? & the Mysterians
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? & the Mysterians

Band Rock Punk


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The best kept secret in music


Recorded live at Cavestomp '97 at Coney Island High School in New York City, this captures the original version of ? & the Mysterians (accept no substitutes) shaking the joint down to the last brick. Amazingly, they sound exactly like they did some 30-odd years ago, fortified with some vintage equipment (no synthesizers here) and an enthusiastic crowd to goad them on. Kicking off with a Stones-like "2120 South Michigan Avenue" riff that gets turned into the title track, the band gets into fourth gear right from the start and pretty much stays there. Running through a 19-song set list that combines old favorites from their Cameo and Capitol recordings along with new songs that sound exactly like they were written 30 years ago (and who's to say they weren't?), this is one of the very, very few modern-day "reunion" albums that really works and makes you wish you were there. (by Cub Coda) - AMG: All Music Guide

Fans may lament that the owners of Question Mark & the Mysterians' original recordings are refusing to license a CD release of the band's material, but the group knew how to capitalize on a bad situation. They reunited, and released a series of albums of re-recordings of their oldies. Often, these were live records, but More Action is a studio recording that features the classics, along a handful of newer songs, plus a multimedia video. Cleverly, they titled this album More Action, which will certainly make the diehards think of the band's second album Action, but this should not be confused with the original album. As far as re-recordings go, these aren't bad at all, and while the double-disc set has its share of filler, it rocks surprisingly hard — hard enough to make it a worthwhile listen for Question Mark and garage rock aficionados. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine) - AMG: All Music Guide

This is probably an unauthorized compilation, with 30 of the group's original '60s recordings, including, of course, "96 Tears." Since the owners of the original tracks have obstinately refused to officially reissue the Mysterians' '60s catalog on CD in the U.S., they really have no cause to complain if frustrated collectors turn to this anthology as the only reasonable option. The sound quality is good, although the brief liner notes unfortunately do not detail the specific origin of each cut. Even with so much vintage work in one place, it is still striking how much better"96 Tears" was than anything else they did. Garageheads might be disappointed with how many of the cuts sound like lesser, similar "96 Tears" derivations, all heavy on the cheap organ sound and Rudy Martinez's quasi-studly vocals. For "Do You Feel It," they rip off someone other than themselves, as it's a retitled cover of the Rolling Stones' instrumental, "2120 South Michigan Avenue." At least they wrote most of their own material, and there are occasional cuts that hold their own weight. (by Richie Unterberger) - AMG: All Music Guide

Since the rights to the original 96 Tears album and singles are held in limbo, fans have to be content with records like ? & the Mysterians Featuring 96 Tears, a collection of re-recordings by the original lineup that was recorded in 1997, 31 years after their one hit topped the charts. Surprisingly, the group sounds tough, dynamic and exciting — it's easy to tell that this is not the same group of young garage punks from the mid-'60s, but these guys can still kick hard, which is what makes the record worthwhile for diehard garage freaks. In addition to "96 Tears," the album also features Mysterians classics like "I Need Somebody," "'8' Teen," "Smokes, '" Up Side," "Stormy Monday," "Make You Mine," "Got To," "Don't Tease Me" and "You're Telling Me Lies." (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine) - AMG: All Music Guide

America in the mid-'60s was a truly grand time and place to be alive; where else could five greasy-looking teenagers who sounded like they were still learning their instruments cut a record in someone's living room and not only see it win nationwide release, but hit number one on the Billboard singles charts? Rock & roll doesn't come much more gloriously dumb than "96 Tears"; over a two-finger Farfisa organ riff from one Frankie Rodriguez Jr., Question Mark (aka Rudy Martinez) wails in a combination of sorrow and anger about the girl who has done him wrong, and announces his determination that he's going to hurt her as she hurt him, until he's cried 96 tears — not 90, not 100, but exactly 96. It was weird as all get out, but it was also funny, and very catchy. In 1966, a time when every kid who could talk his parents into buying a Sears Silvertone guitar dreamed of someday being as big as the Beatles, it must have been a real inspiration to see five guys from Saginaw, MI, who weren't much farther along than they were achieve this impossible dream, if only for a moment. While Question Mark and the Mysterians cut a few more records (most of which sounded an awful lot like "96 Tears"), their days in the sun were numbered, though over 30 years later, the band was still at it, sounding just as inspired (and only a bit less inept) as they did during their 15 minutes of fame, and more than willing to crank out their hit for anyone who wanted to hear it. (by Mark Deming) - AMG: All Music Guide

