I think I begged my first grade school teacher to take me to the record store to get this single. Funnily enough I was unaware at the time that John had shaved his head. At the beginning of that year he and Yoko was vacationing in Aalborg, Denmark to be with Yoko’s daughter Kyoko, which was where the young girl was living with Yoko’s second husband Tony Cox and his new wife Melinde.
For reasons unknown, possibly to keep up the profile with their peace campaign, John and Yoko cropped their hair the shortest it’d ever be in John’s adult life. On February 4th, 1970, they swapped their shorn locks for a pair of Muhammed Ali’s boxing shorts, which they said they intended to auction off to raise money for peace. That’s the crew cut you’ll see in their Top of the Pops gig.
John was mostly quiescent as far as live appearances go in 1970. That’s okay, he’d make up for it in 1971. He was continuing the peace campaign he and Yoko had begun at the Amsterdam bed-in the year before. He was also undergoing primal scream therapy with Dr. Janovich. This would inevitably led to the quality and intensity of his masterpiece John Lennon Plastic Ono Band.
“Instant Karma” was recorded in a single night, January 27, 1970, in a single nine-hour session. The producer was Phil Spector, and this led to a long-standing working relationship between him and John and George as well. This would also lead to Spector invitation to remix the Let It Be album.
“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.”
-from Lennon Remembers, Jann S. Wenner
John recruited George Harrison on lead guitar, Billy Preston on electric piano, Alan White driving the thundering drums & Klaus Voorman as bass man. John provided acoustic guitar on the single. The mass chorale and handclaps closing the single was provided by Yoko and the patrons from Hatchetts, a local London nightclub.
On Feb. 11 1970, the Plastic Ono Band taped two versions of “Instant Karma” for an appearance on the BBC program Top of the Pops, for later broadcast on Feb. 12 and 19th, respectively. Technically , this was not a live performance apart from the actual appearance of the band. Actually it wasn’t even the same band.
John sang a new vocal on top of a single-track vocal and instrumentation from the January 27th EMI recording session. The prime difference between the two versions being that in one Yoko would be seen knitting, while in the second she was holding cue cards. John sat in and sang behind piano while Yoko did her things, blindfolded with a sanitary towel, beside it. Neither George nor Preston were present. BBC DJ BP Fallon mimicked sitting in on bass, Mal Evans in a business suit was on tambourine, along with actual bass player Klaus Voorman. The first version with Yoko knitting was broadcast Feb. 11 while the second was transmitted on Feb. 19th, the following week.
For the cue card performance John bangs on the piano in a denim jacket with a “People For Peace” band wrapped on arm while go-go dancers frolic in the background. (By the way, the cards say ‘smile’, ‘peace’, ‘love’ ‘hope’ and ‘breathe’. With reverb over the microphone he delivers a very intense vocal, gritting his teeth for the final verses while Klaus and BP mime on bass.
Available on: It’s hard NOT to find this on home video. The ‘cue card’ version appeared on The John Lennon Video Collection VHS from October 1992. The ‘knitting’ performance shows up most on DVD, first on Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon, a 2003 set accompanying the CD of the same name. Apparently for this collection, they changed the original audio track, replacing the live vocal with the clean studio track. This version was also released on Power to the People: the Hits, the CD/DVD Experience Edition from 2010.
Beatles Bible Instant Karma link:
(This is a short story fragment serving as an introduction to a current art series on my DeviantArt page. It follows on from two previous art projects, requests really, that have come over the past couple of years. Enjoy.)
Bad luck that the Professor came in at the precise moment I was adjusting my skinsuit’s fastenings. “Ah, Lianna, we need to talk about–whooaaa!” He swerved to one side so as not to see his little girl peel her suit off her torso.
He covered his eyes, still looking away, as my crimson bloboid Stavros peeled the legging from my right foot, then proceeded to work on the left one. Amba was on my left to steady me. The guys at the observatory had gotten used to their presence, my two alien lovers. Huh, alien…that’s a funny word. As far as the universe is concerned, we’re the aliens.
