Simon Ritt / Dirty Water
March 20, 2018
BGN- You’re not originally from Boston. Where are you from?
SR- I was born In Ottawa, Canada…the coldest national capital city on
the planet which probably tells you all you really need to know about me. For
reasons lost to me we left there and moved around a bit living at various times
In Barbados, Baltimore and eventually Central Florida where I spent my teenage
years mostly trying to score and play hard rock drums. That’s where I
met budding guitarist Joe Mazzari and we made our first feeble attempts at putting
bands together literally in his folks garage.
BGN- Tell us your history that got you here.
SR- On very short notice I moved to Boston or more accurately Lynn, July 03,
1980 to replace the drum throne recently vacated by Bobby Morin In The Daughters,
a band started by Joe Mazzari who had split Florida and moved here the previous
year. My first gig with The Daughters was one week later at The Main Act on
the Lynnway where the open air flea market Is now.
The Daughters would record a single for Varulven Records. Through a combination
of incredible good luck and very hard work we forged a relationship with Johnny
Thunders. After The Daughters morphed into Two Saints we released ‘Are
You Living’, an unreleased Johnny Thunders song, the only artists ever
to do so in Johnny’s lifetime.
For a while in the late 1980’s I also played with Unattached during their
golden period. An album for Throbbing Lobster, the number one local song on
WBCN for three weeks running, winning our first night in the WBCN Rumble and
selling Alice Cooper ‘Trash’, the song that would become the title
track for only the most successful album of his entire career. A real band of
morons who didn’t realize how good they had It!
Over the last couple of decades I have had the pleasure of co-fronting
The Darlings together with my partner the exquisite Kelly Knapp
originally from Livonia, Michigan also hometown of Boston Bruin
Tory Krug. The Darlings have been nominated for two Boston Music
Awards and won one. We also won the nationwide Jim Beam Country
Music Talent Search held at The Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville,
TN. Over the years The Darlings have opened for some of the best
in the business Including Jim Lauderdale, Lucinda Williams, The
Real Kids, Junior Brown, The Nervous Eaters and Tom Petty.
BGN- When did you get the idea to make the video? What motivated you
to do it?
SR- Initially I wasn’t at all thinking of a video. I was motivated by
the observation that I’ve never heard any local Boston bands perform ‘Dirty
Water’, the greatest city song in all of Rock & Roll. In fact back
In the 1980’s playing ‘Dirty Water’ in a Boston club would
have been just about the most un-hip thing a band could do.
When I realized that then I felt I had no choice but to record it. And as great
a song as ‘Dirty Water’ is it is imperfect. For some reason lost
to history there is only half a harmonica solo on the original version and then
two bars of nothing which has always vexed me. I was initially motivated by
the desire to see that harmonica solo to the end, as by anything else.
Initially I was thinking of just pressing a few CD’s for laughs to give
out to the local radio stations in our area………sooner or later
every DJ can use a thirteen minute song when they need to take a break. But
it was soon obvious that it was a video waiting to be made.
BGN - Was there a point where you knew it was going to be long?
SR- And I knew I wanted to make it long, as long as it could be before the
joke got too old.
BGN - Did the list of names dictate the length of the video/song or
SR- The names of band’s definitely dictated the songs and the video’s
BGN- How long did it take you to complete the entire project?
SR- That process from beginning to end probably took two years.
BGN- You visually and verbally name check so many people and bands!
It’s incredible. Did you sit down and make a list and keep adding to it?
SR- Naming all the bands at the end was real spontaneous. But as soon as I
thought of it I knew I was on to something. Coming up with the bands was really
a stream of consciousness process over the course of several ‘writing’
sessions with a little bit of tweaking and editing here and there.
BGN- Where did you record it and video it?
SR- I recorded it along with Tony Savarino on guitar, and The Darlings’
Norman Hartley on drums, Ed Riemer on bass and Kelly Knapp on backing vocals.
Ed and I produced it at The Barn, his private studio In Canton, MA ,where It
all was recorded.
