Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite - The Beatles
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"Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite" - The Beatles (1967)
“Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” was based on an 1843 circus poster detailing Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal at Town Meadows in Rochdale, Lancashire in the UK. It accounced that “Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal would be presenting the ‘grandest night of the season’.”
“The whole song was written right off the poster. We pretty much took it down word for word and then just made up some little bits and pieces to glue it together. It was more John because it was his poster so he ended up singing it, but it was quite a co-written song.”
In the late 60s Lennon told Beatles biographer Hunter Davies:
“I wasn’t proud of that. There was no real work. It was just going through the motions because we needed a new song for Sgt. Pepper at the moment.”
In 1980, he changed his view completely, telling Playboy magazine:
“It was cosmically beautiful. The song is pure, like a painting, a pure watercolor.”
The basic rhythm track of the song was recorded with only a bass, drums and a harmonium - without guitars. The absence of guitars enabled it to achieve the desired effect- to- as Lennon said- enable the listener to “smell the sawdust.”
George Martin 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. The patchwork of segments materialized into the sound of a fairground as the harmonium established a vaguely circus atmosphere to the song straight off.
McCartney’s bass is lively and imaginative. By the second passage- the circus atmosphere had all but disappeared.
Beatle scholar Ken Womack called the song a masterpiece of aural effect that casts the rest of the song into spellbinding question.
“By merging The Beatles’ psychedelic music with the Edwardian circus motif the track takes on a multiplicity of meanings that ultimately serve to disrupt both musical and temporal contexts in the same instant. In the process, a transhistorical work of art was created.”
“Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” highlights the spectacle, but the listener is not the audience of the circus; the listener remains on the outside of the crowd that is beckoned to see “Mr. K” as he prepares to “challenge the world.”
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