1964 The Tribute (Mark Benson)
'Psst ... Do You Want To Know A Secret - 1964 The Tribute’
1964 THE TRIBUTE has been greeted by cheering audiences and sold out crowds wherever they have appeared world wide, headlining over 120 shows around the globe each year. Fans from eight to 80 have been enthralled by the band's accurate re-creation of a Beatles concert performed live, with exact detailed reproduction of the songs, voices, instruments, suits, haircuts and even the iconic "Beatle Boots" made famous by the Fab Four.
Accolades from press and celebrities alike have been enthusiastic. Beloved music historian and TV host Dick Clark said "1964 creates the magic of The Beatles."
In the past, 1964 THE TRIBUTE has performed at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver, CO nine times to sellout crowds of 10,000. Their 11 appearances at New York City's Carnegie Hall - site of The Beatles' first concert in New York in 1963 - have seen all seats in the venue filled to the brim, with the audience dancing in the aisles, singing along as grandparents introduce their grandchildren to every well known song, and parents recall their own teenage fandom.
1964 THE TRIBUTE is Mark Benson as John, Graham Alexander as Paul, Tom Work as George and Bobby Potter as Ringo. Each musician is an expert at playing his own instrument, singing and performing completely in character as the Beatle he represents. The show is true to an actual early Beatles concert with wardrobe and set list accurate to the time period.
1964 THE TRIBUTE has appeared on TV programs such as Fox News, CBS Early Show, Imus In The Morning and PM Magazine. Countries in which they have performed include England, Chile, Austria, Germany, the Cayman Islands, Mexico and Canada as well as all over the U.S., in concert halls as well as stadiums and arenas including Shea Stadium in NY and Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
Exclusive Magazine recently sat down with Mark Benson and discussed all manner of things Beatles ... and yes, Penguins too!
In 1984 both you and the late Gary Grimes started '1964' - and so now, some 28 years later, what has kept you so inspired to want to keep this show as part of your life? "I guess because we didn't really plan this to be full time, it's just a really nice unexpected success. Of course, watching the 'toddlers thru grandparents' audience sing and have fun is a nice incentive as well. This music still tends tends to unite people."
And I say show, as '1964' comes across to me as just that - a stage show, much like something you might see Off Broadway. Has such a thing been considered ie: taking it Off Broadway? "There have been On and Off Broadway shows about The Beatles and there are several Beatles shows in Vegas as I write. All doing well."
Rolling Stone Magazine has gone on record as saying that '1964 The Tribute' is "the best Beatles tribute band on Earth"! So, how does such a statement sit with you and after all these years, are there nights it can be hard to live up to? "It's quite a nice quote, isn't it? It makes all the nit-picking and hard work seem worth it. Any given night can be a challenge, especially if there is an illness. Generally speaking though, if you have a pulse, you have to play."
Indeed, you currently produce all aspects of the show, including producing the '1964' CDs. Is there anything you don't do for that show that you still think you could?! "No. I'm happy to have the right people look after the numbers and marketing and booking. I still love tweaking the sounds, dialogue and pacing of the show."
Is it true that the '1964' band members rotate in and out, but you always remain as "John"? If so, what makes them come and go, none really remaining as so-called core? "It's not really a rotation. I've never believed in holding someone back if they want to pursue other options. Some have had opportunities to tour with national acts and others wanted to finish school, etc."
"I'm happy to say we have a good working relationship with all the past and present 1964 members and that gives us flexibility to substitute so the guys can participate in family events or vacations and things."
And with that regard, how much of the stage jokes and speeches are ad-libbed on the night? Especially the too-and-fro between you and "George" each night? Does he really forget a lot of that stuff like he acts he does?! "There's a guideline to the chatter, but there's no hard fast rule that it has to be the same. We love giving the audience a giggle. He doesn't forget. He's right on the money!"
