When the Standells released the anthem "Dirty Water" in 1966, the group figured it had a cool song.
"It was written by Ed Cobb, our producer, but we made it into what it was," recalls singer keyboardist Larry Tamblyn. "We took it and re-arranged it, added the guitar lick, changed the chord structure a bit, added all the asides in the lyrics, like, 'I'm gonna tell you a story all about my town...'
"It feels like our song -- even though we didn't get any writing credit on it."
Nevertheless, "Dirty Water" has served the Standells well during the 48 years since. It's an anthem at sporting events all over the country, and particularly in Boston. It's also listed as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll."
And it, along with the rest of the band's early and mid-60s repertoire has earned the group -- which is in the midst of its first full-scale North American tour in nearly 50 years -- the distinction of being the Godfathers of Punk Rock, cited as a crucial influence by scores of bands, including the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, and much to Tamblyn's enduring surprise.
"Y'know, back in the '60s, punk rock didn't exist," says Tamblyn, who's now a youthful 71. "Every group had their own style, and it was all 'rock.' There was no real label for the kind of music we did.
"We really did identify with the working class people out there, the ones that are just trying to make a living and pay their bills. Our music in the early days was really identifiable with the wants and the needs of the everyday person -- 'Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White,' 'Why Pick On Me,' those songs. A lot of it was us against them, things of that nature. That's one of the reasons we got labeled punk rockers."
Formed during 1962 in Los Angeles, the Standells finished their first phase around 1970, after a couple of movie and TV appearances ("The Munsters," "Ben Casey," "Riot on Sunset Strip") with various band member shifts that included at one point a pre-Little Feat Lowell George. But Tamblyn -- the brother of actor Russ Tamblyn and uncle of actress Amber Tamblyn -- led a revival starting in the early 80s, and with longtime guitarist John Fleck (nee Fleckstein) still on board, the Standells released a new album, the Kickstarter-funded "Bump," in 2013 and are planning to record and tour more regularly into the foreseeable future.
"We want to be relevant," explains Tamblyn, who has six children and eight grandchildren. "We don't want to be some oldies group out there, living off their past. Some bands do that; they have people who would rather sit back and collect money and not do anything. But it doesn't work like that. You've got to get out and work your craft. At least we do."
Tamblyn has other goals for the Standells, too. He'd like to see the group in the Rock Hall as well as its song. And he'd like to make people familiar with the rest of the Standells' repertoire, though he's not complaining about having a lone hit as impactful as "Dirty Water."
" 'Dirty Water' is really known as the Standells, and the Standells are known as the guys who sing 'Dirty Water,' " Tamblyn acknowledges. "And that's OK. Back in 1970 I really thought that was the end of it, that we'd gone on and do other things. I had no idea there would be a resurgence of interest and we'd be able to be doing this 40, 50 years later.
"I love it all, and I'm looking forward to keeping this going."
The Standells perform Sunday, May 11, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call 248-544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.
Send your thoughts and comments to