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Released in 2020

Pretty Boys

Written by Paul McCartney

Last updated on April 18, 2021

Album This song officially appears on the McCartney III Official album.

Timeline This song was officially released in 2020

Master album

Related session

This song was recorded during the following studio sessions:

Related interviews

Pretty Boys” is a track from 2020 album “McCartney III“.

The lyrics for “Pretty Boys” are inspired by Paul seeing bicycles for hire around New York and London. It was also inspired by certain photographers who have been known to get out of the line in the studio. The “objects of desire” in the song are male models. But Paul finishes the song with a warning. “You can look, but you’d better not touch…”

From Spotify Storyline. Storyline is a feature of Spotify that gives behind-the-scenes information from artists about their songs, presented with a carousel of cards featuring a combination of text and images.

There’s a song on “McCartney III,” “Pretty Boys,” that is kind of unusual for you in how the music is sort of unassuming but the lyrics have an almost sinister edge. What inspired that one? 

I’ll tell you exactly. I’ve been photographed by many photographers through the years. And when you get down to London, doing sessions with people like David Bailey, they can get pretty energetic in the studio. It’s like “Blow-Up”, you know? “Give it to me! [Expletive] the lens!” And it’s like: “What? No, I’m not going to.” But I understand why they’re doing that. They’re that kind of artist. So you allow it. Certain photographers — they tend to be very good photographers, by the way — can be totally out of line in the studio. So “Pretty Boys” is about male models. And going around New York or London, you see the lines of bicycles for hire. It struck me that they’re like models, there to be used. It’s most unfortunate.

Paul McCartney – from interview with New York Times, November 29, 2020

I got to use the Kay M-1 upright bass on this. Previously played and owned by Bill Black when he played and toured with Elvis. How cool is that!

Paul McCartney talking about “Pretty Boys” – From Twitter

Here’s what Keith Smith, Paul’s technical manager, remembers about the recording of “Pretty Boys“:

[With Paul’s way of working, it] always starts from the song. That’s kind of how some of this started. When he did Pretty Boys, he sat down and said ‘I’ve got this really nice little thing I’ve been working on’. It was a riff that he’s had going for ages, I recognised it from way back when he started playing it.  He just sat down with an acoustic and knocked out the vocal and the acoustic at the same time. Then it just developed.

Keith Smith – from Music Radar, December 18, 2020

In 2021, for the “McCartney III Imagined” project, American trio Khruangbin reimagined “Pretty Boys“.

From Twitter. From Universal Music – Calling all musicians – McCartney III is almost here! Teasers are popping up in cities across the globe, sharing excerpts of the sheet music from each song.We would love to see your takes on each song. Join in the fun by recording your own version! – In Mexico City
Screenshot of Spotify Storyline
Official “McCartney III” promo photo, showing Paul McCartney with Bill Black’s Kay M-1 upright bass (photography by Mary McCartney)


Look into my lens

Give me all you got

Work it for me baby

Let me take my best shot

Meet the Pretty Boys

A line of bicycles for hire

Objects of desire

Working for the squire

You can look but you’d better not touch

’Cause here come the Pretty Boys

They’re gonna set your world on fire

Objects of desire Preaching to the choir

They can talk but they never say much

Strike another pose

Try to feel the light

Hey, the camera loves you

Don’t put up a fight

There go the Pretty Boys

A row of cottages for rent

For your main event

They’re what the angels sent

You can look but you’d better not touch

Look into my lens

Try to feel the light

Hey, the camera loves you

It’s gonna be alright

Oh, here come the Pretty Boys

A line of bicycles for hire

Objects of desire

When they’re working for the squire

You can look but you’d better not touch

The Pretty Boys

But you’d better not touch

The Pretty Boys


  • A Album version
  • B "McCartney III Imagined" version

Officially appears on

See all official recordings containing “Pretty Boys

Related films


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.

Going further

The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present

"Pretty Boys" is one of the songs featured in the book "The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present," published in 2021. The book explores Paul McCartney's early Liverpool days, his time with the Beatles, Wings, and his solo career. It pairs the lyrics of 154 of his songs with his first-person commentary on the circumstances of their creation, the inspirations behind them, and his current thoughts on them.

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Paul McCartney writing

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