ist over!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 09:20 AM

I know that I should really stop here - I really, really should! But while I was being blown down the road today, by a gale of 'Katrina-like' proportions, it occurred to me that it is rock fans who can be the real 'artistic fascists'. This is because they are so blinkered by, and saturated in, the all-pervasive stuff that they insist that all singers and musicians should sound like rock stars. Anyone who doesn't bellow into a microphone (whilst practically inhaling it), in a peculiar strangulated voice, or thrash wildly away at an electric guitar is 'beyond-the-pale' as far as they are concerned - particularly anyone who sings in their normal voice with minimal or no accompaniment (cue here for MacColl bashers to criticise his Scottish accent - roll up, roll up whose going to be first?).

If only Ewan had played an elecric guitar - he would be regarded as a hero today, rather than the Devil's First Disciple. Why even 'JeremyC' might be praising his version of 'Dirty Old Town'.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Barry Finn
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 10:26 AM

Bringing born & raised in a nasty part of Boston (USA), I was always able to relate to "Dirty Old Town" & didn't need much of the song to be spelt out. Where I grew up in the Mission Hill projects it was pretty nasty but like any loved place that needs tearing down it was still home to many. It now doesn't resemble what it once was, for the better in this case. I remember the 'West End'including 'Scolly Square' in Boston. A vibrant community just on the west slope of Beacon Hill (note that the Beacon Hill communiy is still there) it was leveled so that a bunch of expensive high rises could go in then the rest of the area was redeveloped in concrete & cement. By now I don't believe there are any West Enders alive today as a group. It wasn't nearly as dirty as the North End was at the same time nor as filthy as East Boston either but the property was becoming very valuable being so close to the Downtown/Financial/Business/Medical Districts. Progress?

Barry


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: JeremyC
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 10:40 AM

Haha, 'shimrod' (I guess I'll take your "...if THAT'S what you want to call yourself" approach), if you hold the opinion that there's some sort of independent standard for taste that people can be judged by and held to, than you are indeed an artistic fascist.

I also submit that you can't be bothered to read the posts of people you disagree with, since you're explicitly saying that I, as someone who enjoys rock music "insist that all singers and musicians should sound like rock stars," when this actually couldn't be further from the case. Oh--unless, to you, Bert Jansch, Pete Seeger, and the many other non-rock musicians I enjoy (since, as a genre, I like folk far better than I like rock) sound like "rock stars." I challenge you to point out where I insisted that Ewan MacColl should "sound like [a] rock star." Since, as a matter of fact, I listed Anne Briggs and Martin Carthy, both of whom frequently sing unaccompanied in "their natural voice" as performers I enjoy (and I also believe that A.L. Lloyd's unaccompanied performances are superior to MacColl's, based on the selections I've heard of both men's recordings), I'm wondering whether you read any further once I said I liked rock music.

All I said is that I have yet to hear a performance by Ewan MacColl that wasn't either 1) heavily americanized to an inappropriate degree (e.g., sounds like american pop) or 2) in a ridiculously thick-to-the-point-of-minstrelsy-accent*. I've been pointed to some other performances of his, and since, unlike you, I am open-minded, I am hoping I can revise my opinion of his performances.


* Regarding MacColl's accent: I know he's of Scots origin and raised in England, but I have no idea what spoken accent he had, as I've never heard a recording of him speaking. What I'm referring to is his delivery of certain traditional songs in such a thick and exaggerated archaic Scots that it is comparable to what you might have heard done in a "stereotypical" Negro accent during the days when blackface minstrels were popular. Neither is authentic, and both distract from the song. His use of Scots, in the small selection of songs I've heard him sing in this manner, is comparable to a white man saying "dem," "dese," "massah," and other such mutilated words.

Also, since you've elevated this discussion so much, I'm going to make one final assertion: Woody Guthrie kicks Ewan MacColl's ass all over the place. Better performer, better songwriter, and an all around awesome dude. Plus, considering he's the reason Lonnie Donegan got popular, I'm gonna say Guthrie is more influential on both continents than Ewan MacColl.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 12:01 PM

girls, girls, girls......! Now put those handbags down.

Lonnie and Ewan probably got their check shirts from the same store.

Both of them were very nice guys. You do them no honour by this hysterical nonsense and name calling.


Ewan spoke with an educated scots accent as I remember. very pleasant. His c background was the theatre and his delivery theatrical and he did his best, which was actually pretty damn good.

I didn't keep up with his kids progress but I remember talking to Peggy and she said both she and Ewan were pleased to see them messing about in bands when they teenagers. He wasn't half as narrow minded as half of his disciples, certainly not as some people on mudcat would have you believe.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: JeremyC
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 01:12 PM

Cool, I'd always had the impression he was very rigid (although wasn't the folk scene at the time pretty hardcore about being traditional?) based on that statement of his that you shouldn't sing folk songs that didn't come from your country of origin, which has always struck me as silly.

Really, I'd like to enjoy his music, especially considering that he and Lloyd were both so important to the early development of the folk revival in England. And his political views are of a type that I alternately admire and abhor (a lot like Pete Seeger's views during the same time period), which makes him quite an interesting character.

This just happens sometimes. I can want to like someone's music as much as anything, but when it comes down to it, it just doesn't do the trick for me. It's the same way with a musician I know here--he's a great guy, a dedicated musician, a friendly, open, giving person, and on top of that, his views towards what music represents are very similar to mine. But I have one of his albums, and I can't get through it, as much as I wish I liked it. In his case, I actually feel bad that I don't like his music. With MacColl, I wish I liked it, but as it stands, I just don't. The most I can hope for is that I hear something new (to me) from him (or my acquaintance) that I can get into, and to that end, I keep checking out new things in hopes that I find something I can enjoy.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 01:39 PM

JeremyC,
As you said in an earlier posting, liking or disliking MacColl is entirely (I think you wrote 'possibly') a matter of taste.
Personally, I listened to his singing and thoroughly enjoyed it for over thirty years. On the other hand, I wouldn't go anywhere near The Pogues with rubber gloves and a mask, but that's my taste.
MaColl wasn't, nor did he either claim or attempt to be 'traditional - whatever that means, on the contrary, his argument was that the tradition was a stepping stone to creating a modern song form.
The fallacious statement that he insisted that people sang songs from their country of origin has been hammered to death on other threads on this forum.
As somebody said earlier, the fact that you didn't like his singing makes you the loser; there were enough people around to fill his club and concert performances throughout his time in the folk scene.
Comparisons between him and Guthrie really don't mean much; again, it's a matter of taste.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 02:32 PM

And we all say silly things. I'm sure he had his faults, but he and Peggy were among the good guys.

Jeremy's not a loser Jim,cos he doesn't like Ewan's voice - its not compulsory to like anybody.

The thing is though, Ewan did stuff with that voice, like those long ballads, that nobody really much has had a handle on since. his whole thing was, look I'm like an actor in a play delivering a great soliloquy. Not everybody was a fan at the time. But he WAS ambitious artistically. And that takes intelligence, committment, and a special sort of bohemian detachment from the music industry - a bit more than the gang of haircuts on the upper slopes of folk stardom these days. (Gimme a hit! Gimme a hit!)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 02:47 PM

Jim, I think you are spot-on when you say, "...the tradition was a stepping stone to creating a modern song form."

McColl was steeped in traditional music but, as a Modernist, he was adopting the same principle as T.S. Eliot had done following his mentor Ezra Pound's advice to "make it new." This resulted in groundbreaking verse like The Waste Land, which many feel was the first truly modern poem because, while it concerned itself with the contemporary human condition, it was full of classical allusions.

Dirty Old Town is, in my opinion, a wonderful post-industrial love lyric which updaties timeless themes in the same way that, for example, The Collier Laddie drew on The Seven Yellow Gypsies.

As regards his apparent desire to destroy the setting for his song ("chop you down like an old dead tree")you have to remember that McColl was a socialist of the old school who believed that the working class should be transported from the slums into a brave new world of "shining steel." We now know that this was a misguided utopian ideal which resulted in the destruction of traditional communities to be replaced by estates of brutal, alientaing tower blocks which are only now being torn down from Bucharest to Bermondsey.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: JeremyC
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 03:52 PM

We now know that this was a misguided utopian ideal which resulted in the destruction of traditional communities to be replaced by estates of brutal, alientaing tower blocks which are only now being torn down from Bucharest to Bermondsey.
Spot on. I'd drink to that (actually, it's enough to drive me to drink anyway).

You can't really expect much else to happen when virtually the entire population is forced to survive a school system geared towards elimination of creative or critical thought, with an ultimate goal of making thousands of docile (happy? Nah) little factory workers--oh, and spend their formative years being taught that large companies are their friends. Seems like a handful manage to escape somehow, but, like in "Brave New World," the majority is never going to listen. But that's just my opinion.

Jim, the Guthrie thing was a bit of deliberate childishness intended to highlight the general childishness of deriding someone for his or her taste. Guthrie and MacColl were both admirable and highly influential musicians who came along at a time when they were sorely needed. I'm glad MacColl had fans, because without him, some of the people I DO like to listen to may not have made the same great music. So as far as I'm concerned, it's in every way a matter of taste, and where taste goes, I think everyone has their own reasons for liking/disliking things.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Jan 07 - 04:07 AM

WLD
I wrote 'the' loser, not 'a' loser - no offence intended, just that JC lost out by not appreciating MacColl - which he is, of course, entitled to do.
JC
I too enjoy Guthrie's singing, but I never heard MacColl sing 'Tom Joad', nor Guthrie, 'Jock O' The Side' (interesting thought!). I take your point about your remark.
Dirty Old Town.
MacColl's Salford was a rat-ridden slum unfit for human habitation, which was eventually replaced by high rise slums, also unfit for human habitation. I know this because I experienced both thirty miles away in Liverpool (Cardboard box - you were lucky!).
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: IanC
Date: 19 Jan 07 - 04:50 AM

Now that the BBC's about to move to Salford, anyone got any ideas for a celebratory verse?

;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 19 Jan 07 - 09:41 AM

"All I said is that I have yet to hear a performance by Ewan MacColl that wasn't either 1) heavily americanized to an inappropriate degree (e.g., sounds like american pop) or 2) in a ridiculously thick-to-the-point-of-minstrelsy-accent*."

