Saturday, January 07, 2006

Garage Rock Classics: 96 Tears

There are certain elements that are implicit in a garage rock song. All of the versions in this series contain some, if not most, of them. 96 Tears, originally recorded by ? and the Mysterians, may be the quintessential garage song. Let's go through the checklist: Three chords or less? Check. Creepy Vox/Farfisa/Hammond B3 organ? Check. Three minutes long or less? Yep. Obsessive lyrics and lots of attitude? You bet.

96 Tears shot to #1 in the Fall of 1966. Its organ-driven, two-chord melody was written and sung by the enigmatic ? (real name: Rudy Martinez), who fancied wraparound shades and claimed to be from Mars. In reality, the band consisted of five Mexican-Americans based in Michigan. The Mysterians couldn't escape One-Hit-Wonder status, although the band carried on well into the '70s and charted (barely) in 1967 with Can't Get Enough Of You Baby (later covered by Smashmouth).

The original, in all its perverted glory is here, along with The Bonnevilles (from Milwaukee), live versions by Eddie and the Hotrods and Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, and a recent version by The Licks, who retain the original title (69 Tears), which was considered too risque way back when. The song proved so versatile that it was covered by blues shouter Big Maybelle.

BTW, if anyone out there has the NJ band The Steel Tips' 1978 recording of this song (b/w Crazy, Baby), please let us know.

? and the Mysterians - 96 tears

The Bonnevilles - 96 Tears

Eddie and the Hotrods - 96 Tears

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers - 96 Tears

The Licks - 69 Tears

Big Maybelle - 96 Tears


Hi. I found you through one of my links. What is that Big Maybelle version from??? Did you get that from vinyl? Thanks for posting that! BTW, would you like to swap links? Natalie

By Anonymous Natalie, at 11:17 PM  

I got the Big Maybelle version from some podcast. I had to do some editing, which accounts for the fade in and out. Love yer blog. Consider yourself linked.

By Blogger MadCatJoey, at 8:53 AM  

I'm not sure what the heck a podcast is, maybe I should learn? I'm surprised that her version isn't on a CD, I guess it was the last time she charted. Ah well...I'll link you tonight.

By Anonymous Natalie, at 5:41 PM  

I have versions by Aretha Franklin and Thelma Houston - interested?

By Blogger Guuzbourg, at 3:20 PM  

Hedda Gabler from Holland also did a version entitled 69 Tears on their first vinyl 'Scratching F.U.C.K on the Windshield', in 1986. The BBC's John Peel played this version a few times in his radio show. More info on Hedda Gabler on

By Blogger Roger Grund, at 8:28 AM  

Los Rockin Devil's has one of this track as well... but you have to go to their official site's shop to acquire it. Very enjoyable.

By Blogger The Don Q, at 1:42 AM  

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