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Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!

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"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite"
Song by The Beatles
Album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released 1 June 1967
Recorded 17, 20 February, 28, 29, 31 March 1967
Genre Psychedelic Rock
Length 2:37
Label Apple Records
Writer Lennon/McCartney
Producer George Martin
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band track listing
The 1843 poster that inspired Lennon
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 Lennon, 1968

The story that Henry the Horse meant 'heroin' was rubbish.

—John Lennon, 1972

It's all just from that poster. The song is pure, like a painting. A pure watercolor.

—John Lennon, 1980

I remember we walked into an antiques shop in Sevenoaks, Kent, and we were looking at what they had there and John pulled out this thing that we found, which said, 'Being for the benefit of Mr Kite' and it was virtually all the lyrics to the song. I think he (John) was just advanced in his awareness of putting everything in a song.

—George Harrison

'Mr Kite' was a poster that John had in his house in Weybridge. I arrived there for a session one day and he had it up on the wall in his living room. It was all there, the trampoline, the somersets, the hoops, the garters, the horse. It was Pablo Fanque's fair, and it said, 'Being for the benefit of Mr Kite', almost the whole song was written right off this poster. We just sat down and wrote it. We pretty much took it down, word for word and then just made up some other little bits and pieces to glue it together. It was more John’s beacuse it was his poster so he ended up singing it, but it was quite a co-written song. We were both sitting there to write it at his house, just looking at it on the wall in the living room. But that was nice, it wrote itself very easily. Later George Martin put a fairground sound on it.

—Paul McCartney, 1998

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. It's all just from that poster. I wrote that as a pure poetic job. I had to write it because it was time to write and I had to write it quick because otherwise I wouldn't have been on the album. So, I had to knock off a few songs, so I knocked of 'A Day In The Life' and 'Mr Kite.'

—John Lennon

John wanted to hear the sawdust in the ring. That was the brief he gave me, and it gave me a nice problem. 'What you really want,' I told him, 'is a calliope!' He said, 'A what?' I told him, 'A steam organ, you know, one of those tooty things,' and I thought that it might be possible to get hold of a steam organ and actually use that. But, that was a bit of a wild idea and too cumbersome and it would have taken much too long for it to be done. So, with not being able to get a steam organ in the studio, I got as many different recordings of steam organs I could find and we transferred them to tape and I told the engineer, Geoff Emerick, to chop them all up into one-foot lengths and throw them all up in the air and pick them up and put them all back together again. But, it wasn't quite as effective as I thought, because some of the bits came together too well! They had joined up in the way that they had started. So, I told Geoff, 'That's no good, and turn that one back to front.' Eventually, we made a background tape that was just chaos. It was just nothing at all, but, undeniably, it was the sound of a steam organ. It was just a whirly-gig sound. When Henry the Horse takes over, I got John to play the tune on one organ, while I played swirling runs on another Hammond organ, played at half speed. The Beatles' road managers Mal Evans and Neil Aspinal played mouth organs and I played a variety of electronic effects.

—George Martin, 1998

If you listen to the music of the Twenties and Thirties, it has a certain sound to it; it's partly the song that you like, and it's partly the way it was recorded, the tube amplifiers in the boards, how the microphone sounded in those days, all the kind of atmosphere. It becomes like a little period piece, just like a piece of furniture of a given period, it has its own charm. You wouldn't want to hear The Beatles doing 'Mr Kite' on a 48-track machine. It wouldn't have the same charm.

—George Harrison, 1992

People wanted to know what the meaning of 'Mr Kite' was. But there wasn't any. I just shoved a lot of words together and shoved some noise on. I didn't dig that song when I wrote it. I didn't believe in it when we were recording it. But nobody will believe it. They don't want to — they want it to be important.

—John Lennon

Paul would sit down and ask what I planned to do with his songs, every note virtually ... Lots of arrangements to his songs were very much his ideas which I would have to implement. But John would always be much more vague. He would talk in metaphors and I'd have to go inside his brain and find out what he wanted. For this song, he asked for 'authentic fairground sound, so I can smell the sawdust.'

—George Martin


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