Are we talking about the same Ewan MacColl here? Personally, I don't recognise this description at all. For the record, his speaking voice was sort of 'posh Lancashire' (I was going to say 'educated Lancashire' - but that would be offensive to my Lancastrian friends who all speak in an educated way, no matter how broad their accents!). I suppose that this voice was a result of his training as an actor. He also had a 'BBC voice' which was a slightly posher version of his normal speaking voice (listen to the 'Song Carriers' recordings, that he did for the BBC, if you can find them).
As for his Scottish accent, we have to remember that both of his parents were Scots and some of their ways of speaking must have rubbed off on him. Actually, my experience of him singing such ballads as 'Sir Patrick Spens', 'Clerk Colvill' and 'The Swan Swims Sae Bonny', albeit in 'thick, archaic Scots', I count as some of the truly great artistic experiences of my life (I can feel the hairs standing up on my neck, now, as I write this). I believe that these ballads only really work in the original Scots and although there have been some creditable attempts to anglicise them, some of the poetry of the Scottish versions is lost. I really do believe that, if he was to do them justice, Ewan had to attempt to sing those ballads in a Scottish accent. Personally, I think he did a credible job - but then I'm not Scottish.

Finally, 'JeremyC', I realise that some of my remarks above were churlish and intemperate and I apologise - of course you are entitled to your opinion and your own tastes! It's just that, although I'm not normally given to hero worship, Ewan had a huge formative influence on me. It's difficult to describe the impact his singing had on me when I first heard it. These days, though, all we seem to get is a sort of petty and mean-minded chipping away at his reputation and my objectivity tends to go out of the window! As Jim Carrol has often said we need to forget all of this silly sniping and concentrate on his formidable and impressive achievements.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: JeremyC
Date: 19 Jan 07 - 10:13 AM

And see, Shimrod, I'm describing the selection of his songs that I've heard, which is far from a complete or even a representative sample. If you have any particular tracks to recommend, I'd be happy to check them out.

I can appreciate your points about the accent (it's a tough choice--do you perform with or without? Either can sound inauthentic, so you just have to go with what you think you can pull off), and I see why he wanted to do that. Maybe with repeated listenings it would come across as less of a shock to me (and even with people I really enjoy, some of their songs have to "grow on me" so to speak). I'm not very familiar with Scots, but I know it must have its own poetic qualities if that's how Burns chose to write, and translations will often lose some of their impact. It's a tough problem, and he made his choice. Maybe I can get used to it, because I certainly think the songs themselves are good and well worth being sung.

The feeling that you get when an artist comes along and changes your approach to things is very intense. I have the same kind of affection/admiration towards Martin Carthy and Phil Ochs, because hearing each of them changed the way I thought about hearing and playing music. I'm glad we can agree to disagree on matters of taste (with the proviso that I'll be happy to agree upon sufficient exposure to MacColl to find something I really like, since, given his level of support here, I'm sure there's something).


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Jan 07 - 10:50 AM

Sorry,
I missed the 'Americanised' bit.
I know of only one record out of hundreds where he adopted an American accent (to sing choruses for eggy's songs) and that was the Folkways 'Two Way Trip'.
Can somebody put me right on this one - I thought I had all his records.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Jan 07 - 11:24 AM

I sort of know what he might mean. Bruce Turners clarinet gives the original Dirty Old town a trad jazz feel - this must have been when trad was really kicking ass commercially. And trad is American in origin

When you compare to what say Carthy did with Byker Hill - which was nailing England's folksong colours very firmly to the mast of a ship sailing in the opposite direction - modal scales, Bartok like rhythmic complexity, the sort of celtic origins hinted at in AL Lloyds Folksong in England.

Its a point of view and one that was held very firmly in some quarters in the 1970's.

the bad old days - when you had to decide whether you were Jasper Carrot or Martin Carthy and nothing much in between was tolerated.

best wishes to all survivors of that bloody campaign

Big al whittle


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 19 Jan 07 - 12:32 PM

on ,the subject of clarinet,Sue Miles provided lovely clarinet and bass clarinet on The dunmow flitch[S F A 106] and CHEATING THE TIDE [g v r 227]both on vinyl,thse lps are worth getting just for the clarinet parts and Jez Lowe and Martin Carthys guitar.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 19 Jan 07 - 02:03 PM

I agree with Jim Carroll.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Alec
Date: 19 Jan 07 - 02:33 PM

I was intrigued by interpretation of the melody weelittledrummer (& I hear what you hear when I hear Martin Carthy)so I thought I'd try it on the Harmonica (diatonic in c)
Have to say it evoked a sense of the North West of England in the thirties for me.
This is obviously subjective as I was born in the North East in 1962.
It is possible it's because I have seen to many kichen sink drama's & watched to many Boulting Brothers films & it's true I hear something similar in "Love Me Do" but whilst their may be something of Jazz in it I hear more of Industrial Lancashire making it's own entertainment.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Effsee
Date: 19 Jan 07 - 02:55 PM

I've been mulling over this thread since it started, and even more so over JeremyC's first and subsequent postings. I've been a great admirer of the work and singing of Ewan MacColl for over 40 years. I can honestly say IMO that I've never heard anything by him which I thought of as having "sucked". (Always allowing I might misunderstand the definition of the word) My ears do jarr slightly on some of the early recordings/arrangements and when he introduced vibrato/tremolo(?) into his singing.
I think, JC, if you were to hear later recordings of his singing such as that as the Folk on 2 CD, Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger, (includes Ian Campbell, Ray Fisher,Belle Stewart and MacColl family members),MASH CD 002, released by Cooking Vinyl 1996 you may fare better.
Tracks 9-12 feature My Old Man/Spinning Wheel/ and the very poignant story of the making of The Joy of Living/then an interview with (Hellooow I'm) Jim Lloyd, in which you can hear his natural speaking voice, which to me has a sort of general Scots burr. Another CD which features his later singing is "Naming of Names", COOK CD 036, 1999, which if I'm reading between your lines correctly, might well appeal to you. Both CDs are readily available from Cooking Vinyl.
Hoping that you'll enjoy them if you get round to hearing them.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,roomzero
Date: 20 Jan 07 - 09:56 PM

I was unaware of the geographical origins of this song until I ran across this thread. I picked it up from a pub in Milwaukee in the states and fell in love with the vocal melody. Although I do respect the loyalty certain individuals have to Salford, and for making sure that the original intent of the song is translated to those of us far away from the UK, it stands to reason that a good song is a good song and you can't keep it in one place. It's a bit like ordering people in the UK or Ireland not to play any Johnny Cash because they've never been to the South, never shot people in Reno Nevada, or ran from their failing marriage to Jackson Mississippi (though if they did, that would be quite eventful). Better yet, ordering people NOT to play Muddy Waters songs because they don't know the Southside of Chicago from the North (That means no Stones, Yardbirds, etc). In the Midwest, and especially around the great lakes, we're definitely experiencing a massive decay of our more industrialized areas (yeaaa globalization) so a song like this is very relevant today. This is the kind of song that applies to many of us in the flyover zones of the upper Midwest, and to people all over the world, who despite the intense feeling of incarceration by their surroundings, manage to derive some kind of appreciation for life. Because no matter how run down and dodgy your town is, there's always a girl worth kissing by the factory wall (though I wouldn't go dreaming a dream by the Chicago River).


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Roughyed
Date: 21 Jan 07 - 02:11 PM

Of course everyone from wherever should be able to sing this song if it connects with them. But I don't think you should sing a song when you don't respect it (unless you're getting paid lots and lots of lovely money).


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Bernard
Date: 21 Jan 07 - 03:16 PM

The art of writing a good song is in making it so that people can readily identify with it.

Dirty Old Town is a classic example of such a song.

Yes, it's originally about Salford (but so was Ray Davies' Waterloo Sunset!!), but there's really nothing in the song that pinpoints it to one place. Another good example is Paul Simon's 'Homeward Bound', written whilst waiting for a train on Widnes station during a tour of UK folk clubs.

I drive past the 'Gasworks Croft' mentioned in the first verse most days of the week... at the end of the M602! Ewan would never have seen the M602...

I suppose that's what sets some songwriters apart from the rest. Some merely write their experiences into a song almost as a diary entry, but the good ones have a knack of generalising enough so as not to limit the song's appeal.

Who am I to talk, though... I couldn't write a song even if my life depended upon it!!

;o)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Scrump
Date: 22 Jan 07 - 09:49 AM

Yes, it's originally about Salford (but so was Ray Davies' Waterloo Sunset!!),

Hmmm, I didn't know there was an underground railway in Salford :-)

but there's really nothing in the song that pinpoints it to one place. Another good example is Paul Simon's 'Homeward Bound', written whilst waiting for a train on Widnes station during a tour of UK folk clubs.

I don't think Simon said anything in the song to say he was at Widnes - he could have been on any railway station, anywhere, at least in the western world at the time. When I first heard it I imagined him being in a US rail station, before I later read he had been on tour in the UK when he wrote it.

As for Waterloo Sunset, that is clearly about Waterloo in London. Although the sentiments expressed in the lyrics could apply to lots of other places, the lyrics refer explicitly to one location. Dirty Old Town and Homeward Bound don't.

I don't think a song has to be 'generic' in terms of location for people to be able to identify with it. I'm sure people who've never been to London could identify with Waterloo Sunset, even though it is more or less 'pinpointed' to that place.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 22 Jan 07 - 09:52 AM

Where's Widnes? Billy Bragg reckons he wrote it in Barking...


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Alec
Date: 22 Jan 07 - 09:56 AM

I met Martin Carthy once who had been in the next room when Paul Simon wrote the song (he did confirm it was Widnes) apparently it took Simon an hour to come up with a rhyme for station.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Scrump
Date: 22 Jan 07 - 11:47 AM

nation - that took me about 3 seconds.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Jan 07 - 07:19 AM

perhaps he had vebal constipation


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Scrump
Date: 23 Jan 07 - 07:38 AM

I can imagine Martin saying: "Are you going to be much longer in there, Paul? There's people waiting out here!"

PS: "Almost done... I'm stuck on 'All my words come back to me in shades of... shades of...' - Dagnabbit, what rhymes with that?"

MC: "Mediocrity?"

PS: "Hey, that's it! Thanks - I'm done now!"

:-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Charley Noble
Date: 23 Jan 07 - 09:19 PM

Well, it's nice to sift through this thread again and actually see people communicating with each other. Most of the time, living as I do in the States, I haven't a clue about the devisive issues involved in listening to Ewan MacColl sing. I usually was interested in his songs first, primarily the topical ones, and favorably impressed with his presentation.

My mother was always fond of his renditions of Child ballads and his recording of Scottish Drinking Songs.

His singing of Dirty Old Town remains one of my long time favorites.

