John Lennon Instant Karma

John Lennon Instant Karma

January 27, 1970

While only a few might say that Instant Karma is John Lennon’s greatest song, many would agree that it’s one of his best solo works.

No matter where one ranks it (if one needs to do that to begin with) most songs do not happen in one day, but with Instant Karma, one day it was. The way John describes it: “I wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch and we’re putting it out for dinner.”

Only the dinner reference is hyperbole. It took ten days to release!

John Lennon Instant Karma

Third single

John Lennon Instant Karma

Instant Karma was the third Lennon single to appear before the official Beatles breakup.

John Lennon Instant Karma

Melinde Kendall

According to the Beatles Bible site, “Its title came from Melinde Kendall, the wife of Yoko Ono’s former husband Tony Cox. She had used the phrase in conversation during Lennon and Ono’s stay with them in Denmark during December 1969 and the following month.”

John Lennon Instant Karma


According to Lennon himself, “It just came to me. Everybody was going on about karma, especially in the Sixties. 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.” [from David Sheff’s All We Are Saying]

Phil Spector

It was January 27, 1970. Phil Spector was visiting George Harrison in London and John called George about the project. George suggested Phil produce. They booked time at the studio that evening.  There were just four people: John on piano, George on acoustic guitar, Klaus Voormann on bass, and Alan White on drums. Very late that night, Billy Preston and some friends helped add vocal backgrounds.

Instant Karma!

The flip side was Yoko Ono’s Who Has Seen the Wind.

John Lennon Instant Karma

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

January 26, 1937 – September 27, 1995

“The flutter of wings, the sounds of the night, the shadow across the moon, as the Nightbird lifts her wings and soars above the earth into another level of comprehension, where we exist only to feel. Come fly with me, Alison Steele, the Nightbird…”

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele
An official autographed portrait of Alison Steele, courtesy of Kimball Brandner
(According to Jimi Hendrix’s manager, Michael Jeffery, the song “Night Bird Flying”, recorded by Hendrix and released posthumously on the album, The Cry Of Love, was inspired by Allison’s late night Manhattan radio program.)
WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele


For those of us in the New York metropolitan area who discovered FM rock music in the 60s, WNEW-FM is the station we think of.  Yes, WOR-FM had preceded ‘NEW with a rock format and later there was WPLJ-FM where John Zacherle and Vin Scelsa initially were. But WNEW-FM really was where rock and our hearts lived.

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

And Alison Steele became one of those voices forever embedded in our hearts.

She began her time at ‘NEW in 1966 as part of  an all female DJ line-up.  That was an interesting legal adjustment WNEW made since FM stations in large markets could no longer simulcast what was being broadcast on the AM side. The experiment lasted 13 months.

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele


WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele
WNEW-FM newsletter from July 1966. The station launched an all female DJ line-up. Alison Steele was one of that group.

WOR-FM, another NYC station, dropped free-form rock in the late fall of 1967 and WNEW-FM hired ex-WOR-FM jocks Rosko (Bill Mercer) and Scott Muni and added Jonathan Schwartz and Dick Summer. Alison Steele remained and became “The Nightbird.”

The wonder and beauty of WNEW-FM’s format was that the DJ’s were far more than disc jockeys. While certainly playing music–vinyl and likely albums–they also spoke to us. They commented on current events. They read poetry. They told stories. They spoke for us.

In 1971, a New York Times article wrote, “In the radio world, Alison Steele is something of a rarity. As WNEW-FM’s self-proclaimed “Nightbird,”  she is the only full-time woman disk jockey in the city and one of the few in the country.”

Valentine’s Day, 1977

She left WNEW in 1979, but her voice continued to be her presence.

Alison died in 1995 of cancer. Our Nightbird had flown >>> NYT obit

References: NY Radio Archive site

WNEW FM DJ Alison Steele

Bob Dylan Talkin New York

Bob Dylan Talkin New York

There is no prep course for our first solo trip to New York City. It can be a pleasurable memory. Often a milestone. Whether we are from a farm, a factory town, or the infamous suburbs, the city’s sights, sounds, and smells congeal and we realize we are someplace like no other.

Bob Dylan Talkin New York

Snowy arrival

On January 24, 1961, University of Minnesota dropout Bob Dylan arrived in a snowy New York City: 178th Street at the eastern end of the George Washington Bridge.

The cold was brutal and every artery of the city was snowpacked, but I’d started out from the Frostbitten North Country,” Dylan wrote in Chronicles. “I didn’t know a single soul in this dark freezing metropolis but that was all about to change — and quick.”

He found his way to Greenwich Village and to a half-filled Cafe Wha?. Hootenanny night.

Dylan asked owner Manny Roth (uncle of David Lee Roth) if he could perform — and Dylan did, playing a short set of Woody Guthrie songs. In the following weeks, Dylan would appear occasionally at the coffee-house, playing harmonica behind Mark Spoelstra and Fred Neil, writer of Dolphins and Everybody’s Talkin’.

By the end of 1961 he would perform his first concert in New York City. And of course by then he had memorialized that first visit like no one had before in Talkin’ New York.

It’s what is known as a talking blues song. Some people used the style because they couldn’t sing; others used it because it had a special impact on the words.

Let’s be kind and say Bob used it mainly for the latter reason.

Happy anniversary, Bob.

Bob Dylan Talkin New York
poster for Dylan’s first NYC concert (from

Bob Dylan Talkin New York

Rambling out of the wild west

Leaving the towns I love the best

Thought I’d seen some ups and down

‘Till I come into New York town

People going down to the ground

Building’s going up to the sky

Wintertime in New York town the wind blowing snow around

Walk around with nowhere to go

Somebody could freeze right to the bone

I froze right to the bone, New York Times said

“It was the coldest winter in seventeen years”

I didn’t feel so cold then

I swung on to my old guitar

Grabbed hold of a subway car

And after a rocking, reeling, rolling ride

I landed up on the downtown side Greenwich Village

I walked down there and ended up

In one of them coffee-houses on the block

Got on the stage to sing and play

Man there said, Come back some other day

You sound like a hillbilly We want folksingers here

Well, I got a harmonica job begun to play

Blowing my lungs out for a dollar a day

I blowed inside out and upside down

The man there said, He loved my sound

He was raving about he loved my sound

Dollar a day’s worth

After weeks and weeks of hanging around

I finally got a job in New York town

In a bigger place, bigger money too

Even joined the Union and paid my dues

Now, a very great man once said T

hat some people rob you with a fountain pen

It don’t take too long to find out

Just what he was talking about

A lot of people don’t have much food on their table

But they got a lot of forks and knives

And they gotta cut something

So one morning when the sun was warm

I rambled out of New York town

Pulled my cap down over my eyes

And headed out for the western skies

So long New York Howdy, East Orange

Bob Dylan Talkin New York