Friday, 6 May 2011

12:29 Octopus's Garden

Hey! This is the 50th song! (check out the 1st here).

When Ringo walked out on the session for the White Album and went on holiday we lost his drumming on Back In The USSR & Dear Prudence but gained Octopus's Garden, which he wrote on a boat, and on marijuana (in that order). The song represents a high watermark in Ringo's Beatles songwriting.

Sadly that's not saying much.

Allow me to present a curious mixture of songwriting lessons inspired by the good and bad songwriting on display here.

How to write a bad song

Use a cliched chord progression for over 75% of your song

Apart from a very short intro the whole song is based on an AABA structure. The A section is the standard doo wop chord sequence

I vi IV V
E C#m A B

which also reappears in the solo. Dominic Pedler (in his outstanding book The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles) calls this progression “the most cliched of cliches” (p.49). He's not the only one.

Have your melody slavishly follow the chords around

The vocals stick to the chords like glue. Most of the time Ringo is tracking whatever chord is playing at the time either by singing a fifth (in the A section) or the root (in the B section). See below (chord tones are in bold)

I'd like to be under the sea in a octopus's garden in the shade

and I'd ask my friends to come and see-ee an octopus's garden with me

Make sure your melody varies from verse to verse in rhythm, pitch and number of syllables

Maybe I'm being harsh. Lots of artist do this, even Lennon & McCartney, but Ringo really goes overboard on verse 3. He even drops the rhyme scheme at the end (more on that later).

Let the need to rhyme dictate what you write

Why did the octopus build it's garden near a cave?
Because it was beneath the waves! Obviously! (I'm just sayin'...)

Next time we'll get more positive...


  1. P.S. The captcha that I had to type for that last comment said "TURDSTER." Awesome!