I was surprised to learn some years ago that he had changed his name but I respect his reasons for doing so. It seems childish to me to consider that an important issue.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble (not my real name)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,United Road
Date: 21 May 07 - 12:27 AM

Manchester United fans have started to sing this song, expect it to hear it on the terraces next season.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Bernard
Date: 23 May 07 - 09:18 AM

Only just re-read this...!!

Scrump said: As for Waterloo Sunset, that is clearly about Waterloo in London.'

Agreed - but that was after he re-worked it to make it more 'commercial'. The song was 'inspired' by the river Irwell in Salford! At least, that's what Ray Davies said many years ago in an interview. And he should know, I reckon!

Apart from the mention of 'Waterloo', it could really be anywhere...


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 23 May 07 - 09:53 AM

Anywhere with a busy underground and a river crossing.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,wagga wagga
Date: 20 Sep 07 - 11:44 AM

God found this site... and there's my request asking who sings 'Dirty Ardoyne' posted 2 years ago... and not a single answer... Come on give us a hand !!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Noreen
Date: 20 Sep 07 - 01:31 PM

1 year and 19 days to be exact, wagga wagga.

Your query would get more notice and then possibly some replies, if you started a new thread with 'Dirty Ardoyne' in the title.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Pauline mccance
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 08:29 AM

Can anyone tell me about this address on a birth cert i have,
i think it was nearcross laine salford, 21 Artisans Dwellings.
i think it was used as a downe and out accomadation. when i was young.
can anyone help on this. Pauline


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,PMB
Date: 08 Feb 08 - 12:26 PM

I've a vague memory of these - but if they are the ones I'm thinking of they were nearer Oldfield Road and Salford Station. I'll try to look it up tonight, if the maps I've got go back far enough.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Apr 08 - 03:22 PM

Hi all
I was wondering is there a version of the song recorded with the Salford lyrics in it. I'd love to have that

Thanks
Andy


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Tootler
Date: 13 Apr 08 - 05:44 PM

I don't know about a recording, but when I was at University in Salford, I am sure I heard the third line in the third verse sung "Smelt the spring on the Salford wind" on several occasions.

Mind in those days "Smokey" and "Salford" were synonymous [g]


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Snuffy
Date: 13 Apr 08 - 06:14 PM

And "sulphured" as mentioned by Firinne above in June 2002


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Apr 08 - 12:04 AM

Thanks guys
will keep on trying


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 14 Apr 08 - 03:32 AM

Guest Pauline mccance, if you are talking about Ewan, he was born in Coburg Street, Salford.

eric


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,mm
Date: 14 Apr 08 - 06:44 AM

Perhaps coming from America Clinton doesn't know what a gasworks is or looks like . Gasworks are industrial plants which produce gas from coal in the the process of which they emit a disgusting smell. They appears as hideous oval-shaped , grey lumps of metal dominating grim and gritty urban landscapes.

The song contrasts the love and dreams of a sensuous young man in springtime to the oppressive ugliness of his industrial surroundings .
For a picture of what a gasworks looks like in all its glory see:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/raver_mikey/2334376874/


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,bill S from Perth
Date: 14 Apr 08 - 09:53 AM

Enjoyed the thread, I also went to Salford Uni in the late 60's and lived locally. Regarding the soap suds, I used to cross the footbridge below the weir off the Crescent and the pollution used to give rise to a mountain of suds which used to take to the air along the river and you had to dodge between the huge globs. Croft as a few people have said, was a wasteland for playing by day and coortin at neet. Undercroft was a common name for the huge cellar area below railway stations used for goods and storage especially Piccadilly and StPancras.
Incidentally, no-one has pointed out that Salford was the first city in England to go smokeless and ban open coal fires. Manchester Exchange was in Salford and shared England's longest railway platform with Victoria, the only intercity station platform. Salford was a City then in its own right with a cathedral that nobody knew about. (go back far enough and Manchester was part of Salford)
I was on the folk club committee at the Uni, we used to get up to 300 people there, mainly locals from the tower blocks, but never had McColl in my day.
I remember an evil sulphury smog in 1968 there but never saw another that yellow. The towpath along the Rochdale Canal was a great way to see the city from a different angle.
Wassail
Bill


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Apr 08 - 12:22 PM

Gasworks did smell pretty bad - but gasometers (which is what mm presumably means by "hideous oval-shaped , grey lumps of metal"), which is where the has is stored (these days natural gas) can look pretty good.

As the song puts it:

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


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 14 Apr 08 - 12:41 PM

There's a scene in the film Hobson's Choice where Maggie and Will are sat by the river/canal in Salford and you can see the suds blowing up off the water.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 14 Apr 08 - 01:52 PM

I always thought that the bridge over the sudsy bit was called 'Cock Robin Bridge' but now I look up that name it wasn't that bridge at all! Unless that one also had the same name as the footbridge over the railway at Brindle Heath? Stranger things have happened...

Anyway. Couple of things - The Spinners may just sing 'Salford Wind' - One of them is from Salford.

The Artisans Dwellings, otherwise known as just 'The Dwellings' were at the top of Oldfield Road - More like a Tenement block than a place for down and outs. That pleasure was reserved for the Doss House!

Cheers

Dave.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Apr 08 - 02:21 PM

When I was about six I used to visit my uncle in Warrington and we'd stand watching the canal, and the river was all beautiful colours because there was oil all over the surface. I was so jealous that our river in rural Lincolnshire didn't have all these pretty colours.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 14 Apr 08 - 07:44 PM

Pub session on Friday: young lady comes up and asks "Can you do Dirty Old Town by the Pogues?" Wonder what Ewan would have thought of that! We did it our own way!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Bert
Date: 14 Apr 08 - 09:22 PM

Gas is made from oil nowadays. I remember spending a fine summer's day measuring the tide in the Thames at Fulham Gasworks. They needed to know how much to dredge to get the oil barges in.

Although commonly known as gasometers the correct name is gasholders.
Planes going to Heathrow used to line up on Gasholder 1, just outside of our office. They would come in really low, much lower than the regulation minimum of 500 feet. And that damned gasholder used to rise considerably when they filled it. Kinda scary.

Oh and for what it's worth Fulham Gasworks has the oldest gasholder in the world. "Number 6" built in 1860 something.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 15 Apr 08 - 03:11 AM

200!

:D


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Apr 08 - 08:04 PM

Here is what they have done in Vienna to some gasometers which were no longer needed. Impressive. In England they'd just pull them down and probably put up another Tescos.

And here's a picture of some unreconstructed gasometers - and you see what Gus Allen meant. "For mountains they would very nicely pass."

(And I've always called them gasometers, bert, including the ones down the hill from where I grew up.)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 16 Apr 08 - 02:50 AM

Gas ? made from oil ? no I think not Bert, in the UK it's natural gas if it's not bottled, then it's usually propane.

eric


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,PMB
Date: 16 Apr 08 - 03:54 AM

Bill S: Nobody knows about Salford cathedral largely because it's the Catholic cathedral, which don't count. Actually Manchester became a (C of E) diocese just a year or two before Salford became a Catholic one- around 1850. Manchester town became a city in the 1850s, but Salford (which had the older town charter) had to wait till the 1920s- I remember the 40th anniversary, when some of the (usually dark green) buses (*) were painted white and gold- which soon looked a mess in the general atmosphere of filth that surrounded the city back then.

The gasworks was just off Regent Road, about half way along, and indeed by the old (Manchester, Bolton and Bury) canal, which however was closed and disused when McColl wrote his song. Trains setting the night on fire would have been travelling on Stephenson's Liverpool and Manchester line, or the lines out towards Bolton or Walkden.

As for axes tempered in the fire, I remember my father singing taht verse from Dirty Old Town in the early 60s (I would have been 9 to 11) while heat- treating an axe blade he'd found buried in the garden, by heating it red hot in the open coal fire, then quenching it in a galvanised bucket of water, filling the living room with sharp- smelling steam. Mam was out.


(*) Mostly Daimler CVG6 for afficionados


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 16 Apr 08 - 11:50 AM

As an item of general information, coal gas was essentially Carbon Monoxide, which made suicide by sticking your head in an unlit oven, a feasible action. It hasn't worked since the switch to natural gas, which is essentially methane.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 18 Apr 08 - 04:33 PM

Gas works is still there, PMB. Well, some of the buildings and a gasometer anyway. You are right about the location but it is actualy nearer Liverpool Road that Regent Road - In between Windsor Street and West Egerton Street, both of which link the two previously mentioned parrallel roads. A new road, Albion Way, now runs parrallel to the old Cross Lane where you used to pick up the start of Regent Road. What was the Cross Lane end of Regent Road is a huge Roundabout and the start of the M602.

Windsor Street crossed Liverpool Street, round about where Albion Way now is and ran up to Windsor Bridge and the Windsor Bridge sidings - Where you could have seen both the old canal (the MB&B as you rightly say) and a train set the night on fire in the same place:-) In fact, the gasworks croft was in the immediate vicinity as well so lots of the song could be spotted just by standing on the corner of Liverpool Street and Albion Way! I am not sure which factory wall is referenced but there were more than enough in the area. Now all gone.

Salford had a whole live city centre of it's own as well, all along the A6 (Broad Street, The Crescent and Chapel Street), Down Cross Lane and Ordsall Lane and all along Regent Road. There was the Cattle Market down Cross Lane and at least two quite large, well large to my eyes as a child, department stores. One of which had the old style 'cable network' that carried money and receipts whizzing overhead, much to my delight. Now we just have Salford Quays. Very pretty but a concrete ghost of the bustling industry and dockside it used to be.

I still live here but find it a little sad that while we have a university and a cathedral, giving us city status, we no longer have a city centre! Still, there was a shooting in one if my locals (Dog and Partridge, Irlams o' th' Height) a couple of weeks back. I suppose we still have some entertainment to be thankful for;-)

Cheers

Dave


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 18 Apr 08 - 04:59 PM

Friday night. Nowt on telly. Not going out coz I'm up at 6:15 tomorrow so I got to thinking about what I just writtid and decided to update Mr MacColls song, So, with apologies to Ewan -

New old town. Dave Polshaw. 18 Aprl 2008.

I met my love, by the open fields
Dreamed a dream, by the concrete quays
Kissed my girl, by the retail park
Dirty old town
Where's that dirty old town?

I heard a concert, where the docks once were
Saw the neon, set the night on fire
Smelt the spring, on the sterile wind
Dirty old town
What dirty old town?

Clouds still drift, across the moon
Cats still prowl, along their beat
But girls don't go, out alone at night
Dirty old town
Dangerous old town

The planners took, a good sharp axe
Made of steel, but not made here
Cut the heart, from the living tree
Dirty old town
They cut it down.

