- Published in 1967
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 7 on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“
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!”
“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.
Meaning of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”
The lyrics of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” are adapted from an old circus poster that John Lennon had acquired. The poster advertised a performance by Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal, which took place in February 1843 in Rochdale, England. The song is characterized by its surreal and whimsical lyrics, which describe various circus acts and performers. It creates a vivid and imaginative scene of a circus spectacle.
The meaning of the song is largely open to interpretation. It can be seen as a celebration of the joy and wonderment of a circus performance, capturing the spirit of a bygone era. Additionally, it reflects the Beatles’ experimental and playful approach to songwriting during the period when “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was created. Overall, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” is a piece of musical art that combines historical inspiration with the Beatles’ innovative creativity.
- 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
Ho to play “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” on bass
The bass guitar, played by Paul McCartney, in “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” follows the chord progression of the song and provides a steady rhythmic foundation, helping to anchor the music. The main focus of this song is on the whimsical and circus-like atmosphere created by the lyrics, instrumentation, and production techniques.
The bassline plays an important role in providing a solid musical foundation for the rest of the instruments and vocals and serves its purpose within the context of the song’s overall sound and arrangement.
The following video features the bassline of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” with tabs:
“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” karaoke
For anyone who wants to try singing “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”, the following video features the karaoke version of the song: