One of the most musically complex songs on Sgt. Pepper, it was recorded on 17 February 1967 with overdubs on 20 February (organ sound effects), 28 March (harmonica, organ, guitar), 29 March (more organ sound effects), and 31 March. Lennon wanted the track to have a “carnival atmosphere”, and told producer George Martin that he wanted “to smell the sawdust on the floor.” In the middle eight bars, multiple recordings of fairground organs and calliope music were spliced together to attempt to produce this request; after a great deal of unsuccessful experimentation, Martin instructed recording engineer Geoff Emerick to chop the tape into pieces with scissors, throw them up in the air, and re-assemble them at random.
Lennon wanted the track to have a “carnival atmosphere”, and told producer George Martin that he wanted “to smell the sawdust on the floor.”
On 17 February Lennon sings the words “For the benefit of Mr. Kite!” in a joke accent, just before Emerick announces, “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite! This is take 1.” Lennon immediately responds, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” reinforcing his title preference, a phrase lifted intact from the original Pablo Fanque poster.
The exchange is recorded in The Beatles Recording Sessions (slightly misquoted) and audible on track 8 of disc 2 of Anthology 2. The original recording can also be heard during the loading screen for the song if it is downloaded in the video game The Beatles: Rock Band.
Although Lennon once said of the song that he “wasn’t proud of that” and “I was just going through the motions,” in 1980 he described it as “pure, like a painting, a pure watercolour.”
It was one of three songs from the Sgt. Pepper album that was banned from playing on the BBC, supposedly because the phrase “Henry the Horse” combined two words that were individually known as slang for heroin. Lennon denied that the song had anything to do with heroin.