Epstein's death in August 1967 left the Beatles without management; Starr remarked: "[It was] a strange time for us, when it's someone who we've relied on in the business, where we never got involved.'' Soon afterwards, the band began an ill-fated film project, Magical Mystery Tour. Starr's growing interest in photography at the time led to his billing as the movie's Director of Photography, and his participation in the film's editing was matched only by that of McCartney.
In February 1968, Starr became the first Beatle to sing on another artist's show without the other three present. He sang the Buck Owenshit "Act Naturally", and performed a duet with Cilla Black, "Do You Like Me Just a Little Bit?" on her BBC One television programme, Cilla. Later that year Apple Records released The Beatles, commonly known as the "White Album". Creative inspiration for the double LP came in part from the band's recent interactions with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. While attending an intermediate course at his ashram in Rishikesh, India, they enjoyed one of their most prolific writing periods, composing most of the album's songs there. Starr left after 10 days, but completed his first recorded Beatles song, "Don't Pass Me By". During the recording of the White Album, relations within the band became openly divisive. As the sessions progressed, their collective group dynamic began to decay; at times only one or two Beatles were involved in the recording for a track. Starr had grown weary of McCartney's increasingly overbearing approach and Lennon's passive-aggressive behaviour, which was exacerbated by Starr's resentment of Yoko Ono's near-constant presence. After one particularly difficult session during which McCartney had harshly criticised his drumming, Starr quit the band for two weeks, taking a holiday with his family in Sardinia on a boat loaned by Peter Sellers. During a lunch break the chef served octopus, which Starr refused to eat. A subsequent conversation with the ship's captain regarding the behaviours of the animal served as the inspiration for his Abbey Road composition, "Octopus's Garden", which Starr wrote on guitar during the trip. He returned to the studio two weeks later, to find that Harrison had covered his drum kit in flowers as a welcome-back gesture.