Van Zandt, Townes - Dirty Old Town Lyrics

I met my love
By the Gas Works Vault
Dreamed a dream
By the old canal
I kissed my girl
By the factory wall

Dirty Old Town
Dirty Old Town

Clouds are drivting
Across the moon
The cats are prowling
On their beast
Springs the girls
From the streets of town

Dirty Old Town
Dirty Old Town

I heard a sigh
Run from the dark
Saw a tree
Set the night on fire
I smelled the spring
On the salty wind

Dirty Old Town
Dirty Old Town

I'm gonna make me
A picture of fine
Shining sill
Comfort in the fire
I'll chop you down
Like an old dutch tree

Dirty Old Town
Dirty Old Town

I met my love
By the Gas Works Vault
Dreamed a dream
By the old canal
I kissed my girl
By the factory wall

Dirty Old Town
Dirty Old Town
Dirty Old Town

Other Lyrics by Artist

Rand Lyrics

Van Zandt, Townes Dirty Old Town Comments
  1. Shteno

    This doesn't sound like him AT ALL!

  2. Wooden Piano

    Let's get Townes to sing this before he died next Monday!!?? It'll make us some more money offa his arse.

  3. blaho

    Confort in the fire

  4. gillian sandusky

    He was too drunk to record this song and im so sad, he was so amazing. God damn it.

  5. Franco Semprini

    I have now found this version of Townes Van Zandt, it is very but very suggestive, it really evocative "Folk"...I love it, I didn't know's very intense, moving. t. This by Van Zandt is really "dry", dry, essential ...
    I also love that Folk, very traditional and essential.

  6. Flap Jackson

    The first version of this song I heard was The Pogues, back in tbe 80’s.

    Never knew Townes VanZandt did it,
    But it makes sense. So much of Americana music is directly descended from Scots Irish.

  7. John Stanley

    It is horrible this man died early.

  8. Laurent Delacroix

    Who would've guessed?
    Many years ago, on another continent, someone would write a song about okmulgee, Oklahoma.
    A dirty old town.

    Don Roby

    There are dirty old towns everywhere. Ewan MacColl wrote this about Salford in the UK, but it applies to many places.

  9. John Stanley

    You could put a pop top in front of this man and he could have written a work of art about it...

  10. Joseph Carpenter

    Yeah Boyo R I P

  11. jp7feet

    "townes van zandt - vocals & howls
    " Good one Christoph Holzhöfer
    . He sounds so old at 52. Hell I'm 62. But a tortured life does things to a man; I know.

    Christoph Holzhöfer

    O yes ... "a tortured life does things to a man" ... and greetings from Germany ...

  12. Maggie5846

    Makes me sad to hear this, Townes. Not just because your voice was leaving you, but because you were leaving us.

  13. Custis Longly

    Couldn't have been sung more beautifully.

  14. Kirby Lethbridge

    his experience with pain was total,and he shared it to the end.i think he had a beautiful romance with his pain.i love all his stuff.

    Kirby Lethbridge

    i mean...'beautiful'..not a kind beauty.

  15. zuluder866

    Perfect example of how traditional Irish music blended into Texas swing and bluegrass.


    I love this and love Townes! I also really like the version of this song with Christy Moore and Shane McGowan. Check it out! Cheers!

  17. Dynamic Hypnotic

    I love Townes, but that was awful. Give me the Pogues version any day.

  18. nathanoman1

    RIP TOWNES...Love you brother!!!

  19. Gary burns

    Way to high for townes

  20. christine anderson

    What a surprise to hear him sing this. Often sang and played it myself.

  21. wheelmanstan

    only a few months before he passed, long live Townes

  22. Joseph Carpenter


  23. YAUUN

    Damn! This is an amazing version of one of my favourite songs.

  24. Wally Walsh

    This song was written by Ewan mac coll its about were he lived in England not many people no tat, ,but Shane magowane sings the best version ever.

