? and The Mysterians
Media Condition: VG+
Sleeve Condition: G+
Genre: Rock, Garage, Blues
Notes: Rare find! Original 1966 Cameo pressing–plays very clean! Hole punch on bottom left, indent on top right of jacket.
If you like: the sound of Los Angeles garage rockers The Standells, you’ll dig ? and The Mysterians even more.
About: 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 ? (the general consensus is that he was actually Rudy Martinez, Robert’s brother, though a few sources identified him as Reeto Rodriguez) and organist Frank Rodriguez. By most accounts, 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 the Martinez brothers’ brother-in-law, drummer Eddie Serrato. Shortly afterward, ? wrote the lyrics 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”.*Steve Huey
Why it’s worth your time: Even in a sea of only the finest and most remarkable garage rock, 96 Tears idly flops above the surface to knock you across the head with a wall of refreshing sound and an amusingly charming arrogance. It is perhaps, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest garage records to come out of the midwest, if not out of the entirety of America. Equally as gritty as it is bouyant, 96 Tears brims with warm and fuzzy, organ-driven earworms cut with near-frenetic vocals–so well-crafted they keep you coming back for more and more. A revered classic for any garage rock enthusiast.
A favorite track: 8 Teen