Which Beatles songs did Ringo write?

Kieran McGovern
The Beatles FAQ
Published in
4 min readOct 5, 2019


Ringo was the first Beatle to attempt to leave the band. The result was his most famous composition

Ringo has never aspired to be a principal songwriter. For The Beatles he has two sole writing credits: Don’t Pass Me By and Octopus’s Garden.

Don’t Pass Me By

Ringo’s first song credit mixes Cajun, country and comedy record influences. It has is its admirers but for me clanks along for two minutes too long.

Octopus’s Garden

Photo by Serena Repice Lentini on Unsplash

I’d like to be under the sea

In an octopus’s garden in the shade

Ringo Starr was famed for his apparently unflappable temperament. Though he had experienced what has been described as a ‘Dickensian childhood’, marked by extreme ill-health and poverty, he seemed the most sanguine of the Fab Four. By late 1968, however, even his amiability was being sorely tested Beatle in-fighting.

Abbey Road was not a happy working environment during the recording sessions for The White Album. Ringo, the least involved in the squabbling and backbiting, suffered the most from the emotional fall out:

I couldn’t take it any more. There was no magic and the relationships were terrible. I’d come to a bad spot in life. It could have been paranoia, but I just didn’t feel good — I felt like an outsider. Ringo, Anthology

Things came to a head during a recording session for Back in the USSR on the 22nd of August, 1968. The precise trigger point is unknown, though it has been suggested that Paul attempting to instruct him on how to play the drum part was one factor. In whatever case, at some point Ringo snapped. After telling John and Paul he was leaving the group, he walked out of the studio.

At first, Ringo’s departure seemed to confirm the underlying reason for it. The others assumed that their drummer’s ‘resignation’ was not seriously intended. They continued the recording session.

The next day Ringo took his family on holiday to Sardinia, where his friend Peter Sellers had a yacht. The aim was to get away from everything connected with his life as a Beatle. But, as he explains in this interview, a chance conversation with the captain proved the unlikely inspiration for what would be best-loved composition.

Ringo Starr — from BBC Radio Documentary: The Abbey Road Story — Part One (around 53.00)

…..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 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. (Anthology)

Back in London, it was dawning on the other Beatles that they had a serious crisis to deal with. It proved the jolt they needed to bring them together Within days Ringo received a telegram from his band-mates: ‘You’re the best rock’n’roll drummer in the world. Come on home, we love you.’

Two weeks later Ringo returned to the studio to find his drum kit garlanded with flowers. The effect salutary on all concerned. ‘I felt good about myself again, we’d got through that little crisis and it was great.’

It didn’t always remain ‘great’ — the final twenty months of The Beatles were often acrimonious. But Ringo largely managed to stay out of the internecine struggle, maintaining good personal relations with the other three.

The Beatles started working on Octopus’s Garden during the Let it Be sessions. Early version shows that Ringo’s had a sort of pub sing-along in mind. The later arrangement — and particularly George Harrison’s guitar — transform what Harrison had spotted was ‘a lovely song’.

Joint credits

Ringo also has a number of joint writing credits. These were usually songs he sang on.

  • What Goes On (Rubber Soul) (Lennon-McCartney-Starr)
  • Flying(Magical Mystery Tour) (Lennon-McCartney-Harrison-Starr)
  • Dig It (Let It Be) (Lennon-McCartney-Harrison-Starr)
  • Maggie May” (Let It Be) (tradi: adaptation by Lennon-McCartney-Harrison-Starr)

In the 1990s, the Anthology series saw the release of studio out-takes and a controversial attempt to reunite the four Beatles for a single (Free as a Bird

  • Free As a Bird (Anthology 1) (Lennon-McCartney-Harrison-Starr)
  • Christmastime (Is Here Again) (Lennon-McCartney-Harrison-Starr)
  • 12-Bar Original Anthology 2) (Lennon-McCartney-Harrison-Starr)
  • Los Paranoias (Anthology 3) (Lennon-McCartney-Harrison-Starr)

Free Beatles Teaching Materials



Kieran McGovern
The Beatles FAQ

Author of Love by Design (Macmillan) & adaptations including Washington Square (OUP). Write about growing up in a Irish family in west London, music, all sorts