Original Version recorded September 24-25 1969
Ukulele version recorded November 19 2011
Dave Foster – Vocals, ukulele
David Barratt – Ukulele and everything else
Produced by David Barratt at The Abattoir Of Good Taste, NYC from original recording by Dave Foster
Written by John Lennon
Credited to Lennon and McCartney
ABOUT THE SONG
One of the things I love about this and many other John Lennon lyrics, is that the more obscure Lennon tries to be the more transparent he becomes. On first listening this sounds like totally random sets of words and sounds that have little relation to one another. What he gives us is list of his obsessions one after another.
Verse 1: Yoko
Verse 2: British sexual repression – ironically the song was banned by the BBC for sexual symbolism. They thought the gun was a phallic symbol.
“I need a fix” section – Heroin (which he was using regally at this point)
“Mother Superior jumped the gun” – violence and religion which both played a large part of his youth and fascinated him his whole life.
“When I hold you in my arms, And when I feel my finger on your trigger, I know nobody can do me no harm
Happiness is a warm gun” – This is the mantra of anyone who has taken heroin. The illusion is that nothing can ever do you any harm. The irony is the drug that is making you feel that way is the the very thing that is doing you harm.
According to Lennon, the title came from the cover of a gun magazine that producer George Martin showed him:
Lennon: 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 reference, whether or not intermediately from the magazine, was one of many 1960s riffs on Charles M. Schulz’s culturally popular saying, Happiness is a Warm Puppy, which began in the Peanuts comic strip and became a widely sold book.
The song is intensely fragmented due to John’s technique of sticking the part of one song into another. This is it’s structure:
She’s not a girl who misses much…
4 bars of 4/4.
She’s well acquainted with the velvet touch…
1 bar of 4/4
1 bar of 2/4
5 bars of 4/4
1 bar of 5/4
1 bar of 4/4.
I need a fix cos I’m goin’ down…
twice through a 3 bars/4 bars/4 bars series of 3/8 (i.e. 22 bars of 3/8).
Mother superior, jump the gun… (1:13-1:35):
thrice through a bar each of 9/8 and 10/8.
Happiness is a warm gun… (1:35-2:43):
4 bars of 4/4
3 bars of 12/8 (with the drums doing 4 bars of 4/4 and 1 bar of 2/4!)
5 bars of 4/4 (the final bar entering free time)
1 bar of 2/4 (in free time)
5 bars of 4/4
The final Doo-Wop chorus of this song has the exact same chord progression as "This Boy," just in a different key.
This was Paul’s favorite John song on the White Album. The multiple tunes, themes, textures I think influenced Paul’s later pieces ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’, ‘Band On The Run’ and ‘Venus And Mars’.
The version brought to us by Dave Foster’s proves that if you mix sexual repression, violence, heroin but add a ukulele you get HAPPINESS!
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Dave Foster should not be confused with David Foster (producer of Michael Bublé and Celine Dion).
Dave Foster was born the same year “Revolver” came out and has been a lifelong Beatle-fan as long as he can remember. He taught himself to play guitar on a broken nylon string guitar (he played el kabong on one too many times) one Beatle song at a time from The Beatles Complete Songbook. He formed the original band Bubble in 1994. They put out an EP with a Lennon-esque version of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka in 1996 and followed that in 2000 with a critically lauded full-length CD produced by Fred Smith (of Television).
In 2005 Bubble were asked to perform a classic album at Arlene Grocery and they chose ”Revolver” (of course). After that they went on to cover many other Beatle albums faithfully including “Sgt Pepper” and “Abbey Road” to family audiences at Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, BAM and other venues.
This year Bubble plan on recording a new original album as well as re-release their 2009 album “Seconds”.