INSTANT KARMA! (WE ALL SHINE ON). Lennon/Ono with The Plastic Ono Band.

Listen to the brand new 2021 Evolution Mix of 'Instant Karma!' and discover the story behind the song in the words of John Lennon.


An exploration of the recording session of ten takes on multitrack, featuring John Lennon, George Harrison, Klaus Voormann, Billy Preston, Alan White, Phil Spector and Yoko Ono at Studio Three, EMI Studios, 3 Abbey Road, London, on 27 January 1970.


The Evolution Mixes are mini-documentaries that explore the development of each song through their elements, arrangements and the musicians that play on them.

Edited down from all the original 8-track multitracks, quarter-inch live recordings and mixes and a few demo cassettes by Sam Gannon, generally each Evolution Mix runs through each song’s sessions chronologically, starting with the demos and/or early takes and ending with the final mixes; documenting their creative journey from inspiration to finished work, exploring different, sometimes hidden parts of the multitracks and including all the best method, magic, craftsmanship and conversation during the development of the songs.

Throughout the sessions, there is a sense of lightness and joviality that contrasts the heavy and, at times, very intense themes which run through much of the album. These mixes provide a window into that world, putting the listener in the center of the studio with John, Yoko, Phil and the Plastic Ono Band.

PEOPLE FOR PEACE’: John & Yoko hugging, elated, after their performance of 'Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)' on Top Of The Pops.
Studio 8, BBC Television Centre, London, 11 February 1970.


Instant Karma’s gonna get you.
Gonna knock you right on the head.
You better get yourself together.
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead.

What in the world you thinking of?
Laughing in the face of love?
What on Earth you trying to do?
It’s up to you! Yeah, you!

Instant Karma’s gonna get you.
Gonna look you right in the face.
Better get yourself together, darling.
Join the human race.

How in the world you gonna see?
Laughing at fools like me?
Who on Earth d’you think you are?
A superstar?
Well right you are!

Well we all shine on like the moon and the stars and the sun.
Well we all shine on. Everyone, come on!

Instant Karma’s gonna get you.
Gonna knock you off your feet.
Better recognise your brothers.
Everyone you meet.

Why in the world are we here?
Surely not to live in pain and fear?
Why on earth are you there?
When you’re everywhere!
Come and get your share!

Well we all shine on like the moons and the stars and the sun.
Yeah we all shine on, come on and on and on on on.

Yeah yeah alright. Uh huh ahh.

Well we all shine on like the moon and the stars and the sun.
Yeah we all shine on. On and on and on on and on.

Well we all shine on like the moon and the stars and the sun.
Well we all shine on like the moon and the stars and the sun.

Well we all shine on like the moons and the stars and the sun.
Yeah we all shine on like the moon and the stars and the sun.

Well we all shine on

John: I wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch and we’re putting it out for dinner!

George Harrison (acoustic guitar, piano): 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 said to Phil, ‘Why don’t you come to the session?’ There were just four people: John played piano, I played acoustic guitar, Klaus Voormann on bass and Alan White on drums. We recorded the song and brought it out that week; mixed, instantly, by Phil Spector.

Newspaper advert for Instant Karma! (We All Shine On), February 1970.

John: It was great because I wrote it in the morning on the piano; went to the office and sang it; I thought, ‘Hell, let’s do it,’ and we booked the studio. Phil came in and said, ‘How do you want it?’ I said, ‘You know, 1950’s 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.

Listen to the new 2020 Ultimate Mix of


Lennon/Ono with The Plastic Ono Band.

Released on 7″ vinyl for Record Store Day, 28 August 2020.

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Andy Stephens (tape op): John kept trying to pull him to the fore. Spector stood back and didn’t volunteer or dictate much at all. Then Lennon really pulled him out: ‘C’mon, Phil!’ Once he got into his stride, it was like all hell breaking loose. Tape machines, tape loops, tape delays, echo chambers, you name it!

Photographed by roadie Mal Evans, John runs through ‘Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)’ on George Harrison’s Gibson Jumbo J-200 sunburst acoustic guitar.
Studio 3, EMI Recording Studios, 3 Abbey Road, London, 27 January 1970.

