In the studio

George Martin was given the task of coming up with a fairground production for ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’

In terms of asking me for particular interpretations, John was the least articulate. He would deal in moods, he would deal in colours, almost, and he would never be specific about what instruments or what line I had. I would do that myself… John was more likely to say, as in the case of ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’, ‘It’s a fairground sequence. I want to be in that circus atmosphere; I want to smell the sawdust when I hear that song.’ So it was up to me to provide that.
George Martin

The first seven takes of the song were recorded on 17 February 1967, the day of the UK release of the ‘Penny Lane’/‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ single. In Abbey Road’s studio two The Beatles taped the rhythm track only – bass, drums and harmonium – with John Lennon’s first vocal being overdubbed onto take seven.

On 20 February George Martin began trying to conjure up the required circus sounds.

I knew we needed a backwash, a general mush of sound, like if you go to a fairground, shut your eyes and listen: rifle shots, hurdy-gurdy noises, people shouting and – way n the distance – just a tremendous chaotic sound. So I got hold of old calliope tapes, playing Stars And Stripes Forever and other Sousa marches, chopped the tapes up into small sections and had Geoff Emerick throw them up in the air, re-assembling them at random.
George Martin
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

Nineteen pieces of tape were used in the overdub, which appears towards the end of the song. Although they hoped for a random effect, it took a while to get right.

Pablo Fanque

I threw the bits up in the air but, amazingly, they came back together in almost the same order. We all expected it to sound different but it was virtually the same as before! So we switched bits around and turned some upside down.

The song was then left until 28 March 1967, when George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall overdubbed harmonica parts, Lennon played an organ, and Paul McCartney added a lead guitar part.

The following day the fairground sound snippets were finally added, and George Martin played an organ part. And on the final day’s recording – 31 March 1967 – another organ and a glockenspiel part, both probably performed by Martin, were overdubbed.

The poster text

Mr Kite poster

Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal
Town-Meadows, Rochdale

Grandest Night of the Season!
And positively the
Being for the
(late of Wells’s Circus) and
the celebrated somerset thrower!
Wire dancer, vaulter, rider, etc.
On TUESDAY Evening, February 14, 1843.

Messrs. Kite & Henderson, in announcing the following Entertainment, assure 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!

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