Feel free to use, abuse or amend accordingly, just give me and Salford a mention if you do:-) I suspect it is true of lots of towns that had their 'clearances' in the 60's. They got rid of a lot of awful stuff, but sometimes I can't help but wonder if they threw out the baby with the bath water.

Oh - BTW - I did hear a concert where the docks once were only last week. Jethro Tull 40th Anniversary tour at the Lowry's Lyric theatre. Funny to think that when Ian Anderson was first standing on one leg, the docks, the factories and the slums in 'Hanky Park' were all still there:-)

Cheers

Dave


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 18 Apr 08 - 05:01 PM

Is that a mudcat record btw - 26 minutes to think of, write and type up a song? (And I checked it 3 times)

:D


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Amos
Date: 18 Apr 08 - 10:15 PM

Dave:

No, it isn't, but it's a good performance!!

If you look back over the Song Challenge Threads you will find the record in there somewhere. I think it was four minutes, or something.


A


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Noreen
Date: 19 Apr 08 - 09:26 AM

>...coal gas was essentially Carbon Monoxide...

Carbon monoxide itself is non-combustible, but is a byproduct (along with cyanogens, sulphur compounds and other nasties) of the distillation of coal.

Coal gas contains approximately 50% hydrogen, 35% methane and 8% carbon monoxide.

You can still gas yourself with 'natural' gas, but it works more by displacement of oxygen from the air you are breathing rather than by poisoning.

Nice song, Dave!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 19 Apr 08 - 10:35 AM

Thanks. Noreen:-) When will we see you back in Salford again?

The song's evolved and is evolving still - on this thread.

D.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Gaffer
Date: 21 Apr 08 - 08:37 AM

I recall a review years back in a national daily - ?Guardian perhaps - of a Pogues concert in Salford of all places in which the reviewer described it a song written about "their native Dublin" - I'm sure a Dublin reviewer would be slower to accuse "Cockles and Mussels" of being from anyone's native Salford!
Gaffer


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 21 Apr 08 - 09:16 AM

Each line conjures up more than just the image it literally describes.

eg "I'm gonna make me a big sharp axe - shining steel tempered in the fire"

Why an axe? literally it makes no sense ... shining steel? tempered in the fire? why all that information?

Well because it conjures up images of foundries, molten metal and hard industrial work - as was typical of the region.

The song is deeply descriptive and each word carries a descriptive subtext that goes deeper than even just physical description.

This is lyrical impressionism that describes the writers subjective experience of the town from an emotional point of view and has as its lens a love affair.

It is meant less to be about salford specifically than about human experience in an industrial town, hence iits abilty to mean something profound and beautiful to folks in such diverse places as sydney and dublin.

If you're looking for literal descriptions, buy a car manual.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: ard mhacha
Date: 21 Apr 08 - 09:51 AM

The song captures perfectly the smoky old towns in the north of England,
I worked in a few of those towns during the late 1950s through the 60s. The song brings me back,and the memories are of happy times being young and fit, you didn`t care,smoke?what smoke?, nowts the bother.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Paula Flanagan Kesteloot
Date: 21 Apr 08 - 04:16 PM

I live in France, and was born in Salford, the town described in Dirty Old Town . If you knew what Salford used to look like you would understand the lyrics more. Another Salford song is Matchstalk men etc.. (can't remember the title) which is about the factory & Salford street scenes painted by Lowry. They belong together. This is Salford's history and nobody else can try to claim it. Here in France the men of the dirty old town (The Salford Pals) lie in soldiers' cemeteries around Thiepval and Authuille on the Somme. The song will be sung for them.
Das Lied beschreibt meine Heimatstadt. Es handelt sich um Salford.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Jul 08 - 12:38 PM

i am a canadian folksinger who grew up in the '50's and '60's and have just found and learned "Dirty Old Town" ... my sister and brother in law were visiting from Galway a couple of weeks ago ... the brother in law, John, gave me a number of cd's, one being 'Luke Kelly the Collection'containing the song as a version learned from Ewan ... being of Scot/Irish descent and my dad having been a coalminer in stellerton nova scotia, the imagery is easy for me to see ... i remember as a boy visiting my granparents in westville and stellerton and seeing them as dirty old towns ... the coaldust was everywhere and still burned in most of the homes... in winter the snow was black ... also even though our family has been here since the late 1700's i had heard the term 'croft' and not known what it was ... i am so happy to have found this site with the truth of the song ... i've always tried to sing songs as i believe they were origionaly written ... i just learned the song this morning and will be able to sing it, with confidence knowing where it came from ... dave macpherson


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Mark
Date: 02 Sep 08 - 11:33 AM

The lyric I have always heard, which I presume to be correct is: "Smelled the spring on the smoky wind".


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 02 Sep 08 - 11:52 AM

I think that is what was written by Ewan, Mark.

D.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Ex Salford Guest
Date: 13 Apr 09 - 08:43 PM

Well well well, I never thought I would read a thread as long as this in it's entirity ,but I did.

I was born and raised in Salford and remember the town before "Salford precinct" or "Salford shopping city" as it is now known.

Cross lane the road leading down too the Docks was famous for having about 40 pub's within a mile, and you can imagine the sort of people that ran them,hard types with a gentle side,and some of the women that frequented ,you can guess their trade........one of them " Vinegar Vera" is STILL famous in the area if you want more info on her go to www.kersalflats.co.uk and check out the people Tab you will find the king of girl Salford used to produce,picture on there as well.

Someone mentioned it being at one time the most populated area in Europe I believe he was correct,nearly 250,000 population in 1931 now down to 72,000.

I went to school with the nephew of Harold Riley and through him met Harold and a cedrtain Mr L S Lowry.

Unfortunately one of the main employers in the area was The PIT Agecroft colliery, I made damn certain i wasn't going down that hell hole when I was in my last year at school by applying to join The Royal Air Force 6 months before the rest of the lads in our year did ! Thankfully I was accepted. I left at 16 and have rarely been back ,I am now 52,but, I am still a Salford lad. I went a few years ago to a funeral and met cousins and old friends i hadn't seen for years, to be met by "How do " a Salfordian shortened version of "How do you do?" after a short time one of my cousins commented " By heck,you aren't half posh now aren't you?" as far as I know I still have my Salford accent !!!!

The ships at the Docks certainly did sound at midnight New Years Eve and we used to listen to them herald the New Year and as kids loved it,all gone now as the Docks are salford quays.

Best rendition of the song in Temple Bar , Dublin , I think it was sort of adopted by some of the Irish lads that worked in the Manchester are as labourers ,made their money and went back home.As the singer introduced the song he said " here's a song you may recognise which a lot of people think is about Dublin,but was actually written about Salford" so even though The Dubliners made it a very famous song it still gets introduced as a Salford song.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Briceida Santiafo
Date: 31 Aug 10 - 05:17 PM

Sick and Psychotic!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 10:53 AM

Some notes, after re-reading the thread:
Carbon Monoxide is certainly combustible,
The errors listed for the MacColl Songbook have been corrected in the new edition.
Dirty Old Town may have been written about Salford, but it's pretty damn universal.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Paul Burke
Date: 01 Sep 10 - 01:02 PM

Yes, CO is certainly combustible, and also poisonous- it binds to the haemoglobin in the blood, preventing it from picking up oxygen. And it burns, which is why people put their head in the gas oven. As a child (in Salford as it happens) I was traumatised by hearing of someone killing herself in this way- I thought the oven was lit, and she baked herself to death.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 12:25 AM

>And here's a picture of some unreconstructed gasometers - and you see what Gus Allen meant. "For mountains they would very nicely pass."<

Interests of accuracy ~~ Gus ELEN [pronounced 'Eel-en']: music-hall song "If it wasn't for the 'ouses in between" [1899], words Eugene Bateman, music George le Brunn, sung by said Mr Elen, distinguished m-h performer of the time, known also particularly for "The Postman's Holiday" and "It's a great big shame"...

I sing [a shortened version] of "The 'ouses in between", and intend to put it up on my Youtube channel shortly. Watch this space!

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Ebbie
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 02:05 AM

I just now listened to Luke Kelly on YouTube sing Dirty Old Town (1976). He introduced it as a love song written for a town. He didn't mention its author but he did say it was Salford.


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Subject: dirty old town
From: GUEST,ken
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 05:48 PM

It was "salford wind" which was orignally sung, but was changed to represent such the universality of the poor.
I lived in broughton, an area in Salford where Mccoll was born and known by many in the town.

Areaght?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Meow!
Date: 20 Dec 10 - 04:01 PM

i'm a high school student from NJ (USA) and i was doing a report on this song. i just wanted to say thank you very much to you all for the help. my great grandmother used to sing this to me and i never knew the meaning. this is one of the best songs i've heard and the lyrics flow perfectly. the fact that he wrote this in such short time is amazing! thanks again:)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Mar 12 - 08:12 PM

Greetings,

I'm ten years too late with my response to this topic though I would have only been eight years old if I would be seeing this topic ten years ago. I think Clinton should respect the song more. I always get tears in my eyes when I hear Dirty Old Town though I never knew what the meaning was until now, making it even more beautiful than it was. My city is getting the axe right now and is built into a bright city though the old industrial factories are declared monuments.

Just wanted to share this to show my affection to Dirty Old Town.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 17 Mar 12 - 12:45 PM

"CO is certainly combustible"?? - really???
CO (carbon monoxide) is the result of incomplete combustion of methane CH4 which was one of the constituents of coal gas (as detailed by Noreen in 2008). Complete combustion in a proper oxgen supply generates CO2 - carbon DIoxide: less poisonous, but you can still get CO2 narcosis. Yes, CO does bind to haemoglobin very tightly, preventing oxygen transfer and binding, whereas carbon dioxide is much more easily displaced by oxygen to form oxyhaemaoglobin.
The "Dirty Old" bit apllies to the blackening by soot (carbon particles) of everything in the area, as well as to any atmospheric pollution. It wasn't the only Dirty old Town - my home town was called "Auld Reekie" after all!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Mar 12 - 01:53 PM

Carbon Monoxide is certainly combustible. Known as Coal Gas, it was the mainstay fuel for gas cookstoves until natural gas became available.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 17 Mar 12 - 07:42 PM

Sorry, Dick, I stand corrected: it burns (oxidises) to CO2, but as Noreen has said, it only constitutes 8% of coal gas, the rest being hydrogen and methane. So Carbon monoxide on its own is not coal gas, but part of it.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Paul Burke
Date: 17 Mar 12 - 07:52 PM

I thought I'd posted this earlier, but perhaps it didn't take...

