Jan 27: John Lennon wrote, recorded and mixed Instant Karma! in 1970

instant karma 1

“I wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch, and we’re putting it out for dinner.”
– John Lennon

“Everybody was going on about karma … But it occurred to me that karma is instant as well as it influences your past life or your future life … I’m fascinated by commercials, as an art form … So the idea of instant karma was like the idea of instant coffee: presenting something in a new form.”
– John Lennon (Playboy Magazine, 1980)

“It was excellent. Lennon was characteristically simple and direct, but this time on a song with one of those magically catchy refrains.”
– Bob Woffinden (NME)

“Instant Karma!” – sometimes referred to as “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)” – is a song written by English musician John Lennon, released as a single on Apple Records in February 1970. In the UK, the single was credited to “Lennon/Ono with the Plastic Ono Band”. The song reached the top five in the British and American singles charts, competing with the Beatles’ “Let It Be” in America, where it became the first solo single by a member of the band to sell a million copies.

“It was great, ’cause I wrote it in the morning on the piano, like I said many times, and I went to the office and I sang it. I thought, ‘Hell, let’s do it,’ and we booked the studio. And Phil came in, he said, ‘How do you want it?’ I said, ‘You know, 1950 but now.’ And he said ‘Right,’ and boom, I did it in just about three goes. He played it back, and there it was. I said, ‘A bit more bass,’ that’s all. And off we went. See, Phil doesn’t fuss about with fuckin’ stereo or all the bullshit. Just ‘Did it sound alright? Let’s have it.’ It doesn’t matter whether something’s prominent or not prominent. If it sounds good to you as a layman or as a human, take it. Don’t bother whether this is like that or the quality of this. That suits me fine.”
– John Lennon (1970)

john-lennon-1970 instant karma

“Instant Karma!” was written, recorded and released within a period of ten days, making it one of the fastest-released songs in pop music history.

John Lennon – Instant Karma (official video):

“John phoned me up one morning in January and said, ‘I’ve written this tune and I’m going to record it tonight and have it pressed up and out tomorrow – that’s the whole point: Instant Karma, you know.’ So I was in. I said, ‘OK, I’ll see you in town.’ I was in town with Phil Spector and I said to Phil, ‘Why don’t you come to the session?’ There were just four people: John played piano, I played acoustic guitar, there was Klaus Voormann on bass, and Alan White on drums. We recorded the song and brought it out that week, mixed – instantly – by Phil Spector.”
– George Harrison


The following musicians contributed to the recording of “Instant Karma!”:

John Lennon – lead vocal, acoustic guitar, piano, backing vocal
George Harrison – electric guitar, piano, backing vocal
Klaus Voormann – bass guitar, electric piano, backing vocal
Alan White – drums, piano, backing vocal
Billy Preston – organ, backing vocal
Yoko Ono – backing vocal
Mal Evans – chimes, handclaps, backing vocal
uncredited – tambourine
Allen Klein and several dozen revellers from London’s Hatchett Club – backing vocals

John Lennon – Instant Karma (live, NYC, 1972):

– Hallgeir

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