Brand New Key

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"Brand New Key"
Single by Melanie
from the album Gather Me
Released 1971
Genre Folk, pop
Length 2:26
Label Neighborhood
Producer(s) Peter Schekeryk

"Brand New Key" is a pop song written and sung by folk music singer Melanie (Melanie Safka-Schekeryk), which became a novelty success during 1971-72. Initially part of Melanie's album Gather Me, it was known also as "The Rollerskate Song" due to its chorus. It was her greatest success, scoring No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart during December 1971 and January 1972. Billboard ranked it as the No. 9 song of 1972.[1] It also scored No. 1 in Canada and Australia and No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart. Melanie's version of "Brand New Key" was featured in the 1997 movie Boogie Nights as well as the 2010 movie Jackass 3D and an episode of Helix.


The song is 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 rock music journalist Ray Shasho on July 22, 2013, Melanie described what she claimed was the inspiration of "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."[2]


Many listeners detect sexual innuendo in the lyrics, with the key in its lock thought to symbolize 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 detecting sexual innuendo in the song, without confirming or denying the intent:

Chart performance[edit]

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 from Salthill in Galway (Ireland) including "I got a brand new combine harvester / An' I'll give you the key", was recorded by Irish singer Brendan Grace, whose version scored #1 on the Irish Charts during 1975. For the UK Singles Chart, West Country comedy folk act The Wurzels scored No. 1 for two weeks during June 1976 with a version of this.[11]
  • The song was used prominently for the movie Evil Aliens.
  • After 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").[12]
  • Supercute!, an independent popular/psychedelic music teenage band directed by Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players member Rachel Trachtenburg have made a cover version of this song. They have also performed it live with English singer Kate Nash.
  • Los Angeles popular-punk music band The Dollyrots made a cover version of the song during 2007 for their album Because I'm Awesome. It had an enthusiastic response during their 2010 UK tour with Bowling for Soup, largely due to the commercial success of The Wurzels' 1976 cover.[13]
  • Los Angeles independent popular music duo The Bastard Fairies covered the song in a YouTube video accompanied by a small group of ukulele players.[14]
  • A version of the song entitled "Kinky Boots" dealing with the theme of security services in Northern Ireland was recorded by The Irish Brigade.[15]

References in popular culture[edit]

Melanie's version is heard in the 1997 music Boogie Nights as Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) has his "audition" with Rollergirl (Heather Graham) in front of Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds).[16]


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