Brand New Key

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"Brand New Key"
Melanie Brand New Ky.jpg
Song by Melanie from the album Gather Me
Released1971
GenreFolk, pop
Length2:26
LabelNeighborhood Records
ComposerMelanie Safka
ProducerPeter Schekeryk
 
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"Brand New Key"
Melanie Brand New Ky.jpg
Song by Melanie from the album Gather Me
Released1971
GenreFolk, pop
Length2:26
LabelNeighborhood Records
ComposerMelanie Safka
ProducerPeter 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 children's quad skates, which were clamped to the soles of ordinary 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 screwdriver 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]

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).

Melanie's version is heard during a scene in the "Brain Salad Surgery" episode of Chicago Hope (Season Four).

Melanie's version is heard at the closing of an episode of Yes, Dear as Greg (Anthony Clark) skates down the street.

Melanie's version is heard in a 2010 TV commercial for Hewlett-Packard printers.[7]

Melanie's version was also featured in the 2010 film Jackass 3D during the segment "bungie boogie".

The members of the London Investigation 'N' Detective Agency sing a cover of this song in the Doctor Who episode "Love & Monsters".

A line from Melanie's version is shown in the popular game Minecraft as a splash on the title screen.

References[edit]

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