According to Engineering Toolbox, the typical components of coal gas as produced in the Liverpool Road Gasworks of DOT fame (and every other gasworks in the country) were roughly:

CO2 3.8% CO 28.4% CH4 0.2% H2 17.0% N 50.6%

Note that useless (as a fuel) carbon dioxide and nitrogen make up over half the composition. That's an unwelcome, if unavoidable, result of roasting coal in air with its preponderance of nitrogen.

If my memory plays right, there was also a touch of hydrogen sulphide in the air around Liverpool Street, Cross Lane and Regent Road.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: janemick
Date: 09 Mar 13 - 08:48 AM

Here in Brittany they are convinced it is a sea-song and nothing we can say will dissuade people from this belief.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Mar 13 - 11:47 AM

Why, janemick? What is the remotest bit nautical or maritime about it, to afford the Bretons such a conviction?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 22 Mar 13 - 04:41 PM

I've never come across a thread this long!!!!

I only wanted to check whether the first line should end in 'croft' or 'wall'!

Amazing how it has stirred such emotions .. :)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 23 Mar 13 - 05:40 AM

Can't admit to having read this thread but the first line is "I met my love on the gasworks croft"; or at least that was what the ex-Stockport resident, Jimmy Millar, originally wrote.

I seem to remember the Dubliners singing "gasworks wall" on the TV a while back so that might have added to the confusion.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: canalwheeler
Date: 23 Mar 13 - 06:06 AM

In general terms, this is a good thread about what we used to call, 'The Folk Process'..... how the words of a song are adapted to a singer's preferences, memory, or dodgy hearing.

I particularly liked 'Dirty Ardoyne'.

Thanks for a good discussion folks. Enjoyed it.

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Mar 13 - 09:44 AM

"Jimmy Millar,"
Don't think so - I think it was written by Ewan MacColl - or maybe it was Robert Zimmermann!!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 23 Mar 13 - 10:31 AM

That would be ' Jimmy Miller ' then.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Rev Bayes
Date: 23 Mar 13 - 11:11 AM

Whoosh!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Mar 13 - 04:08 PM

I grew up in Salford . My mum used to hate the song . When she heard the spinners sing it I can remember her getting really irrate and saying "I bet they've never been to Salford."
As a child I can remember watching the steam trains and seeing the firebox glow at night.
My main memory of New Year's Eve was hearing the sirens of the ships on the docks at midnight.

Earlier in the thread famous Salfordiands are mentioned. One I haven't seen mentioned is Graham Nash.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Mar 13 - 04:16 PM

"My mum used to hate the song."
Pity - it's a good song and has been for a long, long time.
I detest 'Liverpool Barrow Boy' which I think is not a particularly good song - and I was born and brought up there.
Did you know that Fredrick Engles based much of his 'Conditions of the Working Class in England' on his study of Salford?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 23 Mar 13 - 05:12 PM

one of the nice things about folk clubs is that quite likeable people can sings you don't much care for. And this can make you listen to songs that maybe you wouldn't listen to, and you get to see the strengths of a song that initially you didn't appreciate.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jim I
Date: 23 Mar 13 - 09:47 PM

Referring to janemick's post of 9th March.

The Irish group I used to be in played at the Roscoff St Patrick's Festival for a couple of years and I remember the crowd in one of the bars always wanted us to sing Dirty Old Town.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Little Hawk
Date: 24 Mar 13 - 02:34 AM

Perhaps it's a reference to Buffalo, New York?

Or would that be "Filthy Old Town?"?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: canalwheeler
Date: 24 Mar 13 - 03:02 AM

RT makes reference to Dirty Old Town in his intro to 'Salford Sunday'.

Salford Sunday

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 24 Mar 13 - 04:47 AM

"Here in Brittany they are convinced it is a sea-song and nothing we can say will dissuade people from this belief," janemick wrote on 9 March. I queried this at the time; and can still not see what they could possibly mean by this. Can anyone cast any light on such an odd-sounding interpretation?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Mar 13 - 05:18 AM

I agree with you Jim.
As I said my mum hated the song.
However the song makes me feel quite nostalgic about it and it has been in my repertoire for a long time.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Mar 13 - 05:25 AM

Me too - didn't stop some of my mates in Liverpool years ago joining in my chorus with "Dirty old man, dirty old man"
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 24 Mar 13 - 06:20 AM

Famous singers from Salford? As well as Graham Nash, what about Arthur Wakefield!

In fact, Mr Nash and Mr Wakefield have something in common. Besides both being singers, of sorts, they shared a desk at primary school.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Mar 13 - 02:16 PM

That led me to an interesting discovery, Ray. Graham Nash, although hailing from Salford, was actually born in Blackpool where his mother was evacuated to in 1942. Amazing what you learn:-)

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 25 Mar 13 - 06:27 AM

Salford is on the Salford and Manchester Junction Canal: gues that makes it nautical then? (See jane muck on 9th March)
I have been on narrow boat trips on the Union Canal in Scotland, where we sang.....sea and fishing songs, shanties, nautical disaster songs, etc, despite there only being 3 FT of water under us! Don't think we did Dirty Old Town, though!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 25 Mar 13 - 06:29 AM

Ooooo, sorry janemick, bl""dy predictive text on iPad!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 25 Mar 13 - 08:41 AM

I've learned even more! Having lived in or around Salford and Manchester all my life until now I was surprised to hear about the Salford and Manchester Junction Canal! I googled it and found it was abandoned in 1922. Seems to have been superseeded by the Manchester Ship Canal. Thanks for the reference, Tatie:-) I think tne old canal referenced in the song though is probably the Manchester, Bolton and Bury which had it's start around the same place as tne gasworks in Salford.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Mar 13 - 09:52 AM

Dave is right. The Manchster and Salford Junction Canal never actually reached Salford, but finished on the far bank of the Irwell. The Manchester Bolton and Bury started almost opposite, on the Salford side, so never reached Manchester. While the Salford Bolton and Bury would have sounded perhaps a little provincial, the Manchester and Manchester Junction Canal would probably not have attracted many investors.

Parts of the M&SJ still exist, though waterless- one lock in the basement of a hotel, and one stretch under the former Manchester Central Station (now GMEX) that was at one time used for television studios.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 25 Mar 13 - 10:22 AM

Fascinating, Guest. Mrs G has a book about 'Underground Manchester'. I will see if the canal is referenced in it. I'd love to have a look in some of those old cellars and under the arches at the side of the Irwell - Wonder if they will ever open them up to tourists!

D.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,ollaimh
Date: 25 Mar 13 - 10:56 AM

the whole fake persona of anglo folk was everywhere back in the sixties and seventies. it's cultural appropriation. a form of racism. it's often worse from old "socialists". their brave new world of fine housing would have happily wiped out the ethnic enclaves, and not to worry about the culture, they would do the culture for you.

jimmy miller wrote good songs, but he was unconscious of the effect of his ideas about ethnic differences. his followers pretty routinely would shut out people actually from the ethnic background he pretented to be from because they had one of those--a fake. I found this for French gaelic and many other ethnic groups.

it's so much easlier to have a well mannered anglo sing the foreigh songs than those annoying foreigners who don't know who to brown nose and how to tug the forelock properly.the anglo folk scene is much more concerned with minorities kissing the right asses than the actual music. luckily the paying scene wants traditional music played by people from traditional cultures--especially in the united states.

and miller was from lowland scots background. NOT A GAEL. the reason lowland scots and English want to pretend these ethnic differences don't matter is because then they would have to address their centuries of bloodshed and injustice. after all it's all just geography, I was born in nova scotia so I an an Amerindian native , that would be the same claim.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Mar 13 - 12:22 PM

"jimmy miller wrote good songs,"
No - Ewan MacColl wrote good songs.
I wonder whether you people ever consider the effect of your referring to somebody by a name he stopped using forty-odd years ago, has on Neill MacColl and Callum MacColl or Kirsty MacColl or Hamish MacColl, or Kitty MacColl
Would you refer to Judy Garland as Ethel Gumm, or Irving Berlin as Israel Baline or Cary Grant as Archie Leech - or Bob Dylan as Robert Zimmermann - it would be simple bad manners to do so, so why use it as a vendetta against somebody who has been dead for thirty-odd years, a little ghoulish, don't you think?
It's a snide small-minded practice and only small-minded people resort to it to score some sort of small minded-points.
MacColl's mother was from Auchterader in Perthshire, his father was from the lowlands - MacColl sang Scots songs because that's what he grew up with, not to claim any sort of "Gaelness" whatever that is.
In the twenty-odd years I knew Ewan I never heard him once refer to himself as a Gael
He was born and grew up in Salford in the middle of the 1930s depression in appalling conditions which gave him a life-long hatred of the system that produced it.
His life experience inspired him to look out 'ordinary' people (whatever they are), listen to and record what they had to say and make songs based on what he was told. Songs like Freeborn Man, Shoals of Herring, Shellback and Tenant Farmer were based on actual recordings of fishermen, farmers, Travellers, coalminers.....
The Radio Ballad 'The Travelling People' helped draw attention to the persecution of Travellers in Britain and helped bring about changes in the laws regarding stopping places for them.
The Radio Ballads gave 'ordinary' people a voice they never had before, Navvies, railwaymen, fishermen, colaminers....
Far from being "racist", songs like 'Sharpville' and compositions like 'White Wind' exposed extreme murderous racism... and helped immortalise some of it worst excesses.
He drew attention to the fact that the music we love came from working people and was almost certainly a reflection of their lives throughout history - the 'lower-class art of people who are still considered as being 'artless'.
I'd be more than happy to have a tiny fraction of this carved on my gravestone - wouldn't anybody?
The only opportunity we will ever get to seriously discuss and analyse MacColl's contribution to traditional song is when we make this back-biting and corpse-dancing a thing of the past.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST,Jack Sprocket
Date: 25 Mar 13 - 01:43 PM

Well that's told us ollaimh. I apologise deeply for ever liking folk music when I should have liked something belonging to my own race, whatever that might be. James Miller's mother was born 25 miles too far east and the wrong gender to be true Scotsman, and James himself was born in England, and had no right to consider himself Scottish, unlike people born in Nova Scotia where the magic sticks yea even unto the seventh generation. But suitably chastened I will cease to sing or play music that doesn't belong to me, and take up Blues.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: canalwheeler
Date: 25 Mar 13 - 03:41 PM

Jimmy Miller was his given name. Jimmy Miller was a small time actor. Ewan McColl was an act. A very good act, but that is what it was.

