From the Sappy Song Department
“Brand New Key” by Melanie (1972)
In the ‘Olden days”, roller skates were this kind of thing you stepped into with your regular shoe and tightened up with a key. I think I only tried them a couple of times and I think they sucked. When I was older I went to the rollercade where they still had the 4 wheels, but they had boots you put on. Much better control for doing trick skating or ‘dance’ skating like they did back in the day. Now of course they have come light years from where they were and are ‘in-line’. I am not sure you can actually do the same tricks with the in-line though. I mean can you really dance/skate to ‘Funky Town’ as well? Hmmm...
This song came out the same year as Clint Homes, “Playground Of My Mind”. “Coconut” by Nillson came out just a bit earlier. There was an innocence that people were trying to recapture after the hippy generation I guess.
Melanie Safka-Schekeryk, better known as just ‘Melanie’, (Did Cher start the trend of the whole one name thing? Before Madonna and long before Feist, Shakira, and Fergie) was a flower child; she went to art school, she was a folk singer, and she did gigs in Greenwich Village in the ‘60s. Like a good flower child and self-proclaimed “libertarian”, she was influenced by the Indian mystic/spiritual leader Meher Baba.
Her 1969 song “Bobo’s Party” went to number one in France. Later that year her “Beautiful People” went to number one in the Netherlands. Upon the launch of her debut album, ‘Billboard’ said of her, “... wise beyond her years. Her non-conformist approach to the selections on this LP makes her a new talent to be reckoned with."
She performed at Woodstock and with the lighting of candles (long before bic lighters and cell phones); she was inspired to write her ‘Lay Down (Candles in Rain)’, which became a hit in the summer of 1970. She kind of became the ‘festival queen’ after that and played at such venues as The Isle of Wight Festival and the Glastonbury Fayre with great success.
Her outrage to how a male-oriented recording industry messed with a successful recording artist’s music was express in her, 1971, “Look What They’ve Done to My Song”. Some people think her songs are very simple and shallow, but they are really quite brilliant, and were truly a ‘call to arms’ for young women at the time. The great Ray Charles covered this song the very next year. It must have had some meaning that hit home for him Jack!
Her 1972 hit “Brand New Key” was the number one in the world that summer having now sold over 3 million copies. Politically outspoken, and later the ambassador to UNICEF, she “did alright for a girl” as she defiantly says in the era of the macho man. The innocence of the song is a call to more innocent time but also speaks to a growing ecology movement “I ride my bike, I roller skate, don’t drive no car”. The song also has a certain sexual innuendo about it as well, that Melanie herself has not denied. Some may call this a feminist song, but it was an independence song for sure – “I’m o.k. alone, but you got something I need” – not deeply camouflaged.
Go ahead, give those skates a try! You never know who you might meet!