  25. Will Long

    I love Townes' body of work, both the writing and the performances; but this is about the toughest to listen to that I can still endure. Even though he was already gone more than a decade before I learned who he was, it pains to witness his physical and emotional decay.

  26. Joe Thornton

    Salford, Lancashire, England.

  27. Gustaf Renström

    Recorded just a month after i was born, and here i am listening to it 21 years later

  28. Banana Trish

    I just found a recording of Rod Stewart singing this song early in his career... I hate to say it but Rod doesn't sound much better!

  29. steve jaubert

    Its about a simple place with simple people, in a simpler time who lived their lives affected by their hard times circumstances but their spirits were able to find meaning and love despite it all and this one guy finds love only to have it stolen or escape him but he's going to get revenge. Its a story embedded in that world about love found and love lost.

  30. Tom Wilmore

    I miss Townes.

    Christoph Holzhöfer

    Me too ...

  31. Caleb Davis

    17 people aren't from a dirty ole town

  32. eric heine

    Iron American Dream on YouTube Share it. Take a ride across the promised land. Ride a Harley.

  33. Maxine Corrington

    I like this version. Its "organic".

  34. Ilona Kadic


  35. Banana Trish

    His voice makes me feel all his lifetime of pain.

  36. Banana Trish

    Beautiful song,... I don't know a thing about auto tune but I wonder if it's possible after one is deceased?

  37. Chris Yates

    You do know, all of you, that this fantastic song is about Salford, near Manchester in England, don't you ????

  38. Anne Gwinner


  39. cravinbob

    Sounds like it is from vinyl, crackling and rumble! There is software to remove that stuff. (Why people praise vinyl I do not know) Good tune anyway

  40. Kev Giles

    It's about Salford in Manchester


    Next to, not in

  41. Sahai Phav

    Love Townes!

  42. Matthew Ovens

    He sounds like shit, but when you're singing about salford I suppose it's fitting.

  43. Adam Nicholson

    2:21 he says Dirty Old Townes

  44. Robert

    i don't care if this tired version is tired, he had the right to sing whatever he felt like, still good enough on any day

  45. mandomonica

    What a bittersweet treasure. The toll taken by Townes' tough lifestyle is really apparent in this recording. For those of you looking for this recording, I believe this was from a limited edition of 2000 vinyl copies on German Exile label according to the biography "A Deeper Blue", p247.

  46. Kevin Naughton

    Love TVZ. Just stumbled on this. Wow.

  47. Kevin Naughton

    Love TVZ. Just stumbled on this. Wow.

  48. alberts1985

    Blaze 1

  49. Jack Melvin

    Jesus, I never knew Townes did this tune. talk about a favourite doing a favourite. he sounds so sad....

  50. Bob Papadopoulos

    I always thought Townes was the American Shane MacGowan, so this cover is about as thematically perfect as it gets.

  51. Jed ward

    Great Irish song

    Jeff Williams

    The writer Ewan MacColl was English. It's about Salford near Manchester.


    Ewan MaColl was born in Salford. Kirsty MacColl ( (The Pogues' connection with this great piece) was the daughter of Ewan MacColl and Jean Newlove. I was lucky to see Ewan and Peggy Seeger perform at a London pub.

  52. Matty Doherty

    They did Townes no faves putting it in this key


    I know the struggle


    I wonder why he didn't drop it a couple?

    Royann Cooper

    that's where he wanted it

    You hustlin' me boy?

    I agree. Townes has to be lower

  53. Danny Ginnane-Gannon

    A great cover of a song written by Kirsty McColl's father.

  54. laserbeam 002

    I am just learning what a great song writer Townes Van Zandt was. I had heard the name before but didn't realize what a master writer he was. I've missed a lot of good music.


    +laserbeam 002 I think Shane Mcgowan of the Pogues penned this one


    Ewan MacColl actually. The father of Kirsty MacColl who did Fairytale of New York with MacGowan.

