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"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 100singles 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.

OverviewEdit

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 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]

ControversyEdit

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:

'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 performanceEdit

Weekly singles charts[edit]Edit

Chart (1971-72) Peak

position

Canada RPM[4] 1
UK [5] 4
US BillboardHot 100 1
US Cash Box Top 100 [6] 1

Year-end charts[edit]Edit

Chart (1972) Position
Canada [7] 27
UK [8] 49
US Billboard Hot 100 [9] 9
US Cash Box[10] 3

Selected list of recorded versionsEdit

This section does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (March 2014)*1995 Sharon, Lois & Bram, on the album Let's Dance!.

Parodies and other versionsEdit

  • 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 #1 on the Irish Charts during 1975. For the UK Singles ChartWest Country comedy folk act The Wurzelsscored 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 LabyrinthMinnie 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 Playersmember 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 cultureEdit

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).

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