To begin with, “Octopus’s Garden” is a Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr) composition. However, this is a Beatles’ song which is available on their “Abbey Road” album. there are also other versions available on a few other Beatles’ albums. For example, takes 2 and 8 are on their 1996 album, “Anthology 3”.
Recorded: 26th and 29th April, 17th and 18th July, 1969
Track Duration: 2:48
Record Label: Apple
Songwriter: Richard Starkey
Producers: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard Starkey, (George Martin‘s apprentice, Chris Thomas was present)
Engineers: Jeff Jarratt, Phil McDonald
Ringo Starr: lead vocal, drums, percussion, sound effects
George Harrison: backing vocal, lead guitar
Paul McCartney: backing vocal, bass, piano
John Lennon: backing vocal (over chorus, solo and coda), rhythm guitar
Ringo Starr Composition
Ringo Starr wrote and sung “Octopus’s Garden” which was only his second composition. The drummer actually walked out during the “White Album” sessions on the 22th August, 1968. This was because much frustration at the time and tensions within The Beatles were running high.
Octopus’s Garden Inspiration
While on holiday in Sardinia, Ringo Starr was onboard a boat belonging to comic actor and singer, Peter Sellers, and the idea for the song came about. Starr ordered some food consisting of fish and chips, a traditional British meal back home. However, instead of fish, the meal contained squid. He’d never tasted this before but said, “It was OK. A bit rubbery. Tasted like chicken”.
“I wrote Octopus’s Garden in Sardinia. Peter Sellers had lent us his yacht and we went out for the day… I stayed out on deck with [the captain] and we talked about octopuses. He told me that they hang out in their caves and they go around the seabed finding shiny stones and tin cans and bottles to put in front of their cave like a garden.
I thought this was fabulous, because at the time I just wanted to be under the sea too. A couple of tokes later with the guitar – and we had Octopus’s Garden!”
Ringo Starr was confirming the frustrations of being part of The Beatles at the time with the line, “I just wanted to be under the sea, too.”
Although Ringo Starr gets all the credit for the song, George Harrison gave a helping hand. And why not, after all, they were understudy to one of the most prolific songwriters in history, and besides Harrison had wrote plenty of songs previously. So a little guidance from Harrison was welcome. However, there was no credit for Harrison’s assistance.
“Octopus’s Garden is Ringo’s song. It’s only the second song Ringo wrote, and it’s lovely. Ringo gets bored playing the drums, and at home he plays a bit of piano, but he only knows about three chords. He knows about the same on guitar. I think it’s a really great song, because on the surface, it just like a daft kids’ song, but the lyrics are great.
For me, you know, I find very deep meaning in the lyrics, which Ringo probably doesn’t see, but all the thing like ‘resting our head on the sea bed’ and ‘We’ll be warm beneath the storm’ which is really great, you know. Because it’s like this level is a storm, and if you get sort of deep in your consciousness, it’s very peaceful. So Ringo’s writing his cosmic songs without noticing.”
George Harrison (1969 interview)
Some of the lyrics suggest that the song’s aim was to a younger audience, for example, “Oh what joy for every girl and boy/Knowing they’re happy and they’re safe”. Be that as it may, Lennon-McCartney also wrote songs in a similar vein with the likes of, “Yellow Submarine” and “All Together Now“.
The Beatles began recording “Octopus’s Garden” on the 26th April, 1969, in Studio Two at the EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London, during the 4.30pm-4.15am sessions. They recorded 32 takes with the last one becoming the basic rhythm track for overdubbing etc.
In Studio Three, on the 29th April, Ringo Starr recorded his vocal lines but he was to record these again at a later date.
Almost three months passed before they took another look at the song. This was on the 17th of July in Studio Two during the 6.30pm-11.15pm sessions when Paul McCartney added a bass line together with backing vocals with George Harrison. They used compressors and limiters to create a gurgling sound. Then Starr blew bubbles through a straw into a glass of milk for another sound effect.
The next day, “Octopus’s Garden” was complete when Ringo Starr finally sang the lead vocals to their satisfaction during the 2.30pm-8.00pm session.
On The Beatles’ Anthology 3 album we get to hear take 2 and 8 from the original sessions. This version is complete with Starr’s guide vocals and it is also a good version too.
Meanwhile, on The Beatles’ “Love” album, the track has the string arrangement from “Good Night” and sound effects and vocal elements from “Yellow Submarine”. Listen carefully and you can also hear elements from the following songs too, “Lovely Rita“, “Helter Skelter” and “Sun King“.