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Album: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club BandReleased: 1967
During the filming of the video for "Strawberry Fields Forever
," John Lennon and Apple Records employee Tony Bramwell went into an antique shop close to their hotel. Tony says, "John and I wandered in and John spotted this framed Victorian circus poster and bought it." John stated, "'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 in 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 hogshead 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."
The song's title comes from a standard 19th century phrase used in advertising testimonial performances in Britain: "Being for the benefit of..."
All-round performer William Kite worked alongside Pablo Fanque and wire-walker/clown/trampolines the Hendersons in 1843. John Lennon got the phrase when he saw a poster advertising their show
As he did with many songs he wrote, John Lennon downplayed this one. "I was just going through the motions because we needed a new song for Sgt. Pepper," he said.
This song was credited to Lennon/McCartney, but often assumed to be written almost entirely by John. Paul McCartney claims that he had a hand in writing it, however. "'Mr. Kite' is such a crazy oddball song, and I have great memories of writing it with John," he told Rolling Stone in 2013. McCartney, who played the song on his tour that year, added that if he envisioned the song as a live number, he wouldn't have made the bass line so complicated when he composed it.
This was going to come after the title track on the album, but they decided to use "With A Little Help From My Friends," sung by the fictional Billy Shears, so that the concept of the album would continue.
It was rumored that "Henry The Horse" was heroin. "Horse" is slang for heroin, but Lennon denied that it was a drug reference. The horse is in the poster, but his name is Zanthus. Since the name Zanthus is not very musical, Lennon used the much better sounding name of Henry, making use of alliteration.
George Harrison and Ringo Starr played harmonicas on this song along with Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall. It also featured a steam organ, which was taken from old tapes.
George Martin revealed at a 2008 LA presentation for members of the National Recording Academy of Arts and Sciences one of his recording techniques for this song. The Beatles producer told engineer Geoff Emerick to cut up old tapes of organ music, threw them in the air and onto the floor and then reassembled them at random, running the new sounds concurrent with the song's main organ melody.
Asked during a 2014 Twitter Q&A what his favorite bassline to play is, Paul McCartney replied: "At the moment it's 'Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!' It's challenging!"