The worst songs ever: 3. “Brand New Key”

You’ll be glad to hear that I don’t have the stomach to post more than about two more “worst songs.” This dreadful specimen from 1971, “Brand New Key” by Melanie, is rife with not only face-palming lyrics, but also sexual innuendo. It is a testament to Americans’ bad taste that this song sold 3 million copies and became a gold record.  Not only that, but it reached #1 in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. What were we thinking?

Melanie, whose real name was Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk (born 1947), had two other hits, “Lay Down” (tolerable) and “What Have They Done to My Song Ma” (intolerable).

Wikipedia describes its genesis, which is more or less what you’d expect. It was inspired by a meal from McDonald’s:

In an interview with classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho on July 22, 2013, Melanie describes the inspiration behind “Brand New Key” … “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.”

It should have stayed in her.

And there’s this:

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.

She’s got a brand new guru, too.

74 Comments

  1. Diane G.
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Sub.

    (I did like “Lay Down”…)

  2. Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    [htmlhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tb63PdPweDc[/html]

  3. Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    But it did spawn this.

    I’ll leave it to you to decide wether that absolves Melanie or compounds the sin… :-D

    /@

    • Kevin
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      That was an experience. Not going to repeat.

    • Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      I see there was a race to post the Wurzels, but no one thought to include its iconic use as part of a sf/horror movie soundtrack?

  4. Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    * whether (feeling sheepish now)

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Arrgh!

      Surely you set yourself up just to be able to go there. :D

      • Posted October 19, 2013 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

        Actual ytping error! 😇

        /@

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 20, 2013 at 12:30 am | Permalink

          If only I’d made my “you” a “ewe…”

  5. Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Gotta say I’ve got a soft spot for this song from watching Boogie Nights.

    • Thanny
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps the only acceptable use for the song. Very apropos for the movie scene in question.

  6. Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Grrr… Sorry. Try this:

    • Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Agh! Embedded video!! ;-)

      I should add that in the UK the Wurzels’ version is probably far better known than Melanie’s, with only us old folks remembering that it was a parody.

      /@

    • Kevin
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      No more Wurzels. Not real. Not real. I keep telling myself. Just a brain in a vat.

  7. Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and I also contend that NOTHING will ever eclipse Agadoo as the worst song ever – it’s on Youtube: watch it if you dare!

    • Posted October 19, 2013 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

      The “adult” version is worse.

      Hint: It had the picture of a wood-screw on the cover.

      /@

    • Dale
      Posted October 20, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Totally forgot about Agadoo. I will grant that it is worse that MacArthur Park.

      Now Spitting Image and the Chicken song, that is just plain brilliant.

    • jeremyp
      Posted October 21, 2013 at 1:50 am | Permalink

      Keith Harris and Orville, I Wish I Could Fly.

      • teacupoftheapocalypse
        Posted October 21, 2013 at 2:36 am | Permalink

        SOB. That was below the belt. In any event, this thread is supposed to be about awful songs, not the anguished cries of duck being fisted by a man with a fixed grin.

  8. teacupoftheapocalypse
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    I’d rather not listen to either, but if forced, I’d take this cover / parody version, which made #1 in the UK, any day. The lyrics have been changed wholesale, but the innuendo has not been lost: http://goo.gl/i0wuT1

  9. mordacious1
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    I kind of like “Brand New Key” though I can see why other people hate it (I also like “MacArthur Park”, so…). I guess I’ll have to introduce you guys to some really bad music again (for contrast):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=472AUMxgQGI

    Warning! This is Britney Spears real voice without synthetic tuning.

    • teacupoftheapocalypse
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Oh My Giddy Aunt!

    • Marella
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      I agree, I guess I don’t mind silly lyrics that are obviously meant to be silly. With the rise of You Tube the scope for badness has widen exponentially. My daughter has just played me a song called “The Fox” which is beyond ridiculous. The music is not bad, it’s meant to be silly and it certainly succeeds. It’s by a group called Ylvis.

      http://tiny.cc/rk674w

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 19, 2013 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        The answer is they say “yip”. At least that’s what I’ve heard them say, usually when they want something or are distracting you away from their kits.