    E: Should have mentioned that Shane MacGowan has indeed sung this as well.

    m dogg

    Me too, but I'm catching up now

    Lost Doggy

    Townes was amazing none the less. Great song too.

    Bill Petersen

    Never too late.

  55. Danny Ginnane-Gannon

    An Irish Ballad written by Kirsty McColl's father.Perfect for Townes!


    +Danny Ginnane-Gannon Ah, 'fraid not! Ewan MacColl was English. Wrote this song about a little old place called Salford, and trust me; it is still as dirty as ever.

    allan connochie

    Nothing Irish about it other than several Irish bands have covered it. McColl was born in Salford and had Scottish parents. He wrote this as a musical interlude to his play "Landscape With Chimneys" which was about his own town of Salford. McColl was one of the leading figures of the British folk revival. Both this and his other song Shoals Of Herring are often incorrectly claimed as Irish.

  56. harry kuntz

    life is better when you listen to Townes  Van Zandt .  His  music is like anti depressant medicine in audio forum   I only recently started listing got to buy some  cd's for in the car . I know this song since I was a small child . small  children love this song . the king of irish folk music   Pecker Dunne  ( and I call him the king  not  for his wide spread fame or album sales but for his sweet voice and for writing the song  Sullivan's John )   does my favourite version of dirty old town . the best cover I every heard of any song is Townes doing dead flowers my ears crave it .

    Hurricane Jones

    Bob Marley Really? I love Townes but much of his music is almost too vividly bleak for me to bear in large doses. I'm a recovering addict and I can hear that addict's despair in his voice. So raw and vulnerable. Glad he cheers you up though!!

    Maxine Corrington

    Bob Marley Townes music cheers me up. It is magical.

  57. SOPHÆA

    So underrated. Time we started a revival:
    Here's my (slightly darker) take on "snake song":

  58. s3nse c0rruptr

    is Townes America's version of Shane MacGowan? feels oddly appropriate, this song.

    Gregory Downey

    +idon'tcare Townes was writing songs when Shane was still swimming in his daddy's you know what. Love the Pogues but NOOOOOO comparison.

    robert donaldson

    nice association.

  59. Grandma Patty

    His haunting tired voice fading into the sound of the cheerful music is almost too much to bare, yet how grateful I am to be here.

    scott bunch

    Summed up nicely.

    Steve Boyd

    Well said

  60. Patrik Stegsäter

    this is a good one.. The Pogues & the Dubliners made good versions of this song... give those versions a try. they are actualy right there.

    Judy Thompson

    Jimmy Johnstone has a version of this, too, that is heartbreaking in it's poignancy...

  61. Heinz Güthling

    Goose bumps all over my body - honest !

  62. bush1tman

    Ain't never heard a better song than this here.

  63. Jennifer Esperanza


  64. RAMLIA1


  65. Ben Johnston

    oh my fucking god, this exists. x

  66. Philip Duncan

    Can feel the pain and the up coming lovely bliss to soon follow in his voice.. Long live the legend

  67. faithful827

    oh look...2 idiots stopped by to register their ignorance

    Vivid Kothari

    +faithful827 yeah.. but amazing that's just two.

    Klein Zaches

    Happy I'mnot.:)

  68. faithful827

    3 months before he left this mortal wonder he sounds so tortured... is this his last known recording i wonder?


    +faithful827 look in my townes folder there is a live recording from like a month or so before he died.snowing on raton with hans tessinkh?

  69. Eamon Wilson

    My all time favourite version of this song. And there is huge competition. Either Luke or the Pogues. But the vulnerability to Townes is heart-breaking

  70. Skwerrlly

    One of our greatest singer/songwriters.By the time he recorded this,his voice was shot,but at least he had some decent accompaniment musicians.When he was young and still had his voice,it was just the opposite;his backup music and arrangements usually sucked!