My video partner was film maker Red Wood. Her and I had worked on a previous,
mostly experimental video a couple of years earlier. Mostly I accumulated the
images and Red synched them up with the music and lyrics. An excruciating experience
that took us hours and hours.
BGN- We know you got a lot of the images from the BGN (and that’s
great!) but where else did you go for images?
SR- I’ve always been a bit of a pack rat and some of the images were
from my own archives. But the vast majority were found on line. It was quite
a process but eventually we found some kind of image for just about every band
except for The Blaro’s, James Brown Junior (a real performer….he
sang at Willie Loco’s 50th. Birthday show @ The Rat.) and The Rain.
BGN -Who’s idea was the double sunglasses? That makes me laugh.
SR- The second pair of sunglasses was my Idea and a completely spontaneous
one………I tried on one pair, then the other, then hey…..I
know what I’ll do.
BGN- Why is Nick Cave in there?
SR- I considered Nick Cave’s epic ‘I’m On Fire’ as
a sort of the musical template for ‘Dirty Water’ & If you’re
familiar with the tune you’ll understand why. Sixteen amazing non-stop
minutes of crazy lyrics and intense energy. Which is why as a nod & a tribute
I included his image as well as ‘The Hyman Busting Zulu’s’,
a line from ‘I’m On Fire’ which worked nicely together with
my own reference to The Zulu’s.
Willie Loco and Simon
BGN - Anybody you missed that you would like to add now?
SR- Now that the song and video is done I have regretted in retrospect not
including a couple of acts I should have. And I regret getting 2 Million BC’s
name wrong, It’s NOT 10 Million, but by the time I was made aware of my
error it was too late to change it. I’ve since run into their old singer
Anthony and everything is cool, he loved the video error and all.
Simon and Billy Borgioli
Mostly what I regret is the people I Included In the song but who passed away
before the video hit youtube. The great John Lincoln Wright, Billy Borgiolli,
Charlie Chesterman, Daryl Frazier my predecessor in the Unattached and especially
my good friend Howard Cook at who’s urging I Included Aerosmith.
I have heard a bit of…’oh you should have Included these guy’s’….or
‘what about those guy’s’ and my reply is that I welcome (or
challenge) anyone out there to record their own version and include all the
bands they may think I overlooked.
BGN - Your fixation mirrors our fixation. Why do we spend so much time
and energy into, not just music, but a music scene?
SR- Humans are by nature a tribal animal and for many of us music is our tribe.
Being musicians and part of a musical scene is our Identity. Once it was your
ethnicity or national origin that mattered, now it’s what bands did you
play with and what clubs did you play in. I think that’s why not just
music, but a larger communal music scene, fixates us and consumes so much of
our energy and waking hours.
BGN - You finish with the DAWGS. That's a group that didn't get as
well known as others but that locals love. Can you explain their attributes/attraction
to those that don't know them?
SR- In July 1980 just days after arriving in Boston my new bandmates in The
Daughters took me into Boston to check out The Rat, a club we had heard of even
In Central Florida. What I had not heard of before was the band that held the
long time Monday night residency there, The Dawgs. I was hooked right away.
A real blue collar, meat and potato’s band with a great rhythm section,
a smoking lead guitarist and in Phil Haynen, a profoundly prolific songwriter
with a gravelly, one of a kind, rock and roll voice that made Rod Stewart sound
The Dawgs were only marginally popular with the kids but among their peers they
are still considered one of the best bands ever to come out of the greater Boston
area. Ask Asa Brebner, David Minehan, Frank Rowe…..they’ll all tell
you the same thing, that The Dawgs were the law!
I naturally gravitate to the underdog no pun intended. I mention them last because
they were the first Boston band I fell In love with after moving here and I
wanted to save that place of distinction for them. They are the exclamation
point at the end of the song so to speak.
BGN - How does this intersect with your regular music? Is it apart as it's own
project or will it have an influence on what you do in the future?
And in a vague way I consider ‘Dirty Water’ a sort of exclamation
point or at least a punctuation mark on my personal local musical history as
I wanted to do something totally distinct from The Darlings with Dirty Water
which I think I managed to pull off pretty well considering most of them actually
play on the song and it was recorded at Ed Riemer’s, The Darlings’
BGN - Now that we are talking to you - what are your current projects?
