Question Mark & The Mysterions were undeniably one of the true wonders of the wild, wild world of teenage rage. Available on CD.
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1. Feel It! (R. McKim - J.MacKay)
2. Hangin’ On A String (J. Darrow - G. Shayne)
3. 96 Tears (R. Martinez)
4. Girl (You Captivate Me) (J. Day - A. Dischell)
5. Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby (S. Linzer - D. Randell)
6. Ain’t It A Shame (R. Martinez)
7. Cheree (Rev - Vega)
8. Beachcomber (B. Darin)
9. It’s Not Easy (R. Martinez)
10. That’s How Strong My Love Is (R. Jamison)
11. Love Me Baby (Cherry July) (R. Martinez)
12. Don’t Hold It Against Me (D. B. Ross - L. Crane)
13. Do You Feel It? (R. Martinez)
14. Don’t Give It Up Now (J. Conolly)
15. Are You For Real* (R. Martinez)
16. I’ll Be Back (R. Martinez)
17. I Need Somebody+ (The Mysterians)
18. 96 Tears (En Español) (R. Martinez)
Question Mark & The Mysterians are as rock ‘n’ roll scribe Lenny Kaye once observed, a band with a true personality crisis. They were all born in Texas, formed the band in Saginaw, Michigan, and recorded for a Philadelphia record label. Formed in 1964, Question Mark joined up with friends and teen titans Bobby Balderrama (guitar), younger brother Robert Martinez (drums), and Larry Borjas (bass), and taking as a band name, the title of a 1957 Japanese sci-fi movie, The Mysterians.
The enigmatic Question Mark, whose first teen dream was to be a dancer on American Bandstand, quickly parlayed his high stepping ways into an atomic stage show, incorporating his amazing, arrogant vocal styling into one snarling ball of what he refers to as, “Attitude. bay-bee, ATTITUDE!
In an effort to further befuddle the local teens, Question Mark dubbed Bobby, Robert and Larry, X, Y, and Z respectively, but the nomenclature was short lived. There was a change in the line up thanks to the draft grab of Robert and the enlistment of Larry, leaving Question Mark (?) and Bobby (X) momentarily groping in the wilderness for a rhythm section. Drummer Eddie Serrato, bass man Frank Lugo, and organ grinder extraordinaire Little Frank Rodriguez were reeled in as the magic combination.
Working out their sound in the Rodriguez home basement, The Mysterians built their majestic “96 Tears” (renaming the unsavory “69 rears,” which had been the salty redub of “Too Many Teardrops”) into the hypnotically persuasive original that soon would alter the eardrums of its first generation of listeners. Their first recording session, contrary to popular perception, was not the March session, which netted their hit, but actually came a month earlier, on February 12, 1966, in Detroit. A single acetate was cut of two cool numbers, “Are You For Real?,” —first called “(Hey Little Girl) Are You For Real? — and “I’ll Be Back.” Both of these rare raves from the grave are included in this collection.
The legendary recording session which netted their hit came on March 13, 1966 at Art Shield’s “studio” at 405 Raymond Street in Bay City, Michigan. “96 Tears” and “Midnight Hour” were soon issued on the tiny local Pa-Go-Go label. With in-person promotion by the unstoppable Question Mark himself, the single was soon in rotation on WTAC in Flint, Michigan and also on Detroit’s powerful CKLW. There, it caught the ears of Cameo-Parkway talent scouts who promptly nabbed the young band.
Question Mark recalls that there was major label interest galore, but that he chose Cameo-Parkway because “their label was orange.” (Orange is more than Question Mark’s color of choice — he is flat out maniacal about the vivacious and powerful hue!) He must have been ever so disappointed when the label changed its design from the trademark orange to an updated mid-sixties black and red imprint.
The Cameo re-release of “96 Tears” entered the charts in August of 1966, peaked at #1 in less than two months and went gold in November, just in time for the release of their album. Not bad for a record cut on a Bay City patio!
The Mysterians were off and running, with regular TV appearances on Detroit’s Swingin’ Time as well as on Where The Action Is. They were a top act wherever they traveled, and understandably so. The contents of that first LP, which included “Up Side,” “I Need Somebody,” “8 Teen,” “Don’t Tease Me,” are so flat out perfect, that no one could come within a mile of what the Mysterians were putting down — a wildly flawless combination of soul and garage and rhythmic, lilting Tex-Mex angst, all laced with teen dream pulchritude and poppy images with severely demented undertones.
Indeed, the mean arrogance and the pop flamboyance of Question Mark have absolutely never been duplicated. This is ultimately evident on Action, their second album, released in June of 1967, where “Got To,” “Smokes” and “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Baby” certainly elevated the insights of any misguided pre-teen transistor sisters! The Mysterians, to this day, purvey the same garage band snootiness that virtually every band of their generation promptly outgrew or discarded.
Thus, when a fan was recently overheard telling Question Mark that he was glad The Mysterians had “made comeback,” Q gave the poor sap a withering glare from behind his trademark Foster Grants and after a suitably discomforting pause, hissed, “Bay-bee, we ain’t never been gone!” Thirty plus years after their chart hits, Question Mark &The Mysterians are back on top, with the rest of the music world “down there, looking up,” just like Question Mark rails in “96 Tears,” their first rubber biscuit which blasted out of Michigan with a golden bullet 35 years ago, and landed a direct hit in perpetual radio rotation! Even today, nary an hour passes that “96 Tears” doesn’t crank out on the airwaves somewhere on our great rockin’ globe — the perfect song, the perfect record, the perfect band. All said, they are indeed the quintessential American garage band in every respect, and they are undeniably one of the true wonders of the wild, wild world of teenage rage. And nothing proves that more potently than this disc, the latest collection of new recordings and greatest hit re-recordings, cut in New York City with original members Bobby Balderrama, Frank Lugo, Little Frank Rodriguez, and Robert Martinez in action with front man supreme, Question Mark.
Dig herein majestic new recordings of universal anthems “96 Tears,” “Girl (You Captivate Me)” and “Feel It.” Marvel et the sweet, sweet savagery of “Hanging On A String.” Thrill to the full throttle raunch of “Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby.” Put a penny on the tone arm for their massive remake of their ‘66 instrumental “Beachcomber” (originally released by the group sans Question Mark under the name The Semi-Colons). Close your eyes and feel the hackles rise to the luscious “That’s How Strong My Love Is.” Dig the mental mind-meld of “Don’t Give It Up Now,” featuring the terrible tambourine of Lyres genius Jeff “Mono Man” Conolly. And lights out for their slithery take on Suicide’s sultry bedside ballad, “Cheree.”
Dig, indeed, and discover the reasons for this phenomenal group’s fantastic worldwide success. Some of their greatest moments have been live, onstage performing for their loyal, demanding audiences. More great moments have been forever engraved in the studio, capturing the certain magic that simply is Question Mark and The Mysterians.
If there has ever been an inkling of doubt in the minds of the minions regarding their staying power, let this full-length forever quell and dampen such uncertainy. The performance, the delivery, the updraft enthusiasm which have been captured for this collection are a spectacular reminder of this group’s universal stature. Yet they remain confident with their talent and their unwavering capacity for excellence.
Fame is important to them, but never as important as their music, never as important as the fans that thrive on the sound.
It is a great privilege to applaud these truly boss new CAVESTOMP! recordings from one of the all-time great acts in music. Thank you, guys, for a fantastic new batch of songs. Can’t get enough of ‘em, baby!