By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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In 1984, Mark Benson and Tom Work started a band called The Tribute and figured they would play class reunions, picnics, maybe a club or two in their home town of Akron, Ohio. Their specialty: the Beatles circa 1964. Benson is Lennon while Work is George Harrison.
Things didn’t go as planned for The Tribute.
“After the second year, it just took off,” Benson said.
He and Work have been John and George full time ever since, with Graham Alexander as Paul McCartney and Bobby Potter as Ringo Starr, in the band whose full name is 1964: The Tribute.
And this Monday night, the four lads from Ohio will arrive at the North Olympic Peninsula’s largest hall, the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center.
The goal here, Benson said, is to re-create the sensation that overtook these United States of America when John, Paul, George and Ringo landed.
“They didn’t sound like anything else on American radio,” recalls Benson, whose very first album purchase was “Meet the Beatles.”
Most groups of the day had a central figure and a backup band, “but these guys had three-part harmonies; Paul could scream a rock ’n’ roll song and sing a lovely ballad. And so could John. They were a four-headed monster.”
For the past 29 years, Benson has watched the effect of the Beatles sound. It still makes girls scream — “of course, and we encourage it” — and it unites grandparents, parents and kids. Benson says he’s looked out into the crowd to see men in business attire singing alongside bikers. And when the younger people get into it, he says, the older folks loosen up, too.
“It’s like therapy,” Benson quips. “You can scream your head off, and nobody says you’re crazy.”
1964: The Tribute covers the Fab Four from “Meet the Beatles” up to “Revolver,” running through about 30 songs in a night: “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Twist and Shout,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Help!” “Hard Day’s Night,” “Yesterday,” “Cant Buy Me Love,” you get the picture.
The band has played Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Red Rocks amphitheater in Colorado and, this month, halls from Kokomo, Ind., to Spokane.
After Port Angeles, it’s on to Bellingham, Anaheim, Calif., and then back to Kent in King County. The band’s Washington state dates will benefit Music Aid Northwest (www.MusicAidNorthwest.org), a nonprofit supporting music education for young people.
Tickets to the 8 p.m. show at the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave., range from $25 to $55, though there’s a $20 price for seniors age 50 and older and for students. The www.BrownPaperTickets.com site is the place to buy in advance.
There are times, Benson admits, when it’s tough to be a Beatles tribute musician.
“For any person in the arts, the natural tendency is to progress in some direction. Our challenge is to learn [the Beatles’ music] in a certain way and not stray from it.
“Every once in a while, you want to let loose and do a Pete Townshend windmill,” that old move the Who guitarist used to do.
So might he like to start a Who tribute band, just for a gig now and then?
“Then we could open for ourselves,” Benson said.
Seriously, that wouldn’t fly. When people come to see 1964: The Tribute, they don’t want an opening band. When there has been one booked, Benson said, the crowd hollered: “Get off! We’re here for the Beatles.”