The 350 Jersey Songs project does not have a political agenda. It does not seek to promote New Jersey as a wonderful place, but to show the Garden State in all its facets, good and bad. It has already included one nastily funny Jersey-mocking song, “Over on the Jersey Side,” and here’s another one: “The Rolling Mills of Jersey,” by John Roberts and Tony Barrand.
Set to the tune of — and lyrically similar to — “The Rolling Hills of the Border” by Scottish folksinger Matt McGinn, the song mocks Jersey’s oil refineries and garbage dumps. Its Bayonne-bred narrator actually yearns for them: “When I die, bury me low/Where I can hear the petroleum flow/A sweeter sound, I never did know/The rolling mills of New Jersey.”
Roberts and Barrand started singing together in the ’60s, while they were students at Cornell University, and have been at it ever since, devoted, mostly, to traditional British material. They included “The Rolling Mills of New Jersey” on their 1983 album, Live at Holsteins!
They also sing in the Christmas-music group, Nowell Sing We Clear.
I won’t say that they obviously don’t know much about New Jersey. I will point out, though, that they seem to have learned their Jersey accent in Queens.
New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.
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