Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!

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"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"
Song by the Beatles from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released1 June 1967
Recorded17 and 20 February and 28, 29, 31 March 1967
GenrePsychedelic rock, circus music, experimental rock, waltz
Length2:37
LabelParlophone
WriterLennon–McCartney
ProducerGeorge Martin
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band track listing
Music sample
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"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"
Song by the Beatles from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released1 June 1967
Recorded17 and 20 February and 28, 29, 31 March 1967
GenrePsychedelic rock, circus music, experimental rock, waltz
Length2:37
LabelParlophone
WriterLennon–McCartney
ProducerGeorge Martin
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band track listing
Music sample
Sorry, your browser either has JavaScript disabled or does not have any supported player.
You can download the clip or download a player to play the clip in your browser.

"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" is a song from the 1967 album by the Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was primarily written and composed by John Lennon,[1] although Paul McCartney has recently stated that he also contributed to it.[2] The song is credited to Lennon–McCartney.

Inspiration[edit]

A reproduction of the Pablo Fanque Circus Royal poster from 1843 upon which the song is based.

The inspiration to write the song was a 19th-century circus poster for Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal, Rochdale, that Lennon purchased in an antique shop on 31 January 1967, while filming the promotional videos for "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" in Sevenoaks, Kent.[3] Lennon claimed years later to still have the poster in his home.[4] "Everything from the song is from that poster," he explained, "except the horse wasn't called Henry."[5] (The poster identifies the horse as "Zanthus.")

The song is credited to Lennon–McCartney, but Lennon claimed to have written it entirely himself.[4] McCartney disagrees and in a 2013 Rolling Stone interview states: "I read, occasionally, people say, 'Oh, John wrote that one.' I say, 'Wait a minute, what was that afternoon I spent with him, then, looking at this poster?' He happened to have a poster in his living room at home. I was out at his house, and we just got this idea, because the poster said 'Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite' – and then we put in, you know, 'there will be a show tonight,' and then it was like, 'of course,'...The song just wrote itself. So, yeah, I was happy to kind of reclaim it as partially mine.'"[2]

Mr. Kite is believed to be William Kite, who worked for Pablo Fanque from 1843 to 1845.

Pablo Fanque, the Victorian circus owner, who employed William Kite from 1843 to 1845.

The full text of the original Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal poster is:

PABLO FANQUE'S CIRCUS ROYAL,
TOWN-MEADOWS, ROCHDALE.
Grandest Night of the Season!
AND POSITIVELY THE
LAST NIGHT BUT THREE!
BEING FOR THE
BENEFIT OF MR. KITE,
(LATE OF WELLS'S CIRCUS) AND
MR. J. HENDERSON,
THE CELEBRATED SOMERSET THROWER!
WIRE DANCER, VAULTER, RIDER, &c.
On TUESDAY Evening, February 14, 1843.
Mssrs. KITE and HENDERSON, in announcing the following Entertainments, assure the Public that this Night's Production will be one of the most splendid ever produced in this town, having been some days in preparation.
Mr. KITE will, for this night only, introduce the
CELEBRATED
HORSE, ZANTHUS!
Well known to be one of the
best Broke Horses
IN THE WORLD!!!
Mr. HENDERSON will undertake the arduous Task of
THROWING TWENTY-ONE SOMERSETS,
ON THE SOLID GROUND.
Mr. KITE will appear, for the first time this season,
On the Tight Rope,
When Two Gentlemen Amateurs of this Town will
perform with him.
Mr. HENDERSON will, for the first time in Rochdale,
introduce his extraordinary
TRAMPOLINE LEAPS
AND
SOMERSETS!
Over Men & Horses, through Hoops, over Garters,
and lastly through a
Hogshead of REAL FIRE!
In this branch of the profession Mr. H challenges
THE WORLD!
For particulars see Bills of the day.
JONES & CROSSKILL, PRINTERS AND BOOKSELLERS, YORKSHIRE STREET, ROCHDALE.

"Mr. J. Henderson" was John Henderson, a wire-walker, equestrian, trampoline artist, and clown. While the poster made no mention of "Hendersons" plural, as Lennon sings, John Henderson did perform with his wife Agnes, the daughter of circus owner Henry Hengler. The Hendersons performed throughout Europe and Russia during the 1840s and 1850s.[6] A hogshead is a large wooden cask.

Recording[edit]

One of the most musically complex songs on Sgt. Pepper, it was recorded by the Beatles on 17 February 1967 with overdubs on 20 February (organ sound effects), 28 March (harmonica, organ, guitar), 29 March (more organ sound effects), and 31 March.[7] Lennon wanted the track to have a "carnival atmosphere", and told producer George Martin that he wanted "to smell the sawdust on the floor." In the middle eight bars, multiple recordings of fairground organs and calliope music were spliced together to attempt to produce this request. In a 1968 interview, Martin recalled that he achieved "this by playing the Hammond organ myself and speeding it up."[8] After a great deal of unsuccessful experimentation, Martin instructed recording engineer Geoff Emerick to chop the tape into pieces with scissors, throw them up in the air, and re-assemble them at random.[9]

Before the start of the first take, Lennon sings the words "For the benefit of Mr. Kite!" in a joke accent, then Emerick announces, "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite! This is take 1." Lennon immediately responds, "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!", reinforcing his title preference from a phrase lifted intact from the original Pablo Fanque poster. The exchange is recorded in The Beatles Recording Sessions (slightly misquoted)[3] and audible on track 8 of disc 2 of Anthology 2. The original recording can also be heard during the loading screen for the song if it is downloaded in the video game The Beatles: Rock Band.

Although Lennon once said of the song that he "wasn't proud of that" and "I was just going through the motions,"[10] in 1980 he described it as "pure, like a painting, a pure watercolour."[5]

It was one of three songs from the Sgt. Pepper album that was banned from playing on the BBC, supposedly because the phrase "Henry the Horse" combined two words that were individually known as slang for heroin. Lennon denied that the song had anything to do with heroin.[4][5]

Personnel[edit]

Covers and influence[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Miles 1997, pp. 318.
  2. ^ a b Vozick-Levinson, Simon (25 July 2013). "Q&A: Paul McCartney Looks Back on His Latest Magical Mystery Tour". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, pp. 98.
  4. ^ a b c "Lennon–McCartney Songalog: Who Wrote What" (PDF). The Hit Parader Interview Magazine (Hit Parader). Winter 1977 [reprint of April 1972] (101): 38–41. Retrieved 27 February 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Sheff 2000, p. 183.
  6. ^ "The Hendersons Were Not There (and neither was Mr Kite)- Sheffield 1848". Chrishobbs.com. 28 March 1914. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Lewisohn 1988, pp. 98, 99, 105–106.
  8. ^ a b Gilliland 1969, show 45, track 3, 6:22.
  9. ^ Lewisohn 1988, pp. 99.
  10. ^ The Beatles 2000, pp. 243.

References[edit]

External links[edit]