November 13, 2017

"I don't know. I feel like Yoko's knitting could have been mic'd better."



The quote is the highest-ranked comment at YouTube. Made me laugh.

I'm listening to that song this morning because for some reason that I cannot remember, even though it was just a few minutes ago, I said "You better get yourself together" and Meade responded "Pretty soon you're going to be dead." I prefer the second-verse response: "Join the human race."

There was some discussion of why John wrote that song. Was it anti-Paul? These days such debates are short, because of Wikipedia:
[W]hile in Denmark [in 1970], the Lennons, [Yoko's former husband Tony] Cox and the latter's current partner, Melinde Kendall, discussed the concept of "instant karma", whereby the causality of one's actions is immediate rather than borne out over a lifetime. Author Philip Norman writes of the concept's appeal: "The idea was quintessential Lennon – the age-old Buddhist law of cause and effect turned into something as modern and synthetic as instant coffee and, simultaneously, into a bogey under the stairs that can get you if you don't watch out."

On 27 January 1970, two days after returning to the UK,Lennon woke up with the beginnings of a song inspired by his conversations with Cox and Kendall.... 
Nothing about hating Paul. It does say however that the song — like "All You Need Is Love" and "My Mummy's Dead" — has the chord structure of "Three Blind Mice." Also the Village Voice critic Robert Christgau said "Instant Karma!" is John Lennon's "best political song." I guess "political" is more debatable than "best."

Why in the world are we here/Surely not to live in pain and fear....

The knitting is kind of political, right?

35 comments:

EDH said...

Yoko looks like a blindfolded Iranian hostage. And isn't she actually crocheting?

Ann Althouse said...

From the Wikipedia article on "Three Blind Mice":

"A version of this rhyme, together with music, was published in Deuteromelia or The Seconde part of Musicks melodie (1609)."

Not much about the melody, which is genuinely haunting in the slow stark piano version there.

As for the words:

"Attempts to read historical significance into the words have led to the speculation that this musical round was written earlier and refers to Queen Mary I of England blinding and executing three Protestant bishops, but problematically the Oxford Martyrs, Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer, were burned at the stake, not blinded; although if the rhyme was made by crypto-Catholics, the mice's "blindness" could refer to their Protestantism. However, as can be seen above, the earliest lyrics don't talk about harming the three blind mice, and the first known date of publication is 1609, well after Queen Mary died."

Too dark and too spurious. This is better:

"Before Major League Baseball required four umpires at every game, there were regularly three. The Brooklyn Dodgers had a fan band called the "Sym-Phoney Band", led by Shorty Laurice, which started playing "Three Blind Mice" when the umpires came out onto the field until the league office ordered the team to stop, around the same time a fourth umpire was added."

And of course:

"The Three Stooges used a jazz interpretation of Three Blind Mice as the theme song for most of their comedic short films after 1938."

richlb said...

I know this song carries some baggage with it after being featured in a Nike commercial in 1988 (again, thanks Wikipedia for the year!), but it's maybe his best solo song, better than Imagine in my opinion. It's not as inaccessible as some other Yoko-inspired compositions, it's got a catchy as hell chorus that you can understand the words to, and damn if those drum fills aren't some of the best in all of music.

Side note: Yoko looks like a prisoner of Lennon's in this video, which kind of turns the common feelings of the time on their heads.

Mary Beth said...

And isn't she actually crocheting?

Yes.

Robert Cook said...

I've always loved this song.

khematite said...

Guess a Brit like Philip Norman wouldn't know, but it's not "bogeys under the stairs" that'll get you if you don't watch out. Bogeys are usually spotted in the air, often via puzzled radar observations. It's "Gobble-uns under the stairs" that will get you

Ef you
Don't
Watch
Out!

--at least according to James Whitcomb Riley's 1885 poem, "Little Orphant Annie."

http://www.poetry-archive.com/r/little_orphant_annie.html

Laslo Spatula said...

"...and damn if those drum fills aren't some of the best in all of music."

Much has been written about the sound of the drums in that song.

A fish being slapped on marble is one of the common ones.

Those drums sounded amazing even coming from an old car's AM Radio through the speaker in the dash.

I am Laslo.

Robert Cook said...

The drummer is Alan White, who, a few years later, joined YES, replacing Bill Bruford. I saw him with them at the first concert I ever attended, YES on their CLOSE TO THE EDGE tour. (The Eagles were one of the two opening acts).

chickelit said...

