Making Dirty City

Dirty City image: Bakerloo Line platforms at Piccadilly Circus Underground Station

photo: Heinz Zinram
courtesy London’s Transport Museum © Transport For London

Bakerloo Line platforms at Piccadilly Circus Underground Station,
London, June 22 1954.

Clumsy, cumbersome name and all, Sutherland Brothers And Quiver were a very prominent and deservedly successful group in the UK during the early seventies.  Immaculate songwriters, they released much fresh music over that period. Reach For The Sky includes their biggest hit, Arms Of Mary, about a boy’s coming of age.  Dirty City was the track before it.

Thorne Presents The Contessa's Party: Making Dirty CityI don’t remember it ever being a single, but it certainly seemed good enough to be.  I started this cover version and You Got Me Anyway (from their previous album Dream Kid) at the same time, way back in the twentieth century.  When Dirty City had to be left off my first CD, Sprawl because of a surfeit of material, it lay untouched for a few years, immaculate Kit Hain vocals and all.

The song is about a young couple finding their feet after arriving in the dirty city (unspecified).  For me, it resonates with the ten years I spent in London after leaving college and before moving to New York.  The illustration, taken on the London Underground, is from a generation before, but it hasn’t changed much.

After reviving it, I wrote the big horn climaxes, big arrangements for the double-tracked horn section and additional baritone saxophone/trombone combination which gradually overtake the vocal chorus in the end. Kit added a few more touches, also contributing extra lyrical details such as the opening/middle refrain, lines taken out of context from the verse.  The obsessive tenor sax solo from Arno Hecht completed the shortest track on the CD: at 7’23” a whizz-by.