Sunday, 24 January 2021

THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG: ‘INSTANT KARMA’

‘Instant Karma’ was written and recorded in one day, January 27th, 1970, and released just 10 days later, with John once boasting that he “wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch and we’re putting it out for dinner.”
 

 


 
‘Instant Karma’ was one of the most hastily put together songs John ever wrote. The singer and songwriter’s choice to put out the track so quickly would have some huge implications for the rest of The Beatles and quickly put John out into the public as a solo artist before the confirmation of the band’s split had been announced.

Though the general public had not yet had the devastating news of the Fab Four’s official split, John, Paul, George, and Ringo had been pulling in different directions for some time. As well as their creative calls pulling them down different paths, the group were also locked in a series of bitter battles about their solo releases. It would mean when John finally released ‘Instant Karma!’, he signalled the end of The Beatles and the beginning of John Lennon, the solo artist.

‘Instant Karma!,’ was released with the Plastic Ono Band in the U.K. on February 6th, 1970, and it quickly shot to number five on the charts. Two weeks later it was issued in the U.S., and it again reached some high heights taking the number three spot. It was a top 10 smash in several other countries, including Canada where it climbed to the second position. It remains one of John’s most successful releases.

It was a mark of things to come for John as he took his conceptual songs to the masses. ‘Instant Karma!’ was born out of a conversation between Lennon, his wife Yoko Ono and her former husband Tony Cox and his wife Melinde Kendall, where the quartet discussed the idea of ‘ultimate fates’ and the idea that they happen in this lifetime rather than the next — it’s the kind of conversation that only Lennon and Ono would have over dinner. It inspired Lennon to steam into the studio and complete this high-concept thought and turn it into a song, the unification of mankind to fight against the evil in the world needed an anthem.
 

“Everybody was going on about karma, especially in the ’60s,” Lennon revealed to David Sheff, “but it occurred to me that karma is instant, as well as it influences your past life or your future life. There really is a reaction to what you do now. That’s what people ought to be concerned about. Also, I’m fascinated by commercials and promotion as an art form. I enjoy them. So, the idea of instant karma was like the idea of instant coffee: presenting something in a new form. I just liked it.”

Though The Beatles were most certainly on the way out, John still turned to George Harrison, to help put the song together after Lennon finished the track in less than an hour. George called Phil Spector to get things to tape as quickly and professionally as possible.

“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,'” George Harrison later remembered. “So I was in. I said, ‘Okay, I’ll see you in town.’ I was in town with Phil Spector and I said to Phil, ‘Why don’t you come to the session?’ There were just four people: John played piano, I played acoustic guitar, there was Klaus Voormann on bass and Alan White on drums. We recorded the song and brought it out that week, mixed—instantly—by Phil Spector.”
 
Alan White was a member of Lennon’s band at his solo concert debut with the Plastic Ono Band in Toronto, and being apart of this recording (as everything did), the wheels were moving quickly indeed. “I was just waking up in the morning when I got a call from [longtime Beatles assistant] Mal Evans,” White remembered in 2014. “He said John had just written this song and he wanted to record it today and release it next week.”

As per Phil Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’ style, though the song was recorded in a day, the massive amount of overdubs were concluding over the following week and pushed back the release date. Three pianos (two acoustic, one electric) were added, with Lennon, Harrison, White, and Voormann all being a particular brick in this wall of sound. A rag-tag group of people from a nearby nightclub was even invited to provide the singalong backing vocals, Harrison leading the sozzled choir which also included manager Allen Klein. 
 
“We all met at Abbey Road, and I had an idea of what I wanted to do,” White said. “It was kind of 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.’ There were only a few of us in there. He and I played piano overdubs afterwards. Phil Spector liked to take multiple sounds and make them sound like one. He’d never put one tambourine on a record; he had to have 15 of them.”

“Suddenly we went in the room and heard what he’d done to it,” Lennon later remembered. “It was fantastic. It sounded like there was 50 people playing.” It would see the track resonate loudly with music fans across the globe. ‘Instant karma!’ would be the third single from Lennon under the Plastic Ono Band banner.

Friday, 22 January 2021

HOW THE "MEET THE BEATLES" ALBUM ARRIVED IN USA

It may have taken Capitol Records a year to decide to distribute the Beatles in America, but when it did, the label quickly flooded the market with music. The first entry, Meet the Beatles!, reached shelves on Jan. 20, 1964.
 

 


Even though it bore the subtitle "The first album by England's Phenomenal Pop Combo," Meet the Beatles! wasn't the first Beatles album to be released in the U.S. That honor goes to Introducing the Beatles, which came out on the Vee-Jay label 10 days before Capitol's record.

Starting in early 1963, the Beatles' U.K. record company, Parlophone/EMI, had been trying to sell Capitol in the U.S. on the group, but with no luck. Instead, the company made a deal with Vee-Jay, a Chicago-based label that specialized in R&B, to put out a slightly modified version of "Please Please Me" that summer.

Vee-Jay was forced to shelve the record on the eve of its release due to financial problems. But toward the end of 1963, Capitol finally relented and made a big marketing push behind "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Vee-Jay noticed the song's success and rushed 'Introducing' into stores, beating Capitol to the punch by a week and a half.
 


Capitol fashioned Meet the Beatles! by taking nine songs from the band's most recent album in the U.K., With the Beatles, and adding the hit single 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' and both its U.S. ("I Saw Her Standing There") and U.K. ("This Boy") B-sides. Even Robert Freeman's famous photograph of the four members was toyed with, given a blue tint to add some color to the strikingly arty black-and-white shadowed shot found on the original cover.

This created a precedent for Capitol of creating Beatles albums out of the band's leftover tracks and most recent singles. The group was never happy with Capitol's actions, so, beginning with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, their releases became the same on both sides of the Atlantic.

Meet the Beatles! was mostly lost to history when the band decided to put out only the U.K. albums on CD in 1987, but the record still has plenty of fans.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

THE BEATLES AND THE LIVE PERFORMANCES IN 1966

The rooftop gig was the first live public performance by the world's biggest band in three years. The Beatles decided to move away from live shows in 1966, following a long and strenuous cycle of world tours that began during the advent of Beatlemania in 1963.
 

 


In July, the Fab Four were touring Asia when they were perceived to have snubbed the first family of the Philippines, leading to an outpouring of anger that saw the public, including people who had been fans up until that point, turn on the band. Under threat from militant nationalists, The Beatles were forced to give up their tour earnings in exchange for being allowed to leave the country. This incident was then followed by a tour of the United States, during which John Lennon drew the wrath of American Christians by declaring the band "bigger than Jesus," attracting death threats and prompting the burning of Beatles records in southern states.
 

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Exhausted, the band finally agreed to quit life on the road. But the end of touring was never envisaged to be a permanent move for the group, and the Get Back project, spearheaded by Paul McCartney, seemed like the perfect opportunity to reintroduce the group to the fine art of live performance.
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