  71. per forslund

    very nice to hear

  72. Kerry Evans

    Greetings from Ireland
    we know who Townes is here top dude in our book

    Banana Trish

    Kerry Evans Greetings from the USA!

    Banana Trish

    Banjaxed I'll see if I can find them but I know a LOT of versions have been done.

    john pope

    honestly when I first heard this I thought about how much better the Pogues do it no matter how many Shane had that night... but I am always happy to hear American artists include Irish songs. heard Dylan open with The Foggy Dew. that pleased me to no end. I gave Dylan more props than ever for that. I think Townes was a great loss for us all. Some of his song get stuck in my head the way many Irish Republican songs would. so I love this song done by Townes for his sign of respect for folk music across the sea. peace brother

    James Greene

    @Banana Trish Best Wishes from a town right in the heart of Ireland always been a fan of TWZ

    Trish McLemore

    @Kerry Evans I want to come to Ireland so badly and now that I'm a widow with a bit of money I can! But I'm coming in the Spring haha!

  73. Ed Word & The Misinformation Superhighway

    Great stuff. Our band's lead singer is largely influenced by this stuff. Check it out if you get a chance. Cheers!

  74. Jeff Thorsen

    This song is about every town many of us wish...we never hailed from....


    @Jeff Thorsen To a degree - but so much of the imagery is specific to soot and decay of industrial mill towns, it seems odd to me for Townes to record it. (Love Townes, but northern England is a long way from the Texas and Colorado landscapes I associate with him.)


    @***** Not really in the way the way the town is described.  Brick factories, canals, gasworks are pretty specific to England, though might describe a few places in New England.  There are dying towns in Texas, but they are not old factory towns. 


    Actually I have been to Amarillo (and grew up in the  southwest)... but I doubt you have been to the textile mill towns of the England Midlands.  Very different environment.  Amarillo is younger, and has a history as a livestock and agricultural market, and was served by freight trains not canal shipping.  It's not a19th century factory town described by the song.  Hear what you want, but MacColl certainly wasn't picturing anything like Amarillo.

  75. Back Soon

    I didn't know Townes Van Zandt recored this song. It's originally about the town of Salford in the North west of England in the UK. Good cover version.

    Joseph Grady

    Not far from me, it certainly is a dirty old town! haha

  76. mario7frankielee

    i love you tube!
    such a huge treasure of about 100 years of all the musical pearls and highlights.
    but i hate it for being a platform for all those disrespectful,schafseckels
     (it`s swissgerman,hard to translate)  like "sherp2u1"
    your comment smells like shit.

  77. sherp2u1

    the worst rendition of this classic, I've ever heard! McColl is flipping like a fish in his grave! dude sounds like absolute shit!


    your comment sounds like absolute shit.(to use your words)

  78. nitemareman1

    My whole life I thought this was a Pogue's song. I'm 42 now and I've been hearing it at least 20 years. My mind is thoroughly blown, by both artists.


    @sokla bass I didn't know that either. Did Kirsty help write Fairytale?


    @MattyStevensonBishop I thought it was traditional and authorless


    @g walters Townes recorded it well after the Pogues.

    I rukandji

    Oh, I see now, it was written in 1949 by Ewan MacColl, Christy's father I assume. That's cool.


    @g walters Yes, Kristy's father. The best known version, before the Pogues, was by the Dubliners in the early 70s, if I remember right.

  79. garth walliam

    Dead flowers is me favourite tune of all time so chilled out!!

  80. garth walliam


  81. tobias mcmahan


  82. rjwinz

    In the Pogue's version the word "dead" sounds a bit like "dutch" to my American ear.  From that, and from the key changes between the instrumental and singing parts, I suspect Townes was familiar with their version.  And yes, I could be "dutch" wrong.  :)

    Back Soon

    @rjwinz I think the lyrics have changed a wee bit.

