Bob Odenkirk has written a new book that’s literally “A Load of Hooey.” That’s the title of it.
The former writer for Saturday Night Live, The Ben Stiller Show, Mr. Show with Bob and David, mentor to Tim and Eric and The Birthday Boys, and star of the upcoming Breaking Bad prequel, Better Call Saul, Odenkirk has unleashed a new collection of short stories, essays, screenplays, monologues, reimagined history and more. A Load of Hooey includes such works as “Martin Luther King, Jr’s Worst Speech Ever,” “Hitler Dinner Party: A Play” and “Obituary for the Creator of Madlibs.”
This excerpt provided to The Comic’s Comic takes us back to 1968 and the creation of an iconic song from The Beatles.
THE ORIGIN OF “BLACKBIRD”
Paul McCartney was generally seen as the generous, “upbeat” Beatle. However, some claim he had a well-hidden dark side: envious, resentful, belittling. If that’s true, it rarely showed. Evidence of this tendency in McCartney can be found in abundance on the day he premiered the song “Blackbird” to the other three Beatles. Unarguably a masterpiece, it was also written and arranged by McCartney alone. Legend has it that “Blackbird” came to “Macca” fairly easily and completely, with almost no conscious effort on his part. Despite being a solo creation, “Blackbird,” like all Beatles songs, is attributed to “Lennon/McCartney.” This shared-credit situation has been known to irk McCartney, and yet even that tension doesn’t explain the unbridled assault of sarcasm and peeve that issued from “the cute Beatle” on this singular occasion.
August 18, 1968, Abbey Road Studios, Studio 4, 11:15 a.m.
Band members came in fairly early (and fairly shagged-out) from another night of “creams and ales and whatnot.” Mini jam session. Lennon kept asking Starkey to “play quieter” and finally to “Stop! The drums in me head are all I need.” After a tea-and-jam-butties break, McCartley [sic] grabbed an acoustic and said, “Here’s something, see what you think,” then played a song called “Blackbird” in its entirety. Excellent song. Excellent, excellent song. Unbelievable song. Like God humming. When he finished, he suddenly became vituperative…
Transcript from the audio tape:
McCARTNEY [As the final notes of “Blackbird” ring out]: Well? What do you think? Anything to it? “Ugh,” right? Don’t say anything! I know. I’m sorry. Get the trash bin out! I’ll reimburse for the studio time. Please forgive me…
RINGO: Well, I thought it was really pretty…
McCARTNEY: Stop—it’s no “Octopus’s Garden”! Am I right? Let me play it again, in its entirety, just the way it came to me, when I was alone, writing it…
[McCartney plays “Blackbird” again, from beginning to end, and again, it’s an impossibly beautiful and perfect composition. The other Beatles stare at their shoes.]
McCARTNEY: Garbage, right? Yeesh! Iam so sorry. SOOOOOO sorry. George, please forgive me. Do favor us with another of your sitar explorations so as to wash the taste of that dreck from our ears! Do, please! Where’s the sitar? Hurry, get a sitar!
HARRISON: Well, I liked it…
McCARTNEY: Shows what you know! I’m sorry. I’m just embarrassed. John! The Great John Lennon! Sir, I am so sorry to waste YOUR time with that!
LENNON: Well…it’s a little lullaby-ish for my taste, though.
McCARTNEY: Of course! It’s just a throwaway lullaby! People hate lullabys! They’re awful, awful! John, save the day and yowl us all one of your patented free-form political diatribes to obliterate the memory of my gummy treacle!
HARRISON: Look, man, I think your sarcasm is unnecessary, you know? It’s going to be on the album and all, there’s no need—
McCARTNEY: Oh! Do you think it’ll make the album?? Oh, will it?! Oh, thank you, George! Thank you! You deign to have one of my songs grace the next Beatles album? Because usually I do have to fight pretty hard to get my usual 90 percent of the songs on there next to your 10 percent! Oh, joy! Did you hear that, Ringo! I’m going to have a song on a real Beatles album! Me, Paul McCartney!
[At this point, Harrison rises to leave—]
McCARTNEY: Don’t leave! Don’t leave, please, we need you to noodle around in the background! Where’s that sitar?
[Harrison slams the door—]
McCARTNEY: Oh, no! Now who will noodle around? Nobody?
LENNON: Look, man, we get it, you wrote a perfect song. Congratulations, but really, I mean, what’s next?
YOKO: [unintelligible “artistic” clucking noises]
McCARTNEY: YOKO! Is Yoko here? There you are, dear, under the covers! Do you play the “bed” now? Is it an instrument? Uh-oh, have I accidentally given you a new idea for a performance? Oh well, by all means please scream out one of your bloodcurdling antisongs to strip away the execrable beauty I just plastered all over the room because I just wrote the greatest FUCKING MELODY EVER FUCKING FUCK-WRITTEN! Let’s hear it one more time just to check—
[Paul plays Blackbird again…and again, it is a perfect song. Note: no overdubs needed.]
McCARTNEY: Yup: THE GREATEST SONG EVER WRITTEN! Glad I double-checked! Hey, where’s everybody going?
[The remaining Beatles have left the room. McCartney, exhausted, stays behind and plays “Blackbird” to himself three more times, smiling the entire time.]
From Bob Odenkirk’s “A Load of Hooey: A Collection of New Short Humor Fiction,” (McSweeney’s) reprinted with permission. Copyright © 2014 Bob Odenkirk.
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