Which of his spoken accents did you prefer? His natural Salford accent, or his Scottish accent when he was acting?

That doesn't stop him from being remembered as a great song-writer, a great radio programme producer, and a great folk entertainer.

But he was playing a part.

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 25 Mar 13 - 06:14 PM

"Jimmy Miller" was not any sort of actor, Tone, small or big or any other sort of time ~~ any more than William Pratt was:- for anyone who happens not to know, the real name of the man who acted thruout a long and distinguished career under the famous name of Boris Karloff. Mr Miller used the name Ewan MacColl throughout his career as performer and author, whether as actor or playwright or singer of folksongs or writer of songs in the folk idiom. He had, as pointed out above, as much right to be known by that name as Israel Baline had to be known as Irving Berlin, or Mary Ann Evans to be known as George Eliot, or Lord Stansgate to be known as Tony Benn, or any other of thousands of examples that could be adduced. What point anyone thinks they are making by insisting on referring to the creative and performing artist Ewan MacColl by what happened to be his birth name, of which he made no secret but which he preferred not to use as his professional name, I cannot conceive.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: canalwheeler
Date: 25 Mar 13 - 07:57 PM

@MtheGM Quote: "Jimmy Miller" was not any sort of actor, Tone, small or big or any other sort of time"

wiki

Quote from above:

Acting career

In 1931, with other unemployed members of the Clarion Players he formed an agit-prop theatre group, the "Red Megaphones." During 1934 they changed the name to Theatre of Action and not long after were introduced to a young actress recently moved up from London. This was Joan Littlewood who became Miller's wife and work partner. In 1936, after a failed attempt to relocate to London, the couple returned to Manchester, and formed the Theatre Union.

In 1940 a performance of The Last Edition – a 'living newspaper' – was halted by the police and Miller and Littlewood were bound over for two years for 'breach of the peace'. The necessities of wartime brought an end to Theatre Union. He enlisted in the British Army during July 1940, but deserted in December. Why he did so, and why he was not prosecuted after the war, remain a mystery.[2]

In 1946 members of Theatre Union and others formed Theatre Workshop and spent the next few years touring, mostly in the north of England. Jimmie Miller had by then changed his name to Ewan MacColl (influenced by the Lallans movement in Scotland).[1]

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 01:41 AM

Yeah, OK. It remains somewhat uncertain or ambiguous as to when, at what point, he began to use EMacC as his stage-name/pseudonym. I don't suppose anyone has any Red Megaphone or whatever programmes to settle the point. Did 'street theatre' companies even have programmes, or for that matter names known to their audiences? It is the sort of thing which I mentioned in my Times review of his autobiography Journeyman, about which he tends to remain silent, or fudge.

Still, I do take the point, Tone.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 03:58 AM

"Which of his spoken accents did you prefer?"
Can't help there - only met him for the first time in 1965, by when he had a fairly neutral accent, occasionally lapsing into an occasionally irritating "BBC" one - not a trace of 'Salford' as I knew it anywhere.
Personally, I prefer to hear Scots ballads sung in a Scots accent - MacColl introduced me to 175 Child ballads, some in multiple versions, and got me hooked for life.
He was actually far more than a "folk entertainer", a fact that people would be more aware of if we didn't have to climb garbage mountains like this every time his name was mentioned.
For nearly ten years he devoted a night a week to running a workshop for younger and less experienced singers, during which he developed relaxation and voice techniques for singing and methods of approaching songs in order to get the best of enjoyment out of them and keep them alive in the repertoire forever - worked for me anyway.
He also discussed song-making techniques and ran group sessions which produced a number of excellent songs and song-makers, still around on the scene today, some of them teaching younger singers themselves.
I was delighted when people took up some of the Radio Ballad techniques MacColl devised along with Peggy and Charles Parker and dearly hope that this method continues to be used and developed.
Instead of looking at these and many more aspects of MacColl's work we are still scrabbling the foothills of whether we should respect the fact that at one stage of his life (dealt with adequately in Ben Harker's biography, 'Class Act') MacColl chose to change his name.
It seems to me small-mindedly vindictive and simple bad manners (not to mention inconsistent) to continue to use a name he abandoned in the 1940s and ignore the one he chose to use throughout his singing career and by which everybody on the scene knew him. For the life of me I can't recall hearing anybody refer to the N.E singer 'John Pandrich', and I never, ever get a reply to my question about Robert Zimmermann.
It really is time the revival grew up rather than lapsing into second childhood.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: canalwheeler
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 04:27 AM

I think in general terms we can safely say that he used Ewan McColl after WW2, and he was Jimmie Miller, the small time political actor in the 30s, prior to WW2. I too wish we knew more about that period. Maybe Peggy Seeger has inherited archive material. I don't know.

I knew him in those days through Barney Wood, who was one of the founders of the Herga Folk Club, which I think can still claim to be one of the first in the country. Barney (bless 'im) made it clear then that Ewan was not what he claimed to be, and that was in the very early 70s.

I'm not knocking anything he did for the folk revival in whatever name. He was one of the early pillars, alongside Bert LLoyd and Cyril Tawney and others. He was brilliant as an acting performer, presenter and song writer.

I met him a couple of times when he was in full Scottish accent mode and I knew then that he was faking it for effect, but I didn't care. The gigs were great!

The point I have been trying to make is that we should know he was faking it for effect. That is all.

I know Bob Dylan and others changed their names, in the folk idiom, but not many changed their accents as well. McColl was unique in that.

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 04:56 AM

I see......you think Bob Dylan sang in his natural accent, and Martin Carthy, and Mike Waterson....

well its a point of view....

I'd say moderating your natural voice for dramatic effect was fairly standard procedure for all singers from Pavarotti to Johnny Rotten.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 05:17 AM

And ollaimh (Real name of course) just loves to have a go at anything and any one that is English. Not that he is racist or anything. Just redressing the balance as it is well known that Canadians are under the yolk of English oppression.

And there is another thing I have learned in this thread as well! Nova Scotians can talk through their arses :-)

DtG


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 06:46 AM

Sorry canalwheeler
Reading postings like yours leave me with the feeling that I've dozed off in front of the television and woken up to find I've left Jurassic Park still running on the video.
All this is very much of the past.
Peggy published 2 editions of Ewan's autobiography which deals with Ewan's early days, as does Ben Harker's Book.
"Ewan was not what he claimed to be"
Barney who - sorry - doesn't ring a bell?
MacColl borrowed from the accents he was surrounded with as a child; he used the method all actors do of neutralising them so they were comprehensible to the unfamiliar - worked for me.
In all the years I visited the MacColl household (they kindly fed me and gave me a bed for a month when I first moved to London) I became friendly with Ewan's mother Betsy and to the day she died I still had trouble with her accent (and my dad was born in Glasgow)
"Herga Folk Club, which I think can still claim to be one of the first in the country."
You can claim it, but it was very much an also ran, if at all; it's a toss-up whether the Ballads and Blues or the Topic Folk Club(?) was the first and there are numerous other contenders for the title.
"when he was in full Scottish accent mode"
You have the advantage over me there - never heard him us a Scottish accent other than on stage telling Scots stories or singing Scots songs.
"small time political actor in the 30s"
Wow - I think Bertold Brecht, Sean O'Casey and George Bernard Shaw might have had something to say about that description.
Hugh McDairmid wrote in his introduction to the published play Uranium 235, ".....(Sir David) Lindsay would have been a greater dramatist (and the whole history of Scottish drama very different) if he had been also the Ewan MacColl of the sixteenth century"
"The point I have been trying to make is that we should know he was faking it for effect."
Sorry - tried to resist it but - utter bollocks!
Stories about MacColl were, in my opinion, never accurate, but they certainly haven't improved by being passed through the 'Chinese whispers' process.
The contribution MacColl made to our pleasure and understanding of folk song surely deserves better than this garbage - not to mention last years god-awful travesty on The Critics Group.
Anyway - as much as I'm enjoying all this - must go. I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to discuss the important issues surrounding MacColl's life rather than all that boring old folk stuff.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: C Stuart Cook
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 09:02 AM

My understanding of the background to the song was that it was written for scene changes in one of the plays produced by Joan Littlewood's theatre company. As such it was slightly disjointed and done with a definite jazz style arrangement. Only later was it all "joined up" and folkified into the much loved song it now is. It must be a good song to be mouldable to so many peoples needs and understandings.

There is an irony to it though which will not be known to the majority. The song was possibly written when MacColl and Littlewood were in residence on Higham Lane, Gee Cross, Hyde on the top of Werneth Low. It was here that the Security Services conducted some surveillance on MacColl.

Werneth Low is a hill detached from the Pennines. Bounded by the River Tame on the North side and the Etherow on the South. These rivers join up with the Goyt to form the River Mersey in Stockport.

Although the cottages and houses at the top of Higham lane were tied into the local hatting industry they were on the edge of open country side, as they are still. Tonight I shall walk my dog through the Country Park in the fields on the other side of the road from their house with 30 mile views over the Manchester/Salford connurbation from its 1000 foot elevation.

Even if it was or wasn't written in the green fields and huge views of Werneth Low it could not be bettered for the description of the myriad of industrial towns spread out below. You couldn't smell the Salford smoke on Werneth Low but Smith's Boneyard on Kingston Brow could do a pretty good job of curling your nostril hairs. Pretty well every town that Ewan and Joan will have looked down on would have provided a similar scene to any in Salford. Hyde, Dukinfield, Ashton, Droylsden, Gorton, Stockport, et al. Canals, mills, steelworks, brass foundries, gas works, dye works, huge smoking chimneys for as fear as they could see.

From where they lived on Higham lane they could see huge chunks of the history of the land. Werneth Low provided streams for some of the first water powered mills of the cotton industry, Mottram the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Steven/Matilda civil war, the Ashton family, the basis of Mrs Gaskells Mary Barton. he may not have been aware of it all but I'm sure he must have absorbed some of it. He was that sort of man.

