We’re just days away from the release of Paul McCartney’s new LP McCartney III. Much like the original McCartney album in 1970 and McCartney II in 1980, Paul produced the new LP himself and plays all the instruments.
“I’m very lucky because I have a studio that’s, like, 20 minutes away from where I live,” McCartney told Taylor Swift as part of their recent Rolling Stone Musicians on Musicians chat. “We were in lockdown on a farm, a sheep farm with my daughter Mary and her four kids and her husband. So I had four of my grandkids, I had Mary, who’s a great cook, so I would just drive myself to the studio.
“When you’re working with someone else, you have to worry about their variances,” he continued. “Whereas your own variance, you kind of know it. It’s just something I’ve grown to like. Once you can do it, it becomes a little bit addictive.”
The first McCartney was a very stripped-down affair created just as the Beatles were breaking up. The second one was born out of McCartney’s newfound love of synthesizers and sequencers right at the dawn of the New Wave movement. It’s a quirky album that left many critics underwhelmed.
“McCartney II is an album of aural doodles designed for the amusement of very young children,” wrote Rolling Stone‘s Stephen Holden in a scathing review. “As his own one-man band, McCartney doesn’t try to imitate Wings or re-create the precious atmosphere of his first solo LP, now ten years old. Most of the songs are merely sound effects. Instead of developing melodic themes, the star simply supplies hypnotic little hooks, which are then played off one another and ‘treated’ — i.e., filtered, reverbed, phased — to make strident electronic junk music.”
The public had a slightly different reaction to McCartney’s “electronic junk music” and leadoff single “Coming Up” became an enormous hit all over the world, even earning the praise of John Lennon. But the other McCartney II songs fell by the wayside and none of them were even attempted live until May 23rd, 2015, when McCartney broke out “Temporary Secretary” at London’s 02 Arena.
“We said we would try and throw in other surprises tonight,” he told the audience. “So you’ve got a song here that we’ve never performed in the world before. The first time is tonight. For you, London!” Here’s a fan-shot video where you can see the big moment from multiple angles.
“Temporary Secretary” is a fantastically bizarre tune about an office worker seeking a part-time assistant. Playing it live seemed like a one-off experiment considering McCartney’s tendency to center his shows around Beatles hits, Wings classics, and a couple of songs from his most recent album. But “Temporary Secretary” struck a nerve and he played it another 69 times before it vanished from the set in 2018.
Most fans have yet to hear McCartney III. But if there’s anything as weird and wonderful as “Temporary Secretary” on it, let’s hope we don’t have to wait 35 years to see it played live.