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Novelty Song Friday #6 — “Brand New Key” by Melanie

I went for a short blurb on Melanie but what I read was so fascinating I included a lot on her, from wikipedia:

Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk (born February 3, 1947) is an American singer-songwriter known professionally as Melanie and sometimes as Melanie Safka. She remains best known for the 1971/72 global hit “Brand New Key”, her cover of “Ruby Tuesday”, her composition “What Have They Done to My Song Ma”, and her 1970 international breakthrough hit “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”, inspired by her experience of performing at the 1969 Woodstock music festival.

Melanie was born and raised in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, New York City. Her father, Frederick M. Safka (1924-2009), was of Ukrainian ethnic background, and her mother, jazz singer Pauline “Polly” Altomare (1926-2003), was of Italian heritage. Melanie made her first public singing appearance at age four on the radio show Live Like A Millionaire, performing the song “Gimme a Little Kiss”. She attended Red Bank High School in Red Bank, New Jersey, after transferring from Long Branch High School, graduating in 1966.

In the 1960s, when she began her career, Melanie performed at The Inkwell, a coffee house in the West End section of Long Branch, New Jersey. After school, her parents insisted that she go to college, so she studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, where she began singing in the folk clubs of Greenwich Village, such as The Bitter End, 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 in 1969 with “Bobo’s Party” which reached Number 1 in France. Melanie’s popularity in Europe resulted in performances on European television programs, such as Beat-Club in West Germany. Her debut album received positive 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”. She was one of only three solo women who performed at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and the inspiration for her first hit song, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)“, apparently arose from the Woodstock audience lighting candles during her set (although most of the “candles” were actually matches or lighters). The recording became a hit in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States in 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 Number 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 ignore the court injunction banning the Powder Ridge Rock Festival scheduled to be held on July 31, August 1 and August 2, 1970. She played for the crowd on a homemade stage powered by Mister Softee trucks. Shortly following this performance, she played at the Strawberry Fields Festival held from August 7 to 9, 1970, at Mosport Park, Ontario. She also performed at the Isle of Wight Festival held between August 26 and 30, 1970, at Afton Down, where she was introduced by Keith Moon and received four standing ovations (she also appeared at the 2010 Isle of Wight festival). She was also the artist who sang to herald in the summer solstice at Glastonbury Fayre (later the Glastonbury Festival) in England in June 1971. She performed again at Glastonbury in 2011, the 40th anniversary of the original festival.

Melanie left Buddah Records when they insisted that she produce albums on demand. In 1971 she formed her own label, Neighborhood Records, with Peter Schekeryk, who was also her producer and husband. She had her biggest American hit on the Neighborhood label, the novelty-sounding 1972 number one “Brand New Key” (often referred to as “The Roller Skate Song”). “Brand New Key” sold over three million copies worldwide and was featured in the 1997 movie Boogie Nights.

When first released, “Brand New Key” was banned by some radio stations because some heard sexual innuendo in the lyrics. Melanie has acknowledged the possibility of reading an unintended sexual innuendo in the song, stating:

I wrote [Brand New Key] 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 […] People will take it any way they want to take it.

In a 2013 interview with music journalist Ray Shasho, Melanie revealed the true origin of “Brand New Key”:

Of course I can see it symbolically with the key, but I just thought of roller skating. 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. So it was not a deliberate or intentional sexual innuendo.

 

 

 

I rode my bicycle past your window last night
I roller skated to your door at day light
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 a while, 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 round the world
Some people say I done all right for a girl

Oh yeah yeah, oh yeah yeah yeah
Oh yeah yeah yeah
Oh yeah yeah yeah

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 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
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
Songwriters: Melanie Safka

33 thoughts on “Novelty Song Friday #6 — “Brand New Key” by Melanie

        1. Yes she did. Look in the post and you’ll find a link to her Ruby Tuesday cover. I like novelty songs like hers and the farmer parody of it. It’s been fun picking one each week.

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  1. This is a good one. Melanie is one of my husband’s favorite artist. There’s a live clip on YouTube of her and an amazing gospel choir doing “Lay Down”. She gives her all. It’s amazing! Buddah records was a very corrupt label. Mobbed up, big time. She was fortunate to get out of her contract.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pam I am getting goosebumps right now. I was looking for The Hollies song I just posted on and that very live video with Melanie and The Edwin Hawkes singers auto-played afterwards. Yes it IS amazing and I just switched out the link with the live link. Good to know she got out of Buddah with both legs intact.

      Liked by 1 person

              1. I’m starting to do it more now. I miss a lot if I don’t.
                LOL yes I knew it was going to draw her in when I posted it…I waited. Yea she has settled down. She is good though because she gets over it quickly.
                I’m waiting a reply now. over me telling her what I told you. Every town Bruce went to he drew money in for Vets…and recognition.

                Liked by 1 person

              2. Hans is fun to talk to….Beatles and Baseball… He was the first person I connected with on the blog. We have similiar taste…and he has read more about the Beatles than I have…I didn’t think I’d ever meet someone who did.

                Liked by 1 person

                  1. Well, I’ve learned from you also and I’m sure he would say the same. Thank you for saying that. It’s good to know hours and hours of reading about them was a good thing lol.

                    Now lets all three hope we will be able to see Let It Be this fall! Hopefully, we will be able to.

                    Liked by 1 person

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