I remember being puzzled the first time I heard the line “England swings like a pendulum do”. As a kid, I was thrown into panic at the grammar, whilst at the same time thinking “that singer has an amazing voice”.
Back in 1970s Britain, when I was growing up, country music didn’t get a lot of airtime, and it was seen as distinctly uncool in the midst of all the glam rock, and later punk, acts around at the time.
So Roger Miller’s honeyed, country-style tones really stood out on the few radio programmes which had a slightly wider musical brief than 1970s Top 40 radio.
I didn’t make a note of when I first heard “England Swings”, but it was almost certainly on Junior Choice, a popular BBC Radio request show for kids on a Saturday morning.
As a request show, they played pretty much what people asked for rather than slavishly following the charts. Although looking back, I’m not sure how many of the requests they played really came from the kids.
To put it charitably, there was a vastly wider range of musical tastes represented in the records played on Junior Choice than there was on the mainstream pop radio kids my age actually listened to at the time.
More than a few parents and grandparents had a hand in their children’s choices, I suspect.
However it worked, Junior Choice did introduce me to a number of records which had long since been off regular rotation on pop music radio, for which I’m eternally grateful. “England Swings” was one of those.
A US Top 10 and UK Top 20 hit, “England Swings” was released at the tail end of 1965.
At the time Roger Miller was riding high. His signature song “King Of The Road” had been a UK Number One, and US Number Four, earlier that same year. Although it’s probably fair to say that “King Of The Road” was more of an outlier in Roger Miller’s career than “England Swings”.
“King Of The Road” is a wonderful observational piece, and a well-told story highlighting the reality of life for someone struggling to get by, living on the breadline.
“England Swings” is a gently humorous attempt to capture the essence of London in the Swinging Sixties. In the mid-1960s The Beatles, Mary Quant, the…