Temporary Secretary

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"Temporary Secretary"
Single by Paul McCartney
from the album McCartney II
B-side"Secret Friend"
Released15 September 1980
Songwriter(s)Paul McCartney
Producer(s)Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney singles chronology
"Temporary Secretary"
"Ebony and Ivory"
McCartney II track listing
11 tracks
Side one
  1. "Coming Up"
  2. "Temporary Secretary"
  3. "On the Way"
  4. "Waterfalls"
  5. "Nobody Knows"
Side two
  1. "Front Parlour"
  2. "Summer's Day Song"
  3. "Frozen Jap"
  4. "Bogey Music"
  5. "Darkroom"
  6. "One of These Days"
Back cover
PM TempSec SecFrnd.jpg

"Temporary Secretary" is a song by Paul McCartney, featured on his 1980 album McCartney II. In 2013, Rolling Stone ranked it the #36 all-time McCartney post-Beatles song, calling it a "cult favorite" and an "oddly catchy electro-pop nugget, about a slightly creepy-sounding guy looking to hire a temp."[1] In 2014, "Temporary Secretary" was ranked as the 167th greatest song of all time by critics of NME magazine. They described it as "wonky electropop that didn't sound so much ahead of its time as out of it altogether."[2]


It's like a disposable secretary, and it struck me as being funny. The song is written from the point of view of a fellow who just wants a disposable secretary, and he's writing to a bureau to try and get one. I just like the idea. I just thought it was funny, you know, asking for a temporary secretary rather than a secretary. ... That sound on the track, which is like a space typewriter, is a sequence machine. I used that to give me a tempo and, again, I just made the song up as I went along. It was a little influenced by Ian Dury.

— Paul McCartney[3]

McCartney later said that he had had temporary secretaries, and that there was a real Mr. Marks.

After I left Apple I still had business stuff coming up, so in trying to figure out how I could cope with that there were a couple of times I just grabbed someone to just put my letters in order and help. But that track isn't about a specific person. What it's about is, there was a guy called Alfred Marks, he had the Alfred Marks Bureau - he had the same name as a comedian on the radio when I was growing up. So it was just the funny paradox of seeing adverts for the Alfred Marks Bureau, the idea of some comedian having a bureau was just funny. It said 'Temporary Secretary', and I thought, that's a kind of funky thought. Then there was the secretary thing: take a letter Miss Smith, sit on my lap... all that kind of stuff.

— Paul McCartney, The Quietus, 2011[4]


"Temporary Secretary" was released as a third single from the album only in a form of 12" single, along with the ten-minute "Secret Friend" as its B-side, but it was limited to 25,000 copies and therefore failed to chart.[5] A 7" single exists only as a demo for radio stations. It exemplifies both the whimsical nature of the album and McCartney's use of synthesizers and other electronics in the creation of the album. McCartney said the song was an "experiment."[1]

Live performances[edit]

McCartney performed "Temporary Secretary" live for the first time 35 years after its release: on May 23, 2015 at the O2 Arena in London.[6] He performed it live at some dates during the 2015 legs of his Out There tour and at some dates during his 2016–2017 One on One tour.


Music website Allmusic.com said of the album, McCartney II:

In retrospect, the record is muddled and confused, nowhere more so than on the frazzled sequencing of "Temporary Secretary," where McCartney spits out ridiculous lyrics with a self-consciously atonal melody over gurgling synths. Things rarely get worse than that....[7]

In contrast, music website popmatters.com said, in reviewing the 2011 reissue of McCartney II:

“Temporary Secretary” is a manic, futuristic laser blast with an actual melody simmering underneath. It would be pointless to compare it to anything McCartney had ever done before, and would be equally so to compare it to anyone else as it couldn’t possibly by anyone else. More than any other song on either eponymous album, “Temporary Secretary” illustrates the complex nature of Paul McCartney’s musical output...[8]

Beatles biographers Roy Carr and Tony Tyler described the song as built from an initial, repetitive synthesizer theme, with more substantial instrumental portions added over time, and finally an insubstantial vocal.[9] They said the song was done without commitment and that it "grows irritating towards the end."[9]

Rolling Stone Magazine rated "Temporary Secretary" to be McCartney's 37th greatest post-Beatles song.[1]

Chart history[edit]

Chart (1980) Peak
Luxembourg (Radio Luxembourg)[10] 13

Track listing[edit]

12" single (12 R 6039)
  1. "Temporary Secretary" — 3:13
  2. "Secret Friend" — 10:30


"Temporary Secretary"

"Secret Friend"

  • Paul McCartney - vocals, bass, synthesizers, electric guitar, keyboards, drums, shaker, percussion

Cover versions[edit]

  • 2015 — Darkstar and Hayden Thorpe (from Wild Beasts)
  • 2017 — English DJ Riton sampled the synthesizer melody for a track of the same name.
  • 2018 — Los Angeles based indie-pop solo-act Steady Holiday (Dre Babinski), with slight change in the lyrics (gender change, e.g. "He can be a diplomat / But I don't need a guy like that")


  1. ^ a b c "Paul's 40 Greatest Solo Songs". Special Collector's Edition: Paul McCartney. Rolling Stone. 2013. p. 91. Cite error: The named reference "rs" was defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  2. ^ "The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time 200-101". NME.com. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  3. ^ Badman, Keith (2009). The Beatles: The Dream Is Over: Off the Record 2. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-102-8. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  4. ^ Turner, Luke (15 June 2011). "McCartney II: Paul McCartney Interviewed By Other Artists". The Quietus.
  5. ^ "Temporary Secretary". JPGR. 2000. Retrieved 2013-09-25.
  6. ^ "Watch Dave Grohl act like a teenager as he joins Paul McCartney onstage". Mashable. 2015-05-25. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
  7. ^ "McCartney II". allmusic. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
  8. ^ Kott, Crispin (2001-06-17). "Paul McCartney: McCartney / McCartney II". PopMatters. PopMatters Media, Inc., PopMatters Magazine. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  9. ^ a b Carr, R. & Tyler, T. (1981). The Beatles: An Illustrated Record. Harmony Books. p. 128. ISBN 0517544938.
  10. ^ Radio Luxembourg Singles, 16 September 1980

External links[edit]