I have my own ideas about these two girls. Clearly they’re largely photosynthetic, manufacturing energy from their respective stars. Minerals augmented their nutritional needs, but it’s what they can do with their bodies that fascinates our resident stargazers. They can contain themselves in roughly humanoid forms; Amba especially has a height advantage over me. Still, it’s an approximation, where their faces hold the shape of a human face without any definition–their eyes are like round anime buttons. Back on my ship, they’re apt to slump into a mass of gel and…well, that’s for me to know.
Apparently my nakedness was more than the Professor could stand. Yeah, he bathed me as a child, but the last time he did that was like fifteen years ago. So now he snatched the nearest cot blanket and tossed it over my head. That was no deterrent at all. Stavros had been swept under the enveloping coverlet too, still assisting me in stripping down. “Might I ask the purpose of this?” the Professor inquired as the skinsuit flopped from under the covering onto a nearby seat with a rubbery smack.
“I told you what I saw, Poppa,” I muttered. “Lady Smirnoff is still alive on the microscopic level. She’s a prisoner of Kali, or a form of Kali, I dunno.”
“You’re seriously going to do this, undertake a rescue mission on your own, to a world beyond our comprehension, on behalf of a woman who’s already tried to kill you once, using the same gas she was exposed to herself? Oh dear…” He averted his gaze as Stavros and I flung off the blanket.
“Yeah, that about sums it up,” I said.
“Well that’s crazy! Child, consider what you’re saying. You may have been mistaken in what you saw.”
“How could I have been? That’s a very specific delusion, if that’s what you’re suggesting.”
“The mind plays tricks. You have had some extraordinary experiences. Perhaps–”
“I can’t stop thinking about it, Poppa!”
My butt slapped on the cold bench beside him. Neither of us could look at the other, mostly because of his discomfort at my state of undress. “I can’t stop seeing her, dissolving into Kali’s body. I can’t forget the hate in her voice when she tried to kill me. I didn’t know she felt that way about me. I didn’t–if I hadn’t made her storage tank rupture–”
“She’d have sprayed you with the same dosage of reducing gas she was exposed to, and you’d be lost.”
“Do you hate her so much, Poppa?”
“NO! it’s not–” his hands fidgeted, but then he reached over with the right hand to squeeze mine. “In the past you’ve come back to me with so many injuries because you never took the proper precautions, or you were careless. Lady Smirnoff was jealous of the attention I lavished on you, but what could I do? You were my child…adopted child, since your parents…
“Are you really willing to undertake a mission where no blame is attached to you? She’s not going to stop hating you. God knows, she might be on the brink of madness, after what she’s seen in that hidden world.”
God, he was so sad. Out of some childish habit, I dropped down in front of him and clutched his knees. “Poppa, I can’t unsee what I’ve seen. Whatever she feels about it, I can’t live with myself if I don’t try to help her. And I have listened to you enough that I’m taking some precautions.” I stood up then. “Come on, girls, let’s get started.”
Now that the suit was dispensed with, both my shipmates, my blobs, my lovers began what at first might have seemed like a massage, rubbing their hands over my body with circular strokes. I’m sure the Professor observed, at one of those times his avoidance strategy lapsed, the thin sheen of green and crimson goo they smeared over my epidermis, which was quickly absorbed by my pores. “A biological coating to shield you from contaminants on the microscopic level,” he said. “Very good.”
“I can’t take the skinsuit, it probably won’t shrink as handily as a biological subject–” and I tapped my chest with my fingertips, accidently jiggling my sweaty gigs. Oddly enough he wasn’t looking at me as a sexually active woman. Maybe in his eyes I’d always be that wary seven-year-old girl he picked up off a derelict starship, suspicious of all things except for that skinny balding scientist who became her adoptive father.
He swallowed, then seemed to remember not to stare. “Umm… assuming you find them, what’s the plan? Are you just going to ask the Goddess of Death to give you whatever’s left of her?”
‘That’s the general idea.”
