Tribute artist Mark “Andrew” Tabone has tried to analyse time and time again the reason for his obsession with the 1960s era.
His passion spans from music, to furniture, old telephones, radios and classic cars among other characteristics of the time.
“I think it’s because it reminds me of a fantastic time when I was a kid, when my mother was alive,” Mark says.
“I guess I don’t really want to let go of it.”
After the tragedy of his mother’s passing when Mark was just eight years old, his father took all four kids back to his homeland, Malta, where they would spend the next 10 years of their lives with extended family.
As a child in a new country, Mark was faced with the challenge of learning to adapt to a different culture.
Even though he lived in Malta for a number of years, he always felt like ‘the Aussie’.
“I felt confined to the space of the island. But I think my time in Malta was where it all started,” Mark says.
“During my teens, I used to get up at parties and impersonate people.
“I got a job as a waiter and one night I got up and sang with the band.”
But when he returned to Australia at age 17, it would be decades until Mark realised his potential in establishing himself as one of Australia’s best tribute performers. Music had always been just a hobby.
“I’d played a one-off show as Buddy Holly, and I had this lightbulb moment where I thought, why don’t I see how many characters I can do,” Mark says.
“It ended up becoming a signature legends show that eventually became a full-time job.”
About 20 years ago, Mark took the risk of giving up his hairdressing business to pursue a career in the entertainment industry and has never looked back since.
His knack for impersonating a range of legendary acts has seen him travel the world, performing across the United States and Asia, as well as on cruises.
A 30-second costume change is all it takes for Mark to transition between Austin Powers, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Jim Morrison and Tom Jones throughout each of his legends shows, with retro costumes and accessories to complete each look.
For now, the seven acts are enough to fill one show but Mark has also been known to do a good impersonation of Danny Zuko from Grease.
While ordinarily cool, calm and collected, Mark said the only time he got nervous was when introducing a new character for the first time.
“It has to be at the same credible level as each of the other characters before I include it in my show.
“Tom Jones, for example, is a very strong character. I felt intimidated because he has such a big voice and it’s hard to do.
“I just kept saturating myself with clips of Tom Jones. I think you have to break the ice with yourself and play a couple of rehearsal shows.
“A tribute artist’s role is not to be perfect, not to create an exact replica of the performer but to pull off the overall package: the look and the sound.”
The greatest honour of his career thus far has been to tour Australia with Elvis’ girlfriend Linda Thompson and perform for Elvis’ entourage including his road manager.
“Over the years, I came in contact with the right people and I found myself introduced to people who’d actually worked with Elvis,“ Mark said.
“I remember that one night I must have been so in character that Linda had tears in her eyes. She said she was half expecting to see Elvis at the end of the show.
“That was the biggest compliment.”
The long-time Berwick resident, who has recently made the move to the Sunshine Coast, also has a nine-piece collection of classic cars to match almost each of his personas: a 1964 Cadillac convertible for Elvis, a 1964 Mini Minor painted with a Union Jack for Austin Powers and a 1960s VW Beetle for John Lennon.
The only negative aspect of being a tribute artist is that sometimes Mark is faced with being called ‘Elvis’ after his shows.
“I really dislike being called Elvis after a show. It’s something that if you hear it all the time, you lose your identity a little bit,” Mark explained.
“People have got to differentiate between the character and the person.
“I have written a couple of original songs as just Mark; as me. Sometimes, only if audiences are lucky, I will perform at the end of my legends shows as Mark. I enjoy performing as myself.”
A man of many talents, Mark has also begun working on a new project.
Working in collaboration with a teacher, Mark was inspired to write a children’s television show after an incursion at his children’s school where the students had been learning about the concept of change.
Mark had showed the kids a collection of old telephones; teaching them how to dial a phone, to wait a few minutes for old radios to warm up and how old film rolls were projected onto a screen.
“The kids got a lot out of it. I wanted to bring a couple of these characters to life,” he said.
“Without giving too much away, it’s centred on the idea that modern technology is lacking.
“I’m writing children’s songs with a great message in them.”
The most rewarding part of Mark’s job is speaking to the audience after shows.
“I love performing and taking people on a journey. I just love watching people have a good time.
“At the moment, I’m really enjoying doing personal shows like birthdays at smaller venues.
“The best part is the feedback I get at the end of the night – hearing that people may have been struggling in their lives and that I’d lifted their spirits. Nothing can top that.”
Mark plans to tour the US next year, with August shows to coincide with the anniversary of Elvis’ death. In September, he will return to the big stage at The Palms, Crown, in Melbourne.
Next year is the first time Mark has planned to host a VIP Elvis experience during his US tour where he will take a lucky group of people over to see the sites where scenes from Elvis’ film Stay Away Joe were captured.
Follow Mark Andrew Tabone’s work at http://www.markandrew.com.au
Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.