On the back of the album cover of ? and the Mysterians' Action, there is a list of "the facts" about the band. Their "likes" mostly consist of "girls," "science fiction," and "the color black," the combination of which pretty much describes their music. Action contains some of the best early-'60s, AM-pop-meets-garage-noise tunes — a mixture that also produced the L.A. sound of the Seeds and would later lead to the utter genius of the Velvet Underground. But like the Beatles when they were in Hamburg, ? and the Mysterians are content to play catchy renditions of their rock & roll favorites. They burn through the first verse of "Shout"; play some pure sugar pop on the groovy, fantastic organ-driven "Hangin' on a String"; and give "Can't Get Enough of You Baby" the garage treatment. But ? and the Mysterians have some real innovation, too. They start their version of the hit "Girl (You Captivate Me)" with dark, almost spoken vocals. Originals like "It's Not Easy" are infused with R&B sensibilities. But "Smokes" is the real winner — it bleeds with raucous basement party grooves that set the stage for much of rock to come. (by Charles Spano) - AMG: All Music Guide

Originally a BASF-LHD cassette-only release, this live recording showcases the distinctive mixture of Tex-Mex bounce and garage-punk raunch that anticipated such groups as the Lyres, Joe King Carrasco & the Crowns, and Elvis Costello & the Attractions. The band propels lead vocalist ? (aka Rudy Martinez) as he swaggers, taunts, and exhorts his way through 14 energized (if somewhat repetitive) songs, including "Don't Tease Me," "Girl (You Captivate Me)" (sung as "Girl (You Masturbate Me"), "I Can't Get Enough of You Baby," and "96 Tears." ? doesn't convey quite as much menace as he does on the original 1960s recordings of songs such as "Smokes," but since those original recordings are not readily available in the U.S., this is a reasonable substitute for a career retrospective. However, the group has released another live recording, Do You Feel It Baby?, which offers more songs and is easier to find. (by Todd Kristel) - AMG: All Music Guide

The Vox organ lead-in on "96 Tears" is an unmistakable introduction to one of the '60s greatest Garage hits.' ? and the Mysterians have been . . . seducing a whole new generation with their raw and sometimes raunchy three-chord, organ-drenched primal rock 'n' roll. - Rolling Stone Magazine

? and the Mysterians - one of the 60s truly great (and truly obscure) garage rock bands . . . [are] best known for the organ-driven classic "96 Tears." ?, by the way, took that symbol as his legal name when Prince was still in grade school. - MTV: Music Television

"Some of the highlights: . . . Question Mark of Question Mark and the Mysterians. He's pushing 60, but skinny, tights-clad, bare-chested Question Mark was in fine athletic form, prancing and dancing across the stage like a regular Mick Jagger and singing his heart out. "96 Tears" still sounds darn good coming from his pipes . . . " - The Saginaw News