The circular door hissed open like a gushing refrigeration unit, admitting Pederson, our overly tall microbiologist, carrying a tray of samples. “Hey, how’s my favorite geltoid?” he grinned–at Amba. As soon as he bent over the coolant unit to slide in his tray, Amba’s arm reared back, stretching an extra half meter as her ‘hand’ flattened into a roughly paddle shape. A sharp crisp smack rang from Pederson’s ass on impact.
Pederson’s head banged on the coolant unit’s upper frame. He staggered around, slipping on the slick tile floor. But there was no mistaking the sly grins that passed between them. “Ayy, are you two flirting with each other?” I demanded. Pederson shook his head, not very convincingly, while Amba offered only the slightest shrug.
The door gushed again to let Hue in next. “Oh please, the more the merrier,” the Professor grumbled. ‘Well, what do you have to say for yourself?”
The small stipple-haired fellow also avoided staring at me in my birthday suit. “Professor, we have tested the reduction samples. The subjects have all passed. We can replicate the process that reduced Lady Smirnoff safely with Lianna and recover her when needed.”
“Wait, wait, it’s illegal to test an experimental procedure like this on people–or animals, for that matter,” I interjected. “What did you test it on?” I happened to look in the mirror at the precise moment Amba and Stavros both tentatively raised their right hands.
“Girls!” I exclaimed. “What did you think you were doing? You don’t know what that stuff will do to you! Whose idea was this, anyhow?” And again, both ‘geltoids’ pointed at their own chests.
Then the Professor’s hand rested on my shoulder. “Child, they volunteered. Nobody coerced them. The young ladies volunteered a small quantity, barely a teaspoon from their core bodies. The formula Lady Smirnoff left on her database was applicable on both test subjects. Believe me, nobody in the observatory would dream of harming your best friends.”
“Even if some of you are bent on hitting on them,” I said, glaring at Pederson as he ogled Amba.
“Misses,” Hue continued, “we’ve prepared the nanobots, as you instructed. They have already been miniaturized and will be waiting in the lab when you’re ready. Forse will be here momentarily.”
Sooner than expected, as the door admitted yet another specialist, this time our resident optometrist. “Hey Four Eyes, whatcha got for me?” I grinned.
“Nothing if you insist on that peculiar frame,” Forse replied, but still with a twinkle in his baggy eyes. He opened a compact, keeping his stare on the two round half-orbs resting inside instead of my boobs. “These contact lenses will serve the same as compound eyes. Each has thousands of optical facets that will adjust to the focal points of your eyes, enabling something resembling normal vision.”
“Thanks, doc.” That’d be one advantage I’d have over what happened to Lady Smirnoff. At microscopic levels the light spectrum is pretty much irrelevant. God knows what I’ll find but at least I might be able to make some visual sense of it. It only took moments to pop the contacts in each eye, but then, I was facing a thousand semicircular images, all the same and yet peeling off from another angle, and another–
“Focus,” Forse chided. “Concentrate on one image, one form. The professor–seek him.”
Well I could see him, thousands of him, some facing me, more at half-profile the further out each image zoomed. But maybe, if I chose the one in the middle, and focused–Yesss! All those hundreds of warped eye-fields seemed to blur towards the center, dimming wetly before coming into crystal clear sharpness–probably the sharpest I’d ever seen my old man as he smiled.
From there it was but a short march to the lab. I entered alone. On the platform lay an open valise. Sensing my presence, there now rose half a dozen drones, barely visible to the naked eye. That’d change soon enough as the gas took effect. The nanobots I carried inside my own body had already received their peculiar instructions for whatever dangers we expected to encounter. Kali alone knew if that’d be enough.
Sucking in a last few deep breaths, I called, “All right, boys, let ‘er rip!”
My DeviantArt gallery: https://www.deviantart.com/mike3839/gallery/
FATHERS & DAUGHTERS is still available on Amazon.com as a Kindle & paperback form.
Secrecy and speechifying, collegiality and hierarchy, exceptionalism and opulence on the Supreme Court.