Brand New Key

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"Brand New Key"
Melanie Brand New Ky.jpg
Song by Melanie from the album Gather Me
Released 1971
Genre Folk, pop
Length 2:26
Label Neighborhood Records
Composer Melanie Safka
Producer Peter Schekeryk

"Brand New Key" is a pop song written by folk singer Melanie, which became a novelty hit in 1971-72. Taken from Melanie's album Gather Me, it was also known as "The Rollerskate Song" due to its chorus. It was her biggest hit, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in December 1971 and January 1972 and it reached No. 1 in Canada and Australia and No. 4 in the UK charts. Melanie's version of "Brand New Key" was featured in the 1997 film Boogie Nights as well as the 2010 film Jackass 3D.

Overview[edit]

The song is lighthearted in tone, sung from the viewpoint of a girl with roller skates trying to attract the attention of a boy:

I got a brand new pair of roller skates,
You got a brand new key.
I think that we should get together and try them out, to see ...

The roller skates in question would have been old-style children's quad skates, which were clamped to the soles of ordinary leather-soled shoes. The clamps were tightened with a special "key" that was basically a very simple socket wrench. If the key was lost or misplaced, a pair of pliers (preferably needle-nosed) or other tool could usually substitute, though at some inconvenience. Although the lyrics claim that the roller skates are "brand new," the girl has presumably either lost her key, or the boy of the song is now in possession of it, the key being "brand new" as well:

I roller skated to your door at daylight [...]
I'm okay alone, but you got something I need

In an interview with classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho on July 22, 2013, Melanie describes the inspiration behind "Brand New Key" ... "I was fasting with a twenty seven day fast on water. I broke the fast and went back to my life living in New Jersey and we were going to a flea market around six in the morning. On the way back …and I had just broken the fast, from the flea market, we passed a McDonalds and the aroma hit me, and I had been a vegetarian before the fast. So we pulled into the McDonalds and I got the whole works … the burger, the shake and the fries … and no sooner after I finished that last bite of my burger …that song was in my head. The aroma brought back memories of roller skating and learning to ride a bike and the vision of my dad holding the back fender of the tire. And me saying to my dad …“You’re holding, you’re holding, you’re holding, right? Then I’d look back and he wasn’t holding and I’d fall. So that whole thing came back to me and came out in this song."[1]

Controversy[edit]

Some listeners detected innuendo in the lyrics, with the key in its lock thought to be symbolizing sexual intercourse, or in phrases such as "I go pretty far" and "I've been all around the world".

Melanie has acknowledged the possibility of reading an unintended sexual innuendo in the song:

'Brand New Key' I wrote in about fifteen minutes one night. I thought it was cute; a kind of old thirties' tune. I guess a key and a lock have always been Freudian symbols, and pretty obvious ones at that. There was no deep serious expression behind the song, but people read things into it. They made up incredible stories as to what the lyrics said and what the song meant. In some places, it was even banned from the radio.

My idea about songs is that once you write them, you have very little say in their life afterward. It's a lot like having a baby. You conceive a song, deliver it, and then give it as good a start as you can. After that, it's on its own. People will take it any way they want to take it.[2]

Selected list of recorded versions[edit]

Parodies and other versions[edit]

  • A version of the song entitled "Combine Harvester", with new rustic-themed lyrics by Brendan O'Shaughnessy including "I got a brand new combine harvester / An' I'll give you the key", was recorded by Irish singer Brendan Grace, who took the song to the top of the Irish Charts in 1975. In the UK Singles Chart, West Country comedy folk act The Wurzels reached No. 1 for two weeks in June 1976 with a version of this.[3] The song was used prominently in the film Evil Aliens.
  • Following the January 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan, a parody of "Brand New Key" circulated on radio stations. The parody featured lyrics from Tonya Harding's point of view, and included the chorus, "I've got a brand new pair of figure skates / You've got a busted knee; / They're gonna lock up my ex-husband and throw away the key."
  • With lyrics describing Best Film nominee Pan's Labyrinth, Minnie Driver sang a parody of the song at the 2007 Spirit Awards ("I blew a giant frog to smithereens / I got his golden key").[4]
  • Supercute!, an indie pop/psychedelic pop teenage band led by Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players member Rachel Trachtenburg have covered this song. They have also performed it live with English singer Kate Nash.
  • Los Angeles pop-punk band The Dollyrots covered the song in 2007 on their album Because I'm Awesome. It was met with enthusiasm during their 2010 UK tour with Bowling for Soup, largely due to the commercial success of The Wurzels' 1976 cover.[5]
  • Los Angeles indie pop duo The Bastard Fairies covered the song in a YouTube video accompanied by a small group of ukulele players.[6]
  • A version of the song entitled "Kinky Boots" dealing with the theme of security services in Northern Ireland was recorded by The Irish Brigade.[7]

References in popular culture[edit]

Melanie's version is heard in the 1997 film Boogie Nights as Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) has his "audition" with Rollergirl (Heather Graham) in front of Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds).[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Classic Rock Music Reporter: ‘Melanie’ Safka Exclusive: "My Mother Drove Me To Woodstock" (Part 1)". Retrieved 16 Jan 2014. 
  2. ^ ""Brand New Key" - Melanie". Superseventies.com. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  3. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 327. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  4. ^ Pan's Labyrinth parody song at YouTube
  5. ^ Jodie Humphries. "Gig Reviews - Bowling For Soup / A / Forever The Sickest Kids /". Live Music Scene. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  6. ^ Video on YouTube
  7. ^ Video on YouTube
  8. ^ Boogie Nights soundtrack listing and review by Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine http://www.allmusic.com/album/boogie-nights-original-soundtrack-mw0000027564 Retrieved 3/30/14
Preceded by
"Family Affair" by Sly & the Family Stone
Billboard Hot 100 number one single (Melanie version)
December 25, 1971 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"American Pie" by Don McLean
Preceded by
"No Charge" by J. J. Barrie
UK number one single (Wurzels version)
June 12, 1976 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"You to Me Are Everything" by The Real Thing