Song Lyrics

Dr. Junk

by Joni Mitchell

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Dr. Junk the Dentist Man
Fills your teeth with what he can
Airplane wings and corset stays
And when he's done he'll let you pay
In paper clips or inner tubes
Or anything that's slightly used
He's not really crazy
Only nuts and bolts
And rusty rings make him do
The strangest things

Dr. Junk the Dentist has
An office full of colored glass
A garden with a paddle wheel
And funny plants for eye appeal
And though he watches them with care
I've never seen them growing there
He's not really crazy
Only nuts and bolts
And rusty rings make him do
Eccentric things

Dr. Junk the Dentist built
A junky castle up on stilts
Junk within and junk throughout
And TV in the chimney spout
And fourteen levels to each floor
And now he's adding fourteen more
He's not really crazy
Only nuts and bolts
And rusty rings make him do
The strangest things

© September 1, 1967; Gandalf Pub Co (as 'Dr. Junk, the Dentist Man')


Joni introduces the song this way at the White Swan in Leicester, England on September 16, 1967:

"I played in a club in... in North Carolina, in Fayetteville NC and there wasn't really much to do in the town, and I said to someone, "Well, let's do something", you know? "Show me the local tourist sort of sights." And they said, "Well, we'll go and see the dentist then." And uh, it didn't sound very exciting to me but we went to see a dentist anyway. And as it turns out, it wasn't just an ordinary kind of dentist with a chrome office, furniture, and Time and Newsweek and things like that on the coffee table--on the end table. He was... he was a very special dentist. He was a dentist who dabbled in architecture or maybe he was architect who dabbled in dentistry, I'm not sure. But North Carolina people, I noticed this when I drove around the country, that they all like to collect rusting things and all over their property there have rusting car bodies and I used to think that they just had large families and reckless sons or something but it wasn't that at all; they just collect it. It's so strange.

"So the dentist that we went to see was a collector of rusting objects, but he was also a builder and hew built a house of all these things, using hubcaps from tractors--or hubs, rather, from tractors all welded together, and spiral staircases that spiraled up to nowhere. And, uh, he also liked spinning rusting things. And he had a spinning, um, north, south, east--east, west (chuckle) weather vane. And uh [unintelligible]. And, uh, he had one that was a horse, and another one that was a rooster, and they were all up on the roof spinning for no good reason, and he'd use television screens for windows and all sorts of peculiar things. So I decided I was gonna write a song about him, and I didn't know his name so I call him Dr. Junk, the Dentist Man, and this song's in a Bo Diddley rhythm that I learned from mister Tom Rush."

In late 1967, she introduced it as such:

"This is a song that comes from North Carolina--at least that's where I discovered the topic and that's where I wrote the song. It's about a fella named Dr. Junk, the Dentist Man and... it sounds rather peculiar--Dr. Junk, the Dentist Man--but that's because he was a dentist who dabbled in junk, not Novocaine or anything like that. It was rusting North Carolina junk: car bodies and tractor hubs and just objects of rust; he really liked that. And he had a lot in common with the people of rural North Carolina, who all collected rusting junk and piled it up in great bins on their property. And I used to think for a long time that that was because they had large families of reckless sons or something, you know? 'Cause [there's] all these rusting car bodies, but it isn't not true. The soil there is rusty and I think that has a lot to do with it. I'm not sure which came first, the chicken or the egg... The rust deteriorates into the soil and the soil does something to them so that they have to collect rusting junk. (Strums) But my friend the dentist had a practice on Highway Number 1 and he probably practiced on both man and beast alike! And we went to see him not because he was a dentist, but because he was an architect and he'd built an incredible house using tractor hubs for spiral staircases and banisters made out of chain all welded stiffly together around the spiral staircases. And he would spiral up and survey all his acres and acres of rusting junk and rusting soil and spiral back down. And, uh, he did strange things like putting the kitchen on the outside, you know? The kitchen was all outdoors and it had a spit that was turned by a Pepsi Cola paddle wheel thing. And he served rusting barbecue chickens every Sunday afternoon, all covered with rust colored sauces and dressings. He had a rusty pond that was siphoned up through a rusty siphon into a rusty trough that leaked. And he said that was to water his flowers, but we didn't find any flowers around there; we found lots of rusty looking weeds... And he'd used television screens as windows and television antennas for decorations on his roof--all sorts of strange things. So I was inspired and I wrote a song in the Bo Diddley rhythm..."

Dr. Junk has been recorded by 2 other artists


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