‘The Rolling Mills of New Jersey,’ John Roberts and Tony Barrand

The cover of John Roberts and Tony Barrand's album, "Live at Holsteins!"

The cover of John Roberts and Tony Barrand’s album, “Live at Holsteins!,” which includes “The Rolling Mills of New Jersey.”

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.


Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.


Custom Amount

Personal Info

Donation Total: $20.00

Explore more articles:


Bob Mellman March 5, 2015 - 10:17 pm

I remember “Rolling Mills” well. Hadn’t thought of it in years until I saw it today.

Song suggestion, that’s not about NJ….it’s about Texas (and about Thelma!)….but it was recorded in Camden: Blue Yodel (T For Texas), by Jimmy Rodgers

njartsdaily@gmail.com March 5, 2015 - 10:34 pm

That’s a great idea. Thanks, Bob!

Bob Mellman March 6, 2015 - 5:22 pm


njartsdaily@gmail.com March 20, 2015 - 4:13 pm

Thanks for the suggestion. Have posted: http://www.njarts.net/?p=9537


Leave a Comment

Sign up for our Newsletter