Mr Kite flies through auction ring;
1961 Beatles film goes for a song

by Jozef Sibilski

LONDON; Sept 19, 1996 - Lyrics for the 1967 song "Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite" were sold yesterday for 66,400 pounds ($103,500) at a Sotheby's auction in London.

Handwritten by John Lennon during the creation of the "Sgt. Pepper" album, the lyric sheet features a verse and a half of the song in blue ballpoint, with the title highlighted in black and gold paint, and penciled notes on the reverse.

Lennon wrote the lyrics based upon an early 19th century circus poster that he'd had bought from an antique shop.

Yesterday's auction turned out to be quite a scene as "Mr. Kite" flew to more than twice the predicted price. Bidding had started at 8,000 pounds ($12,400) and two telephone buyers competed against each other furiously. Neither the seller nor the buyer were named. Sotheby's said a portion of the sale would go to an unspecified charity.

It was the highest price ever for Lennon lyrics. The previous record was 45,400 pounds ($70,000) paid in 1993 for the lyrics to his 1967 song "I Am The Walrus." The record for any Beatles song is 161,000 pounds ($250,000) for Paul McCartney's 1967 lyrics to "Getting Better."

Sotheby's had predicted that lyrics for a third Sgt. Pepper song, "With A Little Help from My Friends" would go for as much as 80,000 pounds ($124,000). But the anonymous owner withdrew that item just hours before bidding opened.

That lyric sheet, written in several colors of ballpoint pen and featuring the title "Bad Finger Boogie," reveals that the song's second line originally asked: "...would you throw a tomato at me?" But the line was scratched out, and substituted with the words: "...would you stand up and walk out on me?"

A pair of Lennon's gold-rimmed "granny" glasses from the "white album" period of 1968 also were sold yesterday for 6,325 pounds ($9,800).

One of the most disappointing lots, from the viewpoint of the seller, was a 35-second home movie of the Beatles shot by a man in the audience of a Liverpool club on Valentine's Day, 1961. Sotheby's had predicted a bid of 70,000 pounds ($105,000) for the silent color film, but it went for a mere 15,000 pounds ($22,000).

The film was shot at the Casanova Club on Liverpool's London Road before the Beatles rocketed to fame. It shows the group wearing their black leather clothes and McCartney playing his Hofner violin base.

Until the recent discovery of the film by the son of the man who shot it, the earliest known motion picture of the Beatles was a black and white reel shot at LIverpool's Cavern Club during the second half of 1962.

Yesterday's auction commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Hard Rock Cafe. The sale of more than 70 lots, mostly associated with the Beatles, brought in a total of 279,161 pounds ($432,700). Two items owned by Jimi Hendrix - a guitar strap and an afghan jacket - sold for about 11,000 pounds ($17,000) each.

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