Obscure Bands And Great Songs: ? And The Mysterians And 96 Tears

What can you say about a band whose lead singer is identified by a punctuation symbol?  A band that was known as one of the greatest garage bands in history?  A band that recorded a song that many critics view as the first true punk rock song?

Why so many questions?  Because the band was ? And The Mysterians — a sunglasses-wearing group that hailed from Saginaw, Michigan — and the song was 96 Tears.

On October 29, 1966, 96 Tears hit number one on the Billboard charts.  What a song!  With its hypnotic, alternatively choppy and swirling organ licks, the self-pitying, then angry, then resigned lyrics, and the great bass riff when the song shifts to “and when the sun comes up,” 96 Tears cut through the copycat sounds being played on AM radio and was instantly original and definitive.

Almost 45 years later the band is still performing the song, most recently at a show in Detroit at the end of July.  The video below, which is pretty hysterical, was recorded by the band in 1998.

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