The Paul McCartney Project

Happiness Is A Warm Gun

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the The Beatles (Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1968
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Happiness Is a Warm Gun” is a song by the Beatles, featured on the eponymous double-disc album The Beatles, also known as the White Album, which was released on 22 November 1968. Although credited to Lennon–McCartney, it was written by John Lennon.

Writing and inspiration

According to Lennon, the title came from a magazine cover that producer George Martin showed him: “I think he showed me a cover of a magazine that said ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun.’ It was a gun magazine. I just thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to say. A warm gun means you just shot something.” The title is one of many 1960s riffs on Charles M. Schulz’s axiom that “happiness is a warm puppy“, which began in the Peanuts comic strip and became the title of a related book.

Composition

Lennon said he “put together three sections of different songs … it seemed to run through all the different kinds of rock music.” This results in a three-part through-composed structure. The song begins with surreal imagery allegedly taken from an acid trip that Lennon and Derek Taylor experienced, with Taylor contributing the opening lines.

In the studio

Happiness Is a Warm Gun” reportedly is Paul McCartney’s and was George Harrison’s favourite song on the White Album. Although tensions were high among the band during the album’s recording sessions, they reportedly collaborated as a close unit to work out the song’s challenging rhythmic and metre issues. Recording of the song began at 7 pm in Studio Two at EMI Studios in London on 23 September 1968, continued over the following two nights, with daytime breaks, and was completed at 5 am on 26 September. Piano, electronic organ and tuba parts in this recording are unattributed; the tuba was all but removed through mixing. George Martin was on holiday while this song was recorded, and had left a note asking Chris Thomas to take over as producer.

Personnel

While officially uncredited, Chris Thomas (the track’s producer) has stated that he provided the keyboards for the track.

Interpretations

Many different interpretations of the song have been offered. Some writers have suggested that, in addition to the Peanuts reference, the “warm gun” could refer to Lennon’s sexual desire for Yoko Ono. In his 1980 Playboy interview Lennon admitted to the double meaning of guns and sexuality but denied that the song had anything to do with drugs: “that was the beginning of my relationship with Yoko and I was very sexually oriented then“. American and British censors were unhappy with the song, and it was banned by the BBC. […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 26 Sep 1968. edited.
    UK: Apple PMC 7067 white album 1968.
  • [b] stereo 15 Oct 1968. edited.
    UK: Apple PCS 7067 white album 1968.
    US: Apple SWBO 101 white album 1968.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 46443 2 white album 1987.

The 2d generation master is an edit of (copies of) two takes with more material overdubbed. Mono [a] has tapping (organ) on the beat from the start until the drums come in, but it is soft and mixed out 4 beats earlier in [b]. In the “I need a fix” section in stereo [b], by error, although the first line was mixed out, the last “down” is just audible. Mono [a] has louder bass in the “I need a fix” section. Mono [a] has laughter near the very end, just before the last drumbeat, not heard in [b].

From Anthology 3 liner notes:

Inside the final days of May 1968, immediately before beginning work on the White Album at EMI, the Beatles gathered at George Harrison’s house in Esher, south-west of London, to routine their latest compositions. The first of seven Anthology selections from these private recordings, all previously unreleased, might well be titled I Need A Fix, permitting the earliest glimpse of John Lennon’s Happiness Is A Warm Gun. John later revealed that the final song comprised three separate elements – the I Need A Mix, Mother Superior Jumped The Gun and Happiness Is A Warm Gun sections – and here the first two can be heard without the third. Like all the Esher recordings, the instrumentation is sparse and acoustic.

Last updated on May 13, 2017

Lyrics

She's not a girl who misses much
Do do do do do do, oh, yeah

She's well acquainted
With the touch of the velvet hand
Like a lizard on a window pane
The man in the crowd with the
Multicolored mirrors on his hobnail boots

Lying with his eyes
While his hands are busy working overtime
A soap impression of his wife
Which he ate and donated to the National Trust

I need a fix cause I'm going down
Down to the bits that I left uptown
I need a fix cause I'm going down

Mother Superior jump the gun
Mother Superior jump the gun
Mother Superior jump the gun
Mother Superior jump the gun
Mother Superior jump the gun
Mother Superior jump the gun

Happiness is a warm gun
(Bang bang, shoot shoot)
Happiness is a warm gun mama
(Bang bang, shoot shoot)
When I hold you in my arms
(Oh yeah)
And I feel my finger on your trigger
(Ooo, oh yeah)
I know nobody can do me no harm
(Ooo, oh yeah)

Because happiness is a warm gun mama
(Bang bang, shoot shoot)
Happiness is a warm gun, yes it is
(Bang bang, shoot shoot)
Happiness is a warm, yes it is, gun
(Happiness, bang bang, shoot shoot)
Well, don't you know that happiness is a warm gun mama
(Happiness is a warm gun yeah)

Officially appears on


The Beatles (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1968

2:45 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
Chris Thomas:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 24, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 25, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Sep 26, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1968

2:45 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
Chris Thomas:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 24, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 25, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 15, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

2:45 • Studio versionR2018 • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
Chris Thomas:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 24, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Sep 25, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 15, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Demo

Session Recording:
Late May 1968
Studio:
George Harrison's Home, Kinfauns, Esher, Surrey, UK


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Outtake • Take 19

Bootlegs


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

2:14 • Studio version


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

2:43 • Studio version • Rough Mix of take 65 mono


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

0:44 • Studio version • RS From Take 65 Stereo


Complete Home Recordings 1968

Unofficial album • Released in 2002

2:14 • DemoC

Session Recording:
Late May 1968
Studio:
George Harrison's Home, Kinfauns, Esher, Surrey, UK


Complete Home Recordings 1968-69

Unofficial album • Released in 2002

0:41 • Demo

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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