        • Marella
          Posted October 22, 2013 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

          A video on Youtube claims that they have over 40 different calls, if you watch it, and then listen to the fox song they are actually sort of acurate(ish).

    • Posted October 19, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      Mordacious, I’m with you on this. I always liked this song, though I had never listened too closely to the lyrics. Now that I know all the lyrics, though, there is no returning to my blissful innocent ignorance. Both this and MacArthur Park are lost to me…

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 19, 2013 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

        I think she has a nice voice. The song is a fluffy pop song but I always thought the way she sang it was good.

      • Sastra
        Posted October 19, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

        Well, I also like the song and think Melanie had a fine voice — though I’ll grant that this live version is a bit shaky. It’s pop, it’s fun … it came out when I was a tiny teen.

        One of the “worst songs ever?” Oh, please.

        It sounds like we’re supposed to stick with Top 40 (I already nominated Geddes’ execrable “Run Joey Run”), but in rebuttal to this unfair Melanie slander as MY entry I now want to nominate some music my brother used to play at top volume: Happy Flowers’ “I Said I Want to Watch Cartoons.”

        Oh, hell — anything by Happy Flowers. He gave me one of their tapes for Christmas. I’d use it to win bets. Go ahead, listen to the whole thing. I dare you.

        Someone is now probably going to come out and say they were genius, hip and “ironic.” I don’t care. Listening to them is like putting your brain in a blender.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted October 20, 2013 at 12:22 am | Permalink

          My G*ds. That’s almost impressive. It isn’t really a song, is it, and it certainly isn’t music. More like an anthem to spoiled brats.

        • Posted October 20, 2013 at 4:01 am | Permalink

          This got airplay? This is pretty damn “outside”… probably the most avant-garde thing to have done so, if true. It definitely qualifies as music, though. Sounds like it was inspired by a bowl of Lucky Charms in chocolate milk. Or a bowl of weed and Taco Bell.

          • Sastra
            Posted October 20, 2013 at 7:18 am | Permalink

            Yes, it got airplay. My brother used to call up deejays and request it on the air, saying “I … SAID… I … WANNA … HEAR “I Said I Want to Watch Cartoons!!!”

            It obviously couldn’t be a Top 40 station, of course. But this was in Chicago, so there was a lot of variety.

            Like I said, you can use it to win bets on “My Worst Song is worse than yours.” It changes the whole game and leaves the room stunned, mouths agape. The only way to lose is to be disqualified by the belated and hasty introduction of a new rule.

            • Sastra
              Posted October 20, 2013 at 7:28 am | Permalink

              Well, it might lose against another entry from Happy Flowers. Just for Jerry, here’s Mom, I Gave the Cat Some Acid.

              If he can listen to this one all the way through then he earns all those pretty boots. Come, glimpse the real dark side … and leave poor little Melanie alone.

            • Posted October 20, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

              Wowzers. The only stuff I can think of that is remotely comparable is stuff “Wild Man Fischer” did, or just about any death metal with unmentionable band names.

              Then again, there’s Komar & Melamid’s scientifically-formulated “Most Wanted” and “Most Unwanted” songs. I personally like the latter better, despite Vernon Reid’s (Living Colour) guitar solo on the former.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 20, 2013 at 12:54 am | Permalink

      Yeah but… I’m not a Britney Spears fan but this is hardly fair to her. This is her lip-syncing while going through some dance moves etc, she’s not actually trying to sing properly and quite probably can’t hear her own voice anyway.

      If you REALLY want to hear some truly horrendous vocals, just google ‘X factor worst auditions’ – some of them are so unbelievable they really are hilarious. e.g. this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSGYoqoR6fQ
      I must admit I feel a bit guilty watching – it’s a bit like blood sports – but the victims did all volunteer…

    • Posted October 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      I like the song. Yes, the lyrics are silly.

  10. Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Does she sound a little stoned in the interview?

    Awful song. Prefer the Wurzel parody. :)

  11. Dermot C
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    And what’s wrong with sexual innuendo in pop? That’s what built the blues.

