November 13, 2003

The Repeat Button: "Happiness Is A Warm Gun"

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Irony had its origin long before sarcasm became a permanent fixture of modern discourse and made us unsure if anyone actually meant anything they said. There was a time way back in the ’60s when pop culture stumbled upon ironic wit and realized just how effective saying what you don’t mean could be. The Beatles’s “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” provides a perfect example, not to mention it’s one of the catchiest songs you’ll ever hear.

The song presents a collage of musical styles divided into four distinct sections, each a jump across time and place. An introspective ballad begins the track; John’s vocals (Paul on overdub) wash over cryptic lyrics and a series of “do-dos,” while slashes of guitar inject tension into the otherwise calm ambience. The guitar quickly overtakes the ballad, driving the song forward into the second section based around a gritty, blues-waltz solo and similarly affected vocals. A brief breakdown follows as the guitar quickens and the vocals repeat the line, “Mother Superior jump the gun.” The final section of the song brings us back to the innocence and youth of doo-wop, as jubiliant vocals backed by sugary harmonies layer on the irony as the lyrics extol the title phrase: “Happiness is a warm gun” and the reassuring “oh yes it is.”

A take on the Charles Schulz’s “Happiness is a Warm Puppy,” The Beatles’s transformed the cliche