Beatles – Happiness Is A Warm Gun

This song took a while to grow on me but it did and became one of my favorites from the White Album. The song is divided into three different sections that fit together and climaxing at the end with the great chorus Happiness is a warm gun (bang bang shoot shoot). It has a fifties sound with the backup vocals.

John saw an article in a gun magazine that George Martin had in the studio. The article was titled Happiness is a Warm Gun… John: “Wow! Incredible,’ you know, the fact that happiness was a warm gun that had just shot something or somebody…I thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to say.”

Image result for the happiness is a warm gun magazine cover   The magazine in question was the May 1968 edition of “American Rifleman,” which contained an article entitled “Happiness Is A Warm Gun.” This article, written by Warren W. Herlihy, relates the author’s pride in his 18-year-old son John who has been shooting guns since the age of seven.

The song seems to have had drug references in the song although John usually denied them. The line “I need a fix ’cause I’m going down” does point that direction. According to Paul and others around him at this time, John was into heroin.

Paul McCartney said:  “and so his songs were taking on more references to heroin. Until that point, we had made rather mild, rather oblique references to pot or LSD. Now John started to be talking about fixes and monkeys and it was a harder terminology which the rest of us weren’t into. We were disappointed that he was getting into heroin because we didn’t really see how we could help him…It was a tough period for John, but often that adversity and that craziness can lead to good art, as I think it did in this case.”

The chorus is what won me over at first but the lyrics are fascinating in the first section.

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 multi-colored 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.

Lennon said that the Mother Superior jump the gun section was about Yoko.

John:  “She was rabbiting on in the car one day, and I said, ‘mother superior jumped the gun again,’ because she’s always one jump ahead.  So that was Yoko really.  It was camp.”

The White Album was a stressful album to make but there were some fun and camaraderie during this time also. One such occasion was the recording of this song. All four Beatles have been quoted as saying they liked the song, Paul even naming it as the best on the White Album.

 

From Songfacts

In the last section of the song, the backing vocals are “Bang, Bang, Shoot, Shoot.” 

A popular theory is that Lennon meant for this to be a drug metaphor for doing heroin:

“Needing a fix”

“Jump the gun” – meaning to cook it up

“Bang, Bang, SHOOT, SHOOT”

“When I hold you in my arm, nobody can do me no harm” – heroin addicts tell how when you’re on it, nothing can do you no harm and Lennon’s overall nature seem to point to this 

This was banned by the BBC for sexual symbolism. They thought the gun was a phallic symbol.

The original line “When I hold you in my arms and feel my finger on your trigger…” appears in unreleased, bootlegged versions of “I’m So Tired” as “When I hold you in your arms, when you show me each one of your charms, I wonder should I get up, and go to the funny farm.” This could mean the line was originally sexual but was put in as a metaphor for a gun later on. 

The final doo-wop chorus of this song has the exact same chord progression as “This Boy,” just in a different key.

The phrase “happiness is a warm gun” is a play on a Peanuts comic strip from 1960 where Lucy hugs Snoopy and says, “Happiness is a warm puppy.” That phrase became a popular slogan, appearing on mugs, T-shirts and lots of other merch.

Tori Amos covered this on her 2001 album Strange Little Girls. All the songs on the album were written by men – Amos took on different characters to interpret them from a woman’s point of view. Yoko Ono had to approve this, and she did.

The Breeders covered this on their 1990 album Pod

This is the song that inspired 2Pac to cast his gun as his girlfriend in “Me and My Girlfriend”: “She’s the only woman I need!”

Happiness Is A Warm Gun

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 multi-colored 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

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 (oh, yeah)
I know nobody can do me no harm (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 (happiness) is a warm gun, (is a warm gun, yeah).

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

28 thoughts on “Beatles – Happiness Is A Warm Gun”

    1. Lol it has some stuff I don’t like…”Wild Honey Pie” etc…it does have variety though. From Helter Skelter to Blackbird

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      1. Oh yes the variety is there for sure. There’s no much in the middle on there for me — I either hate a track or love it. I guess I’m not exactly a diehard Beatles fan at the end of the day

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I like how they go from one style to another. The new remixed version took it up a notch… it’s not as much for everyone… I get that

        Like

  1. That was an informative post. The heroin bits were sobering. I prefer to think of the Beatles as avoiding that particular hell, so it is troubling to be reminded of its presence with John. I had thought the drug lingo in the lyrics was mocking what he saw as an addiction of some to firearms.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The good thing is about The Beatles and hard drugs from what I understand John was the only one to try it and it didn’t last a long time.
      Keith Richards said in his book that on occasion John would try it with him in the 70s when Keith was in New York but John would get too sick… That was a good thing I guess.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s not a big part…Yoko kept telling Keith that it wasn’t good for him and Keith told her…hey I’m not forcing him…
        You got me wondering if I read it somewhere else but I found it….
        “I remember one night in the Plaza Hotel, he came by my room– and then he disappeared from the room. I’m talking to the chicks, and their mates are all saying, I wonder where John went? And I go to the john, and there he is, hugging the parquet, on the tiles. Too much red wine and some smack.”

        Like

      2. That is such a ‘rock and roll’ story. Still, John was lucky it made him sick. I think I bought Keith’s book in e-book format, which means I’ve still got it stored in the cloud somewhere. It might be good to listen to on a long road trip sometime.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I have the ebook and audible. I’ve listened to it countless times. I’ll just pick a spot and start it. It never fails to entertain.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Gotta say, not a Beatles song I like, and as I’ve said before to me ‘White Album’ should have been culled to a single lp. But millions disagree which is the great thing about music & art…so many respond totally differently to the same work.
    That said, it was a very interesting post Max! Didn’t know there was so much behind the song. Interesting to see where they found their inspirations

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The song was not an instant like to me. It grew on me and that chorus is what finally hooked me. It is interesting on how it came about.
      It’s the variety of the album that appeals to me…it is a lot to digest I will admit.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Max- Beatles related- I saw this on Mark’s twitter page from last August- concerning Vol 2—–Sorry folks, but it’s way too early to say when Volume 2 will be out. Tune In was bigger than War and Peace, and the next one will be its equal or more. It’s an immensely researched and complex history and won’t be out until it’s done. Hang in there – it will be worth the wait

    Liked by 1 person

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