“Happiness Is A Warm Gun” is one of the hidden treasures of The Beatles catalog that is overlooked by many casual Beatles fans. Not only is it a real departure from the harmonic and melodic content of the earlier years, it is the beginning of the multi-form, polymetric, asymmetrical writing style that would dominate much of their later work. Paul McCartney strikes again.
This song represents a most intriguing formal experiment, one that you might describe as a “teleological medley”. It manages to project an integrated impression in ironic spite of its acyclical form, and varied sequence of styles, and meters. The Beatles’ ultimate grand example of this formal approach is, of course, the “Huge Melody” that ends “Abbey Road”, but, it’s this track on which you hear it first!
In contrast to the “Abbey Road” medley, where most of the sections could survive extraction from their immediate context to serve as an independent “numbers” per se, you find here, with perhaps the exception of the final “title” section, that the individual components are quite fragmentary and rely heavily on immediate repetition of a single idea to establish any sense of formal autonomy. There’s not quite enough substance in any of them to stand on their own; otherwise you just might go as far as calling this a “suite”; which latter term, now that I think of it, would be appropriate for “Abbey Road”.
The primary force that holds it together and prevents it from otherwise sounding like a random grab bag is the modulated development of intensity and mood created by the specific sequencing of the sections; each new section builds on what has preceded it while adding something new. Secondarily, the changes of meter either between or within every section establish themselves as a kind of leitmotif.
Good TABS are here. Learn it!
“Happiness Is A Warm Gun” Original
“Happiness Is A Warm Gun” Bass Cover by Kocuhu