“The Origin of Blackbird,” from Bob Odenkirk’s “A Load of Hooey (Book Excerpt)

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.


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.

Engineer’s notes:


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.

Buy the book:

And here is the current information for his tour to support the book:

PORTLAND, OREGON on Saturday, October 25th at 12:30pm.
Doing a reading, signing and Q&A at Powells.
1005 W. Burnside Street
Portland, OR 97209

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON on Saturday, October 25th at 8:00pm
Doing a COMEDY SHOW at the Fremont Abbey
4272 Fremont Avenue N
Seattle, WA 98103

 SAN FRANCISCO, CA on Sunday, October 26th at 7:00pm
Doing a Q&A and signing at the Jewish Community Center
3200 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94118
This event is sold out, but they’ll be doing a live stream online.

LOS ANGELES, CA on Tuesday, October 28 at 8:00pm.
366 North La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

LOS ANGELES, CA on Thursday, October 30th at 7:30pm.
A reading and signing at Skylight Books.
1818 North Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027

PASADENA, CA on Sunday, November 2nd at 4:00pm.
A signing at Vroman’s Books
695 E, Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91101

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA on Wednesday, November 5th at 7:30pm.
COMEDY SHOW at Brave New Workshop
824 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403

CHICAGO on Thursday, November 6th at 8:00pm and Friday, November 7th at 8pm.
COMEDY SHOW at the Up Comedy Club.
230 W. North Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614

NEW YORK on Sunday, November 9th at 1:00pm
Signing at McNally Jackson’s Books
52 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012

New York Comedy Festival, Nov. 9, 2014, Gramercy Theatre

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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