Now, being British and of a certain age, I attended your recent live show and wanted to be blown away - which I was! That said, and knowing ahead of time that you've said "none of us is really an actor," the only thing that removed me from the incredible show was the attempted Merseyside accents you guys put on. With the musicianship SO high, how do you approach the vocal impersonations? "Just studying their interviews and live on-stage comments. Some people take to it naturally and others don't. We try to blend how they talked and what they said( which is decidedly different than what americans would say) on stage with a certain amount of humor and cockiness that they had in their live shows. It needs constant attention. Very easy to drift off the mark."
Taking a few visual notes from the show, I love the fact that you all pay homage to the guys you are impersonating ie: "Paul" sings with a little look up to his left, and points to the crowd after each comment to them; "George" has that cuban heel shuffle down pat; "Ringo" has the sparodic head flick to the left whenever he sings; and you, as "John" hold that guitar up high perfectly, and even come across in the same dead-pan commical manner as John also did. Kudos, to you all, my friend. Were these all learnt from endless hours in front of the TV and watching DVDs?! "Indeed they were, but we're very fortunate to have guys playing these characters that have similar personality traits. So, it's easier for them to get the persona of the player down because it's not that much of a stretch."
Is there anything about your impersonation of "John" that you wish you could perfect more, perhaps? "Everything, of course! Nobody sounds or moves like John. It's a constant effort."
In truth, is there anything about the show you would love to add all these years later, but due to keeping it authentic have never dared to? "There are all sorts of ideas to try, but the show isn't broken and doesn't need fixed. We love working with an orchestra and plan to expand on that a bit, but other than that, all other ideas are for another show."
And as for the incredible set list each night, at what juncture, what song do you get to and really look forward to singing? "'In My Life', no question. We get the audience to get their phones out and call someone they love and we all sing it together sending it out to all their friends and loved ones. A definite highlight for me."
Your website claims that '1964 The Tribute' can be booked for private functions - so, ball park, how much from my wallet would I have to lay down to get you guys to play, let's say, a wedding? "Call our Mgr. on the website. He can sort that out with you ... :)"
Fair enough ... OK, time to Fess Up! Have you ever ...
a) ... sung karaoke as "John" in public? - "No, I only sing female artist songs at Karaoke!"
b) ... played any of the other band member roles live on stage, due to one reason or another that night? - "Not intentionally. There have been nights that I felt like I was doing a better Joe Cocker than John Lennon, but we still got paid!"
c) ... lost the whole who-is-John impersonation live on stage? - "Only once, when someone I owed money to showed up!"
d) ... had fans come up to you talking to you as if you were John? "Yes and it's creepy/fun. Assuring someone that I'm not John while talking in a liddypool accent is a riot!!!"
e) ... considered making a solo "John" CD? "No. Just one of my own music."
As for the bands name, before '1964 The Tribute' was settled on, what other titles were in the running? "We were known as '1964 as The Beatles' first, then after a 2 and a half year lawsuit with Apple Corps Ltd., we changed. Other names were: 'Not The Beatles', 'Got Mop Tops?', and a variety of others that I can't mention here!"
Now, word has it (ie: I was told this by a fan sitting next to me at the show) that you are actually bald under that wig! After performing for nearly 2 hours, doesn't that thing itch like crazy on a bald head?! "I AM NOT BALD!!! That is my real hair ... it's real hair, I own it, ergo it is my, real, hair ... not bald, but folicly challenged. After 2 hours, EVERYTHING itches like crazy!"
Finally, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love penguins (the animals), do you, perhaps? "Absolutely! Where do you think we got the idea for our suits?!"
Interview: Russell A. Trunk
So, if you would like to win a SIGNED copy of a 1964 The Tribute' CD, just answer this easy question about The Beatles: Who did Paul dedicate 'P.S. I Love You' to?!
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful signed CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before December 1st with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: 1964 THE TRIBUTE SIGNED CDs to: email@example.com
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