Many critics and fans consider the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album to be the greatest recorded album of all time. It was a revolutionary step towards ushering in a new era of recorded music. One of the more eclectic songs on the album is “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”. But did you know that this song has quite the ephemera-driven backstory?

Behind “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”

In between filming promotional Beatles’ films in January of 1967, John Lennon visited an antique shop in England where he purchased a framed poster advertising a circus that took place more than a century before in 1843. The poster itself is an amazing sight. With humorous drawings and unique language, you can see why John Lennon gravitated to this piece of ephemera.

On May 24, 2017, Rolling Stone commented:

“Though Lennon likely wasn’t aware of it, the [poster] featured some of the biggest stars of the Victorian age. Pablo Fanque, born William Darby, earned fame as a talented performer and the first black circus impresario in England, helming one of the country’s most popular shows for three decades. The headlining Mr. Kite was in fact William Kite, depicted on the poster playing a bugle while balancing his head on top of a pole, and Henderson – famous as a gifted tightrope walker, clown and acrobat – often performed an act with his wife, Agnes. It’s pure coincidence that these bygone celebrities, all long forgotten by 1967, wound up on the wall of a modern luminary.” Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ at 50: How an Old Circus Poster Led to ‘… Mr. Kite!’

Creating the Song

Along with a number of other unusual items, the poster made its way on the wall above John Lennon’s piano and became the inspiration for this song. The poster advertised tight-rope walking and other circus-related entertainment. What surprises many is the fact that the lyrics for “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” are taken almost word for word from this exact poster.

With the help of Paul McCartney, Lennon was able to create this song, with only a few minor changes from what was written on the poster. Adding fairground sounds to the music, the Beatles’ pulled off a very nostalgic circus-sounding song, all due to the purchase of this unique piece of ephemera. The poster only cost Lennon 50 cents at the time!

Ephemera and Art

What you can create using ephemera is endless. Perhaps a postcard you’ve collected inspires you to write a song. Maybe other vintage pieces lead you to create an ephemera junk journal. There’s no telling where a simple piece of printed paper will take you. Click these links to find out more about Postcard Collecting or Ephemera Junk Journals.

Comment below what you’re creating with your ephemera!