Formal structure of  "Happiness is a Warm Gun":
Part A (fingerpicking) 0:00-0:44
0:00-0:14 "She's not a girl who misses much..."
0:14-0:44 "She's well acquainted with the touch..."
Part B (waltz) 0:44-1:13
0:59-1:13 "I need a fix cuz I'm going down..."
Part C (mother superior) 1:13-1:34
Part D (doo-wop) 1:34-2:44
Comments: Many songs on The White Album are fascinating for their novelty. The term "novelty" is often used in a negative context - to call something a "novelty song" is to dismiss it as inferior in quality. There are several Beatles songs - and mostly Paul's - that can easily be dismissed as such ("Rocky Raccoon" comes to mind, along with "Wild Honey Pie", and "Why Don't We Do It In the Road"). But it is without any such negative connotations - and actually, it is with great interest, respect, and enthusiasm - that I call "Happiness is a Warm Gun" novel in denotative sense of "something unusual or new; different from anything prior".
The music is comprised of four macro sections that contain few musical similarities. Part A is defined by a particular finger-picking pattern that was quite popular with the Beatles at this time (other songs from the same album to use this particular fingerpicking pattern were "Julia", "Blackbird", "Dear Prudence", "I'm So Tired", and "Cry Baby Cry"). Part B is defined by the use of triple meter (three beats to the bar), which in this case produces a somewhat "waltzy" feel. Part C is defined by irregular time signatures and the lyrics "Mother Superior jumped the gun", which are heard a total of six times. And Part D is defined by the use of 1950's Doo Wop cliches - including the ubiquitous "Doo Wop" chord progression (more on this when I do my harmonic analysis of "Happiness").
Cohesion within each structural section is achieved through immediate repetition of a particular motif or chord progression. The overall structure of the song, then, has less to do with motivic cohesion than it does with intensity and density (which can be thought of somewhat crudely as the number of notes heard per second) of sound - the first section is the calmest and least dense, the second and third sections build the intensity and density, and the fourth and final section is the most intense and most dense. This notion of building intensity over the course of an entire piece is sometimes called an "orchestrational crescendo", and does have classical precedent: Maurice Ravel's Bolero is the most famous example; the first movement of Dmitri Shostakovitch's 7th Symphony is another. In "Happiness is a Warm Gun", the intensity and density build through the first three sections until the climax (like a gun firing?) in the all-out Doo Wop of the final section.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.