Song facts: Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!

Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite! is a song written by John Lennon and appears on The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Lennon has claimed that the song is entirely his, but in a 2003 Rolling Stone interview McCartney said that he co-wrote it with John.

During the second day of filming the Strawberry Fields Forever promo video on January 31st 1967, Lennon purchased a circus poster from an antique store in Surrey.

"The whole song is from a Victorian poster, which I bought in a junk shop. It is so cosmically beautiful. It's a poster for a fair that must have happened in the 1800s. Everything in the song is from that poster, except the horse wasn't called Henry. Now, there were all kinds of stories about Henry the Horse being heroin. I had never seen heroin in that period. No, it's all just from that poster. The song is pure, like a painting, a pure watercolour." - John Lennon
 John Lennon and George Harrison recording Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!, 1967.

John Lennon and George Harrison recording Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!, 1967.

 The poster that inspired Lennon to write Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! 

The poster that inspired Lennon to write Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! 

The poster was from 1843, advertising Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal appearance at Rochdale, which provided Lennon with most of the lyrics for the song.

The name of the horse in the poster is Zanthus, which John changed to Henry. 

Recording

The Beatles began recording Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite! on February 17th 1967 at Abbey Road Studios. Overdubs were added later in February and March.

Lennon told George Martin he wanted to capture the sound and feel of a carnival and in his words, smell the sawdust on the floor. 

Various techniques were used to try and achieve Lennon's vision, including multiple recordings of fairground organs and calliope music spliced together. George Martin also played the Hammon organ and sped the recording up. 

"I knew we needed a backwash, a general mush of sound, like if you go to a fairground, shut your eyes and listen: rifle shots, hurdy-gurdy noises, people shouting and - way n the distance - just a tremendous chaotic sound. So I got hold of old calliope tapes, playing Stars And Stripes Forever and other Sousa marches, chopped the tapes up into small sections and had Geoff Emerick throw them up in the air, re-assembling them at random." - George Martin

Personnel

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

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

  • John Lennon - double-tracked lead vocals and harmony vocals, Hammond organ, tape loops and harmonica
  • Paul McCartney - bass guitar
  • George Harrison - harmonica, backwards lead guitar
  • Ringo Starr - drums, tambourine, shaker and harmonica
  • George Martin - piano, harmonium, Lowrey organ, glockenspiel, tape loops and Hammond organ
  • Mal Evans - bass harmonica
  • Neil Aspinall - harmonica
  • Geoff Emerick - tape loops

Release

Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite! was released on Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on June 1st 1967.

Take one of the song was later issued in 1996 on Anthology 2, with some studio banter between John and studio engineer Geoff Emerick. 

 Sgt Pepper album cover, 1967.

Sgt Pepper album cover, 1967.

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