When was it recorded? Apr. 26 & 29 and Jul. 17-18, 1969
When was it first released, and on which album? Sept. 26, 1969 on “Abbey Road”
Who wrote it? Starkey (with noteworthy contribution from Harrison)
Have I heard this song before? Yep yep
What my research dug up:
I mentioned way, way back on Day 19: “Back in the U.S.S.R.” that Ringo left during the White Album’s recording in Aug. 1968. I also wrote that he left on Peter Sellers’ yacht to sail around the Mediterranean (again, dream life 2015). “Octopus’s Garden” is what he produced on this voyage.
“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!’” — Ringo Starr (Anthology)
Maybe not that simple. While Ringo returned to finish the White Album, The Beatles didn’t work on “Octopus” until the Get Back sessions. (There’s a clip in the “Let It Be” documentary of George helping Ringo arrange the bridge and piano part for the song.) Quoth About.com, “When the ‘Get Back’ project bottomed out, and the band convened to record their farewell album, ‘[Octopus’s] Garden’ was selected as ‘Abbey Road’s’ ‘Ringo track.’ Again with George’s help, it was sculpted into a sort of second cousin to ‘Yellow Submarine,’ right down to the watery sound effects.” Wikipedia points out this song is the last one released by the Beatles to feature Ringo on lead vocals.
Lyrically, About.com also noted, “‘Octopus’s Garden’ struck both Ringo and George as having a deeper meaning: both were unhappy with the inner musical and financial tensions within the group, and lines like ‘We would be calm / beneath the storm’ served as a much-needed fantasy of emotional tranquility during a turbulent time.”
“‘Octopus’s Garden’ is Ringo’s song. It’s only the second song Ringo wrote, and it’s lovely. Ringo gets bored playing the drums, and at home he plays a bit of piano, but he only knows about three chords. He knows about the same on guitar. I think it’s a really great song, because on the surface, it just like a daft kids’ song, but the lyrics are great. 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.” — George Harrison
The Beatles recorded the rhythm track for “Octopus” in 32 takes on Apr. 26, 1969. Take 2 – which also features Ringo’s guide vocals – appeared on “Anthology 3.” Apparently he only had one verse of lyrics written then.
Three days later, Ringo added his real lead vocals. On Jul. 17, Paul added another bass part, another piano part, and backing vocals with George. The water sound effects – created by Ringo blowing bubbles through a straw into a glass of water – were also added. Ringo re-recorded his lead vocals the next day, and then it was done.
I think it’s lovely and a fitting denoument to Ringo’s time with the Beatles.