Being for "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite"
So just what was John Lennon
talking about anyway? Who were the Hendersons? Where was Bishop's Gate? I know you've wondered this for at least a nanosecond
or two of your life and it's just driving you crazy
, so let me put those concerns to rest.
It was late January in 1967
and The Fab Four
were making a promotional film for Strawberry Fields Forever
in Knole Park
. While in between film
, John and a friend were browsing at an antique shop
near their hotel
. John saw a strange old circus poster
in a frame
, hanging on the wall. He bought it almost on impulse
, curiously drawn to its eccentric
use of words and potential inspiration
. It read something like this:
PABLO FANQUE'S CIRCUS ROYAL
(a couple weird pictures of circus performers appeared here.)
Grandest Night of the Season!
AND POSITIVELY THE
LAST NIGHT BUT THREE!
BEING FOR THE
BENEFIT OF MR.KITE,
(LATE OF WELLS'S CIRCUS) AND
MR. J. HENDERSON,
THE CELEBRATED SOMERSET THROWER!
WIRE DANCER, VAULTER, RIDER, etc.
On TUESDAY Evening, February 14, 1843.
Mssrs. KITE and HENDERSON, in announcing the following Entertainments ensure the Public that this Night's Production will be one of the most splendid ever produced in this Town, having been some days in preparation.
Mr. Kite will, for this night only, introduce the CELEBRATED HORSE, ZANTHUS! Well known to be one of the best Broke Horses IN THE WORLD!!!
Mr. HENDERSON will undertake the arduous Task of
THROWING TWENTY-ONE SOMERSETS,
ON THE SOLID GROUND.
Mr. KITE will appear, for the first time this season, On The Tight Rope, When Two Gentlemen Amateurs of this Town will perform with him.
Mr. HENDERSON will, for the first time in Rochdale,
introduce his extraordinary TRAMPOLINE LEAPS AND SOMERSETS!
Over Men & Horses, through Hoops, over Garters and lastly through a Hogshead of REAL FIRE! In this branch of the profession Mr. H challenges THE WORLD! For particulars see Bills of the day.
From that very poster, he wrote the song. He placed the framed poster on the wall of his music room near the piano. Less than two weeks later, the Beatles recorded the song at EMI
's Studio Two, and it was released on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
album on June 1, 1967. The last known owner of the original poster was John's son Sean Lennon
Lennon never actually researched the poster. He just liked the wording. He didn't know who these people were. He just thought it was neato
. However, there really was a Mister Kite in the 1800s. He was an actual circus performer named William Kite
. He travelled a lot from one circus to another, and it's believed he worked for Pablo Fanque
's Circus for two or three years.
Now Pablo was a real guy in England too. However his real name was William Darby, and old pictures of him don't look hispanic
. He was born in Norwich
. He started calling himself Pablo in his thirties, possibly because back in those days it was easier for the public to accept a Spaniard
as a circus performer and proprietor than a black man, but irregardless, he was living history, being the first black man in all of Great Britain to own and operate his own circus.
The Hendersons were multi-talented circus performers who worked not only with Pablo, but also travelled much of Europe and Russia in their career. Although John Lennon says "The Hendersons will all be there" making them sound like a whole family like the Flying Wallendas
, The Hendersons actually consisted just of clown
John and his wife Agnes. By the way what they called somersets
in those days were actually somersaults
and a trampoline
over a century ago was actually a wooden apparatus we'd probably call a springboard
today. Modern trampolines which are made out of springs and stretched canvas wouldn't be invented until some decades later.
So anyway. Now ya know. You can see an actual copy of the original poster at http://getback.org which is also where I paraphrased
most of this material. =) And below is the final result: the actual lyrics of the song.
For the benefit of Mr. Kite
There will be a show tonight on trampoline
The Hendersons will all be there
Late of Pablo Fanques Fair-what a scene
Over men and horses hoops and garters
Lastly through a hogshead of real fire!
In this way Mr. K. will challenge the world!
The celebrated Mr. K.
Performs his feat on Saturday at Bishopsgate
The Hendersons will dance and sing
As Mr. Kite flys through the ring don't be late
Messrs. K and H. assure the public
Their production will be second to none
And of course Henry The Horse dances the waltz!
The band begins at ten to six
When Mr. K. performs his tricks without a sound
And Mr. H. will demonstrate
Ten summersets he'll undertake on solid ground
Having been some days in preparation
A splendid time is guaranteed for all
And tonight Mr. Kite is topping the bill.