Despite struggling to come up with ideas, John Lennon was producing songs at a rapid clip during this month. Today he unveiled a new tune called — let me make sure I get this right — “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” (John got a little snippy with Geoff Emerick when he left off the “Being” while announcing a take. I’m not sure how strict he was about the exclamation point.)
“Mr. Kite” was inspired by a poster John had purchased at an antique store during a break in filming the “Strawberry Fields Forever” promo clip on January 31. This poster, vintage 1843, was an advertisement for “Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal.” What can the internet tell us about Mr. Fanque?
Pablo Fanque (born William Darby 30 March 1810 in Norwich, England; died 4 May 1871 in Stockport, England) was an English equestrian performer and circus proprietor, the first non-white British circus owner in Britain. His circus was the most popular in Victorian Britain for 30 years, a period that is regarded as the golden age of the circus.
Not exactly a lightweight. Fanque’s Wikipedia page goes on at surprising length, but I don’t have the bandwidth to go down that rabbit hole today. Maybe some other time.
In any case, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” is an oddity in the Lennon songbook. To me it is one of John’s more McCartneyesque numbers; writing a song about acrobats and waltzing horses, complete with calliope-style instrumentation, seems more like a Paul move. But there’s also a bit of a sinister undertone here; says Tim Riley in Tell Me Why,
The song darkens the Sgt. Pepper fantasy of fame – it characters aren’t lovable old show-biz types but freaks and misfits. These performers live outside the real world and do stunts with animals for a living; the song suggests the lunacy of a marginal world rather than a child’s idyll.
Today also saw the UK release of the “Penny Lane”/“Strawberry Fields Forever” single. Although it did very well, because it was a double A-side that technically counted as two separate releases, it failed to unseat Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Release Me” at the top of the charts. Humperdinck (who, did you know, copped his name from the German composer best known for the opera Hansel and Gretel) is to this day known as “The Man Who Stopped the Beatles” — a real feather in his cap.
The Hump, as he is also known, performed two live shows at the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre on 27 and 28 November of last year. I wonder if he did his Beatles medley: