“Happiness Is A Warm Gun” is a Beatles’ song which is also on their “White Album” from 1968. However, their demo also appears on the 1996 album, “Anthology 3” too.
Recorded: 23rd – 26th September, 1968
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Track Duration: 2:43
Record Label: Apple Records
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott
Happiness Is A Warm Gun
Written by John Lennon, but as ever, the credit goes to the Lennon-McCartney partnership, this track comes after “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on “The Beatles” aka “The White Album”.
The title of the song comes from an article in the May 1968 issue of “American Rifleman”, the magazine of the National Rifle Association (NRA) which George Martin took into the Abbey Road Studios one day.
“George Martin showed me the cover of a magazine that said, ‘Happiness is a warm gun’. I thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to say. A warm gun means you’ve just shot something.”
Indeed, that headline came from an adaption of a book by “Peanuts” cartoonist, Charles M. Schulz, “Happiness is a Warm Puppy”.
John Lennon says that the song was not about drugs, but more towards his love life with Yoko Ono. However, there was many interpretations of the song. Because some though there was a link to heroin in the song, the BBC banned it. In particular, the lyric, “I need a fix ’cause I’m going down”, caused offence.
“Happiness Is A Warm Gun was another one which was banned on the radio – they said it was about shooting up drugs. But they were advertising guns and I thought it was so crazy that I made a song out of it. It wasn’t about ‘H’ at all.”
Lennon once described the track as a miniature “history of rock and roll”. This is because, in his words, “it seemed to run through all the different kinds of rock music …” He identified three sections in the song as being, “the Dirty Old Man”, “the Junkie” and “the Gunman (Satire of ’50s R&R)”. While it is true to say there are three clear sections, many believe there are four or even five.
Despite the intricacies in the song structure, it is not a disjointed track. On the contrary, it all blends in together, although many lyrics are still open to interpretation. However, Lennon explained that there are double meanings in the song between Guns and sexuality.
“Oh, well, by then I’m into double meanings. The initial inspiration was from the magazine cover. But that was the beginning of my relationship with Yoko and I was very sexually oriented then. When we weren’t in the studio, we were in bed.”
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
The Beatles began recording “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”, on the 23rd September, 1968, in Studio Two at the EMI Studios, London, during the 7.00pm-3.00am session. In those 8 hours, they recorded 45 takes but returned the next day to record another 25. This was in the same studio during the 7.00pm-2.00am session.
From those 70 takes, they joined the first half of take 53 and the second half of take 65 together on the 25th September. Thus becoming take 65. Once they were happy with the overall rhythm track they began the vocal overdubs together with more instruments.
Take 65 is the one we are familiar with on the “White Album” but there is a slight flaw around the 47 second mark. There you can hear where they decided to leave out the first “I need a fix ’cause I’m going down” line. You can just hear last word “down” as they faded the vocals back in slightly too early. We take this as part of the song but it wasn’t intentional. Besides, it does add a little something to the track.
On their 1996 album, “Anthology 3” we get the home demo from the 28th May, 1968. They recorded this copy at George Harrison’s home, “Kinfauns”, Esher, UK. During this version, John Lennon sings, “Mother Superior jump the gun, Yoko Ono no, Yoko Ono, yes”. Indeed, he would use “Mother Superior” as a reference to his future wife. Lennon married Ono on the 20th March, 1969, on the Rock of Gibraltar, Christ, you know it ain’t easy.