"Instant Karma!" is John Lennon's third solo single on Apple Records. The song is one of three Lennon solo songs, along with "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance", in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It ranks as one of the fastest-released songs in pop music history, recorded (at London's Abbey Road Studios) the same day it was written, and coming out only ten days later. Lennon remarked to the press, he "wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch, and we're putting it out for dinner." The song's two-note piano introduction is reminiscent of that of the Richie Barrett song "Some Other Guy", which John used to sing in the early days of the Beatles at the Cavern Club. The record was produced by Phil Spector, the first of many solo recordings by the Beatles that Spector worked on through 1970; Lennon may have been trying out Spector for work on the then-dormant Let It Be/Get Back project, which Spector would controversially rework for release that May.
The track features a version of the ever-changing Plastic Ono Band: Lennon on lead vocals, acoustic guitar and electric piano, Billy Preston on grand piano, Klaus Voorman on bass guitar and backing vocals, Alan White on drums, George Harrison on electric guitar and backing vocals, Yoko Ono on backing vocals, Beatles assistant Mal Evans on chimes and handclaps, Beatles then-manager Allen Klein and a dozen or so late-night pub revellers from Hatchetts Pub on overdubbed backing vocals. It was released on February 6, 1970. Backed by Ono's "Who Has Seen the Wind?" (which Lennon produced), it peaked at number three on the U.S. charts and number five on the U.K. charts. The pair appeared on Top of the Pops to perform the song live.
Harrison would later remark that he was enticed and interested by Lennon's idea of an instant single release, and this partially contributed to Harrison's willingness to participate. Harrison felt that it related in some way to his devotion to the Hindu religion (karma) and he therefore felt Lennon could use the single to promote it.
The single was released with a standard green and black Apple label (UK number: APPLES 1003; US number: 1818), with the words "Play Loud" printed above and beneath the spindle. (The label of the Yoko B-side carried the words "Play Soft".)