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Octopus Garden

The Beautiful Story Behind Ringo Starr's "Octopus Garden"


As The Beatles’ song describes, octopuses build gardens outside their houses to enjoy the surroundings.

We all remember The Beatles’ “Octopus’ Garden” as a song full of peace and frivolous narrative. A good place to go when things get tough because who would not like to be beneath the waves drinking tea in an octopus’ garden? This was the second song written by Ringo Starr and it tells one of the most beautiful undersea tales. The common octopus, in fact, collects crustaceans’ shells and other shiny objects to build a garden around their cozy caves.

These animals are solitary creatures; they abscond into small spaces to feel protected from the imminent marine depravation. Scientists have even discovered that when an octopus finds a new home it spends time cleaning it and doing some ‘refurbishment’ to make itself at home, once it does so, it begins a careful arrangement of its personal garden. These prodigious masters of camouflage are also adorable aesthetes.

The idea for the song came to Starr when he was on a boat that belonged to the actor Peter Sellers in Sardinia in 1968. The brilliant captain of the boat told Starr how octopuses move around the ocean floor collecting stones and other shiny objects to build gardens. The musician had temporarily withdrawn from the recording sessions for the White Album after becoming fed up with the growing tension in the group.

[Peter Sellers] 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.

The song was first recorded by Starr and George Harrison during the “Get Back” sessions in 1969; Harrison talked about the song like few others in the band’s history:

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. […] 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.

An octopus’ garden is the perfect place to take refuge from the storms that sometimes break over our personal worlds, and if it weren’t for this song many of us wouldn’t know that there is such a thing as an octopus’ garden.

Image credit: Heather FortnerThe Octopus’ Garden

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