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).