As with “Oh! Darling,” everyone seems to have liked “Octopus’s Garden.” George, in particular, considered it a “cosmic song” and was ready to defend it from anyone who thought otherwise. According to yon liner notes,

Responding in September 1969 to an interviewer’s suggestion that “the little kids are gonna love that,” George said, “I’ve heard a few people who are big kids say that it’s their favorite track on the album.”

And it’s not hard to imagine that this outwardly lightweight number — “It’s a Ringalong-singalong,” said John — might have taken on a special significance for boys and girls of all ages trying to cope with the ongoing bad trip that was late 1969. It probably sounded nice to be safe with Uncle Ringo under the sea, or even up a tree. (At one point the song had been called “In an Octopus’s Garden (Or I Would Like to Live Up a Tree).)”

We all know, don’t we, the story of how

The idea for the unusual lyric came from an intriguing story Ringo had heard while on holiday in Sardinia in 1968. Ringo talked with a sea captain about octopuses. “He told me they go around the sea bed finding shiny stones, tins and bottles to put in front of their cave like a garden and I thought this was fabulous.”

At the time Ringo had quit The Beatles, stressed out by the constant infighting. And so the idea of escaping to an octopus’s garden under the sea rather appealed.

After rejoining the band Ringo brought “Octopus’s Garden” to the Get Back/Let It Be sessions, where George helped him flesh it out.

On January 26, 1969, while the cameras rolled at Apple HQ, Ringo showed George, Glyn Johns and George Martin what he had written so far of “Octopus’s Garden.” When Ringo, playing in the key of C, struck the song’s second chord on the piano, George jokingly expressed his admiration: “You’ve learnt A minor, eh?”

Ed Note: Yes, George could be a bit of a dick sometimes. But to continue:

Strumming along on acoustic guitar, George enthusiastically tried out various chords to suggest how the song might develop. “I was great at a verse and a chorus,” Ringo revealed. “I could never finish them. He [George] would round them off for me. I would play three chords, that’s all I can play. He’d put in the passing chords, there would be ten chords and I’d be like a genius!”

It’s adorable that Ringo talks as if this was something that happened many times, when in the end he composed only two songs that made it onto Beatles albums. (The liner notes do mention two others that never saw the light of day: “Picasso” and “Taking a Trip to Carolina.”) Or maybe this also refers to later collaborations for Ringo’s solo albums?

It’s fun to imagine, though, a universe in which the Harrison/Starr songwriting team develops into a bona fide challenger to the Lennon/McCartney hegemony. The George/Ringo pairing is probably the least discussed of all the Beatle relationships, and this is not the place for a detailed analysis. But it must have been an interesting bond: The Other Two, the Lesser Beatles, always fighting for their fair share.

Anyway… the version of “Octopus’s Garden” included in the Super Deluxe Edition is take 9, which begins with Ringo praising the previous take: “Well, that was superb,” he says. But there seems to be no question that another take is needed. “Right, George,” says Ringo to his right-hand man. The take is announced, there are a few seconds of awkward noodling, some nervous laughter from Ringo, and we’re off.

The song sounds fine, if not nearly as tight as it would by the time of the eventual master take (which was #32). But it breaks down a little over a minute in when Ringo stops.

Ringo: I’m sorry, I went wrong… did I?

John: I thought I heard you sing “in an octopus’s garden with John.”

Ringo: I think I went into, uh, “I’d ask my friends” earlier… or you all came late.

This is interesting because Ringo, despite all the jokes about his technical prowess, was known to be a machine who rarely made mistakes in the studio. So did he screw it up, or is he just being nice? You be the judge.

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