“I’d like to be under the sea In an octopus’ garden in the shade He’d let us in, knows where we’ve been In his octopus’ garden in the shade…”
For many people, The Beatles were their first introduction to English, and the bridge that unites this relationship is “Octopus’s Garden,” which, amidst a sweet story, marks the band’s farewell as the last track on their last album, Abbey Road.
But it was not only these facts that made it memorable, as “Octopus’s Garden” is remembered as Ringo’s great moment and the second song he wrote for the quartet that takes us for tea in the garden of an octopus under the sea.
The most beautiful story about the depths of the sea came to Ringo’s imagination while he was on Peter Sellers’ boat in Sardinia in 1968, and the captain told Starr about how octopuses travel around the seabed collecting shiny stones and objects to build gardens. These animals are solitary creatures that “self-kidnap” in very small spaces to feel protected from marine predation, and that moment coincided just when Ringo had temporarily withdrawn from the White Album recording sessions due to the tension that was already building within the group.
“I stayed on the deck with the captain, and we talked about octopuses. He told me that they hang in their caves and scour the bottom of the sea to find shiny stones, cans, and bottles to put in front of their caves, forming a garden. I found it fabulous because at that moment, I also wanted to enjoy the sea. Later, I picked up the guitar and wrote the song,” Ringo commented in the Anthology series.
On September 5th of that year, Ringo decided to return to Abbey Road studios, and the other Beatles welcomed him with a sign that read: “You are the best drummer in the world.” However, he did not teach them the song until January of the following year.
The song was first recorded by Starr and George Harrison during the “Get Back” sessions in 1969, and Harrison expressed about this song as few others in the history of The Beatles: “Ringo gets bored playing the drums, and he plays a little piano at home, but he only knows about three chords. The same with the guitar. I think it’s a great song because, on the surface, it’s like a silly children’s song, but the lyrics are great. […] All that about “resting our heads on the seabed” and “we’ll be warm under the storm” is great. Because it’s like if this level is the storm and if you delve a little deep into your consciousness, it’s very peaceful. So Ringo wrote this cosmic song without knowing it.”
Thirty-two takes of the song were recorded: with Ringo on drums and vocals, Harrison and Lennon on guitars, and Paul on bass and helping with the chorus. But during those sessions, Harrison had come up with the intro with only guitar and drums. Three days later, Starr rerecorded the vocals and touched up some of the drum tracks. From that moment on, the others began recording their new creations.
When they returned to work on the song, Paul added a new bass track, while George added backing vocals. Ringo gave the finishing touches when he recorded sound effects of bubbles in a glass of water to simulate an underwater background. The next day, the song was already done and ready to be included on the album. And so, Ringo and the other Fabs took us to the Octopus’s Garden, and it will always be a perfect place to take refuge from the storms that invariably flood our worlds.
Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva.