Monday, January 18, 2016

? and the Mysterians

When you think of the one song that defines garage rock,"96 Tears" licks your face. It's the calling card of ? and the Mysterians, mexican teenagers born in Texas and raised in Saginaw, Michigan. Having their minds liquefied by Japanese science fiction films, particularly The Mysterians, the teens decided to call themselves Question Mark and the Mysterians. Leader, Rudy Martinez, came up with the lyrics to a song called "Too Many Teardrops," in January 1966, quickly renaming it "69 Tears," a killer title too risque for the moral majority, and ultimately edited to "96 Tears." Suddenly finding themselves in a record label bidding war, the band settled on Cameo Parkway because their logo was orange, Question Mark's color of choice. The 45 shot to No. 1 in August.

Martinez legally changed his name to ? and quickly became the most colorful front man this side of Sun Ra (look it up). Never without his trusty pair of sunglasses in public, ? claimed he was born on Mars and lived among the dinosaurs in a past life. Okay, whatever, but AM recognizes "96 Tears" as one of the greatest singles ever recorded, the first “garage” single (opening doors for The Seeds and The Electric Prunes) and in this writer's opinion, the precursor to punk.

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