And Yes, Jon Davison sang of Instant Karma as well.

Rick Turley said...

I've always preferred 'The Ballad of John and Yoko.'

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ballad+of+john+and+yoko&&view=detail&mid=7D9CAF4D622A58EBC7CE7D9CAF4D622A58EBC7CE&FORM=VRDGAR

Henry said...

Karma isn't causal.

rightguy2 said...

I think John is singing this song to himself.

Henry said...

It is a sum, not a judgement. Instant Karma is like massless weight.

Feranindianide said...

"The Karma Revero is about as visually striking – and as rare – as anything on the road." -- Cigar Aficionado

Ann Althouse said...

"And isn't she actually crocheting?"

Crocheting was big back then. Lotsa afghans.

Ralph L said...

Moon-faced Yoko's shine is reflected.

Ralph L said...

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, loosen up your tie.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Lotsa afghans."

If only the Taliban had stuck with crocheting.

I am Laslo.

john said...

She was crocheting vests for the band.

Unknown said...

The "Three Blind Mice" citation from Wikipedia bothered me enough to post. (Not enough to argue with the Wiki authors, though!)

I don't have the source material cited there, but I seriously doubt any musician would hear "Three Blind Mice" as having a "chord structure" other than an obvious two-chord approach: I - V - I, I - V - I, the whole way.

"Instant Karma"'s chord progression is the same as the beginning of Bach's "Air on the G String". Lennon's/Beatles' "A Day in the Life" and Procul Harem's "Whiter Shade of Pale" were both released in the summer of 1967 and also use that same descending bass line - the chords are a bass line with added harmony. "Whiter Shade of Pale" has the brilliant organ part which pays homage to Bach. Singing Three Blind Mice to that somber chord progression feels just like any other cheesy attempt to make a children's song "dark" with minor chords (get a gruff-voiced male singer and I bet it's already been on some Netflix show.)

I don't see Three Blind Mice having such an impact on pop music as these authors would seem to have it. Bach makes a more lasting impression, as far as I can tell.

buwaya said...

Madame Defarge is no longer a very useful reference, I have found. You cant expect even English Lit majors from good universities to have read much Dickens. They may have heard of Dickens, true.

Wilbur said...

"No. 9 Dream" is the only post-Beatles Lennon song I ever liked.

Bay Area Guy said...

"...And we all shine on...like the Moon, and the stars and the Sun..."

My hippie parents played that album a lot, it got seared into my mental neurons. Instant Karma did in fact get me. Far out, man.

donald said...

The only decent music he ever did in his whole sorry life was that RocknRoll album which was overwhelming to me and he didn’t write one fucking stupid song.

Unknown said...

"...it's maybe his best solo song, better than Imagine ..."

Anything is better than the miserable "Imagine".

Howard said...

I always interpreted "Instant Karma" as a form of superficial and meaningless jestures one brags about or does in front of an audience to earn brownie points. Examples include the nearly the entire environmentalist movement, giving a buck to a bum, giving out participation trophies, etc. The type locality of Instant Karma is a politician wearing a hair net ladling out gravy at the Salvation Army on Thanksgiving.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Well, I know who Madame Defarge was, but not who the women knitting actually were. You can't see the guillotine from that angle.

Henry said...

Madame Defarge is no longer a very useful reference, I have found.

It's time to revitalize it.

Her knitting codes the names of people to be killed.

surfed said...

"Instant Karma" is a long way from "There's a Place". A lifefime in a seven year span.

madAsHell said...

Isn't that a Kotex wrapped around her head??

Blinded by her femininity!!

madAsHell said...

It IS!!

William said...

Glacial karma is what you have to watch out for. Commit a sexual sin or crime thirty or forty years ago and then, in the fullness of time and karma, you life dissolves. Does karma come with compound interest?

MayBee said...

Missing Irene.

Shane said...

John’s vocal was the only thing live about this performance, I believe. George Harrison played guitar on the recording, which Lennon said he wrote in the morning, recorded in the afternoon and had ready for release that evening. The opening notes were from “Some other Guy” which was the first nationally televised performance by The Beatles at the Cavern. This song had nothing to do with McCartney, other than their inherent competition. It was this recording which got McCartney’s attention and spurred him to write “Maybe I’m Amazed” on his first solo album.