Alan White (drums, piano): I had an idea of what I wanted to do – one of those things where you are playing a rhythm, but when it comes to a drum break, you play in a different meter. It came naturally – and John said, ‘Alan, whatever you’re doing, keep doing it. It’s wonderful.’

Klaus Voormann (bass, electric piano): Alan White, now I knew he can play. He played wonderful drums. And we thought the tracks sounded good. We went into the control room, stood at the back and it started and it was so incredible. The sound was just like we had heard in the headphones but with all these incredible effects. Then I knew it, because I heard that sound and I thought, this is the Phil Spector sound. It’s very, very simple. He has got these effects on the pianos and these wavering sounds. The bass and the kick drum were completely clean. The voice was more or less clean So that was typical for Phil Spector. And I love Phil Spector. I loved him then. From then on, it was incredible. Beautiful. I loved it.

Alan White: I also played piano with a few people. Phil Spector wanted to have everything doubled up and made it sound like one. So it was John and myself on one piano and the other piano had Klaus playing, just layering all these different pianos and then he’d never put just one tambourine on a record; he had to have fifteen of them!

John: There were all sorts of strange people on the session. The whole of a London discotheque was singing on it and we used doormen and roadies and everybody to make the backing track and just to get that feel that we’re all in it together.

The Box for the EMI Master multitrack tape recording of 'Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)' from EMI Studio 3, Abbey Road, London, 27th January 1970.

Lennon/Ono with The Plastic Ono Band
Written by: John Lennon

John Lennon: vocals, piano
George Harrison: acoustic guitar, piano
Klaus Voormann: bass guitar, electric piano
Billy Preston: organ
Alan White: drums, piano
Mal Evans: backing vocals, chimes, handclaps
Yoko Ono, Allen Klein and others: backing vocals
Produced by Phil Spector
Engineers: Phil McDonald, Andy Stephens
Recorded: 27 Jan 1970
Studio 3, EMI Recording Studios, 3 Abbey Road, London, UK

Billy Preston (organ): John wanted some people to sing background, so I got in his Rolls Royce with Mal Evans and we went to the clubs and got everybody to ‘come on down!’ We had a great time.

Alan White: These people must have been drinking all night. They came in and I remember there was Klaus, myself and John conducting. I thought this is going to be a total mess, people are going to be out of tune, out of time, and anyhow, we went through one run-through and I went ‘Oh my god!’ We all looked at each other and we couldn’t believe it – they were all singing in time and in tune. We got that done within an hour and we had a huge backing but no-one went back to the club. That, too, was very instant about ‘Instant Karma!’.

Photograph of John & Yoko in bed, part of which was used on the cover of the US single release of ‘Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)’ / ‘Who Has Seen The Wind?’; Tittenhurst Park, Ascot, 27 January 1970

John: Everybody was talking about karma all of a sudden, always going on about it, especially in the Sixties. And it occurred to me that karma is instant as well. The action/reaction is what it’s about. I’m fascinated by commercials and promotion as an art form, so instant karma was like instant coffee, except for presenting it in a new form. It’s like they say about karma: you have to come back and go through that thing again if you don’t get it right in this lifetime. Well, those laws that are ‘cosmically’ talked about apply down to the minutest detail of life.

‘Instant Karma’ is my way of saying it’s right. It’s not just some big cosmic thing, it’s also the small things like your life here and your relationship with the person you want to live and be with; there are laws governing that relationship, too. And you can either give up, halfway up the hill, and say, ‘I don’t want to climb this mountain, it’s too tough, I’m going to go back to the bottom and start again, or stick with it.’

And well, we were lucky enough to go through that, and come back and pick up where we left off, although it took us some kind of energy to get in the same synch again. It took some time.

The UK and US releases of the single ‘Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)’ / ‘Who Has Seen The Wind?’ by Lennon/Ono with the Plastic Ono Band. The single went to No. 3 (USA) and No. 5 (UK).

Yoko: What the so-called leaders don’t understand is when they are saying ‘we should do this’, they are working out their own karma. There might be some need in them to be violent, or something like that, but you can’t really push that on other people; it’s a very sticky area. People should not get ticked off by a trend, or what they read in a book. They should trust their own instincts.

John: There are ones that didn’t follow their instincts and went to Vietnam and got killed, crippled and deformed and only woke up afterwards. They are the responsibility of the people who sent them there – who sent them there under an illusion.