  83. awakeattheswitch

    733 likes and 0 dislikes maybe there is some sanity left in this world.


    @awakeattheswitch 873!


    @cbthethird 907


    +pillgates622 927


    +faithful827 937


    You can't win 'em all.

  84. crobarus

    Where do I buy this song?. Amazon doesn't have it

    Christoph Holzhöfer

    Ich habe ihn ja von einer sehr raren "Limited Edition Single", aber er ist auch auf dem Album "Absolutely Nothing" ...


    @Christoph holzhöfer Already knew that . But thanks anyway


    +crobarus Shane Mcgowan does a better rendition--

    Shane Mac

    Agreed. Video was done when the Pogues were a very young band. Shane's teeth were a great story in itself.

  85. Dana Cunningham

    'damn. sounds better on my downhome spin table.  no scratches.  keep coming here to listen. no explaning it.  dirty old town.   ....needs the scratches...don't know. it's a dirty old town.  

  86. John Wayne

    Holy shit-->

  87. lumaz71

    in pain, in love. ciao Townes.

    John Holland

    I would guess he was near the end.he's definitely in tears

  88. john landis

    one of the few remaining original troubadors ( they're dying off fast); thanks for posting!


    We are still around, you just have to know where to look. There are more born every day...

  89. Haley Ottenbreit

    Maybe he's referring to himself?  Dirty Old Towne.  ;)

    Michael Kavanagh

    mkavanagh this song was written Ewan MacColl in the sixties.The Dubliners covered it.

    John Stanley

    Towns.... Town

  90. smcliffhanger492

    I noticed that nobody has mentioned Roger Whittaker's brilliant version of Ewan's masterpiece.

    Angie Veri

    yes, Roger Whittaker does sing a wonderful rendition of this song.

  91. Angel Wyble

    Townes ROCKS ! I love Dirty Old Town.

  92. ALOO spud

    Original by Ewan MacColl, father of Kirsty. a great left wing northern English folksinger

    ALOO spud

    @Steve Norton
    Also my friend he was born in Lancashire of Scottish parents , i think we can both claim the great man.

    john landis

    @ALOO spud a kick in the face is better than a Haggis ;me Gaffer was a Scotsman Born and landed and  made a Haggis every Christmas mornin'; We kids would hide  hoping' to evade the "christian duty" of every Scot to eat a Haggis for 
    memory of the Homeland!(he also tried to play the pipes, which scared the hell out of our dog,"angus";who would howl along with G 's "playing"

    Steve Norton

    The Goodies sang about Black Pudding Bertha--related ? HA HA

    ALOO spud

    @Steve Norton
    And promoted the northern martial art of "Eccy Thump"

    Springburn Jimmy Reid

    Sad that you never tasted a good bit of Haggis lads, my wife, a Nova Scotia'n Canadian had heard all the 'shite' about a 'sheep's stomach' crap but when I took her to a Rabbie Burns Dinner?? Ha! now SHE makes it for me ... and our pals, who shunned it?, Love it, Go on Gie it a try, ah've ate some of yurr English shite! an' am still here, LoL!

  93. Sue Smith

    Love this by The Pogues too.

  94. Brian O'Callaghan

    The 'definitive version' of this song was sung by Luke Kelly; I think you may find this was where Townes first heard it

    Donald Cain

    This song was written and recorded almost 15 years before the Dubliners made it popular. Who knows where Townes heard it first. 

    Eddie Schott

    @Donald Cain I would be surprised if he wasn't aware of Ewan MacColl. But MacColl was not allowed in the state for a period of time ending in the 80's when I saw him in Philly.

  95. Darragh Casey

    'chop you down like an old DUTCH tree'.. dirty old Townes indeed...

  96. Eddy Priest

    Townes is the man

  97. Christoph Holzhöfer

    Jim Calvin ...

  98. bravogolfhotel

    Ooh, who played fiddle on this? Gorgeous.