I'm sure that Jim will dispute or correct something here but so what, I enjoy his precision and detail. He once disputed a story about Ewan getting annoyed about Gypsies camping on his land. Ewan a landowner? The field on the other side of the road from the Higham Lane property was a stop over spot for travellers when they still worked the edges of the connurbation. Whether that was the seed for the story I couldn't say but it but it sounds like it could have been. Later it became the long term home for a very sad looking Shetland Pony that was straight out of Thelwell.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 11:35 AM

"I'm sure that Jim will dispute or correct something here but so what, I enjoy his precision and detail."
Why should I; I'm extremely grateful for vivid picture you paint of where he lived at that time (mentioned briefly in Ben Harker's book)
I have heard the story of his clash with the gypsies, when I was told of it, it was said to have happened at their home in Beckenham, where they lived from the early sixties - I suggest if anybody gives credence to this they should 'Google-Earth 35 Stanley Avenue and judge the possibilities of a Gypsy family attempting to camp in their garden; they lived on the top half of a maisonette with access to half of the back garden and a pocket-handkerchief sized flower-bed in the front.
Had he behaved in such a manner he would have been given short shrift from his "friend and drinking companion" from at least 1950, Hamish Henderson, who was a fierce advocate of Travellers rights.
His friendship with the Stewarts dating from the early sixties and his work on The Radio Ballad and with all the Scots Travellers he recorded, and with Caroline Hughes and later Nelson Ridley, suggests the story to be yet another of those vindictive and unqualified yarns that I have always intended to write down and distribute in an attempt to get further information on.
One story I know to be true (it was included in an interview with Sheila Stewart published in 'The Living Tradition') is the one told as an anti-MacColl yarn.
When they were making 'The Travelling People' they decided quite late in the work to include some Traveller made songs (the Stewarts called them "makkie-ups). They circulated an appeal for such songs and received a tape of 'Gypsy women' singing a couple. At the last minute, virtually on the eve of the broadcast, John Brune confessed to having written and sung them "in a funny voice" - the result being that Sheila Stewart, who was given the task of singing them, was withdrawn from the programme, far too late to be given anything else to do - hilarious!!
Personally, I don't give a toss of what people think of Ewan and Peggy - my memories are my own; of a warm, friendly, knowledgeable and talented couple eager to share all this and more with anybody who asked their help or advice.
Even before I moved to London to join the Critics group I had stayed at their home several times to make copies of their field recordings to use in the workshop I was running in Manchester. They tossed young Callum out of his room whenever anybody visited and provided a Ferrograph and a Tandberg to make copies on.
Knowing them not only encouraged me to lift the corner of folk song to find what was underneath; it was talking to Ewan that prompted us to start collecting songs and information ourselves, which re-shaped our lives completely.
Sorry if all this sounds sycophantic - it isn't intended to be. Ewan could be a difficult bugger when he wanted, and his powers of exaggeration were something else! He certainly had flaws you could hide a London bus in, but I do get pissed off when I only hear of his awkward side
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 01:17 PM

Good post, C Stuart Cook. I know Werneth Low quite well too, having cut my 'Manchester Rambler' teeth in the dark peak :-) I also worked in Sheffield for quite a while and, dropping down from the Snake after a day shift, with the lights coming on ever the area you describe was one of the finest sights.

One thing did strike me when you said "Pretty well every town that Ewan and Joan will have looked down on would have provided a similar scene to any in Salford. Hyde, Dukinfield, Ashton, Droylsden, Gorton, Stockport". They all do indeed have a lot in common but one thing sets Salford apart from the rest - It is a City! Most Salfordians are quite proud of the fact that we became a city before Manchester. So, just maybe, Ewan was not writing about Salford after all. Unless of course he was just using 'Town' with poetic licence :-)

Going back to then song, did I mention before, talking about poetic licence, that it is one of the very few lyrics I know that has no rhyme in at all!

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: canalwheeler
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 03:14 PM

@Jim Carrol Quote: "Barney who - sorry - doesn't ring a bell?"

Barney and Mary Wood, with Bob Wakeling were part of the original resident band of the Herga Folk Club, Harrow. Before that they formed the original Herga Song Club in 1959. I didn't claim it was the first. But it can claim to be one of the first.

From a Bob Wakeling biog.

In 1973 the same trio began and hosted the Pumphouse Folk Club, Watford

Pump House Folk Club 40th

In the photograph the performers are l to r, Barney Wood, Mary Wood and Bob Wakeling, who is still performing.

Barney did a lot to raise interest in folk song, since his early days in The Woodcraft Folk. I sang with Barney and Mary as 'Folkus' in the mid 70s and Barney danced or played drum with my NW side, Cottonmill Morris in the late 70s & early 80s. Barney and Mary frequently guested a the Steamer Folk Club St Albans.

Dirty Old Town was one of Barney's favourite songs. He would sometimes introduce it by saying, "Here's a song by a guy called Jimmie Miller. You might know him better now as Ewan McColl." As the song first appeared as part of a play in 1949, it could possibly have first been written when he was still JM. But does it matter?

"Garbage? Utter bollocks? It is possible to have a reasoned discussion here without resorting to such bar-room language.

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 04:02 PM

""Here's a song by a guy called Jimmie Miller."
He was ill-mannered and vindictive as well then?
Sorry - still can't see why MacColl can't be called MacColl and Dylan is never called Zimmerman, and you obviously aren't going to explain.
"Garbage? Utter bollocks? It is possible to have a reasoned discussion here without resorting to such bar-room language."
Sorry - I find it very odd that somebody so ill-mannered as to insist on calling a (fellow?) performer by a name he abandoned back in the 1940s should be so insensitive as not to know why anybody should find that offensive -, more than a little odd to complain about my strong (but perfectly serviceable) language, don'cha think?
Do you really not understand why it is downright bad manners to behave in such a way?
MacColl has been known by that name since some time in the mid 1940s, which pre-dates his writing Dirty Old Town by around 5 years: which is beside the point - he chose that name, he is universally known by that name, he wrote and recorded using that name, I'm damn (whoops - sorry for the language) sure that most young people coming into the scene wouldn't know who on earth you were talking about if you talked about Jimmie Miller - "who he?".
Does it matter - it obviously does to you, otherwise you wouldn't use it given the present circumstances.
It simply is vindictive bad manners on the part of you, your mate Barney - (sorry, still doesn't ring a bell despite the fact that I visited the Herga when it was in the Royal Oak dozens of times - are you sure that's his real name?), and all the other dinosaurs who still wander your part of the planet.
I don't suppose you would explain why you insist on using it any more than you would explain the Zimmermann thing!
Sorry - you are beginning to irritate me - I've already got one of you, thanks all the same.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 07:46 PM

I've never said McColl can't be called McColl.

Quote: "Barney - (sorry, still doesn't ring a bell despite the fact that I visited the Herga when it was in the Royal Oak dozens of times - are you sure that's his real name?"

That was quite funny.

If you visited the Herga after 1973, Barney Wood was by then running the Pumphouse club in Watford with Bob Wakeling. Did you look at the picture on the link?

And I note your irritability. It seems to be a problem you have, so I'll I'll leave you to it.

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: canalwheeler
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 08:13 PM

My apologies. I had not realised that I was logged out for the above post.

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 01:33 AM

'I've never said McColl can't be called McColl.'
.,,.
No, and you had better not, because his name was MacColl. Not a minor point; your failure to get it right was a factor of your general unmannerliness in the matter of which Jim so rightly complains, Tony.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 03:48 AM

Don't be silly.

Tell that to the BBC:

James Henry Miller (25 January 1915 – 22 October 1989), better known by his stage name Ewan MacColl,

Jimmie Miller

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 04:05 AM

I fear you might have missed the point, Tony my duckling, that you rendered MacColl as McColl ~~ which was careless and rude. You are the one being silly.

If you didn't, then I have no idea what you are on about whatsoever; but please don't trouble to expound.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 04:39 AM

Oh, my profuse apology for a typo. Get a life!

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 05:05 AM

Your BBC link is headed 'Ewan MacColl' - the Miller bit indicates his birth given name (Christian name wouldn't have applied to Ewan).
It wasn't his 'stage name' - he had it changed by deed-poll, the reasons for him doing so had nothing to do with his being a performer - all covered in Harker's book.
MacColl can be called Robert Zimmermann if anybody takes it into their head to do so, though why anybody should is beyond me.
My objection is that his name change and the constant drawing of attention to it is a diversion; a deliberate attempt to somehow belittle his work and his ideas and to suggest that - how did you put it - he was "not what he claimed to be", or "faking it for effect" (thank you for those two excellent examples, by the way).
It is a rather nasty device used by performers throughout the folk scene against a fellow artist for 'cutting somebody down to size'. It may happen in other fields of art, though I've never come across it elsewhere, not to this extent and certainly not thirty years after their death - do people really still feel that threatened by the man?
As I said earlier, it acts as a barrier against discussing the work we did with the Critics Group, maybe of no consequence - we'll never know until we examine it with others.
After the break-up of the Critics, Pat and I approached Ewan and asked would he be prepared to be interviewed on his ideas on singing; he agreed and over a period of six months we filled twenty tapes of opinions and ideas of him talking on traditional songs and ballads, singing techniques, politics and song, making new songs.... magic!
I've now reached an age that I realise they will end up on an archive shelf somewhere for future generations to make use of (if they are still singing folk songs). That fact is down to garbage heaps such as this one - sad.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 06:13 AM

Apparantley their are songs called folk songs. Some are very old and some are not. No clear definition seems to have been agreed by a maojority of the people who either sing or enjoy them.

At the end of the 19C lots of old songs of a particular kind were collected by song collectors and many were published. They are often called folk or traditional songs. This is now known as the first folk revival.

From the 1950s onwards a second revival began. More collecting occured and songs were learned from the books of the first revival.People wrote songs aswell. Thousands and thousands of folks clubs operated in the next whatever years. Thousands and thousands of people sang played and went to folk clubs.

Ewan MacColl with Peggy Seeger contibuted massively to that process. I would be hard pushed to list people who contrubuted more.

Why people bother to post on this global website to comment on the personality etc. of EMc is beyond me.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: C Stuart Cook
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 09:54 AM

I think all forums have a distinct pattern, whatever the subject.

Innocent/genuine comment or question
Some honest answers or comments
Someone takes exception or pontificates.
Someone defends or defines with a degree of knowledge.
Others who sit around waiting for an explotable situation wade in.
Others continue to try to keep the conversation sensible.
Final flattening off as tit for tat becomes tedious.

I always find Jim's replies interesting and informative whether in answer to someone, defending the truth or in exasperation and annoyance.

I made my own contribution in respect of attempting to shed light on a period that seems a bit grey in the overall history of the song. I firmly beleive in a cycle of life of about 5 or 6 years. That always seems to me when I look back on my own life, that over that period of time things tend to change and develop. By the time the 5 years have gone I'm on a diferent path and direction. Between the end of the war and say an arbitrary date of 1956 (tow cycles), when the Folk side of things really kicked in, for at least a part of it Ewan (by now) lived in a place vastly different from the town of Salford that he is more usually associated with. He was living almost on top of the artists Harry Rutherford and L S Lowry, in open countryside at the centre of one of the most important historical areas of the early, water powered Industrial Revolution.