Gandhi and Martin Luther King are great examples of fantastic non-violents who died violently. I can’t ever work that out. We’re pacifists, but I’m not sure. What does it mean when you’re such a pacifist that you get shot? I can never understand that.

Pain is what we’re frightened of. We all seem to think we have a secret. The secret is that we hurt because of lots of things that happened to us.

Klaus Voormann: I think we did two BBC TV Top Of The Pops performances. And there was a guy standing there playing with us, who played a bass, too.

John: B. P. Fallon playing the bass guitar, that’s concept art!

B. P. Fallon: I can’t play bass, but it’s better than whacking a tambourine into John’s left ear and almost putting him off his singing! [laughs]

Alan White: Purely the fact that John & Yoko were doing Top Of The Pops became a big spectacle. It was pretty amazing. Yoko was knitting, which was pretty weird. She had a Kotex blindfold on, for some of it. He loved her way of expressing her art and it seemed to be part of the music at that time.

Video stills from two out of four performances of ‘Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)’ for BBC TV’s Top Of The Pops show, broadcast on the 12 and 19 February.
John & Yoko are joined onstage by Klaus Voormann (bass), Alan White (drums), Mal Evans (tambourine), B. P. Fallon (bass/tambourine) and Richard DiLello (Nikon).
Yoko performs, blindfolded by a sanitary towel. In one take she is knitting and in the other she holds up boards that say ‘BREATHE’, ‘SMILE’, ‘PEACE’, ‘LOVE’ and ‘HOPE’.
Studio 8, BBC Television Centre, London, 11 February 1970.

John: I enjoyed the ‘Instant Karma!’ thing because there were the people right there. And we were talking about the fact that she was knitting. Because we did everything together. I’m doing ‘Instant Karma!’ with a backing tape with live vocals and she’s just sitting there knitting this scarf, and there was some review the next day – ‘How dare she sit there knitting?’ But we wanted to be together, and her contribution to that event, instead of having a smoke bomb, a coloured light or a psychedelic light, Yoko only knitted, you see? And… ‘What are they doing?!’

Yoko during the Top Of The Pops performance, Studio 8, BBC Television Centre, London, 11 February 1970.

Yoko: Knitting is something very interesting. It’s almost like knitting a web of the mind. I was blindfolding myself with a Kotex and knitting something that was going nowhere, while a man symbolizing our future was singing, ‘We all shine on’. Yes, we will shine, but for that, we have to take the blindfold off and stop knitting, when we don’t know what we are knitting. It was my way of showing what we women must free ourselves from. The blindfold means to me everybody in the world is blind and trying their best.

John: The thing is that if ‘Instant Karma!’ is in the charts and Plastic Ono Band is everyone, you’re all in the charts. That’s the feeling we want to get over. So Yoko was knitting, there was some guy pretending to play bass and things like that and anybody can be on the session.

PEOPLE FOR PEACE’: John & Yoko hugging, elated, after their performance. Yoko is still carrying her boards, the top one instructing the audience to ‘BREATHE’.
Studio 8, BBC Television Centre, London, 11 February 1970.

Get Instant Karma! (We All Shine On) and thirty-five more John Lennon tracks on JOHN LENNON. GIMME SOME TRUTH. THE ULTIMATE MIXES – the very best of John Lennon.

Executive Produced by Yoko Ono Lennon and Produced by Sean Ono Lennon, thirty-six much loved John Lennon classics, completely remixed from the original multitracks by Paul Hicks and Sam Gannon using brand new first-generation multitrack transfers, painstakingly restored and sonically upgraded, and then remixed using all the genuine vintage analogue effects at Henson Studios in Los Angeles, and finally mastered in analogue by Alex Wharton at Abbey Road Studios.

The Deluxe Edition includes High Definition 24-96 mixes in stereo, 5.1 and Dolby Atmos. The 4LP Vinyl Box Set includes 4 LPs, all mastered and cut at Abbey Road Studios. Also available: 2LP, 2CD, 1CD, Download and Streaming.


Read more in JOHN & YOKO / PLASTIC ONO BAND – the new 288 page book from Thames and Hudson about the making of John & Yoko’s seminal Plastic Ono Band albums, in the words of John & Yoko and everyone involved.