Brand New Key

Album: Gather Me (1971)
Charted: 4 1


  • In this song, Melanie has new pair of roller skates, which she uses to skate over to a boy's house because he's "got something I need." She's quite persistent but it seems he's never home. Finally, his mom answers the door and tells her he's with another girl. This is when it dawns on her that he might be avoiding her.
  • The "key" Melanie sings about is a skate key. At the time, roller skates were metal contraptions that required an adjustment tool (the skate key) to fit them to the foot.

    The story about the girl looking for the boy so he could use his brand new key had plenty of connotation, which was striking because it was placed in such an innocent setting. Melanie claimed she wrote the lyrics in a stream-of-conscious style in just minutes, and any deeper meaning was unintentional. "It was not anything that I thought about or even worried about making sense," she said.
  • This song has a very unusual origin story. Melanie's search for enlightenment inspired her to go on a 27-day fast, during which she drank nothing but distilled water. Coming off the fast, she was eating transitional food like carrots when she felt an overwhelming urge to get a McDonald's hamburger and fries. Figuring it was some kind of spirit voice guiding her, she gave in. On the way back to her house from McDonald's, she started to write the song. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Sara - Greenville, AL
  • After Melanie wrote this song, she figured it would make a nice interlude on the album and could be a lighthearted novelty to perform between her more earnest material. Her husband, Peter Schekeryk, who was also her producer, had other ideas. After she recorded the song at Allegro Studios in New York City, she left for California. When she returned, Schekeryk had put jaunty doo-wop backing vocals on the song and it was super catchy.

    "I'm sure if 'Brand New Key' had lived its life before my husband recorded it, it would have come out as a blues, swampy thing and nobody would have ever heard it," Melanie said in a Songfacts interview. "That would have been that. But he'd say, 'Melanie, that's a hit.' I'd say, 'No, it can't be.'"
  • In 1976, the English West Country comic folk band The Wurzels took their rewritten version, "Combine Harvester (Brand New Key)" to the top of the UK charts.
  • Melanie (last name: Safka) is a folk singer who wrote passionate songs about peace and unity during the Vietnam War. She played Woodstock and had charted with "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" and "Peace Will Come (According To Plan)." She had some reservations about releasing "Brand New Key" as a single, fearing she would no longer be taken seriously ("I was sure I was doomed to be cute for the rest of my life," he told Songfacts). She had further success with songs in her folk style like "Ring The Living Bell" and "Some Day I'll be A Farmer," but she is overwhelming known for "Brand New Key."
  • "Brand New Key" went to #1 in the US on the chart dated December 25, 1971, where it stayed for three weeks. No word on if the song helped boost sales of roller skates for Christmas.
  • Some believed this song was about trying to score drugs, with the key representing a "kilo" of marijuana.
  • This Songfact has nothing to do with music, but here's a brief history anyway of roller-skating.

    Roller-skates made their first recorded appearance at a party in Carlisle House, London in 1760. A young Belgian musician who rolled into a London party while playing the violin wore these first roller skates. It was not a successful introduction as the violinist crashed into a mirror causing nearly a thousand dollars worth of damage.

    In 1866 former civil war arms producer Everett Barney patented the all-metal screw clamp skate. They clamped on to the edges of the soles of shoes and were tightened with a key. However, with the advent of athletic shoes, there was no place to secure the skates so they eventually disappeared.

    Around the same time New Yorker James Plimpton came up with the four-wheeled turning roller skate, or quad skate. It was a huge success, so much that the first public skating rink was opened in 1866 in Newport, Rhode Island with the support of Plimpton. The quad skate remained the dominant roller skate design until Minnesotans Scott Olson and Brennan Olson came up with idea of roller blades in 1979. They were inspired after coming across a pair of inline skates created in the 1960s by the Chicago Roller Skate Company and, seeing the potential for off-ice hockey training, set about redesigning the skates using modern materials and attaching ice hockey boots. Within a few years the Rollerblade-branded skates were more popular than the traditional quads.
  • Want some more songs inspired by roller skating? Here are some:

    1. London-based singer-songwriter Eliza Doolittle's "Rollerblades" is "about quitting worrying, getting up off your butt and getting on your rollerblades 'and rolling on.'"

