Over these days The Beatles recorded a new song of John’s that was actually bits of several different unfinished compositions mashed together. Initially called “Happiness Is a Warm Gun in Your Hand,” it consisted of three sections:

1. The Dirty Old Man (0:00–0:44)

According to Steve Turner’s A Hard Day’s Write, this part was “a series of random images picked up from a night of acid tripping with Derek Taylor, Neil Aspinall, and Pete Shotton.”

She’s not a girl who misses much
Do do do do do do, oh yeah
She’s well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand like a lizard on a window pane.
The man in the crowd with the multi-colored mirrors on his hobnail boots.
Lying with his eyes while his hands are busy working overtime.
A soap impression of his wife which he ate and donated to the National Trust.

Turner offers detailed explanations of each line, and this is a case where it’s definitely worth reading him instead of me. His book can be gotten very cheaply and is a treasure trove.

2. The Junkie (0:44–1:34)

This section is generally considered to be about heroin and Yoko, both of whom had come into John’s life at about the same time. The heroin part is pretty obvious:

I need a fix ’cause I’m going down
Down to the bits that I left uptown
I need a fix ’cause I’m going down
Mother Superior jumped the gun…

 

As for the last part, John said that Yoko “was rabbiting on in the car one day, and I said, ‘mother superior jumped the gun again,’ because she’s always one jump ahead. So that was Yoko really. It was camp.”

 

3. The Gunman (1:34–2:44)

This was inspired by an article in American Rifleman magazine, which George Martin had laying around the studio for some inexplicable reason:

A few years earlier Charles Schulz had released a Peanuts book called Happiness Is a Warm Puppy. Some magazine editor recognized an opportunity when he saw one, and the rest is history.

Musically this section references a song called “Angel Baby” by Rosie and the Originals, known to be a Lennon favorite:

Put it all together and you get:

Or at least eventually you do; because it keeps taking left turns, “HIAWG” (which no one calls it for obvious reasons) ran to 70 takes. (The final version is mostly take 53, with part of take 65 spliced in at the end.) Apparently on the upcoming White Album reissue there’s an outtake where John asks, “Is anybody finding it easier? It seems a little easier — it’s just no fun, but it’s easier,” and George answers, “Easier and fun.”

And that’s the breaking news as of this writing: Writer Rob Sheffield was given a sneak preview of the upcoming box set, and wrote it up for Rolling Stone. I’ve only had time to skim it so far; time to go remedy that.

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