James Miller (stage name Ewan MacColl) wrote this song about Salford in Lancashire where he was born and raised, although equally it could describe many Northern English towns. As many English songs have been, it was usurped by foreigners and particularly mangled by the Irish band The Pogues. Ostensibly MacColl hated the Pogues’ version and commented that if he’d known what The Pogues would do with it, he wouldn’t have bothered writing it. Irish performers have often taken English traditional and contemporary songs and removed or changed dialect words and geographic location so as to cleanse their English identity. Thus MacColl’s references to Salford and the Lancashire dialect words "croft" were removed and in so doing Ewan McColl's bitter-sweet ballad was transformed into a typically bawdy, meaningless Irish drinking song. I was born and raised in Manchester which overlaps Salford so I relate to the sentiment of the original and I decided to try and return the song to what I felt MacColl was trying to say.
Composer: Ewan MacColl / Arr. Phil Drane
1. I met my love by the gas works croft
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
And I kissed my girl by the factory wall
This dirty old town, it never leaves you at all.
2. Clouds are drifting, across the moon
Cats are prowling, out on their beats
Spring's a girl, in the streets at night
This dirty old town, where the street lamps won’t light
They just give up the fight
In this dirty, dirty old town
It’s a dirty, dirty old town.
3. I heard a siren across the docks
Saw a train set the night on fire
Smelled the spring in the Salford wind
That whips this old town; it can strip off your skin
Yes it can grip you.
4. I'm going to make me a good sharp axe
Shining steel tempered in the fire
I'm gonna chop you down like an old dead tree
This dirty old town, it doesn’t matter to me
Why should it matter?
‘Cos it’s a dirty, dirty old town
A dirty, dirty old town.
It’s just a dirty, dirty old town
But it’s my dirty, dirty old town.