Twenty-one years of living and nothing means anything to me
The band’s first genuinely good song turns out to be their first absolutely great song as well. The world is shocked, the haywire punk band’s managed to create something that’s not just amusing but genuinely amazing!
Motown Junk is amusing but not in the same so bad it’s great way as the other early songs. It’s full of sass and balls, it pulls off the naïve us-against-the-world angle with success. It’s four minutes of glorious rock life. The jubilant, youthful energy makes you jump along and shout out whatever lyrics you know.
Including some of the more controversial lyrics. James tends to skip the “I laughed when Lennon got shot” line these days which in my opinion is quite silly. Sure it’s got CONTROVERSIAL VALUE but not that much, really. Otherwise the lyrics are surprisingly nice for early Manics lyrics. Still some godawful cringe lines (“communal tyranny a jail that bleeds our wrists”, ouch) but overall they’re less cringe and more swell.
There’s an absolutely wonderful live version of this, from the 2005 tour, where Nicky storms in front of the mic halfway through the song and sings the lead vocals for the rest of the song. Hilarity. In general when live, James has a tendency to perform a verse or so of a non-Manics song as an intro leading up to the actual song – there’s been countless different songs but I’ve always been fond of the Baby Love intro. Yet more on the song’s importance live, the band had been saying for years that they know they’d be finished by the time they’d stop playing Motown Junk live. On the 2004 Lifeblood tour they didn’t air it, much to the shock and dismay of fans.
The music video’s just a live performance with the studio version on top. A good chance to see the band being all young though.
The sleeve quote for the single is a lengthy ramble by William S. Burroughs, transcribed here.