Brand New Key – Melanie

Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk is an American singer-songwriter.

Usually known professionally as Melanie, she is best known for her hits “Brand New Key”, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” and “What Have They Done To My Song Ma”.

Melanie grew up in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, New York.

She made her first public appearance at four on the radio show Live Like A Millionaire, performing the song “Gimme a Little Kiss”. Melanie was a student at New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts when she began singing in the folk clubs of Greenwich Village and signed her first recording contract.

Initially signed to Columbia Records in the United States, Melanie released two singles on the label. Subsequently she signed with Buddah Records and first found chart success in Europe when her 1969 song, “Bobo’s Party”, reached Number 1 in France. Her debut album received rave reviews from Billboard which heralded her voice as “… wise beyond her years. Her non-conformist approach to the selections on this LP make her a new talent to be reckoned with.”

Later in 1969, Melanie had a hit in the Netherlands with “Beautiful People”, before performing at the Woodstock Festival. The inspiration for her signature song, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”, apparently arose from the Woodstock audience lighting candles during her set. The recording became a hit in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States in the spring and summer of 1970. The B-side of the single featured Melanie’s spoken-word track “Candles in the Rain”. “Lay Down” became Melanie’s first Top Ten hit in America, peaking at #6 on the Billboard singles chart, and achieving worldwide success. Later hits included “Peace Will Come (According To Plan)” and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday”.

In 1970, Melanie was the only artist to brave the court injunction banning the Powder Ridge Rock Festival, playing for the crowd on a homemade stage powered by Mister Softee trucks. Shortly following this performance, Melanie played at the Strawberry Fields Festival, held on August 7—9, 1970 at Mosport Park, Ontario. She also performed at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 where she was introduced by Keith Moon and received four standing ovations. Melanie was also the artist who sang to herald in the summer solstice at Glastonbury Fayre (later the Glastonbury Festival) in England in June 1971.

Melanie identifies herself politically as a Libertarian, stating: “I’m a total Libertarian, and I am not a Democrat, a Socialist, or a Republican.” For a time, at the beginning of her career, Melanie was a follower of Meher Baba and this influenced some of her songs (such as “Love to Lose Again” and “Candles in the Rain”). Over time she became disenchanted with other followers and then disassociated herself from Meher Baba. In 2006 she underwent a life-altering experience with Mata Amritanandamayi or Amma (Mother) as she is also known, or as the “hugging saint” from India, which inspired Melanie to write “Motherhood Of Love”, one of her more recent songs. Melanie currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

Brand New Key

Brand New Key” is a pop song written by folk singer Melanie (Melanie Safka), which became a novelty hit in 1971-72. Taken from Melanie’s album Gather Me, it was also known as “The Rollerskate Song

The song is lighthearted in tone, sung from the viewpoint of a girl 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 you see

The roller skates in question would have been quad skates which fit over ordinary footwear and were tightened with a screw. The girl’s skates are presumably adequate, as she is already skating, but not perfect, as she needs the key:

I roller skated to your door at daylight[...]
I’m okay alone, but you got something I need

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 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.”

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I rode my bicycle past your window last night
I roller skated to your door at daylight
It almost seems like you’re avoiding me
I’m okay alone, but you got something I need

Well, 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 you see
I been looking around awhile
You got something for me
Oh! I got a brand new pair of roller skates
You got a brand new key

I ride my bike, I roller skate, don’t drive no car
Don’t go too fast, but I go pretty far
For somebody who don’t drive
I been all around the world
Some people say, I done all right for a girl

Well, 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 you see
I been looking around awhile
You got something for me
Oh! I got a brand new pair of roller skates
You got a brand new key

I asked your mother if you were at home
She said, yes .. but you weren’t alone
Oh, sometimes I think that you’re avoiding me
I’m okay alone, but you’ve got something I need

Well, 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
La la la la la la la la, la la la la la la
Oh! I got a brand new pair of roller skates
You got a brand new key

  • Audio from the 1971 album, Gather Me:

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About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.

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