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The Beatles, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” from ‘Sgt. Pepper’ (1967): Deep Beatles

The Beatles, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” from ‘Sgt. Pepper’ (1967): Deep Beatles

The Beatles, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” from ‘Sgt. Pepper’ (1967): Deep Beatles
June 28
08:06 2017

A vintage poster and some cut-up tapes: these two elements play key roles in “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!,” the mostly John Lennon-penned Beatles track that ends side one of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. A demented circus dryly narrated by Lennon, it reveals the chaos and dark side of a carnivalesque world. Thanks to the other Beatles, producer George Martin, and engineer Geoff Emerick, “Mr. Kite” stands as one of the most sonically dense songs on the album.Lennon was inspired to write the song by an antique poster he purchased while the Beatles filmed the “Strawberry Fields Forever” promotional video. During a break, he wandered into a shop and found a Victorian circus poster from 1843. It advertised Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal, which was performing for the “benefit of Mr. Kite” and would feature acts such as “Mr. J. Henderson the Celebrated Somerset Thrower” and Zanthus the Horse. As Lennon began work on his contributions to Sgt. Pepper, he returned to the poster for song ideas. “I wrote that as a pure poetic job, to write a song sitting there. I had to write because it was time to write,” Lennon told Jann Wenner in his infamous 1970 Rolling Stone interview. “And I had to write it quick because otherwise I wouldn’t have been on the album.”Looking at the poster, it is evident how many phrases Lennon recycled for the lyrics. For example, the advertisement lists Mr. Henderson’s “Trampoline Leaps and Somersets,” proclaiming that “Over Men and Horses, through Hoops, over Garters, and lastly through a Hogshead of REAL FIRE” that “Mr. H. challenges THE WORLD!” Lennon did change some details, however: he renamed the horse “Henry”; he changed the location of the circus from Rochdale to Bishopsgate; and he altered the line to Mr. K. challenging the world rather than Mr. H. Other than these and other minor details, Lennon retained much of the poster’s original text.In a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone, Paul McCartney stated he assisted with the lyrics. “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,’ then it had ‘Henry the Horse dances the waltz,’” he said. “The song just wrote itself. So, yeah, I was happy to kind of reclaim it as partially mine.” McCartney added the song to the setlist during his 2013 tour.

Source: The Beatles, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” from ‘Sgt. Pepper’ (1967): Deep Beatles

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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