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May 2nd, 2007

Driveby SOTDing! Oh noes! @ 07:10 am

sapphires13:
I'm currently feelin: awake
I'm currently hearin: Happiness is a Warm Gun (The Gun Mix) - U2

It's the middle of the week and I can't sleep. So, why not do a SOTD, eh?

"Happiness is a Warm Gun (The Gun Mix)" from the Last Night on Earth single

While I was a U2 fan long before descending into Beatles-fan territority, it wasn't until after becoming a fan of the original Beatles version of this song (it's on the White Album ;P) that I decided to seek out U2's cover.


I didn't know what to expect the first time I listened to this song, and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. Rather than simply try to recreate the original, U2 took the song into a completely different direction. Besides the lyrics, I think the only thing U2's cover has in common with the original is the use of a fuzzbox and the basic guitar melody. I recall one time a couple of months ago when I couldn't sleep (it happens often, you see) and I was listening to my iPod, when this song came on. My mind was wandering, and I went "Hey, somebody took away Edge's echo unit and gave him a fuzzbox!" and then I went "God, when did I become a big enough music nerd to know the difference?"
So anyhow, if you're already familiar with the original, the first thing you'd notice about U2's cover is that the music is drastically different. It's all heavy and distorted and industrial. I suck at adjectives, but you get the point. The second thing you notice is that the lyrics are shifted around. You get the chorus first (minus the "bang bang, shoot shoot"s so present in the original), the opening lines, then the Mother Superior lines, then more chorus, and then finally, just before the 2 minute mark, the song gets weird.
The guitar basically drops out, and Bono launches in with the rest of the original opening lyrics... but he's reciting them in his weird not-quite-rapping way (a phenomenon I first visited in my Hallelujah SOTD). Now, the thing to keep in mind about these lyrics is that they make absolutely no sense. I remember the first time listening to the original, I kind of went "'A soap impression of his wife which he ate and donated to the National Trust' WHAT?!". Wikipedia tells me that this section of lyrics were allegedly inspired by an acid trip John Lennon went on, so I guess they make some kind of bizarre non-sensical sense in that context.
And then after that, the rest of the lines in the song are slightly repetitive, but it works. "Hey I need a fix, 'cause I'm going down". This line itself is the basis for much of the speculation that song is about heroin addiction, and that the "warm gun" in question refers to a syringe.
The rest of the song continues with alternations between the recited chorus, and the sung one, and the pleas for a fix. The sung vocals and the recited ones are often layered atop one another, for a quite pleasing effect. And may I just point out how in love I am with the guitar in this song? I could listen to it all day, maybe. Anyhow, the song ends with the layered chorus being repeated ad infintum, and eventually the song fades out.
Of the original lyrics, the only lines missing from U2's cover are "When I hold you in my arms, and I feel my finger on your trigger, I know nobody can do me no harm, because happiness is a warm gun" and to me, it's no great loss. That part is probably my least favourite part of the original, and I can't really imagine Bono singing (or reciting) those lines.
All in all, I like both the original and U2's cover. They're so different that they can't really be objectively compared. But based simply on sound, I prefer U2's. It's one of those sort of songs (of which, U2 have a handful) that are just so strange, that you can't help but love them.
And before I forget, it's worth noting that both versions of this song that exist are mixes, so there's no "nonmix" around to collect. The other version is The Danny Saber Mix, which I only heard once, and if I recall correctly, I didn't like it much at all. I think this mix is definitely the better of the two.

Lyrics:

Happiness is a warm gun
Happiness is a warm gun

She's not a girl who misses much
Du du du du, oh yeah
She's not a girl who misses much
Du du du du, oh yeah

Mother Superior jump the gun
Mother Superior jump the gun
Mother Superior jump the gun
Mother Superior jump the gun

Happiness is a warm gun
Happiness is a warm gun

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 multicoloured mirrors on his hobnail boots
Lying with his eyes wide open
And the hands busy working overtime
A soap impression of his wife which he ate
And donated to the National Trust

Hey, I need a fix 'cause I'm going down

Happiness is a, a warm gun
Happiness is a, a warm gun
Happiness is a, a warm gun
Happiness is a warm gun


Happiness is a warm gun
Happiness is a warm gun

I need a fix cause I'm going down
I need a fix cause I'm going down
I need a fix cause I'm going down
/ I need a fix cause I'm going down
To the bits that I left uptown
I need a fix cause I'm going down, uptown
/ Down to the bits that I left uptown
Need a fix cause I'm going down, uptown / I need a fix cause I'm going down

Happiness is a, a warm gun
Happiness is a, a warm gun
Happiness is a, a warm gun
Happiness is a warm gun

Happiness is a warm gun
Happiness is a warm gun
/ Warm gun
Happiness is a warm gun / Warm gun
[etc. until end]

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Comments

 
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From:needleandspoon
Date:May 2nd, 2007 12:29 pm (UTC)
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Awesome! Thanks for this. Coincidentally, the only one I have is the Danny Saber Mix, would you like it?
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From:needleandspoon
Date:May 2nd, 2007 12:36 pm (UTC)
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or not. Apparently shiTunes strikes again and has tagged it with the wrong title. The one I have is the Gun Mix.

