Almost akin to mass produced goods, John Lennon’s “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)” was a recording that progressed at phenomenal speed from its writing to becoming a hit. John Lennon awoke on the morning of January 28, 1970 with an idea of a song and quickly composed “Instant Karma!” Lennon called up Phil Spector who was working on George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” album and encouraged him to help him record this song that very day.
Harrison got Spector to the studio and assembled a band together that included Lennon, Harrison, Klaus Voormann, Alan White, Billy Preston, Yoko Ono, and Mal Evans to record the original tracks of the song. The final version took 10 takes and Spector worked his magic with his legendary “Wall of Sound.” The background vocals were recorded by The Beatles’ manager Allen Klein and some folks Billy Preston met at a London nightclub that he later brought to the studio. True to Lennon’s wishes, a 50s slap back echo was used.
The single was released in the UK on February 6 and Spector, without Lennon’s knowledge, remixed the single for an American release on February 20. The song peaked at #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 on March 7. It was the first million seller solo release by any of the four members of The Beatles. While Lennon posthumously earned two gold records in 1981 with releases on Geffen Records; “Instant Karma!” was his only solo gold record on the Apple imprint.
Lennon was identified as John Ono Lennon on this single and is the only US 45 where he was listed as such. Lennon had recently changed his middle name from “Winston” to “Ono.” There were two primary label versions of the single – one with the Plastic Ono Band listed and the other without.
Typically, due to pressing plant differences, you’ll find multiple variations of printing style and in the label blanks. Some Beatles collectors will try and find all of the variations of a particular recording. As for my own collection, I was happy just to have as many of the Apple releases as possible – including this one. As the single instructs, “Play Loud.”