Chart success

‘Instant Karma!’ was released in the UK on 6 February 1970, as APPLES 1003. It entered the singles charts on 21 February, and peaked at number five. In all it spent nine weeks on the charts.

The b-side to the single was an acoustic ballad, Who Has Seen The Wind? It was written by Yoko Ono, produced by John Lennon, and recorded privately. The label had ‘PLAY QUIET’ printed in large type, in contrast to the a-side’s ‘PLAY LOUD’.

Its US release came two weeks later, on 20 February 1970. It was issued as APPLES 1818. It peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.

‘Instant Karma!’ was the first solo single by a former member of The Beatles to sell more than a million copies in America.

Live performances

On 11 February 1970 Lennon performed ‘Instant Karma!’ on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops. He was the first Beatle to appear on the show since 1966. He sang live while other members of the current Plastic Ono Band – Klaus Voormann, BP Fallon and Mal Evans – mimed. During one of the performances Lennon and Ono wore armbands saying ‘People for peace’.

John Lennon performs Instant Karma! on Top Of The Pops with Plastic Ono Band, 11 February 1970

Four performances were filmed, two of which were selected for broadcast. Ono sat behind Lennon wearing a blindfold in both. In the first she knitted, while during the second she held up a series of cards bearing instructions.

When John Lennon and Yoko Ono did ‘Instant Karma!’, everyone thought Yoko was wearing a napkin over her eyes as a blindfold. It was actually a sanitary towel.
Kate Greer, assistant producer, Top Of The Pops
The Guardian

The appearance was recorded at the BBC’s Television Centre in West London. A camera rehearsal took place from 3.30pm, and the performance, complete with studio audience, was recorded between 7.30 and 10pm.

The first performance was broadcast the following evening from 7.15pm, and the second was shown on 19 February.

‘Instant Karma!’ was performed fully live on just two occasions, at the One To One benefit concerts for handicapped children. The concerts took place in the afternoon and evening of 30 August 1972 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Lennon appeared with Elephant’s Memory, the New York group he had played with on the Some Time In New York City album earlier that year. The version from the afternoon concert was later issued on the 1986 album Live In New York City.

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