The Beatles' music: quotes and info

“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”

John Lennon’s quotes about “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”

JOHN 1968: “‘Mr. Kite’ was a straight lift. I had all the words staring me in the face one day when I was looking for a song. It was from this old poster I’d bought at an antique shop. We’d been down to Surrey or somewhere filming a piece. There was a break, and I went into this shop and bought an old poster advertising a variety show which starred Mr. Kite. It said the Henderson’s would also be there, late of Pablo Fanques Fair. There would be hoops and horses and someone going through a hogs head of real fire. Then there was Henry the Horse. The band would start at ten to six. All at Bishopsgate. Look, there’s the bill– with Mr. Kite topping it. I hardly made up a word, just connecting the lists together. Word for word, really.”

JOHN 1972: “The story that Henry the Horse meant ‘heroin’ was rubbish.”

JOHN 1980: “It’s all just from that poster. The song is pure, like a painting. A pure watercolor.”

About “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”

Lennon with the poster that inspired the song "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"
Lennon with the poster that inspired the song “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” is credited to Lennon–McCartney, but Lennon said he had written it entirely himself. Lyrics on this song were mostly taken from a 19th-century circus poster advertising Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal’s visit to Rochdale. On 31 January 1967, Lennon purchased the poster at a Sevenoaks antiques shop while the Beatles were filming promotional videos for “Strawberry Fields Forever“.

The phrase “Henry the Horse” was slang for heroin, so the BBC banned it from playing from the Sgt. Pepper album. John Lennon denied that the song was about heroin.

According to the song’s lyrics (based on the original poster), the evening’s program was to take place at Bishopsgate in the following order: the band was to begin playing at 5:50 pm on Saturday, while Mr. Kite would fly through the ring. In the meantime, Henderson would perform ten somersaults, then on the trampoline, “over men and horses,” “over hoops and garters,” and finally “through a hogshead of fire.” This act would be followed by the Hendersons dancing and singing. In the end, Henry the Horse would dance the waltz.

Mr. Kite was believed to be William Kite, who worked for Pablo Fanque for a short period between 1843 and 1845. Mr. J. Henderson was likely John Henderson, a wire walker, equestrian, trampoline artist, and clown. According to Lennon’s song, the poster did not mention “Hendersons” plural, but John Henderson did perform with his wife Agnes, the daughter of circus owner Henry Hengler. Over the course of the 1840s and 1850s, the Hendersons performed throughout Europe and Russia.

In his 1997 memoir, McCartney claimed to have also co-written “Mr. Kite” when shown a list of songs Lennon claimed to have written (including “Mr. Kite”). His 2013 interview with Rolling Stone magazine recounted how he spent an afternoon with Lennon writing the song based on the poster.


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