    “Spider Murphy played the tenor saxophone,
    Little Joe was blowin on the slide trombone.
    The drummer boy from Illinois went crash, boom, bang,
    The whole rhythm section was the purple gang.
    Lets rock, everybody, lets rock.
    Everybody in the whole cell block
    Was dancin to the jailhouse rock.”

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. And the blues’ love child, rock.

    • Posted October 19, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Flat foot floozie with a floy floy

    • µ
      Posted October 20, 2013 at 6:18 am | Permalink

      Exactly!
      Tutti Frutti, aw rooty!
      A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom!!

    • Posted October 20, 2013 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      Yes indeed, anyone who has listened to serious blues should know all about double entendre (try Robert Johnson) and, indeed, single entendre (Bo Carter)!

  12. Coyotenose
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Katherine McPhee has done a cover of “Brand New Key” that is eleventy times less annoying. Tempo can make all the difference:

    But as long as we’re talking about awful songs, I’ll have to pull a reverse Good Old Days and introduce Owl City’s monstrosity, Speed of Love:

    • Coyotenose
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      Annnd please forgive me for the unintentional embedding. *facepalm*

  13. Posted October 19, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    “Playground in my mind” surely is next

    • Pete Cockerell
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      Not “Windmills of Your Mind”?

      • mordacious1
        Posted October 19, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

        “Windmills” is a very good song. “Playground” is so bad, I won’t link it (go to youtube and find it by Clint Holmes). It’s the one that has “My name is Michael, I’ve got a nickel, I’ve got a nickel shiny and new. I’m gonna buy you all kinds of candy…”. It IS really bad.

      • teacupoftheapocalypse
        Posted October 22, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        Sadly, Noel Harrison has passed away, aged 79. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-24621444

        ‘Windmills’ remains one of the few 7″ singles that I ever bought.

  14. Dermot C
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Oh Jerry, how disappointing: only 2 more worst songs ever? This theme could run like Lola run.

    Best intro.
    Favourite guilty pleasure (bubble gum pop).
    Worst lyric.
    Best gig.
    Worst gig.
    Most embarrassing damnation of a group who went onto world domination (even though you still think they’re crap).
    Best Eurovision song.
    Worst Eurovision song.
    Best singer.
    Worst singer.
    Worst instrumental solo.
    Best techno.
    Best completely obscure artist.
    Earliest recollection of a pop song.
    Most hated genre.
    Best pop anecdote.
    Worst number 1.
    Worst successful group.
    Most ridiculous case of being mistaken for a pop star.
    Most toe-curling rhyme.
    The worst thing in pop.
    Best B-side.
    Best title.
    Worst title.

  15. Arabiflora
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    While I think that “Brand new key” is indeed an inane (but catchy) song, I have to disagree with your contention that “Look what they done to my song, ma” is “intolerable”. The tune comes often to my mind in the course of various instances of group-work, especially the drafting of MS’s for publication:

    “Well they tied it up in a plastic bag, and turned it upside down, ma” seems to me quite a propos of the editing process and/or of the later interpretation of the data at hand and conclusions that would seem (to me) to follow.

  16. JimmyHaulinHogs
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    I think this song is OK – it was cut number one, side one of the first album we owned and played on our first record player:

    K-Tel 20 Power Hits

    As you can see, she was so popular, they even threw in a second song of hers on that K-Tel album compilation: The Nickel Song.

    Now, if you really want to talk hideous, you can’t overlook either Neil Diamond or the 80’s. I would nominate Shilo by Diamond and the rancid remake of Tainted Love by Soft Cell.

    • Posted October 19, 2013 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

      Well, maybe, but who’s heard of Gloria Jones now?

      /@

  17. Pete Cockerell
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m one of the ones who quite likes this song, too. I think it’s because I was 9 when I first heard it, and was totally undiscriminating about music, and I haven’t heard it recently enough to change my mind. I’m torn as to whether to click on the video!

  18. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    I feel like I’m being punished for sorta liking the song because it won’t get out of my head! Ahhhh!

