? & The Mysterians' 96 Tears 45

? & THE MYSTERIANS  “96 Tears” b/w “I Can’t Get Enough Of You, Baby” (Abkco Records #4020, original realease 1966-67, reissue circa early-’80’s)

This is not the extremely valuable, highly sought-after original Pa-Go-Go pressing from early ’66.  Nor is it the not-quite-as-valuable-but-still-quite-desirable Cameo/Parkway version that soared to #1 that September.  This is an Abkco double-A-side oldies-bin cash-in repress from the very early 1980’s, when AM counterparts across the country still spun 45s of “Louie Louie” and “Wolly Bully” for the over-40 crowd.

Needless to say, I latched onto oldies stations like black on a widow;  not only did that hard-driving 2-chord garage rock sound great blasting from the dashboard of a ’65 Dart at 2 A.M., it provided a much-needed antidote to the diabetes-inducing Olivia Newton-John and Air Supply in heavy rotation on pop radio, and the dour, suicide-hotline-on-speed-dial ploddings of all the Pink Floyd and Foreigner clogging up FM AOR at the time.  ’80’s be damned, I was gonna head-bang to ’60’s tracks and keep scarfing up these sexy 45 RPM reissues, my favorite by far being this eternal classic, ? & The Mysterians’ “96 Tears.”

I’m not going to waste your time with band biographies, speculations on ?’s real identity, the possibility of life on Mars, strange voices emanating from Aztec temples, or even those ever-present, cooler-than-cool wrap-around shades.  You can scour the internet for that crap.  We are gathered here today, my friends, to honor THEE greatest garage-rock single of all time;  to relive the thrill of the sexiest, grungiest, most Vox-organ-driven paean to lost love that could only be conjured by these dynamic young Detroit-based Tex-Mex rock ‘n’ rollers.  Behold this sweet clip before Dick Clark unceremoniously yanks it.  Dig, Lazarus, Dig!

See ? & The Mysterians performing 96 Tears on YouTube

The B-side of this disc is actually an A-side from ’67;  our boys give the “96 Tears” treatment to the Brill Building pop classic, “I Can’t Get Enough Of You, Baby.”

Originally a non-hit for both The Toys and The Four Seasons before them, The Mysterians managed to bring it into the Top 100, but not far enough to make a significant splash.  Steve Harwell and Smash Mouth rehydrated The Mysterians’ arrangement with several gallons of fat-guy sweat and pushed it into the Top 30 in the summer of ’98.  But fuck all that.

Seen by contemporaries as godfathers of punk, garage rock, and Latino rock, ? & The Myterians are held in high esteem by music lovers of all ages, and “96 Tears” continues to be a staple of oldies radio and beyond.  Despite numerous break-ups and set-backs, The Mysterians (with and without ?) remain active.  You can keep abreast of their happenings at the clunky-but-fun 96Tears.net.

NEXT WEEK: Drink your big black cow & get outta here.