Happy Monday, LemonWire readers. Today we’re taking our song of the day straight from the history books with a little inspiration from this day in music history. Our song of the day is “Octopus’s Garden”, and I hope I don’t need to mention who wrote it.
On this day in 1960, Pete Best auditioned to become the drummer for a band known at the time as “The Silver Beatles”, and asked to accompany the band to Hamburg in Germany. Later of course, Pete Best was dropped from the band (who also dropped ‘The Silver’ from their name), and replaced with the lovable and forever goofy Ringo Starr.
What better way could we pay homage to Pete Best, than to start the week off by covering one of Ringo’s best songs? Even though Ringo wasn’t the greatest songwriter, he was still the fourth best of the Beatles. And that’s something that Pete Best can (unfortunately) never say.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s first take a look at “Abbey Road”, the album “Octopus’s Garden” appears on, and get a bit into the history of how this song was made.
“Abbey Road”, The Beatles’ penultimate album, was recorded and released in 1969. Being in the band’s later years, tensions were high among the fab four. The Abbey Road recordings were also the last sessions in which all four members came in to work together. But to get to Ringo’s conception of “Octopus’s Garden”, we need to go a bit further back.
Just one year before the Abbey Road recordings, during sessions for The White Album, Ringo absconded to Sardinia on a yacht to get away from the increasing tensions among band members.
After a bit of digging, I was able to find a quote by Ringo on the inspiration behind “Octopus’s Garden”.
“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!”
While it may not be the greatest song to come out of the Beatles, or even the greatest song on “Abbey Road”, for that matter, “Octopus’s Garden” is still a shining gem, and perhaps Ringo’s greatest songwriting contribution. The chords are simple, yet the entire musical landscape of the song contributes to a sense of whimsy. The filtered backing vocals, riffing guitar, and bubble sound effects all help to bring out the sillier side of the Beatles.
George Harrison also had some nice things to say about “Octopus’s Garden”, specifically, about its lyrics.
“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.”
It’s both a bit sad and a little funny that no one in the Beatles seemed to think Ringo was too bright. But that very sentiment, which may have caused Ringo to take sail for a few days, might have just caused him to finally write a song worthy of an album. I know he wrote other songs, too. Don’t @ me.
While no one wants to be the ‘Ringo’ in their group of friends, it’s still better than being the ‘Pete’. The friend who gets cut. Ringo Starr may have been a dim-witted goofball according to the other Beatles, but at least he was still a Beatle. I’m sure that Pete Best has been kicking himself for years at being replaced by a guy whose best song turned out to be a goofy children’s tune about octopuses.
Alright, well that about wraps up our discussion for today. I hope you learned a little something about The Beatles and “Octopus’s Garden”. Tomorrow we’ll be back with another song to help get you through the week.
And remember, it’s always better to be a ‘Ringo’ than a ‘Pete’.