[wet and salty review] ringo starr’s octopus’s garden with art by ben cort

A year ago today, a special online friend whom I met at my old LiveJournal blog passed away. Though Slatts and I never met in person, we bonded over our mutual love for the Beatles and Bob Dylan. For eight years, we chatted about lyrics, album covers, adolescent memories, and biographical tidbits. As an artist and musician himself, Slatts was the logical go-to guy for backstories and questions, and I greatly admired the many caricatures and portraits he created of my rock idols.

Since Ringo was Slatts’s favorite Beatle, it seemed like a good time to feature this Octopus’s Garden picture book published in 2014. It contains Ben Cort’s vibrant jewel-toned illustrations inspired by Ringo’s original lyrics, and comes with a CD of Ringo reading the story aloud + vocal and instrumental versions of the song.

So, what inspired Ringo to write “Octopus’s Garden”? Seems that things were falling apart while the Beatles were recording the White Album back in 1968, so Ringo walked out to escape mounting animosities and to find some peace. He took a much needed break from studio sessions with his family aboard Peter Sellers’s yacht in Sardinia.

One day, he supposedly ordered fish and chips for lunch and was served octopus instead. He refused to eat the octopus (can you blame him?), and the Captain began to tell him all about octopuses, how they trawl the sea bed for shiny objects and stones to place in front of their caves, sort of like making a garden there. Ringo said, “I thought this was fabulous because at the time I just wanted to be under the sea too. I wanted to get out of it for awhile.”

I’d like to be under the sea/In an octopus’s garden in the shade.

The book opens with a spread of a young boy gazing at his pet goldfish, a vaporous blue cloud populated with colorful sea creatures rising from the top of the bowl. This fantastical stream leads him to the bottom of the ocean, where the boy is greeted by a friendly octopus. He’s joined by four friends and they happily swim along and ride sea turtles until they reach the entrance to the octopus’s cave.

As the song states, they have a joyous time, singing and dancing around, and swimming amongst the coral, feeling happy and safe in their magical hideaway beneath the waves. Cort embellishes this singular adventure with pictures of even more fun: the kids playing pirates by the ruins of a lost city, discovering a sunken treasure chest full of gold jewels, swimming with a giant whale, playing with crabs, riding piggyback atop a giant snail, and listening intently as the octopus reads them a story.

He’s captured the spirit of Ringo’s song, which not only touts the primacy of the imagination, but the human need to occasionally find solace in one’s own fantasies. What child doesn’t sometimes wish to visit a place where there’s no one there “to tell us what to do”? The exhilarating, carefree feeling of playing and exploring with friends to your heart’s content aligns perfectly with Ringo’s steadfast credo of Peace and Love.

“Octopus’s Garden” was Ringo’s second composition, and the last Beatles release featuring him on lead vocals. He was given full songwriting credit for it on the Abbey Road album (George Harrison helped with melodic structure). I’ve always seen Ringo as lovable, endearing and comical, as evidenced by his amiable vocals not only on “Octopus’s Garden,” but also on “Act Naturally,” “Don’t Pass Me By,” “Yellow Submarine,” and “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

The rare instances where Ringo sang lead were for upbeat tunes, jaunty melodies easily adaptable as children’s songs. Indeed, children find his voice appealing and reassuring, further evidenced by his role as Mr Conductor and Storyteller in the Thomas and Friends TV series. All this from a sickly only child, who had a rough beginning, being twice confined in hospital for long periods of time for tuberculosis and appendectomy-induced peritonitis, and having his parents divorce when he was only about four.

It’s wonderful that a new generation will get to know Ringo’s song through this book. They will have a ball hearing him read aloud, singing the song themselves, identifying and counting all the interesting sea creatures (crabs, fish, seahorses, starfish, clams), and submerging themselves in Cort’s delightfully conceived underwater world.

I daresay “Octopus’s Garden” seems to have cosmic significance, having been written when Ringo was 28, during August, the 8th month, in the year 1968, with Ringo’s final vocals recorded the following year on July 18. Octo-coolness.🙂

This book also makes a nice keepsake for longtime Beatles fans like me, who’ll enjoy reminiscing about their favorite Ringo moments. I especially love the “This Boy” sequence in “A Hard Day’s Night,” when Ringo, coincidentally, feels the need to go off by himself to go “parading.” And who can forget when Ringo is kidnapped in the movie “Help!”, and George opens the car trunk to find Ringo under an orange blanket, just his head showing, and he simply says, “Hello” in the most adorable way? So huggable and endearing. And of course I’ll always remember playing “Abbey Road” over and over on my stereo full blast from my dorm room in college. ”Octopus’s Garden” gave everyone a good excuse to sing along, go prancing around, and forget their troubles.

But before I get carried away even more, enjoy the book’s official trailer, a video featuring Ringo discussing the book, and a live performance of “Octopus’s Garden” by Ringo and the Roundheads.

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OCTOPUS’S GARDEN
written by Ringo Starr
illustrated by Ben Cort
published by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, February 2014
Picture Book/CD set for all ages, 32 pp.

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poetry fridayMargaret Simon is hosting the Roundup at Reflections on the Teche. Swim over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week.

Happy Weekend, and here’s to you, Slatts!

“The Beatles were just four guys who loved each other. That’s all they’ll ever be.” ~ Ringo Starr

 


Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

42 thoughts on “[wet and salty review] ringo starr’s octopus’s garden with art by ben cort

  1. I’m sorry to hear that your special online friend passed away. Octopus’s Garden has such great kid appeal, so it makes perfect sense to have made a picture book of it. The illustrations are joyful and adorable. And I loved seeing the clips of Ringo!

