Question Mark and The Mysterians – 96 Tears: #427 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Question Mark & The Mysterians

So why is Question Mark and The Mysterians’ 96 Tears on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

The first time I heard “96 Tears” I was mesmerized, and it still gives me a similar feeling to this day.

In much the same way that I was transfixed by The Doors’ sound around the age of 14 or 15, Question Mark and The Mysterians hit me in the same way.

The key was that organ sound – and a little research, if it’s to be believed, confirms that both bands used a Vox Continental organ*.

* In The Doors’ case, Ray Manzarek would use a bass keyboard with his left hand when performing live, replacing the sound that a bass guitar would normally provide, while his right hand would play the Vox Continental. I was under the belief for many years that The Doors trademark sound came by way of a Hammond organ but apparently I was mistaken!

Now, I’m going to head in a completely different musical direction in stating that the use of a melodic yet staccato repetitive organ chord on “96 Tears” works in a similar way as Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.,” off of the 2001 LP.

“96 Tears” and “Still D.R.E.” become addictive based on that compelling repetitive percussion, and both songs are classics.

Even though Question Mark (which is actually the name that singer and songwriter Rudy Martinez went by) and the Mysterians are something of a one album wonder, they are absolutely not a one hit wonder.

Songs like “Up Side” and “I Need Somebody” burst with mid-‘60s hipster energy, with a swinging organ that meshes the minimalist garage rock sounds of bands like The Kingsmen with early Beatles influence.

“8” Teen has a nice dirty early rock ‘n roll sound, bringing a little Rolling Stones vibe into the garage rock mix.

Pop culture stuff that’s somehow related to Question Mark and The Mysterians’ 96 Tears

Stephen King is one of my all-time favorite authors. He’s ridiculously prolific, and I’ve read a ludicrous amount of his output over the course of my life. It’s astounding that so little of his stuff is not at least pretty good, and so much of it is way better than that.

Hearts in Atlantis is a collection of his that includes two novellas and three short stories. All told it’s a very good read – I’d call it B+ by Stephen King standards – which as explained is a very high standard, indeed.

“Low Men in Yellow Coats” is probably my favorite part, but the novella that’s also called “Hearts in Atlantis” comes in at a close second. It’s about college students in the 1960s who get really into playing the card game of Hearts, but it’s also about dealing with growing up with the very real fear during that era for young me in the U.S. that anyone could be a draft card (speaking of cards) away from being shipped off to the Vietnam War.

There are two other things worth noting. One is that “96 Tears” plays an important part in the story. And the other fascinating bit for Stephen King heads is that both “Hearts in Atlantis” and “Low Men in Yellow Coats” have tie-ins to The Dark Tower, King’s epic fantasy series that has a mythology that intertwines in subtle and not-so-subtle ways with many of his other works.

Hearts in Atlantis was made into a movie in 2001, starring Anthony Hopkins. It’s a decent but not great flick, and I recall being disappointed that there were zero Dark Tower elements involved.

Personal stuff that’s somehow related to Question Mark and The Mysterians’ 96 Tears

Speaking of movies and The Dark Tower, I waited impatiently for a large chunk of my life for some kind of TV or film adaptation to be made out of one of my all-time favorite series of novels.

Finally, in 2017, we got The Dark Tower, the movie*. One single film that attempted to translate eight novels and an entire Stephen King Connected Universe to the screen.

And man, it utterly failed, I’m sorry to say.

* The timing was odd for me, on a personal note, as at the time my wife worked at a rural hospital a few hours outside of our home in Seattle, Washington. We saw the movie together in a tiny theater in a tiny town, which kind of augmented the strangeness of seeing this story brought to a visual medium that I had longed for since my childhood.

Idris Elba was pretty good as mysterious protagonist Roland of Gilead (though my heart had long been set on Viggo Mortensen; I still feel it’s a role he was born to play) but Matthew McConaughey was miscast as The Man in Black, and overall the film was just an absolute mess.

I continue to hold out hope that we’ll one day get a proper Game of Thrones-esque seven or eight season version that’s broadcast on a high-end cable or streaming network.

Some stats & info about Question Mark and The Mysterians – 96 Tears

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Garage Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • When was 96 Tears released? 1966
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – 427 out of 1,000

Question Mark and The Mysterians’ 96 Tears on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from Question Mark and The Mysterians’ 96 Tears that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

Too many teardrops for one heart to be crying.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.