Happiness Is a Warm Gun (2:12)

Cover of The Beatles (The White Album)

From The Beatles (The White Album) and 23 other releases

John Lennon once claimed the song was “sort of a history of rock and roll,” as it features five different sections but is less than three minutes long. The song begins with a brief lilting section (“She’s not a girl who misses much…”). Drums, bass and distorted guitar are introduced as this portion of the song proceeds. The surreal imagery from this section is allegedly taken from an acid trip that Lennon and Derek Taylor experienced, with Taylor contributing the opening lines. After this, the song transitions into a Lennon song fragment called “I Need a Fix,” built around an ominous-sounding guitar riff. This section drifts into the next section, a chorus of “Mother Superior jumped the gun”.

The final section is a doo-wop send up, with the back-up of vocals of “bang, bang, shoot shoot.”

One of the most radical musical accomplishments of the song is its frequent shifts in meter. Beginning in 4/4 time, the song shifts to a 3/4 time for the guitar solo in the “I need a fix…” section. This gives way to 6/8, 3/4, and 4/4 measures in the “Mother Superior…” section before returning to 4/4 for the majority of the doo-wop style ending. During Lennon’s spoken-word interlude, the song briefly switches into 6/4. The spoken word section has its roots in the song later on the album “I’m So Tired” because, exhibited in the song’s home demo, is a spoken word section in 6/4 time that is almost exactly like the one in “Happiness is a Warm Gun.”

According to Lennon, the title came from the cover of a gun magazine that producer George Martin showed him: “I think he showed me a cover of a magazine that said ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun.


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