Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite was a track released on the 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was apparently written by Lennon although Paul McCartney later stated that he contributed to the writing also.
The inspiration for the song came from an old circus poster that John Lennon purchased in an antique shop whilst filming the promotional video for Strawberry Fields Forever in Sevenoaks, Kent in January, 1967. Printed in 1843, the poster announced that Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal would be presenting the ‘grandest night of the season’ at Town Meadows in Rochdale, Lancashire. The production was to be ‘for the benefit of Mr. Kite’ and would feature ‘Mr. J Henderson the celebrated Somerset thrower’ who would ‘introduce his extraordinary trampoline leaps and somersets over men and horses…’ Lennon was inspired by the poster and composed a song using the actual wording of the poster. At that time, the poster hung in his music room at Kenwood and Pete Shotton recalls Lennon squinting at the poster whilst he played a tune on the piano. Lennon changed some of the wording to rhyme and suit the song, such as changing the circus to a fair, naming the horse ‘Henry’ instead of Zanthus’ and moving the event to Bishopsgate instead of Rochdale.
At the time of the release of Sgt. Pepper, Lennon admitted to Hunter Davies that he wasn’t particularly proud of Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite “I wasn’t proud of that. There was no real work. I was just going through the motions because we needed a new song for Sgt. Pepper at that moment” but by 1980 he had revised his opinion of the song and told David Sheff in an interview for Playboy magazine “It’s so cosmically beautiful…The song is pure, like a painting, a pure watercolour.”