Sunday, February 22, 2009

Instant Karma

This single by the Beatles' John Lennon has an interesting history with several relevant facts about Lennon's solo recording career. The song was recorded on January 27, 1970 and released on February 6, 1970, only ten days after the track was laid down. "Instant Karma" was, almost literally, an instant record. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, it was produced by Phil Spector and issued under the Apple label, with "Who Has Seen the Wind" on the B Side. The A Side had the words "Play Loud" stamped near the spindle hole, while Side B had "Play Soft" stamped in the same place.

Some biographers believe Lennon used Spector as the producer for this track in order to gauge how he worked since the band was considering giving the Let It Be tapes to Spector to remix. Ultimately, Spector's work would not pass muster with the Beatles, especially McCartney, and the band's final response came with the issue of Let It Be Naked over twenty-five years later, with a different mix of the album.

Recorded the very same day it was written, "Instant Karma" featured an impressive group of musicians backing Lennon. Klaus Voorman played bass, Billy Preston piano, Alan White drums, and George Harrison lead guitar. (Harrison was naturally interested in promoting the idea of karma.) Harrison and Yoko Ono provided backing vocals, and former Beatles roadie Mal Evans provided handclaps. Lennon sang lead vocal and played the electric piano, the latter instrument giving the track its now-famous and distinctive opening two chords.

"Instant Karma" is one of Rolling Stone magazine's Top 500 Records of all time. Covers for the song were done by many artists, including Duran Duran, U2, John Hiatt, and The Rascals. The title of Stephen King's The Shining derives from the song's lyric "We all shine on." The song has been featured in many movies, and it also prompted a sketch on the cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000.

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