The “Golden Hits Of The 50s” 

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(Ed Cobb)

Tower 185

No. 11    July 9, 1966




The Standells, formed in Los Angeles in the early ’60s, reportedly chose their name because they would

stand around a lot in their agent’s office waiting for work.     Before they struck gold, the Standells prac-

ticed their craft long and hard.    More than a half­ dozen trial disks were issued on Linda, MGM, Vee-Jay,

and Liberty.    The latter label even issued a now-rare LP, The Standells Live at Pj’s.


By 1966, when the group came under the directive influence, of producer, writer, and one-time Four Preps

member–known lovely for “26 Miles” and “Big Man”–Ed Cobb, their much fluctuating  line-up–that had

once included drummer Gary Leeds, later  “Gary Walker”  of the Walker Bros. — had solidified.     It was

drummer Dick Dodd (former Mousekateer and one-time member of the Bel-Airs),  bassist Gary Lane

keyboardist Lawrence Tamblyn (brother of actor Russ Tamblyn), and guitarist Tony Valentino that went

into that little  garage studio to record “Dirty Water.”


“I wrote the song when I was in Boston,” Cobb told Blitz’ s Mike McDowell.    “I was with a girl.    We were

walking along the Saint James River and two guys tried to mug us, but they ran away.    So when I got back

to the hotel, I wrote [the] song   … I originally had another guitar lick intended for ‘Dirty   Water,’ but the

guitar player couldn’t play it.    So, I had to  devise a simpler one.


“The group hated the record so much that they refused to do  it!    So they just fluffed through it every time.

Every week I got a phone call from Tony saying ‘Hey Eddie!   My friends still don’t like the song!    I told you

it was a turkey!’    Nine months later it was a smash.”


Larry’s memories of  the events are different.    “We recorded it in Armin Steiner’s little studio up in a

garage,”      Tamblyn told Goldmine’s Robyn Flans.    “‘Dirty Water’ was just   an idea, more or less, with

lyrics that Ed Cobb brought to us and said ‘See what you can do.’    Tony came up with the beginning riff,

and we all kind of put our ideas into it.    All that chanting that Dick does [at the beginning]–‘l’m  gonna tell

you a story/l’m gonna tell  you about my town–Dick made up on the spot.”


This seminal garage band was extinct within two years of the release of “Dirty Water.”    On the band’s first

tour in support of the release, Gary Lane left the group and the world of pop music to become a plumber,

and was replaced by Dick Burke.    The response to the   Standells’ immediate follow-ups, “Sometimes Good

Guys Don’t Wear White” (#43, 1966)   and “Why Pick  On Me” (#54,1966) was quite good.    But by the

 release of “Can’t Help But Love You” (#78) and their appearance in the American-International flick Riot

On Sunset Strip in the fall of 1967, the Standells were in disarray.    “They had all these rhythm and blues

musicians in there, horn players and string players,” Tamblyn told Goidmine.    “Ed Cobb said, ‘This is the

Standells; you aren’t the Standells.”‘

Dodd remained with Cobb and the Tower label for a solo album, The Evolution of Dick Dodd, and a  few

failed singles.     Despite threats from Cobb, Tamblyn and Valentino–along with a young Lowell George,

later of FRANK ZAPPA’s Mothers Of Invention and Little Feat–continued for a brief   period to perform

live as the Standells.      In the mid-’80s, Tamblyn and Valentino formed their own indie label, Telco.

Despite a  few Standells reunions in 1986, the creators of “Dirty Water,” one of rock and roll’s raunchiest

perennials, are together no more.