Classic Rock News

1969: John Lennon (1940 -1980), singer, songwriter and guitarist of British pop group The Beatles, with his wife Yoko Ono listening to the playback of one of their tapes. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

John Lennon’s “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” was written AND recorded in just one day: January 27th, 1970.  John told Rolling Stone about the song, “I wrote it in the morning on the piano.”

It’s All in a Day’s Work

Lennon finished writing the song within an hour.  He sang it over and over, afraid he’d forget the music. “I went to the office and sang it many times.  So I said, ‘Hell, let’s do it,’ and we booked the studio.”  That afternoon, Lennon met at Abbey Road studio with George Harrison, keyboardist Billy Preston, bassist, Klaus Voormann, and Alan White (future drummer for Yes).  Phil Spector showed up in the evening and things got cooking.

Lennon said of the experience, I went to the office and sang it many times. So I said ‘Hell, let’s do it,’ and we booked the studio, and Phil (Spector) came in, and said, ‘How do you want it?’ I said, ‘You know, 1950’s.’ He said, ‘Right,’ and boom, I did it in about three goes or something like that. I went in and he played it back and there it was. The only argument was that I said a bit more bass. That’s all and off we went.”

The band had already been rehearsing the song.  Lennon and Spector got along well.  Spector was working on the leftovers from the Get Back tapes into the album that would become Let It Be.  The true game changer of “Instant Karma” was Lennon releasing music apart from The Beatles and doing it with such lightning speed.  Klaus Voormann told Rolling Stone, “There was a simplicity in the way he did ‘Instant Karma!’ that I don’t think he would have been able to get across with the Beatles. He felt much freer than before. John always wanted to get it out of his system as quick as he could. He felt that sometimes he lost that feeling.”

Paul McCartney called quits on The Beatles just three months later.

John Lennon’s “Instant Karma”

Lennon is definitely talking to his critics in “Instant Karma.”

“You better get yourself together…”

Yoko Ono said in a 1998 interview with Uncut that the song is an invitation to join the idea of peace and unity. “It’s like, ‘Let’s all be together and anybody who’s out there who’s not in this game, why don’t you join us?'”

John Lennon: 9 Memorial Tributes from Around the World

Donielle Fynn is a Michigan native with two kids, two dogs, two cats, a love of yoga, and all things classic rock.

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