Octopus’s Garden - The Beatles

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"Octopus’s Garden" - The Beatles (1969)

“Octopus’s Garden” originated from a boating trip Ringo took with his family to Sardina. The captain began to tell him everything he knew about octopuses, and how they travel along the sea bed looking for shiny objects and stones with which to build gardens.

George Harrison commented:

“It’s a really great song, because on the surface, it just like a daft kids’ song, but the lyrics have a very deep meaning which Ringo probably doesn’t see. The whole thing about ‘resting our head on the sea bed’ and ‘we’ll be warm beneath the storm.’ Ringo’s wrote cosmic songs without even realizing it.”

Jonathan Gould remarked how “Octopus’s Garden” was a spirited, country-flavored children’s song that “derived a certain poignancy from the eagerness with which Ringo, embracing his role as the Beatles’ ambassador to the depths of sea, returns to the scene of his first great triumph in Yellow Submarine.”

The distinctive underwater ambience was created by George on the Moog synthesizer.

Beatle author Mark Hertsgaard recounted how he also established a jaunty, country and western sound on his Fender Strat as McCartney supplied the jangly piano backdrop which he believed was the perfect combination to bring Ringo’s “serene aquamarine vision delightfully to life.”

He adds:

“George’s zippy opening guitar solo in particular helps create the impression that there is more to this slight song than there actually is. Paul merrily clanking piano and the soaring backing harmonies he and George contribute further the illusion. Here was another of the Beatles’ secrets on display: the way the group covered up the shortcomings of its various members.”

Beatle scholar Alan Pollack claims the charm of the track is in its simplicity and complete lack of pretension- in spite of the typically Beatlesque lavish production values.

He writes:

“Particularly irresistible here is the Peter Pan-like theme of youthful escape from the harsh realm of storm, wave, and being told what to do to a place of shade, warmth, joy, happiness and safety.”

Much can be said for the sexual/escapism interpretations of “Octopus’s Garden.” Oceanic feelings, underwater caverns, and a yearning for peaceful shelter are all standard Freudian symbols for an unconscious fixation on the maternal. Specifically, for a longing for the unperturbed existence of the womb.

The composition could be interpreted as being about finding peace, security and happiness far below the ‘storms’ of life. The octopus is merely a way to get across the metaphor of being under the storm, all cosy and warm, while the world rages above, unaffecting the sanctuary of his garden. It offers a playful message about the innate powers of peace and harmony. The Octopus’s Garden is a safe place.

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