Politically he was on top of the area that contributed more than most to the Chartist Movement, the early ancestor of the socialist movement.The fields of Peterloo were poulated by the inhabitants of the surrounding towns. His father by this time was in Stockport just a short distance away.He could see Kinder Scout to the south and Bleaklow's "frozen sea" to the east. Then, as now, the skies were populated by Skylarks and Lapwings.

You might have guessed I'm passionate about this bit of a hill. I simply cannot imagine that Ewan didn't live here without it being an essential part of everything he became, wrote and sang.

To the original posters who wondered what Dirty Old Town was about, you need to stand on Werneth Low and look about you and on the mighty towns that made up the North West of England, that powered the Indutrial Revolution and subsequently the world. You'll understand it all then(and a lot more).


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: John Routledge
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 11:11 AM

Thanks Stuart - If your last paragraph had been the first post there would have been little debate :0)


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 11:55 AM

"Oh, my profuse apology for a typo*. Get a life! Tone"
.,,.
I'll get as much life as I like when I choose, you impertinent little man.   MYOB meanwhile, & try to learn what a '*typo' actually is, ignoramus: it is, FYmuch·neededO, not at all the same thing as a repeated impolite error.


~M~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 12:00 PM

To help in your efforts, note following from wikipedia

"A typographical error (often shortened to typo) is a mistake made in the typing process (such as spelling) of printed material... The term includes errors due to mechanical failure or slips of the hand or finger, but excludes errors of ignorance, such as spelling errors.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 12:53 PM

@ MtheGM Quote: "impertinent little man". Well, if you're going into personal attack mode you've run out of logical argument. But eyeball to eyeball, unless you are over 6ft 4ins, you'll be looking up to me, literally!

@Jim. Quote: "It wasn't his 'stage name' - he had it changed by deed-poll"

Agreed. That piece was probably written by a cub BBC online reporter who knows nothing about folk song. I only gave the reference out of interest, just to keep the thread boiling, as it were. It's been fun.

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 01:35 PM

"if you're going into personal attack mode you've run out of logical argument".
.,,.
A facile and pathetic argument, typical of a figuratively little mind whatever the actual dimensions of the body in which it happens to be housed, which would only carry any conviction if the argument had not been further developed, which it was [or was it too much effort for him to read further?]. This was merely in response to the impertinent injunction to 'get a life', the extent to which I choose to conform with which is a matter for my judgment, not that of any impudent interloper who appears to think that an above-average stature affords him some right of interfering in others' existential options.

The argument was then developed by demonstrating, with the aid of an authoritative reference source, that it is a gross, deceitful, evasive misnomer to call an unmannerly and ignorant mistake a 'typo', which word applies to another sort of inadvertent error entirely.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 03:01 PM

Y'know. I feel very sorry for you. To go to such extremes, anonymously, to try to belittle another poster who holds different views to you, shows huge inadequacy in every other aspect of life. You are obviously a non-achiever in real terms, so "plonk". You're gone.

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 03:53 PM

What do you mean, anonymously? My identity is known to pretty well everybody on this forum; but who Tone the Canal Wheeler [whatever that is supposed to mean] may be is an entire mystery.

~Michael Grosvenor Myer~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 03:59 PM

Mike Grosvenor Myer - columnist from way back to various folk magazines, notably 'Folk Review'
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 04:00 PM

And it isn't a matter of "different views", you fool. I don't give a piggipoo for your opinion of anything; but to try to pass off a piece of unmannerly repetitious misspelling of someone's name as a 'typo' is a piece of disgusting ignorant evasive deceit of which you should be thoroughly ashamed; but I am sure you won't be, because you have the shamelessness on the little, 76" tall or not. No need to 'try to belittle' you; you manage to do a grand job of that all by your little self.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 04:24 PM

As for my non-achievement 'in real terms'. Well, far be it from me... but as you have brought up the subject.. Thanks, Jim, for starting the ball rolling. Also Theatre & Folk critic for The Guardian for over quarter-century; Book critic, esp Folk, for The Times... &c &c &c.

You obviously think of yourself as some sort of 'achiever', Tone. So let's hear it, eh. What your claims to fame 'in real terms'?

Come on ~~ don't be shy.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: canalwheeler
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 05:00 PM

@ Jim Quote: "Mike Grosvenor Myer - columnist from way back to various folk magazines, notably 'Folk Review'"

Is that who he is? I'm quite shocked. I had a lot of respect for him, until I read his posts here. He's obviously now a very bitter old man, but I can understand why.

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 05:09 PM

Well, now you know. Sorry for your disappointment. I'm nearly 81, but not particularly bitter that I am aware of. Just have always run on the watchword, then & now, that "accuracy matters"; and can you really not see that you were repetitiously inaccurate, & then tried evasive tactics to try & fudge the fact ~ 'typo' forsooth!.

Now, come clean. Who are you, hiding under cloak of anonymity? Who is 'canal wheeler' then? and why?

Tone Tone Tone ~~ OUT OUT OUT!

~M~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: canalwheeler
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 05:58 PM

Anonymity and Guest Posting are permitted.

You are free to be anything you want EXCEPT unkind, impolite, argumentative, snooty, or either FOR or AGAINST that of-what-we-do-not-speak.

Be aware of what personal information you decide to share within the forum.


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 06:47 PM

OK. Right. Fine ~~ do what you like ~~ go & sulk namelessly in your corner ~~ exercise your rights and entitlements. But remember with what pejorative tone & accusatory animus you denounced me for posting "anonymously" at 0301 PM. Another instance of your ignorance; coupled, it now appears with an astonishing degree of sauce4goose hypocrisy on your part. My, what a piece of work you are, to be sure, Mr Whoever-you-are. "Be aware of what personal information you decide to share within the forum" is it now? Why, what a deadly secret you must be hiding. Not Lord Lucan, are you? Or one of the still-to-be-caught-up-with Nazi war criminals? Or Prince Harry having a giggle, maybe?

I feel like Lucy van Pelt draped over Schroeder's piano ~~ "You fascinate me!"

Well just an itsy-bitsy bit.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 06:51 PM

But perhaps a more apposite Peanuts quote ~~~ Marcie to Peppermint Patty ~~

You're weird, Sir...


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 08:36 PM

A real thread-killer, all this personal animosity: why don't you just PM each other your insults or arrange pistols at dawn somewhere?
Ewan would be turning in his grave.

Trish Santer


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Leadfingers
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 09:38 PM

I have always maintained that IF you want a slanging match with another member , do it by PM and DONT foul up another thread !


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 03:45 AM

Tattie & Leadfgrs ~~ do you really expect me voluntarily to accept abusive anonymous private correspondence & respond rationally to it? Would you? Don't be silly.

Regards

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: janemick
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 04:20 AM

Dirty old town as sea song in Brittany:

MtheGM - I have no idea why they think this is a sea song, but I agree with Jim I, it is a great favourite with our breton friends.

Tattie Bogle's idea about the ship canal is all I can think of (nice predictive text!)

However, if you want to please an audience of Bretons, sing this song!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 05:39 AM

As I said earlier, way up in this thread, I don't have any problem with the meaning of the song. What I do have a problem understanding is:

MYOB meanwhile, …………………………………………: it is, FYmuch•neededO, ……………………..

I really have tried to work it out but I give up. What does it mean in English please, Michael?


DC


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 07:26 AM

TYFYI [= Thank you for your inquiry], Doug Chadwick
.,,.

MYOB meanwhile, …………………………………………: it is, FYmuch•neededO,
.,,.
Standard abbrevs which I am sure could be found by googling if at a loss

MYOB = Mind your own business

FYO = For your information

as I rendered this above = For your much-needed information.

Hope all now clear

~M~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 07:34 AM

Sorry ~~ acknowledge a mistake [NOT a 'typo'] in above and the post it refs to. Can't imagine why I put FYO, when it should have been FYI = For your information.

Profound apologies* for culpable and erroneous carelessness.

~M~

*How about some of the same from u-no-hoo for his repeated 'McColl'? In my dreams, I much fear! Actually, on recollection I think he did offer such; but in tones of profound irony, IIRC [= If I remember correctly!] Most of these abbreviations can be found on Mudcat html, I think, can't they?


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 08:43 AM

http://www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/textmessageabbreviations.asp#M

is a useful online guide to such standard web abbreviations. Many, such as lol ['laugh out loud' or 'lots of love'], btw ['by the way'], 2MI ['too much information'] have got out and become mainstream, so you will find journos using them in features and expecting to be understood. They can, iirc ['if I remember correctly'] and SFAICS ['so far as I can see'] be typed in upper or lower case.

HTH ['hope this helps']

~M~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 09:06 AM

@janemick

I guess the ultimate comment on the songs origins are here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Wj7xZf8xm8

Tone


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 09:16 AM

Standard abbrevs which I am sure could be found by googling if at a loss

Yes, I could look them up on Google – but why should I have to. It should be on the part of the writer, not the reader, to make communication clear and unambiguous.

DC


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 09:31 AM

"A typographical error (often shortened to typo) …………... The term includes errors due to mechanical failure or slips of the hand or finger…"

… acknowledge a mistake [NOT a 'typo'] in above and the post it refs to. Can't imagine why I put FYO, when it should have been FYI …



As 'O' is next to 'I' on a qwerty keyboard, a slip of the finger is easily done so it probably was a 'typo'.


DC


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 09:41 AM

I take your point, Doug. But these are recognised, standard abbreviations, generally accepted for online discourse; so I don't think it unreasonable to expect the meaning to be known clearly to anyone using an online forum I would suggest that they are, once learnt, convenient communication-enhancers. All language is conventional, after all. As well object to the use of a word you might not know, rather than taking the obvious recourse of consulting a dictionary so that you will recognise it next time.

Thank you for affording me that 'typo' get-out!

LoL

~M~


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Weasel
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 12:28 PM

I was playing in Salford Cathedral this morning.   The Bishop gave the congregation directions to the refreshments - "Past the bookies' and turn left at the abandoned car opposite the burnt out pub."

Ah, Salford!


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 02:11 PM

He sent you the wrong way! From the cathedral the best chippy is next to the tattoo parlour and charity shop...

:D


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Subject: RE: Help: Dirty Old Town? Meaning???
From: ollaimh
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 07:43 PM

maybe it was origionally dirty old clown, and really about a certain folk musician


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