A song originally written in Rishikesh, India in 1968, ‘Junk’ was considered for The Beatles (White Album) and Abbey Road, although it remained unreleased until Paul McCartney’s first solo album in 1970.

Originally written in India, at Maharishi’s camp, and completed bit by bit in London. Recorded vocal, two acoustic guitars, and bass at home, and later added to (bass drum, snare with brushes, and small xylophone and harmony) at Morgan.
Paul McCartney, 1970

Paul McCartney recorded a demo version of ‘Junk’ at Kinfauns, George Harrison’s Esher bungalow, upon The Beatles’ return from India. It was eventually released in 1996 on Anthology 3. A rough version, lasting just 16 seconds and sung in mock French, was busked on 9 January 1969 during the Get Back sessions at Twickenham Film Studios.

When I was a kid, you held on to things. I have an instinct now to hold on to things and, more than that, I expect things to last. So, this is a comment on consumer society. It’s one thing you do as a writer: you comment on society, and you put across an opinion. I put opinions in my songs – not always an opinion I hold, but just an opinion I’ve heard or I like or that interests me. So, the idea that stuff is going to be useless after you buy it is a comment on consumer society. Apparently, it was only in the 1960s that we crossed the line from having needs to having wants and then acting upon those wants. So this song is of a piece with that.

But it’s mostly a love song. The ‘bicycles for two’ merge into the ‘sleeping bags for two’. Then there’s the line ‘Buy, buy, says the sign in the shop window’, which sounds like one lover saying, ‘Bye-bye,’ and then the other plaintively asking, ‘Why, why?’ even as ‘the junk in the yard’ demands an explanation for the urge to acquire something, or somebody, new.

Paul McCartney's handwritten lyrics for Junk

When beginning work on his first solo album, McCartney recorded two versions of ‘Junk’ using his home studio at 7 Cavendish Avenue, London. More instrumentation was added at Morgan Studios.

Take one appeared on the McCartney album as ‘Singalong Junk’, with added Mellotron and percussion, whereas take two was given vocals and was issued as ‘Junk’.

‘Junk’ was first performed live as an instrumental during McCartney’s appearance on MTV Unplugged on 25 January 1991, and appeared as the final track on that year’s Unplugged (The Official Bootleg) album. An orchestral version opened McCartney’s 1999 album Working Classical.

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