    2. North Eastern England band Maximo Park's Roller Disco Dreams is about, yep, a roller disco.

    3. Jim Croce's Roller Derby Queen is about a roller-skating woman that Jim met doing a gig at a country and western bar.

    4. De La Soul's 1991 tribute to roller skating and weekends, is titled, A Roller Skating Jam Named "Saturdays."
  • Olivia Newton-John recorded a dance version of this song for the 2011 movie soundtrack A Few Best Men. She also had a supporting role in the film as Barbara, the mother of the bride. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    James - Minneapolis, MN

Comments: 33

  • Loretta Livengood from Cincinnati 64 and still roller skate
  • Mary Odell from Rural Michigan As a 77 year old music lover I was so happy to stumble onto Melanie’s wonderful song. Somewhere in this rambling farm house I have the Album! Also I did skate with the heavy steel skates and we wore our keys around our necks on a string and occasionally we would lose them and we would have to buy a new key!
  • Davy from OaklandGetting a brand new pair of roller skates makes sense, but why would someone get a brand new key?
  • Yo! from Philly... And don't forget the big hit song: "Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll" By Vaughan Mason And Crew. It's still popular in rollerskating rinks today!...give it a listen and roll back to the '80s, when people actually wore roller skates in the night was awesome!
  • Susan from Atlanta, GeorgiaI normally don't comment about songs I don't particularly care for and don't even seek them out, but since this song seems to be universally loved except by me, I thought maybe I was missing something and came here to gain enlightenment about it. Nope, nuthin'. I just don't get the attraction. Sorry.
  • Ekristheh from HalathWow, speculations galore, although not as many as Hotel California! Here's my impression: Melanie wrote many songs about a woman pursuing a man who was not interested, a woman who can't seem to find the right guy, or who returns from a trip to find her husband or boyfriend in bed with another woman. "Any Guy," "I'm Back in Town", "I Really Loved Harold" and "Take Me Home" come to mind. So I think we can be reasonably sure that's what's going on here, along with the 1930s style theme which many of her songs have. Often a jaunty, upbeat or carousel sound accompanies the saddest and loneliest lyrics.
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenA sadly departed friend of mine loved to playfully spoof songs and her take on this one was "You've got a brand new box of condoms and I've got an IUD...I think that we should get together and try 'em out, you see. Maybe we'll just have a good time, or maybe I'll have a bay-bee, cuz you've got a brand new box of condoms and I've got an IUD..."
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 24th 1971, "Brand New Key" by Melanie entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #87; and eight weeks later on December 19th, 1971 it peaked at #1 {for 3 weeks} and spent 18 weeks on the Top 100...
    It also reached #1 in Australia; and the record it knocked out of the top spot, "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)" by Benny Hill???
    Between April 1970 and December 1973 she had nine Top 100 records; with two reaching the Top 10, her other Top 10 record was "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain), it peaked at #6 in 1970...
    Melanie Anne Safka will celebrate her 68th birthday in four months on February 3rd {2015}.
  • Paul from Wilton, CtInteresting,

    Melanie was a Folk Favorite in New York City, but never played the Fillmore East.

    Promoter Bill Graham had said that Melanie was 'perfect' for outdoor festivals and Hippie gatherings, but not the wilder concert hall venue's.

  • Brian from Slacks Creek, AustraliaI have an album of Melanie's - acoustic blue- which is live recordings and on it she speaks about Brand New Key. She expresses disappointment about how the song turned out but goes to lengths to explain that the key (pardon the pun) to the song was the line "some people say I've done alright for a girl". You can draw your own conclusions from this.
  • Paul from Southern Pines, NcUnfortunately for Melanie, this song turned her from an 'Earthy Hippie/Folk-Rock' musician, into a 'Novelty Act by 1972.

    The 'Hippie Movement' was fading by mid-1971, after it hit it's 'pinnacle' in 1970.....and Melanie was a 'lost' Folk-Rock Musician.
  • Paul from Southern Pines, NcFor the person who said Melanie was using Leon Redbone's style.

    You are way off.

    Leon Redbone was born in 1949, and wasn't playing Clubs until 1974/1975.

    Melanie recorded this song in July 1971 for her 'Gather Me' Album which was released in October 1971.

    Melanie heard many of these 1930's 'catchy' Pop Tunes while she was playing her Folk Music in the small
    Club Scene in Lower New York from 1968 thru 1972.

    Though the song was a 'commercial success', and her best selling record, 'Brand New Key' didn't sit well with
    her loyal 'Hippie and Earthy' fan base, who felt that she sold out to 'The Man' with a 'Pop Single'.
  • Paul from Southern Pines, NcMelanie herself stated, that the song had nothing to do with sexual innuendo.

    The song was a fastly written 'light-hearted tune', with no serious deep expression in the song. Melanie said, that people can take it anyway they want it.
    Her own words were, that it was a 1930's period song, that had some catchy-phrases and was rhythmically balanced.

    Melanie, from Astoria, Queens, New York - was a popular Folk Singer in and around the New York Scene from 1967 thru 1972. This song was recorded in July 1971,
    and was part of her 'Gather Me' Album (released in October 1971). The song 'Brand New Key' was released as a single, and reached the #1 U.S. Billboard
    Charts in December 1971 and January 1972.