*sigh*
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From:alternatending
Date:May 2nd, 2007 09:31 pm (UTC)
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awesome.
i really love the Beatles' original and have been waiting to hear U2's cover.
thank you!
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From:canadanne
Date:May 2nd, 2007 10:24 pm (UTC)
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I'm actually more familiar with the Danny Saber Mix, as I've listened to the green CD a lot over the years, whereas I never have any reason to play the cream-coloured one. (Pop Muzik's on both versions of the single, and if I want Last Night On Earth, I'll listen to the album.) So I haven't played the Gun Mix all that many times, but I've never thought of the two as being wildly different anyway - I only really notice the differences when I listen to them back-to-back like I'm doing now. I can't say I have a preference for one over the other. A few years ago when I was exchanging mix tapes with a friend, she sent me the Beatles' version of this song (along with John Lennon's original 'God') as I'd never heard it, and I sent her the U2 versions - I couldn't decide which was the better remix so I ended up sticking both on there!

(LOL, I'd never noticed in the liner notes it says "Discipline and perversion by John X". What's that about?)

I guess what I like about the Gun Mix is that it's a bit more aggressively rocking, as opposed to the laidback vibe of the Danny Saber Mix. It's got that awesome heavy riff at the start, which I kept being reminded of when Vertigo first came out. The acid trip lyrics are also much more effective in this version, with Bono punchily rapping them instead of just mumbling them under his breath (I especially like the final "Hey, I need a fix 'cos I'm - goin' down!"). And the whole end section sounds good, with one Bono chanting the lyrics while the other Bono sings and improvises alongside him.

But then I like different things about the Danny Saber Mix. I prefer the weird spacey intro to the guitar whine that opens the Gun Mix. I like how chilled-out and sure of itself this remix is. I'm surprised you didn't like the way Bono murmurs the middle section in this one, given how much you seemed to appreciate his husky vocals on Pop Muzik. ;p  I like the alternative way he closes that section, too, with just a "...hey" before the other Bono leaps in more loudly. And this version also has a great outro with two constrasting vocals - one Bono wailing the "Happiness is a warm gun" lines, and a softer Bono following them up with a "Do-do-do-do do do, ohhh yeah". I find the Danny Saber Mix to be a little more focused than the Gun Mix, which seems to drag slightly towards the end even though it's shorter (probably because of the more repetitive structure).

Things I like about both versions... the overall sound (you pretty much summed it up with "heavy and distorted and industrial"), it's quite a sexy evil mofo of a song. The irrestistible singalong qualities of nearly every line, especially the "Do-do-do-do do do, ohh yeahhh" bits. Bono's silky smooth vocals. And for some reason my very favourite part has always been when he deliberately stutters "Happiness is a - a wa- a warm gun". I don't know why it's cool, but it is!

(Listening to this really makes me miss Pop Bono's voice. Which feels like a weird thing to say, but it had a certain character during that era that he just doesn't use any more - listen to the way he sings the last "goin' dowwwn", it's excellent.) *wistful sigh*

And I was really surprised when I heard the Beatles' original, it's so different!  I had no idea U2 had restructured and redesigned it that drastically. The original is so... *emotional* I suppose is the simplest description, compared to the emotionless quality of the U2 cover. The Beatles' version starts out all melancholy, and then later on it turns bizarrely cheery - it was a weird song even then, but theirs is just so melodic and normal-sounding compared to the way U2 fucked it around (kinda like The Fly's phone call from Hell)!  Definitely one of their most interesting covers and it made a great B-side.
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From:sapphires13
Date:May 3rd, 2007 03:28 am (UTC)
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(LOL, I'd never noticed in the liner notes it says "Discipline and perversion by John X". What's that about?)

Not a clue.

I'm surprised you didn't like the way Bono murmurs the middle section in this one, given how much you seemed to appreciate his husky vocals on Pop Muzik. ;p

See, now I'm regretting only listening to it once and then writing it off as not to my tastes. You're making me wanna give it a second chance. If you could upload it for me, that would be great =)

(Listening to this really makes me miss Pop Bono's voice. Which feels like a weird thing to say, but it had a certain character during that era that he just doesn't use any more - listen to the way he sings the last "goin' dowwwn", it's excellent.) *wistful sigh*

Oh, I definitely agree. Bono's pop voice was sexy and rough and since then, his voice has just not had the same yummyness.

The Beatles' version starts out all melancholy, and then later on it turns bizarrely cheery

I guess he got his fix, and it cheered him up *shrug*
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From:canadanne
Date:May 3rd, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC)
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You're making me wanna give it a second chance. If you could upload it for me, that would be great =)

Haa! Well, I don't have it on the computer, so I'll have to try and rip it from the CD. I'll do it sometime tomorrow unless anyone else can upload it before then.

And the cheeriness of the original wouldn't seem so odd if I wasn't used to the totally different way Bono sings it. :)
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From:canadanne
Date:May 4th, 2007 07:44 pm (UTC)
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Herrre you go... it's kinda like green space crack. ;)
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From:tlxrevolution
Date:May 3rd, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC)
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I've been looking for this version!

This isn't the same version that is on the Best of 1990-2000 B-sides is it?
I misplaced my second disc to that set but i remember that version being really good

And so is this one!
Great pick for today!

And as always, the beatles rock.
I like how U2 is influenced by them and how bono will put snippets of beatles songs live
(like ended elevation with blackbird or ended another song with sgt. peppers lonely hearts club band)
[User Picture Icon]
From:sapphires13
Date:May 3rd, 2007 10:07 pm (UTC)
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This isn't the same version that is on the Best of 1990-2000 B-sides is it?
I misplaced my second disc to that set but i remember that version being really good


It is indeed the same version on the Best of B-sides =)

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