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 20, 2013 at 12:38 am | Permalink

      If it’s any consolation, quite a lot of people here seem to sorta like it.

      It wasn’t exactly a serious song, even before The Wurzels (which I’d never heard of before but obviously a lot of the denizens of this Notablog have) did their cover version.

  19. Scote
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Not to worry, they are still making terrible songs. We will never run out.

    The new, horrible song “Chinese Food” has over 9 million views on You Tube.

    http://www.sacbee.com/2013/10/16/5826824/is-chinese-food-the-worst-song.html

    This maliciously lazy attempt by producer Patrice Wilson to recreate the sucess of his song “Friday” is an insipid litany set to an over produced pop-template. Wilson’s YouTube songs featuring child performers are modern successors to the “song poems” of the past, where people paid money to have their songs set to music and sent back as a record.

  20. Posted October 19, 2013 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    I hope Afternoon Delight is one of your worst songs ever. Except it’s kinda so bad it’s good.

  21. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 20, 2013 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Sexual innuendo? Damn, I never spotted that. My Think Dirty circuits must have been on the fritz at the time, how embarrassing.

    On the positive side, I do like Melanie’s ‘Dust in the Wind’ and her cover of ‘Carolina in my Mind’

  22. mikespeir
    Posted October 20, 2013 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    I think it’s cute. ;-)

  23. aspidoscelis
    Posted October 20, 2013 at 1:59 am | Permalink

    Well, the lyrics are silly, it’s got a catchy melody, and it’s ultimately forgettable. That puts it right up there with at lesst half of the Beatles’ oeuvre. :-)

  24. Charles Sullivan
    Posted October 20, 2013 at 2:05 am | Permalink

    Earworms. Ahhhh!!!!

  25. michieux
    Posted October 20, 2013 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    I’d thought she’d vanished along with her “music”. Wishful thinking, I suppose.

  26. michieux
    Posted October 20, 2013 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    Gotta say, them Wurzels got they’s mojo on.

  27. Richard Bond
    Posted October 20, 2013 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Well, I like it. I like humour and innuendo in lyrics, and it has a nice melody. The Katherine McPhee version is even better. The Wurzels take-off is very funny, especially if, like me, you come from Somerset, and seems very much in the spirit of the original. It was once listed on the “ten worst songs” list of someone who had completely missed that it was a parody. The Wurzels became something of a cult at University gigs, and are still performing today.

  28. Posted October 21, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Aw, I’ve always liked “Brand New Key.” I’m a fan of goofy things though. It’s definitely goofy.

  29. John J. Fitzgerald
    Posted October 21, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Have you heard Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen’s song, “Gallant Men”? It is from 1967 and is a piece of crap as was its author.

    Lyrics:

    Down through the years
    There have been men
    Brave gallant men who have died
    That others might be free

    And even now, they do it still
    Brave gallant men know that
    Someone must and so they will

    Gallant men have built us a nation
    Passed us a torch of flame
    Let us hold it high
    And light up the sky
    With praise of our gallant men

    Tyrants must know, now just as then
    They cannot stand, not as long
    As there are gallant men

    Our gallant men
    Have built us a nation
    Passed us a torch of flame
    Let us hold it high
    And light up the sky
    With praise of our gallant men

    Tyrants must know, now just as then
    They cannot stand, not as long
    As there are gallant men
    Gallant, gallant men

    There are recordings of it on You tube.

    Regards,

    John

  30. phein39
    Posted October 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    “Seasons in the Sun” — Terry Jacks.

    The lyrics may be by Jacques Brel, but the schmaltz is all Terry Jacks.

  31. Derek Bly
    Posted October 21, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    When looking at truly horrible songs, please do not overlook the worst song of all time. That honor should go to Paul Anka’s dreadful tune, ‘Having My Baby.’ Schmaltzy with a huge ‘ick’ factor.

  32. Mike Oldham
    Posted October 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Yes! Thank you. (And not to frivolously prolong your worst songs list, but how about Having My Baby, Seasons in the Sun, and Ben?).


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