What do the Lyrics to the Beatles’ “Octopus’s Garden” Mean?

Released in 1969 on the Abbey Road album, “Octopus’s Garden” has become a fan favorite, a cult hit a curiosity and a wonder. For two reasons: it’s odd lyrical imagery and the fact that it’s sung by the band’s drummer, the beloved though slightly bemused drummer Ringo Starr.

Written by Starr, the song was assisted by the band’s guitarist George Harrison. “‘Octopus’s Garden’ is Ringo’s song,” Harrison previously said of the process. “It’s only the second song Ringo wrote, and it’s lovely.” But what else did Harrison have to say? And what is an octopus’s garden and why is it so catchy?

Ringo’s Last Song
Like everyone else, Harrison recognized the high quality of the composition, even if it was a bit goofy. Not only did he call it “lovely” but Harrison said the song gets into a listener’s mind “because it’s so peaceful. I suppose Ringo is writing cosmic songs these days without even realizing it.” In the end, “Octopus’s Garden” was Ringo’s last song sung for the former Mop Tops. But it was a doozy.

Not Your Average Tune
There is nothing normal or predictable about “Octopus’s Garden” and for a band that released psychedelic songs like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Strawberry Fields,” the bar was high for allowing any song, and especially one so quirky, onto an album. But Starr made it work. And then some. But why, how?

Well, the imagery is easy and distinct. It almost reads like a children’s book. In the song,
Starr sings, He’d let us in
Knows where we’ve been
In his octopus’ garden
In the shade

Even though this was (in its time) a new song and a new concept, there is something so familiar about the scene, the octopus. It’s like Starr channeled some timeless fairy tale and put it to a simple melody. He continues,

I’d like to be
Under the sea
In an octopus’ garden
In the shade
We would be warm
Below the storm
In our little hideaway
Beneath the waves

Resting our head
On the seabed
In an octopus’ garden
Near a cave

Final Thoughts
In a way, the whole song must be a bit like what it is to be inside Ringo Starr’s mind. It’s interesting and slightly dazzling, but comfortable and cozy and peaceful. For Starr, who throws up the two-fingered peace sign in every photo, calm waters are key. That’s why the line We would be warm / Below the storm seems to encapsulate both the song and the songwriter.

Yes, “Octopus’s Garden” is a place as much as a song. A place to go to when you need two or three minutes of odd cozy comfort and a narrator named Ringo.

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