SR- Currently I am preparing to perform Johnny Thunders’
classic So Alone album in it’s entirety at The Lizard Lounge on May 22.
So Alone is Johnny’s singular masterpiece and this year marks the 40th.
Anniversary of it’s release. Joining me will be Tony Savarino and The
Savtones, former members of The Daughters Joe Mazzari and Bill Doherty, Kim
and Kelly of The Bristols, Ajda Snyder from Black Fortress Of Opium and a few
other special guests to be named soon.
As you know in recent years I have had the pleasure of contributing to some
Johnny Thunders documentary’s, books and CD re-Issues. Well I am done
talking about Johnny, now I’m ready to play and sing some Johnny. We’re
all really excited about the event, I don’t believe even Johnny ever performed
So Alone live from first song to last.
Here's a list of the bands Simon checks off in his video.....
REAL KIDS TAXI BOYS BRISTOLS UNATTACHED
WILLIE * Loco' ALEXANDER ..LOOKING LIKE A BIMBO
BARRENCE WHTFLD &THE SAVAGES
BETSY NICHOLS &THE FRTTRS
CHRIS TOPPAVINSKY BATHING BEAUTIES
LINDA VIENS-LINDA PRICE
CHILDREN OF PARADISE
VALDEZ THE SINNER
THE BLUES OUTLET
BLUE RUIN JAMES MONTGOMERY
THE NERVOUS EATERS
THE ORGAN DONORS
MR. CURT & MR. BUTCH
Ms. JORDAN VALENTINE
WHEELERS & DEALERS
MICKY BLISS ORGAN COMBO PETER WUBA GUBA
MISSION OF BURMA
ROBIN LANE-ROBIN RIGHT
ASA BREBNER OUTTA' SIGHT
THE MODERN LOVERS 'OUT BY THE STOP & SHOP'
G.G.ALLIN- Now He's Better Off Dead
THE CAVE DOGS
THE GARAGE DOGS
'COME ON EVERYBODY'
ARTYARD & ALL OF THE NOISE
JOHN LINCOLN WRIGHT AND THE SOUR MASH BOYS
MOOSE &THE MUDBUGS
MUCK &THE MIRES
MARKY MUSSEL & THE CLAMS
KEN E. HIGHLAND
BOSTON GROUPIE NEWS
VATICAN SEX KITTENS
AEROSMITH - RAY DAVIES CALLS THEM 'HARRY SMITH'
THE CASUAL INCREDIBLES
SORRY JOE MAZZARI
BLACK FORTRESS OF OPIUM
TEA IN CHINA
THE SOULS GENTLEMEN
JOHN BUTCHER AXIS
LIZZY BORDEN &THE AXES
PREACHER JACK 'As CRAZY As A HEART ATTACK'
VIVA Los METALLICOS
Los DEL FUEGOS
SHAKE THE FAITH
THE PRIME MOVERS
TREAT HER RIGHT
THE GREAT ATOMIC POWER
THE GONE BOYS
THE HYMEN BUSTING ZULUS
SCRUFFY THE CAT
GOOD OLD CHARLIE CHESTERMAN
I'M PRO PROTAGONIST
THE HOLLYWOOD INDIANS
HEARTS ON FIRE
THE SILVER LINING
THE MASTER BLASTER
FACE TO FACE
HAPPY THE CLOWN
THE BLOOD ORANGES
TEN (actually TWO) MILLION B.C. THE SLAVES
THE BLANKET PARTY
JAMES BROWN JUNIOR
LUCKY FIFTY SEVEN
SALEM SIXTY SIX
AND I MEAN THE REAL DARLINGS....
THE JET SET
BARRY &THE REMAINS
THE FIGHTING COCKS
THE FAMILY JEWELS
THE FAST EASY WOMEN
D-A-W-G AND S.....
THAT SPELLS THE DAWGS I SAVED THE LAST FOR THE BEST
THAT'S THE SOUND OF OUR TOWN