Recording: Octopus’s Garden

Room 4, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald

The last Beatles-related recording session of 1969 wasn’t for a Beatles release at all. Instead it was for a television special celebrating George Martin, on which Ringo Starr had agreed to make an appearance.

The show, With A Little Help From My Friends, featured a number of artists that had worked with Martin. It was shown in the UK on 24 and 26 December 1969.

Because of Musicians’ Union rules on miming, it was necessary to re-record parts of ‘Octopus’s Garden’, which Starr had agreed to mime to in the show. The union had established a ban on lip-syncing on British television, but by re-recording parts of the song in the studio it was possible to make the appearance that the song was a live performance.

Ringo Starr's lyrics for Octopus's Garden

It would have been all but impossible to persuade The Beatles to reconvene in the studio at this stage, so Starr attended alongside three session musicians. A mix of Octopus’s Garden excluding all but drums, rhythm guitar, backing vocals and bubble effects had been made by George Martin on 2 December, and during this session new overdubs were added.

The overdubs were recorded while a copy of the 2 December mix was made. It took 10 attempts to get right, and featured new vocals, piano, lead guitar and bass guitar. The names of the session musicians are not known.

A copy of the best attempt was taken away by Gordon Cox to be used in With A Little Help From My Friends. This was filmed by ITV’s Yorkshire Television in Leeds on 14 December.

Last updated: 12 April 2018
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