"Happiness Is a Warm Gun"
Song by The Beatles from the album The Beatles
Released 22 November 1968
Recorded 24–25 September 1968,
EMI Studios, London
Genre Hard rock, blues-rock
Length 2:43
Label Apple Records
Writer Lennon/McCartney
Producer George Martin
The Beatles track listing
Template:The Beatles tracks

"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. It is a John Lennon composition, credited to Lennon/McCartney.[citation needed]


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.' It was a gun magazine. I just thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to say. A warm gun means you just shot something. Like heroin into your arm."Template:Sfn

"Happiness Is a Warm Gun" is Paul McCartney's favourite song on the White Album.[citation needed] 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 meter issues, and consequently considered it one of the few true "Beatles" songs on the album.[1]


Lennon said he "put together three sections of different songs ... it seemed to run through all the different kinds of rock music."Template:Sfn The song is thus by the composer's own admission a pastiche. 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.Template:Sfn 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 salient musical features of the song is its frequent shifts in time signature, some tempo changes, and some unusual phrasing. The song begins in standard 4/4 time but quickly begins to deviate from the norm. There is a five bar phrase rather than the usual four with the line beginning on "She's well acquainted...". The last phrase/line of that verse ("A soap impression . . . ") has a 6/4 bar (the second measure of the phrase) before going back to 4/4 for the last two bars of the phrase, and Ringo plays the downbeat on "1" in the fourth bar, giving a more unusual feel. The subsequent guitar lead and bridge can be analysed as a 3-bar pattern of 9/8, 12/8, 12/8 (or 5 bars—one of 9/8, four of 6/8, etc.), with Ringo retaining an implied 6/8 throughout, so that the snare drum downbeats are on "1" as often as not. This gives way to faster (almost double time) four bar pattern of 6/8, 6/4, 6/8, 7/4 for the "Mother Superior..." section before returning to a slower 4/4 for the doo-wop style ending. During the "When I hold you..." section, the rest of the band returns to 6/8, but Ringo stays in 4/4. This is one of the few examples of polyrhythm in The Beatles' repertoire.


Many different interpretations of the song have been offered down the years. It has been said that, in addition to the obvious reference mentioned above, the "Warm Gun" could also be due to Lennon's sexual desire for Yoko OnoTemplate:Sfn and also to his well documented problems with heroin at the time of the recording of the White Album (in this case, the gun being a loaded syringe, although Lennon claimed to have snorted, rather than injected, heroin during the time that he used the drug). In his 1980 interview Lennon admitted to the double meaning of guns and sexuality ("that was the beginning of my relationship with Yoko and I was very sexually oriented then") but denied the song had anything to do with drugs.Template:Sfn

The song was not met warmly by American and British censors. It was banned by the BBC because of its sexual symbolism.Template:Sfn


Cover versionsEdit


  1. The Beatles, popular music and society: a thousand voices.Ian Inglis. Palgrave Macmillan Publishing, 2000.


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