96 Tears (1966)
Cameo Parkway C 2004

Action (1967)
Cameo Parkway C 2006

96 Tears Forever: The Dallas Reunion Tapes '84 (1985)
ROIR Records

Questionmark & the Mysterians (1997)
Collectibles Records

Do You Feel It Baby? (1998)
Norton Records

More Action (1999)
Cavestomp Records


96 Tears/Midnight Hour (1965)
PaGoGo 102

96 Tears/Midnight Hour (1966)
Cameo Parkway 428

I Need Somebody/8 Teen (1966)
Cameo Parkway 441

Can't Get Enough Of You Baby/Smokes (1967)
Cameo Parkway 467

Girl (You Captivate Me)/Got To (1967)
Cameo Parkway 479

Do Something To Me/Love Me Baby (1967)
Cameo Parkway 496

Make You Mine/I Love You Baby (1968)
Capitol Records 2162

Hang In/Sha La La (1969)
Super K 102

Ain't It A Shame/Turn Around Baby (1969)
Tangerine Record Corp 989

Talk Is Cheap/She Goes To Church On Sunday (1972)
Chickory 410

Hot 'N' Groovy/Funky Lady (1973)
Luv 159

96 Tears/Can't Get Enough Of You Baby (1983)
ABKCO 4020

I Need Somebody/Girl (You Captivate Me) (1983)
ABKCO 4033

W. Kelly Milionis
Shoestring Entertainment Corporation
2612 Chapel Drive East
Saginaw, Michigan 48603
989-249-7625 (fax)

Bobby Balderrama


Feeling a bit camera shy


"96 TEARS" placements:

'AMERICAN DREAMS' - NBC Television hit series Executive Produced by Dick Clark, produced by Dick Clark Productions and NBC Universal Television Studio; starring: Gail O'Grady, Tom Verica, Brittany Snow, Will Estes, Sarah Ramos, Ethan Dampf, Vanessa Lengies, Jonathan Adams, Arlene Escarpeta and Rachel Boston. (Season 3 - Episode 305; Airdate: October 24, 2004; NBC)

'STATESIDE' - based on a true story; starring Rachel Leigh Cook, Jonathan Tucker, Agnes Bruckner, Joe Mantegna, Carrie Fisher, Ed Begley Jr. and Val Kilmer. (Released May 21, 2004 - Samuel Goldwyn Films)

"garage rock legends"

"term 'PUNK ROCK' as a genre moniker was coined by writer/critic and former CREEM Magazine co-founder Dave Marsh upon witnessing a live ? & the Mysterians club gig"

"one of the first Latino rock groups to have a major hit"

It only took one song, the organ-driven number one smash "96 Tears," to make ? & the Mysterians into garage rock legends. Eccentric frontman Question Mark (actually spelled "?," once he had his name legally changed) cultivated an aura of mystery by never appearing in public without a pair of wraparound sunglasses; he frequently claimed he had been born on Mars and lived among the dinosaurs in a past life, and that voices from the future had revealed he would be performing "96 Tears" in the year 10,000. On a more earthly level, the Mysterians' sound helped lay down an important part of the garage rock blueprint, namely the low-budget sci-fi feel of the Farfisa and Vox organs (most assumed that "96 Tears" had featured the former, but ? later remembered using the latter). What was more, they were one of the first Latino rock groups to have a major hit, and ?'s sneering attitude made him one of the prime suspects in the evolution of garage rock into early punk.

The Mysterians were formed in 1962 by bassist Larry Borjas, his cousin, guitarist Bobby Balderrama, and drummer Robert Martinez; they soon added vocalist ? and organist Frank Rodriguez. By most accounts, [with the exception of ?] all the musicians were born in Texas, of Mexican descent, and grew up in Michigan in the Saginaw/Bay City area. Taking their name from a Japanese science fiction film, the band played its first gigs in the small Michigan town of Adrian in 1964, and soon moved its home base from Saginaw to Flint. Larry Borjas and Robert Martinez were both forced to leave the band for military duty, and were replaced by bassist Frank Lugo and drummer Eddie Serrato. Shortly afterward, ? wrote the lyrics to a song he called "Too Many Teardrops" and showed them to the rest of the band; the title was changed first to "69 Tears," and then the less suggestive "96 Tears." The song became a hit at the Mt. Holly ski lodge/dancehall, where the band played regularly, and in early 1966 they recorded it for the small local label Pa-Go-Go, owned by the band's manager. It became a regional hit in Flint and Detroit, attracting interest from several major record companies; ? decided to sign with the Philadelphia-based Cameo-Parkway, chiefly because their label was his favorite color, orange.

Now blessed with national distribution, "96 Tears" raced up the pop charts and went all the way to number one in the fall of 1966, becoming one of garage rock's all-time classics. Steve Huey (AMG-All Music Guide)

Listen to the song that started it all:

96 Tears

(click on the website link below; then click on the music player at lower right of page)