Friday, November 06, 2009

"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"

"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" is a song from the 1967 Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was composed primarily by John Lennon with input from Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon/McCartney.


Lennon wrote the song taking inspiration from a nineteenth century circus poster for Pablo Fanque's circus which he purchased in an antique shop on 31 January 1967 while filming the promotional video for the song "Strawberry Fields Forever" in Kent. Mr. Kite is believed to be William Kite, who worked for Pablo Fanque from 1843 to 1845.


One of the most musically complex songs on Sgt. Pepper, it was recorded on 17 February 1967 with overdubs on 20 February (organ sound effects), 28 March (harmonica, organ, guitar), 29 March (more organ sound effects), and 31 March. Lennon wanted the track to have a "carnival atmosphere," and told producer George Martin that he wanted "to smell the sawdust on the floor." In the middle eight bars, multiple recordings of fairground organs and calliope music were spliced together to attempt to produce this request; after a great deal of unsuccessful experimentation, George Martin instructed Geoff Emerick to chop the tape into pieces with scissors, throw them up in the air, and re-assemble them at random.

On 17 February, Lennon sings "For the benefit of Mr. Kite" in a joke accent, just before Emerick announces, "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!, this is take 1." Lennon immediately responds, "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" reinforcing his title preference, a phrase lifted intact from the original poster. The exchange is recorded in The Beatles Recording Sessions (slightly misquoted) and audible on track 8 of disc 2 of Anthology 2.

Although Lennon once said of the song that he "wasn't proud of that" and "I was just going through the motions," in 1980 he described it as "pure, like a painting, a pure watercolour."

It was one of three songs from the Sgt. Pepper album that was banned from playing on the BBC, supposedly because the phrase "Henry the Horse" combined two words that were individually known as slang for heroin. Lennon denied that the song had anything to do with heroin.


* John Lennon: double-tracked lead vocals and harmony vocals; Hammond organ and piano; tape loops and harmonica.
* Paul McCartney: acoustic guitar and bass.
* George Harrison: harmonica and tambourine.
* Ringo Starr: drums and harmonica.
* George Martin: harmonium, Lowry organ, glockenspiel and tape loops.
* Mal Evans: harmonica.
* Neil Aspinall: harmonica.
* Geoff Emerick: tape loops.

Covers and influence

* The song is performed by The Bee Gees and George Burns in the 1978 film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
* Serbian new wave band Elektri─Źni Orgazam recorded a version on their 1983 cover album Les Chansones Populaires.
* Scottish comedian Billy Connolly recorded a mostly spoken-word recording of the song for the George Martin compilation In My Life.
* In 2004 Branimir Krstic released a classical guitar version of the song on the first full classical cover album of Sgt. Pepper.
* In the film Across the Universe, Eddie Izzard appears in a cameo and does a cover of the song in a spoken form.
* Avant-garde band The Residents performed a cover of the song at a 40th Anniversary celebration of Sgt. Pepper with the London Sinfonietta.
* Les Fradkin has an instrumental cover in his 2007 release "Pepper Front To Back."
* Swedish metal band Mister Kite take their name from the song title.
* Reggae band Easy Star All-Stars covered the song in the album Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band.

Album: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released: 1 June 1967
Recorded: 17, 20 February, 28, 29, 31 March 1967
Genre: Psychedelic rock, experimental rock
Length: 2:37
Label: Parlophone
Writer: Lennon/McCartney
Producer: George Martin


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