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I Listened to "Temporary Secretary" by Paul McCartney for Five Hours and Had a Brilliantly Miserable Time

by Steven Christopher McKnight 7 months ago in 80s music

Here's what I learned!

Cover of "Paul McCartney II," the album on which Temporary Secretary can be found

I’ve begun to believe of late that Paul McCartney is immortal, if not by natural means, then by supernatural means in the very least. In some form or another, Paul McCartney petitioned some eldritch being to grant him eternal life. It’s in the science, and I can prove it. Take a moment to listen to Temporary Secretary by the aforementioned Beatle. Go on. I’ll wait. Now tell me, after listening to that song just once, that the only reason that it exists isn’t to come in contact with some creature from the deepest, darkest recesses of the human psyche, in a plane of existence beyond our very observation. Somehow, Paul McCartney tapped into there, and-

I’m getting ahead of myself, I realize. I apologize. Allow me to explain what brought out such a state in me. I listened to Temporary Secretary. Not once. Not twice. I listened to the song, repeating constantly, for five hours. That’s five hours of that disturbing, off-key synth. That’s five hours of those horrifically hollow-sounding drums. That’s five hours of the out-of-place acoustic elements that you can hear in the background when you’ve listened hard enough for long enough. That’s five damnable, irrevocable hours of Paul McCartney’s disgusting nasally voice chanting, “SHE CAN BE A BELLYDANCER, I DON’T NEED A TRUE ROMANCER,” and mispronouncing the word “regular,” and saying, in his best boomer voice, “Now I know how hard it is for girls these days, in the face of everything, to stay on the right track.” I won’t lie. All of this hurts. Everything I hear now is an echo of Temporary Secretary. I may have just ruined my life. But I’ll be damned if I don’t get something out of this, so let’s go over what I learned.

The song is almost prayer-like, aimed at a man by the name of Mister Marks, probably an upper-level manager. To Mister Marks, Paul McCartney (or the persona thereof) asks for a temporary secretary, someone who can fulfill the duties of a normal secretary, but will only be around for a short period of time. The duties of the position are sketchy at best, but it seems as though Paul McCartney wants a young woman who can sit comfortably on his knee, take dictation, and learn to smile. He promises that he will treat this so-called “temporary secretary” right, and rarely keep her until late at night. Obviously, the implication here is that the narrator of the song is, for lack of a better term, thirsty for some secretary, but does not want the responsibility of cultivating a sustained bond with a permanent worker, and so, he wants a temp to come in, stay late at night a couple times, sit in his lap, and smile through it all. It’s a sex song. It’s always a sex song. With this in mind, the line, “Now, I know how hard it is for young girls these days, in the face of everything, to stay on the right track,” rings more sardonic and sarcastic. The right track as opposed to what, Paul? Does the right track keep this woman subservient to any businessman who wants a secretary? What’s it all about, Paul?

But there’s more to it. Yes, there is significantly more to this. The song is not enjoyable. It’s discordant, disgusting. The voice drones. The drums are just a little bit off-beat. This whole song, music-wise, is a psychedelic nightmare sequence, an industrial horror story. We as the audience are meant to be unnerved. It’s a capitalist prayer to a higher-up, wherein the narrator who prays to Mister Marks petitions this faux-God for what amounts to a new toy. In the bridge wherein it lists all the things the temporary secretary can be (a bellydancer, a diplomat, and a neurosurgeon), it also dismisses all of those identities and places them secondary to the demands of the narrator’s wish. These women are all relieved of their individuality for the sake of one exploitative role. Temporary Secretary, in its portrayal of the situation, does not glorify it. The purpose of the song is to deconstruct the aspect of capitalism that causes mid-tier managers to petition their higher-ups for young people to exploit for their personal benefit.

Capitalism is dehumanizing, and this song exemplifies that. It only took me five hours to realize it. So, kudos to Paul McCartney for writing a song that so accurately portrays the contemporary condition. Kudos to Paul McCartney for so effectively and devastatingly tearing apart a system that exploits young people, for pulling the mask off of these job listings that seek mostly to tear away the individuality of their workers and create only mindless profit machines. Temporary Secretary may not be a particularly fun song to listen to, but it’s important for its criticism of capitalist power structures. Or maybe Paul was just screwing around and wrote a weird-ass song because he thought the notion of a temporary secretary was kind of funny, in which case, if Paul reads this, that’s going to be hella awkward. Hi, Paul. Sorry I accused you of summoning demons.

80s music
Steven Christopher McKnight
Steven Christopher McKnight
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Steven Christopher McKnight

Disillusioned twenty-something trying to meander his way through this abject mess of a world. Aspiring garden hermit. Future ghost of a drowned hobo.

See all posts by Steven Christopher McKnight

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