"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. 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 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."
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.
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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."