Song facts: Happiness Is a Warm Gun

On September 23rd and 24th 1968, The Beatles recorded Happiness Is a Warm Gun for their forthcoming double-album, known as The White Album.

The track was primarily written by John Lennon, credited to Lennon/McCartney. According to John he came up with the idea for the song after seeing an American gun magazine with the title Happiness Is a Warm Gun; the magazine was given to him by producer George Martin.

"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." - John Lennon
"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." - John lennon
"On, 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." - John Lennon

As with many John Lennon compositions Happiness Is a Warm Gun is a combination of shorter songs John was working on, combined together to make one piece of music. The Beatles press officer Derek Taylor allegedly contributed the opening lyrics.

"I told a story about a chap my wife Joan and I met in the Carrick Bay Hotel on the Isle of Man. It was late one night drinking in the bar and this local fellow who liked meeting holiday makers and rapping to them suddenly said to us, 'I like wearing moleskin gloves you know. It gives me a little bit of an unusual sensation when I'm out with my girlfriend.' He then said, 'I don't want to go into details.' So we didn't. But that provided the line, 'She's well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand'." - Derek Taylor
"I don't know where the 'soap impression of his wife' came from but the eating of something and then donating it to the National Trust came from a conversation we'd had about the horrors of walking in public spaces on Merseyside, where you were always coming across the evidence of people having crapped behind bushes and in old air raid shelters. So to donate what you've eaten to the National Trust was what would now be known as 'defecation on common land owned by the National Trust.' When John put it all together, it created a series of layers of images. It was like a whole mess of colour." - Derek Taylor

The song was recorded with all four Beatles present over the course of two nights, and finished early on the morning of September 25th. It is allegedly Paul and George's favourite song from The White Album. Despite tensions and personal conflict during the recording of the album, all four Beatles worked especially hard on this track, getting the song structure and harmonies just right.

Personnel

  • 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
Paul McCartney and John Lennon working on the White Album, 1968.

Paul McCartney and John Lennon working on the White Album, 1968.

Paul McCartney and George Harrison during a White Album session, 1968.

Paul McCartney and George Harrison during a White Album session, 1968.