Octopus, and the departure of Phil Shulman
''At a show at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, we went on stage and the Sabbath fans were shouting “get off, we want Sabbath” and we were just getting set to play ‘Funny Ways’. We pulled out the cellos and violins, and the crowd starting heckling immediately, but we were gradually starting to get past it, when someone threw a cherry bomb on stage. [Phil Shulman] made sure we all stopped playing and said we needed to get off the stage. As we were leaving the stage, Phil grabbed the mic and said to the crowd “you guys are a bunch of fucking cunts!”, and the boo that went up after that was enormous! To this day I'll never forget it! We were sort of vindicated later on, as we thought we were never going to play Los Angeles again after the cherry bomb incident, but later on the Octopus tour we were able to sell out consistently there, so something clicked with the fans.''
Derek Shulman on Gentle Giant's failure to win over Black Sabbath's audience in 1972
The new line-up of Gentle Giant delivered the Octopus album later in 1972. The band's hardest-rocking album to date, Octopus was allegedly named by Phil Shulman's wife Roberta as a pun on "octo opus" (eight musical works, reflecting the album's eight tracks). It maintained Gentle Giant's distinctive broad and challengingly integrated styles, with one of the highlights being the intricate madrigal-styled vocal workout "Knots" (whose lyrics are taken from various verses of poetry from R. D. Laing's book of the same name).
The album's release is generally considered to date the start of the band's peak period. In 2004, Ray Shulman commented "[Octopus] was probably our best album, with the exception perhaps of Acquiring the Taste. We started with the idea of writing a song about each member of the band. Having a concept in mind was a good starting point for writing. I don't know why, but despite the impact of The Who's Tommy and Quadrophenia, almost overnight concept albums were suddenly perceived as rather naff and pretentious."