Monday, 9 May 2011

12:30 Octopus - Second Leg

Last time we looked at what Ringo could teach us about writing a BAD song...

How to write a good song

Have an original concept

This is without a doubt the greatest song anyone has ever written about the horticultural exploits of Octopi. Fact. People will overlook plenty if they've never heard a song like yours before.

Give us an unexpected key change

though he's still peddling the mother of all doo-wop cliches in the solo, we get a sudden key change up a 4th – from E major to A major (ticket 45) which is a stroke of genius.


Because we don't hear a D until we get to the 3rd bar of the solo. Not in the guitar solo, the chords, bass line or B.Vs (or drums!).

So what?

Well D is the only difference between the keys. The result is you don't know you've changed key till bar 3, by which time your brain has started to perceive it as a totally different chord sequence. Like I said. Genius.

Use the Aeolian cadence

It's not the most original thing but instead of heading to the I chord to conclude, Ringo teases us by ending on the vi (minor 6) twice before we finally get the root (Ticket 10).

In an (A) octopus's (B) garden with (C#m) you,
In an (A) octopus's (B) garden with (C#m) you,
In an (A) octopus's (B) garden with (E) you.

Surprise us with what you don't do

Lou Reed told Bono “Don't be afraid to break rhyme”. Ringo might have said the same thing. That structural break down at the end of the last verse serves a great purpose. In the first 2 verses the B section rhymes

come and see/garden with me
dance around/can't be found

but the 3rd verse blows it

you and me/tell us what to do

but... this is setting up the final A section where instead of the title we get In an octopus's garden with you.

He may be daft, but he's not stupid.

The Mystery Of The Revered Octopus

Even with the things this song gets right the end result is way better than it should be. And it's doesn't seems to generate the kind of animosity directed towards equally cliché ridden and badly crafted songs. Why?

Firstly it's incredibly well played and recorded. If there was ever an advert needed for The Beatles skills as session musicians, this is it. The playing (especially by Harrison) elevates it to a whole other level.

Secondly, (and this is just a theory) I think positive songs trump negative, self-absorbed, miserable ones. It's hard to hate something so well meaning and innocent as this. It's not asking you empathises with the titanic soul wrenching struggles of some spoilt little millionaire. It's not cynically pulling on your heart strings in order to empty your pocket. It's not even lecturing you about how to save the planet and/or your soul. It's just about wanting to be happy. Why would you have a problem with that? What kind of monster are you?

So to conclude – you can get away with a lot, if you have a positive message, a great band and a unique angle.

Next time the McCartney song that Lennon wanted to sing...


  1. re: "The Mystery of the Revered Octopus";, everybody loves Ringo.

  2. Good point Georgie - everyone loves Ringo (except Pete Best!)

  3. After the 2010 World Cup I don't like octopuses anymore, especially if they are German!

  4. @Rob - he got eaten though...