Song facts: Instant Karma!
John Lennon wrote and recorded Instant Karma! in one day, on January 27th 1970. The single was released in ten days of its conception, making it one of the fastest released songs in pop music history.
Lennon wrote Instant Karma! on a piano at his mansion in Tittenhurst Park in one hour. The song came to him very quickly so time at Abbey Road Studios was promptly booked. John rang fellow Beatle George Harrison to play on the track; Harrison provided electric guitar, piano and backing vocal.
"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
Spector would later go on to produce The Beatles' Let It Be album along with George Harrison's All Things Must Pass and John Lennon's Imagine album.
- 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
"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
Instant Karma! was released on February 6th 1970 in the UK and February 20th in the US. The song peaked at number three on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number five on the UK Singles Chart.
It was the third single released by the Plastic Ono Band, following Give Peace a Chance and Cold Turkey.
Top of the Pops performance
On February 11th 1970, John Lennon and Yoko Ono appeared on Top of the Pops to promote Instant Karma!. Lennon sang live vocals over a mix of the song's instrumental track. The other band members mimed their performance while Yoko sat on a stool blindfolded with a sanitary napkin... for some reason.