Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Dirty Old Town

"Dirty Old Town" is a song written by Ewan MacColl in 1949. It was written about the industrialisation and pollution in Salford, the city MacColl grew up in, but could apply- then and now- to many a place, including parts of neighbouring Manchester, as illustrated in today's photo. 

For performances of it, with atmospheric archive photos, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Wj7xZf8xm8

Wikipedia states: When MacColl first wrote the song, the local council were unhappy at having Salford called a dirty old town and, after considerable criticism, the words of the song were changed from "smelled a spring on the Salford wind" to "smelled a spring on the smoky wind". The Spinners made the first popular recording of the song and they sang "Salford wind". This was hardly surprising as the lead singer on the track was Mick Groves, a Salfordian.

It was originally composed for an interlude to cover an awkward scene change in MacColl's  Salford-set 1949 play Landscape with Chimneys, but with the growing popularity of folk music the song became a standard. The song paints an evocative yet ultimately bitter picture of industrial northern England, and presages to some extent the Angry Young Man school of the 1950s.

Come back tomorrow to see a transformation of this bleak wall and fire escape...


  1. Well recall the song but either did not know or have long forgotten it was set in Salford, though I guess it could well have been about many of the industrial towns here in the North.
    The BBC filmed a new version of Room At The Top here in Leeds, finished it and were due to show it back in April before they discovered that someone else owned the rights. Pity I was looking forward to seeing the bits of Leeds I could recognize. Paul at Leeds in Yorkshire daily photo

  2. I love posters, words, letters in the cities. This pic seems Recife, my dirty old town. Thanx!

  3. Great post Chrissy. I didn't know that about the song. Also thank you for your comments and yes, hopefully we can meet someday. Now we are legally married.

  4. Can't remember how often I sang that song with friends inside of a Pub. And it is indeed the content that makes even a 'dirty old town' much liked.
    Please have a good Wednesday.

  5. I don't recall ever having heard the song before. And I must say, I like the look of this photo. Every town has its "dirty old" parts and there's something compelling in them.

  6. I don't know the song but I like your photograph and the moment in time that you snapped!
    Thanks for visiting!

  7. I like your photo..... made me stop!
    Something about the lines/ composition of it.

    Gunn / Stavanger