    Though the words in the song include 'Freudian Symbols' and have a 'double meaning', (ie; 'I go pretty far' and 'You've got something I need'), the phrases
    were not part of a 'double entendre'.

    The song is nothing more than a 'Cute Pop Song', with some 'catchy phrases' and a rhythmically balanced 1930's Pop Tune, with a 'Novelty Feel'.
  • Glen from Torrance, CaNo one yet seems to have gotten the point. Sex? No question about that........drugs?......not likely...but....It's so obviously about puberty!......"I've got a brand new pair of roller've got a brand new key........" we need to be hit over the head here?......."Let's try them out to see........" And what do we get with all those brand new skates and keys? Teen pregnancy, among other things.............
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxSame double-entendre as Ghostbusters, with 'keymaster' and 'gatekeeper.'
  • Edward from Henderson, NvThis is not a song about rollerskating; it's about a pushy girl chasing a guy who's not interested. See also Jim Stafford's "Spiders and Snakes."
  • Dan from New York, NyThe Dollyrots do a great cover of this, available on their 2007 album, 'Because I'm Awesome.'
  • Mel from Haverhill, MaMy parents loved this son hence how i got my name
  • Fred from Laurel, MdN.B. I haven't heard Ms. McPhee's, but I do remember Melanie's recording.
  • Fred from Laurel, MdAmerican Idol 5th season 1st-runner-up (she finished behind winner Taylor Hicks), Katharine McPhee, just covered this song on her new album, UnBroken. 2010/01/07
  • Joe from Fort Meade, MdThis is the song that is playing in the background when "Roller Girl" (Heather Graham) has sex with "Dirk Diggler" (Mark Wahlberg) in "Boogie Nights" (which is actually a really good movie if you give it a chance). The song is beyond appropriate for the scene and works on multiple levels.

    Dirk (to a nude Roller Girl who is on top of him): Aren't you going to take your roller skates off?

    Roller Girl: I NEVER take my roller skates off.

    When I first saw the movie I totally didn't get it (admittedly I was probably too young to be watching it and under "influences" at the time), now I watch that scene and laugh my ass off at the tongue-in-cheek humor prevalent throughout the scene.
  • Linc from Beaumont, TxThis song works on many levels. It's about sex, it's about drugs, it's about innocence. And it's about liking an older guy who doesn't notice essence - it's every teenager girl's song. And it probably was written in 15 minutes...
  • Norm from Detroit, InThis is such a cute song, Grown ups hear it one way and children hear it another way, I have a friend this song helps me think of
  • Chris from Sterling, VaOf course this about sex. For one more clue, listen to the background vocal, "Hump,Ha-HA,Hump, Ha-HA....

    It's only slightly less subtle than The Beatles background vocal on "Girl, Girl" (tit-tit-tit-tit-tit-tit.)
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnWho would have thought that a novelty record like "Brand New Key" would become Melanie's biggest hit, even on her own Neighborhood Records label. I disagree with the person who posted that the lyrics were a reference to drugs. To me there were no drug references in the song, although some radio stations banned the song because it was too weird.
  • Jackjackjackie from Melbourne, AustraliaI always thought this song was about drugs and the "key" referred to a Kilo of cocaine. "I'm ok alone but you got sumthin i need". Its not the sex she wants.
  • Charles from Bronxville, NyHere are some lines from this wonderfully cute but throroughly dirty song:

    "Don't go to fast but I go pretty far"
    "I've been all around the world"
    "But you got something I need"

    What is this about??
  • Rob from Sv, AzI think this song is about the power of innocence. Her roller skates vs the technology of the car, yet it is the marriage of yin and yang - old ways and technology that is needed. Hence, "I'm ok a lone, but you've got something I need." The lyrics "done all right for a girl," show that although she doesn't use technology, she's been around the world. Just being a girl is being innocent. This power of innocence is found in stories throughout time: the Chinese Neh Zah, the Polynesian Maui, Santo Nino de Atoche, Tweety Bird, and the Baby Jesus, just to name a few.
  • John from Anaheim, CaYeah I agree its about sex. For a song written in 15 minutes it has very clever lyrics. "I ride my bike, I roller skate don't drive no car" is a clear reference to her virginity.
  • Dave from Scottsdale, AzI always thought it was Nookie she just got.
  • R from Seattle, WaCan anybody think of a song with MORE double-entendres?
  • Tanya from Los Angeles, CaThis song is about sex, virginity and her desire to give to a particular guy. I'm not buying any other explanations.
  • Lisa from Brampton, CanadaThis song is so obviously about sex.
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