Happiness Is a Warm Gun
|"Happiness Is a Warm Gun"|
|Song by the Beatles from the album The Beatles|
|Released||22 November 1968|
|Recorded||23–26 September 1968,
EMI Studios, London
|Genre||Hard rock, progressive rock, blues rock|
|The Beatles track listing|
"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.
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" is reportedly Paul McCartney's and 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.
- John Lennon – double-tracked lead & backing vocals, electric guitar
- Paul McCartney – bass, backing vocals
- George Harrison – fuzzed electric guitar, backing vocals
- Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine
While officially uncredited, Chris Thomas (the track's producer) has stated that he provided the keyboards for the track.
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 and to his well-documented problems with heroin at the time of the recording of the White Album, where the gun represents a hypodermic syringe, although Lennon claimed to have snorted heroin rather than injected it. 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.
- Tori Amos, on the album Strange Little Girls
- Phish, on the album Live Phish Volume 13
- U2, as a B-side of the single "Last Night on Earth." This version served as the theme for the ABC miniseries Gun in 1997.
- Joe Anderson with Salma Hayek, for the soundtrack of Across the Universe
- The Breeders, on the album Pod
- Marc Ribot, on the album Saints
- Hajime Chitose, on the album Kataritsugu Koto
- World Party, on the EP Thank You World
- Danger Mouse, used as a sample in The Grey Album
- The Dear Hunter are known to cover the song at live performances
- Sky Ferreira, on a Dr. Dre's song mash-up produced by Daniel Luttrell
- Sampled by Psychic TV for the track "Jump Thee Gun" from the album Jack the Tab/Tekno Acid Beat
- Marilyn Manson sung a portion of the song as an intro to The Dope Show and The Reflecting God on tour in 2009 and in 2012
- Alanis Morissette covers the song at live performances
- The Black Crowes have covered the song in live performances
- Father John Misty has covered the song in live performances
- Spizer 2003, pp. 107-108.
- Wenner 2000, pp. 114–115.
- Osborn, Brad (2011). "Understanding Through-Composition in Post-Rock, Math-Metal, and other Post-Millennial Rock Genres". Music Theory Online. 17, no. 3.
- Hertsgaard 1995, p. 257.
- Spizer 2003, p. 108.
- Inglis 2000.
- Lewisohn 1995, p. 300.
- Lewisohn 1995, p. 300; Lewis & Spignesi 2004, p. 86.
- Lewisohn 1995, pp. 298–301.
- Marck 2009.
- Sheff 2000, p. 188.
- Dowlding 1989, p. 230.
- IMDb 2009.
- Dowlding, William J. (1989). Beatlesongs. Simon & Schuster Inc. ISBN 0-671-68229-6.
- Hertsgaard, Mark (1995). A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of The Beatles. New York: Delacorte Press. ISBN 0-385-31377-2.
- "Across the Universe soundtrack". IMDb. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- Inglis, Ian (2000). The Beatles, Popular Music and Society: A Thousand Voices. Palgrave Macmillan Publishing.
- Lewis, Michael; Spignesi, Stephen J. (2004). 100 Best Beatles Songs: A Passionate Fan's Guide. Black Dog & Leventhal. ISBN 978-1-60376-265-6.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1995). The Complete Beatles Chronicle. Hamlyn. ISBN 0-600-58749-5.
- Marck, John T. (2009). "Happiness Is a Warm Gun". I Am The Beatles.
- Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying. St Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-25464-4.
- Spizer, Bruce (2003). The Beatles on Apple Records. 498 Productions. ISBN 0-9662649-4-0.
- Wenner, Jann S (2000). Lennon Remembers (Full interview from Lennon's 1970 interview in Rolling Stone magazine). London: Verso. ISBN 1-85984-600-9.
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