The Beatles Song of the Week: “Octopus’s Garden”

Well, I couldn’t have picked a worse title for this series of posts if I tried, huh? “Beatles Song of the Week”? Yeah, if we redefine “week” to mean “some indeterminate period of time that bears no relationship to a seven day span”. But anyway, about “Octopus’s Garden”. I can’t get enough of this song. It just tickles my hippie heart, in a big way.

At first hearing, “Octopus’s Garden” sounds like a harmless bit of bubblegum fluff, and at its most basic level, that’s pretty much what it is. Sandwiched on the Abbey Road album between the swelteringly sexy “Oh! Darling” and the grinding blues styling of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”, we find this happy song with its infectious beat, its guitar riffs that sound like pure fun, and its playful lyrics that are warm and colorful.

I’d like to be under the sea 
In an octopus’s garden in the shade 
He’d let us in, knows where we’ve been 
In his octopus’s garden in the shade 
I’d ask my friends to come and see 
In an octopus’s garden with me 
I’d like to be under the sea 
In an octopus’s garden in the shade 

We would be warm below the storm 
In our little hideaway beneath the waves 
Resting our head on the sea bed 
In an octopus’s garden near a cave 
We would sing and dance around 
because we know we can’t be found 
I’d like to be under the sea 
In an octopus’s garden in the shade 

We would shout and swim about 
The coral that lies beneath the waves 
Oh what joy for every girl and boy 
Knowing they’re happy and they’re safe 
We would be so happy you and me 
No one there to tell us what to do 
I’d like to be under the sea 
In an octopus’s garden with you 
in an octopus’s garden with you 
in an octopus’s garden with you

This is such a perfect little love song for its era, with its lyrical suggestions of an exotic realm that only the two lovers of the song can know about, a world of colors and warmth and safety. We would be warm below the storm / in our little hideaway beneath the waves makes clear that there is, in fact a storm that needs to be hidden from. And it seems to me a bit of wisdom to suggest that sometimes, in the face of a storm, the best thing to do is hole up in a little hideaway with someone you love. Someone with whom you can rest your head on the sea bed.

Musically, the song is interesting on its own. The guitar intro, punctuated twice by chords and drum hits, seems a bit mysterious at first, with a peppy sound but being played in such a way that the song’s meter and rhythm don’t become clear until the main body of the song begins. Also heard throughout the song is a tinny, saloon-style piano backing the main action, and the rest of the band (this one is sung by Ringo Starr, who also wrote it) provides appropriately cheerful backing vocals. The song’s final bars, with the final line repeated three times and the guitar answering each time before leading out in much the same way the song began, is a wonderful effect.

I mentioned above the contrast “Octopus’s Garden” makes with the two songs on either side of it on Abbey Road. This effect can’t be overstated, but then, Abbey Road is such a brilliantly assembled album of contrasts, with “Oh! Darling” leading into “Octopus’s Garden” leading into “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” leading into “Here Comes the Sun”.

This song seems so silly, so goofy. And I can’t get enough of it.

And hey, this song was good enough to be covered by the Muppets.

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2 Responses to The Beatles Song of the Week: “Octopus’s Garden”

  1. Roger Owen Green says:

    Not my favorite song, but it is one that I tend to like by anyone other than the Beatles than by the group.

  2. Kal says:

    Yup…the greatest weapon the octopus menace unleashed upon the world – this song and the good will towards the octopus got people to view these spineless bulbheads as something adorable. They happily frolick under the sea in some liquid hippie utopia.

    Here's the reality. They would eat your FACE given half a chance but you huckleberries (not you personally just huckleberries in general) just have to go up to one and try to shake a tentacle. What the hell would compel you to do something like that? This thing in front of you is not a cartoon. It's not going to start playing eight instruments at the same time. It's a predator – a dangerous, smart and gossipy killer and your FACE is on the menu.

    So if you are currently in your 'octopuses' garden, might I suggest you swim for the surface with all your strength. Of course you know you are already dead but the cepalopods do enjoy the chase. They will respect you for trying to escape. It will go quicker for you at the end.

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