Upon the White Album
's release, "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" was widely misinterpreted as an incitement to shoot up smack. Given the prominence of Ms Ono's presence in the song, however — as in Lennon's life — I've always been amazed that it wasn't taken as a sex
reference, but there y'go.She's not a girl who misses much...
Especially not when she was propped up in her sickbed, there in the corner of the studio, listening to his brief, dreamy jingle-jangle, doodley-dooing intro. Any resemblance to the theme for his First Mother
John and Yoko had become inseparable. Having ceased to be Two Virgins
earlier in the year (just after his return from India), they'd recorded the electronic noise album of the same name in the afterglow — though it wasn't actually released until a few days after The Beatles
. Appleorities? While George's Wonderwall Music
had just been George doing a bit more of his Indian thing; this — full frontal cover 'n´all — was another thing all together!
The infatuation was mutual, Yoko as intrigued by John as he was by her, sensually and symbolically. A combined drum and bass climb signals the intensity; clanging guitars projecting the pain of the passion:She's well-acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand,
Like a lizard on a window-pane...
As for "the man in the crowd", ('dirty old man', say Lennon's notes on this section of the typewritten lyric), his kaleidoscopic boot-mirrors were reflecting life changes so huge that even his
myopic, lying eyes couldn't ignore them. John quickly consigned his wife Cynthia (or at least a soap-impression of her) to history, if not to the National Trust; moving out of the mansion and — with Yoko — into Ringo's old flat on Montagu Square.
He certainly had enough on his hands to keep 'em busy workin' overtime
It's a dirty, distorted, gut-churning, bluesy grind of a situation, not knowing which way you're turning.I need a fix 'cos I'm goin' down:
Down to the bits that I left uptown,
I need a fix 'cos I'm goin' down.
Uptown, downtown or out of town: John had, indeed, begun to dabble with heroin: though usually via a ten-bob note up his nose, rather than shooting it, he claimed. 'The Junkie' he nonetheless labeled himself on that copy of the words.
"Mother Superior" had certainly jumped the gun: way past the way John had initially figured their fling would work out, at least. The whole thing was clearly far, far deeper than the comfortable shallowness of his former furtive affairs. And, whether or not he felt ready for it, he was already way in over his head.Mother Superior jump the gun!
Again and again and again.
For the other Beatles, she was overstepping her mark as well as just jumping the gun: 'Yoko, oh no!' No one was comfortable about having an outsider in the ranks, particularly in the studio sanctum. George Martin put it pretty nicely: 'It was no longer the happy-go-lucky foursome — fivesome, with me — that it used to be'.
The fifthsome it was, however, who provided the inspiration for the final section of the song — or fragment of a series of songs. "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" was the message on a rifle advert in a magazine which he showed to John. 'Happiness is killing something — or someone — woah, man!!!'
Lennon milks the absurd irony with a Shirelles-on-steroids slide into the slogan, the doo-wop backing twisted to an angelically-delivered "bang-bang, shoot-shoot". And I still say there's far more of a sex thing goin' down than a drugs one as he hams up the power trip of carrying a high-calibre penis extension:When I hold you in my arms
And I feel my finger on your trigger,
I know no one can do me no harm, because
Happiness is a warm gun!
T'other George's comments, from round the time some moptop or other was getting death-threats from some crackpot or another, are equally apt here: 'If everyone who owned a gun just went out and shot themselves, there wouldn't be a problem...'
'It seemed to run through all the different kinds of rock music', said John of their tying up the song strands into one composition: the result of two days' studio work, and a million miles from the acoustic demo on Anthology 3
Paul has named it as his personal favourite from the double. Lennon's range of voices is exemplary in evoking every one of those rock styles: though surely the most spine-tingling, in the knowledge of how his life ended, is his effortless climb into falsetto to unleash the final round:Don't you know that
Is a warm
— Yes it is —