Brand New Key

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"Brand New Key"
Single by Melanie
from the album Gather Me
B-side "Some Say (I Got Devil)"
Released October 1971
Genre Folk, pop
Length 2:26
Label Neighborhood
Writer(s) Melanie Safka
Producer(s) Peter Schekeryk
Certification Gold (RIAA)

"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 a track 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 on the UK Singles Chart. Melanie's version of the song was featured in the 1997 movie Boogie Nights as well as the 2010 movie Jackass 3D and an episode of Helix.

The single was produced by Melanie's husband, Peter Schekeryk.

Overview[edit]

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 Examiner.com rock music journalist Ray Shasho on July 22, 2013, Melanie described what she claimed was the inspiration for the song: "I was fasting with a 27-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 McDonald's and the aroma hit me, and I had been a vegetarian before the fast. So we pulled into the McDonald's 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]

Controversy[edit]

Many listeners[citation needed] 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:

"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.[3]

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 Irish songwriter Brendan O'Shaughnessy (including "I've got a brand new combine harvester An' I'll give you the key"), was recorded by Irish comedian Brendan Grace, whose version scored No. 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.[14]
  • 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."
  • The song was used prominently in the 2005 movie Evil Aliens.
  • 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").[15]
  • Northern Irish band The Irish Brigade released a version of the song entitled "Kinky Boots," parodying the British security forces in Northern Ireland.[16]

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).[17] The song is also played in Jackass 3-D during the "Bungee Boogie" stunt skit.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1972
  2. ^ Ray Shahso (August 12, 2013). "The Classic Rock Music Reporter: ‘Melanie’ Safka Exclusive: "My Mother Drove Me To Woodstock" (Part 1)". classicrockmusicwriter.com. Retrieved January 16, 2014. 
  3. ^ ""Brand New Key" - Melanie". Superseventies.com. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  4. ^ http://australian-charts.com/forum.asp?todo=viewthread&id=35092
  5. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". collectionscanada.gc.ca. 
  6. ^ "MELANIE". officialcharts.com. 
  7. ^ http://50.6.195.142/archives/70s_files/19710828.html
  8. ^ http://australian-charts.com/forum.asp?todo=viewthread&id=35092
  9. ^ "Songs from the Year 1972". tsort.info. 
  10. ^ "Top 100 1972". top-source.info. 
  11. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1972/Top 100 Songs of 1972". musicoutfitters.com. 
  12. ^ http://50.6.195.142/archives/70s_files/1972YESP.html
  13. ^ Maclean's Magazine November 6, 1995. Vol. 108, Iss. 45; pg. 72. "Let's Dance by Sharon, Lois & Bram". Chisholm, Patricia.
  14. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 327. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  15. ^ Pan's Labyrinth parody song at YouTube
  16. ^ Kinky Boots by The Irish Brigade at YouTube
  17. ^ 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