Released: 26 September 1969 (UK), 1 October 1969 (US)
Ringo Starr’s second composition for The Beatles was written in Sardinia. On 22 August 1968 he temporarily walked out of sessions for the White Album after becoming disenchanted with the increasing tensions within the group. He took his family abroad for a boating holiday, returning to Abbey Road on 5 September.
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!
The song was first worked on by Starr and George Harrison during the Get Back sessions in January 1969; perhaps Harrison felt a sense of solidarity after feeling that his own compositions were being dismissed as second-rate by Lennon and McCartney.
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.
A composite version of Octopus’s Garden, opening with Ringo’s vocals superimposed onto the orchestral backing from Good Night, was included on 2006′s Love album.
In the studio
Although The Beatles temporarily considered Octopus’s Garden as Ringo’s vocal spot on what would become the Let It Be album, it wasn’t recorded properly until the Abbey Road sessions. On 26 April they recorded 32 takes of the rhythm track, with Starr on drums and guide vocals, McCartney on bass, and Harrison and Lennon on guitars.
The arrangement was in place early on, including the opening guitar runs played by Harrison. Take two of the song, including Ringo’s guide vocal, was included on Anthology 3 in 1996.
On 29 April Starr overdubbed his lead vocals, though these were later re-recorded. The song was then left until 17 July, when McCartney added a bass part, he and Harrison contributed backing vocals, and various sound effects were added – including the sound of Starr blowing bubbles into a glass of water.
The song was completed the following day, 18 July, when Ringo finally recorded his lead vocals.