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    1. Yes, great kid appeal — like Yellow Submarine. I think Ben Cort did a fabulous job with the illustrations, giving us another level of appreciation for the song.

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  2. Jama, I did not know Ringo Starr voiced the conductor on Thomas the Tank Engine (which my eldest son loved!). Thank you for that bit, and for a peek into this book… funny thing… I just sold an octopus picture book! Fascinating creatures and long known for sparking the human imagination. xo

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    1. Congrats on the octopus picture book! They *are* fascinating creatures. Ringo was one of several Mr Conductors from what I understand. He rocked the uniform🙂.

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  3. Jama–I’m so sorry about your friend😦. His art is bright and vibrant and funny. Hugs to you!!❤❤

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    1. Can’t believe a year has passed already. Slatts used to call LJ the old neighborhood, where things were friendlier and more personal.

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  4. I think we first ‘met’ over a Beetles post… I’d forgotten. And again – I’m straight-away sharing the link with my mum. She was a Bug, through and through.😛

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  5. What a precious book for this fun and iconic song! Thanks for researching and sharing information and videos about the book. So sorry for your loss. I know from personal experience how close these blogging friendships can become.

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    1. Yes, we all miss Slatts. He was hard not to like. I’ve had this book on my shelf ever since it first came out, so it was good to finally feature it here.

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  6. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend, Jama. It sounds like you both had a lot of fun sharing your love for the Beatles. I’m off to the ocean very soon, so this is perfect timing. What a sweet-looking picture book-ocean & Ringo joy!

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  7. How interesting about Ringo’s childhood…I had no idea. He has brought us so much fun! Thanks for sharing this, in memory of your friend.

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    1. Ironically he first became interested in playing the drums after joining the hospital band. I guess when you’re stuck there for 2 years at a stretch you find ways to entertain yourself.

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  8. The art is absolutely gorgeous! What a great post to bring back memories of your friend. And yes, it’s incredible how close we can get to our online friends.

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    1. Like having a penpal, you get to know someone differently via online contact. I’m grateful for the many great people I’ve met online, you included🙂.

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  9. Everything on the internet seems to be five minutes ago – there and gone. But I love how you remember people and things. It’s not nostalgia, entirely, but affection – real affection – which makes a difference to how I think about things and people, so thank you. I always lurked and “listened” to Slatts and it’s nice to think of such a thoughtful person again.

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  10. The images for that book are beautiful!
    Thanks for the additional background on Ringo. I don’t remember learning all that when I was “into the Beatles”!

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  11. What a wonderful stop your blog is today, Jama! I’ve always loved the jaunty merriment of this song and to couple it with pictures is too charming. Ringo’s stint on Thomas the Tank engine was fabulous – my son and I watched this show more times than I can remember!

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    1. Ringo has a charm all his own. Though an only child, he once said that in the other Beatles he found lifelong brothers.

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  12. I love the idea of the octopus gathering shiny things for its sculpture garden, and Ringo happily escaping there from the pressure, stress and disagreements. Are they inevitable in any talented collaboration? I wonder. Another great post, Jama. You never disappoint, even if I am sad not to see anyone fuzzy photobombing.🙂

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    1. I imagine all creative collaborations will have rough patches — it’s inevitable because people’s priorities change. With artists there is such passion for their own ideas, which don’t necessary meld with everyone else’s.

      In this case, Ringo apparently quit the group, feeling he was the odd man out. Apparently they sent him a telegram asking him to come back. When he did, he found flowers on his drum kit (thanks to George).

      The fuzzy ones have given themselves a Spring break. Perhaps they shall return next week . . .

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      1. Uh, oh! I hope the fuzzies weren’t casualties of spring cleaning fervor.🙂 Speaking of fuzzy, I noticed my favorite bear’s nose is no longer fuzzy — from an excess of my daughter’s love. LOL

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      2. There’s nothing better than a well loved bear — bald or worn away spots! It shows he/she has fulfilled his purpose in life.🙂

        As for the fuzzies, I think they made a quick escape since they were being eyed up as excellent dust mops.

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  13. Eight years is a long time to build a connection with an online friend. Sorry he passed away.
    Really fun post. I’ve always loved Octopus’s Garden—such a cheery song. I’ll have to find the book.

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  14. No wonder I like it when my grand-kids turn on Thomas and Friends (I didn’t realize it was Ringo narrating)! Thanks for this wonderful journey into Octopus land. I never thought of any of the Beatle’s songs as children’s songs, but some really are perfect for that. So sad to hear of the passing of your friend.

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  15. I remember Slatts (from listening in on your conversations in post comments, probably). You have honored him quite appropriately!

    With 10 days left of school, I’m imagining a get-away to an Octopus’ garden under the sea…ahhhh!!

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    1. Only 10 days left? Seems the year flew by. Would be wonderful to visit an Octopus’s Garden. Do you think they serve barnacle tea?🙂

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    1. He does seem like a very kind and easy going fellow, very approachable. Hard to believe it’s been a year since Slatts passed away.

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  16. I was thinking of Kevin today and then remembered about yesterday.😦 I think he’s jamming with John and George in rock ‘n roll heaven.

    I think he would have loved this Ringo post and Ringo’s book. My critique group Ringo-twin just may receive this book for her next birthday… Shh, don’t tell!

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    1. A Ringo twin? I’m intrigued. I do think Slatts is up there jamming with all the greats. Recently he’s welcomed Bowie and Prince to the all-star band.🙂

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  17. I’m glad you were able to honor your friend through this post. A little sadness, a little joy, it’s what life is all about.

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