Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!

 

I was listening to the lyrics to Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite on the Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band album.  I was wondering where John Lennon got his inspiration for this song or did he just come up with the song on his own? Also it seems to be set in a carnival/circus is there any real history in the lyrics?  Brittney, Custer, South Dakota.

 

Brittney, here are the lyrics to "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,"

For the benefit of Mr. Kite, There will be a show tonight on trampoline , The Henderson's 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 Henderson's will dance and sing As Mr. Kite flies 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 somersets 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.

 

Writing on the original poster,

 

PABLO FANQUE'S CIRCUS ROYAL
Town-Meadows, Rochdale

Grandest Night of the Season! and positively the LAST NIGHT BUT THREE! being for the BENEFIT OF MR.KITE, (late of Well's Circus) and Mr. J. Henderson, the celebrated somerset-thrower! Wire dancer, vaulter, rider, etc. On TUESDAY Evening, February 14, 1843

Mrs. 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!

 

On January 31, 1967 the Beatles went to Knole Park near Sevenoaks to make the promotional film for Strawberry Fields Forever. There John went into an antique shop close to the hotel were they were using in Sevenoaks.  John and an Apple employee wandered into the shop and spotted the framed Victorian circus poster and bought it.
 

John was inspired by the language and the names of the performers on the poster. He began to compose a song based on the poster.  On February 17, 1967 The Benefit Of Mr. Kite was recorded at EMI Studio Two , and was released on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album on June 1, 1967.


Pablo Fanque, Mr. Kite and the Henderson's were never more than colorful names that inspired John.  Records show that 150 years ago, they were real stars in the circus world. Mr. Kite was William Kite, son of circus proprietor James Kite, and an all-round performer. He is believed to have worked in Pablo Fanque's Circus from 1843 to 1845.
 

The Henderson's were wire-walker, equestrian, tramplinist and clown John Henderson and his wife Agnes, the daughter of circus owner Henry Hengler. The Henderson's traveled all over Europe and Russia during the 1840's and 1850's. The 'somersets' which Mr. Henderson performed on 'solid ground' were somersaults, 'garters' were banners held between two people and a 'trampoline' in those days was a wooden springboard rather than stretched canvas.

 

Pablo Fanque was a multi-talented performer who became the first black circus proprietor in Britain.  He was born William Darby in Norwich in 1796,  He was orphaned at an early age, he apprenticed with William Batty, the owner of a traveling circus. Under Batty's tutelage, he became proficient at horse riding, rope dancing and acrobatics, and soon joined the troupe of Andrew Ducrow, who ran one of the most famous circus troupes of the time.

He rejoined Batty in 1834, and performed at the Royal Amphitheatre, Liverpool. In 1836 he was described as the 'loftiest jumper in England'. In 1841 Fanque left Batty's circus to start his own show with two horses. W.F. Wallet, the famous clown, joined him and they traveled north, opening at Wakefield where Fanque had erected a circus. Over the next six years, "by his own industry and talent, he got together as fine a stud of horses and ponies as any on England". He married Susannah Marlaw, the daughter of a button maker, and started a family.

In 1847 Fanque made his London debut, which was a highly successful engagement. The London Illustrated News reported that "Mr. Pablo Fanque is an artiste of color, and his steed…we have not only never seen surpassed, but never equaled…Mr. Pablo Fanque was the hit of the evening. The steed in question was Beda, the black mare that Fanque had bought from Batty. That the horse attracted so much attention was testament to Fanque's extraordinary horse training skills.

After his success in London, he established his troupe in Manchester, outselling all his competition, which enabled him to remain there with Wallet the clown, always performing to full houses. In 1848, his wife Susannah died in a freak accident when part of the pit collapsed. Several planks hit her on the head and she died instantly. She was buried in Leeds' Woodhouse Cemetery.

Fanque continued to perform throughout the country, with his children, giving open air performances and working with the biggest names in the business, including Young Hernandez (1832-1861) the great American rider, and the clown Henry Brown (1814-1902).


Pablo Fanque died in Stockport in 1871, and was buried in the grave of his first wife. The hearse was preceded by a band, playing the 'Dead March', followed by Pablo's favorite horse, four coaches and his family and friends.

In an age when slavery had not yet been abolished, Fanque appears to have been accepted not only by the circus fraternity, but also by the general public. Thirty years after Fanque's death, the Rev. Thomas Horne, chaplain of the Showman's Guild, wrote:

"In the great brotherhood of the equestrian world there is no color line, for, although Pablo Fanque was of African extraction, he speedily made his way to the top of his profession. The camaraderie of the Ring has but one test, ability". - John Robinson, Sideshow
World

 

Some information and assistance provide by:

A Hard Day's Write by Steve Turner, The Beatles Recording Sessions by Mark Lewisohn, Information on Pablo Fanque by Dr. John M. Turner, Lyrics to "Being for the Benefit to Mr. Kite" from Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band Apple Records 1967.

 

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