Let’s Have a Ride on your Bicycle

RIDE VINTAGE online magazine 1



The Eagle Tavern is situated in an appropriate locality in the City-road, not far from a lunatic asylum, and contiguous to a workhouse. From time immemorial the Cockneys have hastened thither to enjoy themselves. Children are taught to say-

“Up and down the City-road,
In and out the Eagle,
That s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.”

And the apprentice or clerk, fresh from the country, and anxious to see life, generally commences with a visit to the Grecian Saloon – Eagle Tavern. As a rule, I do not think what are termed fast men go much to theatres. To sit out a five-act tragedy and then a farce is a bore which only quiet old fogies and people of a domestic turn can endure; and even where, as in the Grecian Saloon, you have dancing, and singing, and drinking added, it is not the fast men, but the family parties, that make it pay. There you see Smith, Brown, Jones, and Robinson, with their respective partners and the dear pledges of their well-regulated loves. They come early, sit out Jack Shepherd with a resolution worthy of a better cause, listen to the singing from the Music Hall, return again to witness the closing theatrical performances, and enjoy all the old stage tricks as if they had not heard them for the last fifty years. These worthy creatures see a splendour in the Grecian Saloon which I do not. Then there are the juvenile swells. Anxious mothers in the country, fearing the contaminations of London and the ruin it has brought on other sons, lodge them in remote Islington, or Hoxton, still more remote. It is in vain they do so. The Haymarket may be far off, but the Grecian Saloon is near; and the young hopefuls come in at half-price, for six- pence, and smoke their cigars, and do their pale ale, and adopt the slang and the vices of their betters with too much ease. And then there are the unfortunates from the City-road, with painted faces, brazen looks, and gorgeous silks; mercenary in every thought and feeling, and with hearts hard as adamant. God help the lad that gets entangled with such as they!

The Night Side of London – The Eagle Tavern, by J. Ewing Ritchie, 1858

Since their invention, bicycles and their riders became the subject of satire. Punch magazine particularly enjoyed ridiculing them. They also became useful stage props in theatre and the focus of many songs.

Let’s Have A Ride on Your Bicycle was issued (on 78rpm) in 1953, so, historically, it’s much newer than other items on this website. But Max Miller was Great Britain’s most famous Music Hall artist, and our country’s famous Music Hall tradition hails from the mid-19th century, founded in the saloon bars of pubs. While the theatre was more formal (with a separate bar), in a Music Hall you’d sit at a table and could drink and smoke while watching the show. The most famous establishment was The Grecian Saloon, at The Eagle public house in City Rd in London, its name etched into memories of generations of British children because of Pop goes the Weasel.

RIDE-VINTAGE-online-magazine-2MAX MILLER


Max Miller was Britain’s top music hall comedian in the late 1930s to the late 1950s. Nicknamed the Cheeky Chappie, Miller was known for his risque jokes and gaudy suits. Born Thomas Henry Sargent in 1894, in Hereford Street, Brighton, Miller became notorious for double entendres which saw him banned from the BBC. His jokes were reputedly written in two notebooks, white for ‘clean’ humour, blue for ‘adult’ jokes. He had the habit – to avoid censorship – of stopping before the end of a sentence which could only end with a dirty joke so he could then rebuke the audience for their ‘dirty minds.’ He was known for outlandish outfits, generally patterned plus fours and matching long jacket, a trilby hat and kipper tie. He was a popular singer of comedy songs, his most famous being Mary From the Dairy, his signature tune. He appeared in 14 films and made three Royal Variety Show appearances.

In real life, he was bourgeois, almost puritan, not allowing bad language in dressing-rooms. At home, he lived in privacy, devoted to his surprisingly posh wife, and fond of keeping parrots. He gave donations to blind charities as he had been temporarily blinded in Mesopotamia during the First World War and never knew if he would recover his sight. But these were kept secret. In old age, he said : ‘Me, Max Miller, I’m nothing. But the Cheeky Chappie, he’ll live for ever.’ He told a Sunday paper: ‘I’ve got enough money to last me the rest of my life – if I die tomorrow.’ Soon afterwards, on 7th May 1963, he died at home at 25 Burlington Street, Brighton, from a heart ailment; he had been cared for by his wife Kathleen Marsh.





As bicycles captured the public imagination soon after their invention, they became a popular ‘vehicle’ for the subject of contemporary songs.


The idea of women riding velocipedes was particularly contentious, at first because it was an outrageous idea for women to ride a ‘man’s vehicle’ and, subsequently, because of conservative ideas about female attire.


But there’s one inescapable fact about cycling that’s not usually mentioned in its 19th century history – cycling a very sociable activity. In Victorian times it provided wonderful opportunities to meet members of the opposite sex, sometimes unchaperoned. I’m sure it often lead to declarations such as ‘Sweetheart I Love None But You.’

Bicycle manufacturers soon capitalized on the popularity of cycles in songs. For example, The Fowler Cycle Co sponsored the Cyclists National Grand March

The sheet music below, for the United States Wheel March, was composed to advertise a bicycle called the United States Wheel. In addition, Bancroft the Magician helped promote the company.

In fact, all sorts of entertainers were used in the 1890s for cycle company promotion, including trick cyclists, overweight or midget cyclists, magicians …in fact, anyone who helped the product stand out from the competition.

RIDE-VINTAGE-online-magazine-2DAISY BELL

Daisy Bell is surely the best-known bicycle song. Written by the British composer and cycle enthusiast Harry Dacre, it has an interesting history, as you can read below.

There is a flower within my heart
Daisy, Daisy
Planted one day by a glancing dart
Planted by Daisy Bell

Whether she loves me or loves me not
Sometimes it’s hard to tell
Yet I am longing to share the lot
Of beautiful Daisy Bell

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do
I’m half crazy all for the love of you
It won’t be a stylish marriage
I can’t afford a carriage
But you’ll look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two

We will go ‘tandem’ as man and wife
Daisy, Daisy
Ped’ling away down the road of life
I and my Daisy Bell

When the road’s dark, we can both despise
Policemen and lamps as well
There are bright lights in the dazzling eyes
Of beautiful Daisy Bell


I will stand by you in “wheel” or woe
Daisy, Daisy
You’ll be the bell(e) which I’ll ring you know
Sweet little Daisy Bell

You’ll take the lead in each trip we take
Then if I don’t do well
I will permit you to use the brake
My beautiful Daisy Bell.


As well as featuring in songs, the humble bicycle has, over the years, also been ‘instrumental’ in making music. Here are a few examples…







Bicycles continued to be used as gimmicks in entertainment. Ray Sinatra – Frank’s cousin – had an orchestra and his own network radio program called Cycling the Kilocycles in the mid-1930s. Using Silver Kings and other upmarket American cycles of the day, they appeared on stage on bicycles as the Ray Sinatra Cycling Orchestra.










Max Miller history – http://londonbobby.com

Dutch Corps – http://www.leger1939-1940.nl/Fotos/wielrijders_muziekkorps_1.htm

Music on Wheels – http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/36416

Frank Zappa on Steve Allen Show – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vip0H-I8pTg

Thai Musical Trike, Chinese New Year parade, 2002 – http://www.Pigs-on-Mopeds.com