96 Tears

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"96 Tears"
Single by ? & the Mysterians
from the album 96 Tears
B-side "Midnight Hour"
Released February 1966
Format 7" 45 RPM
Genre Garage rock, protopunk, rock
Length 2:56
Label Cameo-Parkway
Writer(s) Rudy Martinez
Producer(s) Rudy Martinez

"96 Tears" is a song recorded by the garage rock band, Question Mark & the Mysterians (also known as "? and the Mysterians"), in 1966. In October of that year, it was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S., and on the RPM 100 in Canada. Billboard ranked the record as the number five song for the year 1966.[1] It is ranked #213 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The song was written by Question Mark (Rudy Martinez) in 1962 in his manager's living room, under the name "Too Many Teardrops" and then "69 Tears". Upon changing the name, in fear of loss of radio play, it was recorded in Bay City, Michigan.[2] At first, Question Mark had to insist that "96 Tears" be the A-side over "Midnight Hour". Once the issue was settled, the band recorded the single for the small Pa-Go-Go label, owned by Lilly Gonzalez. She backed the band financially, and allowed access to her personal studio in her basement. When it began doing well locally, the band took a recording to Bob Dell, the radio director in Flint, Michigan. The song became the most requested, and wider radio play spread into Canada where it was picked up by Cameo Records for national distribution.[3][4]

Known for its signature organ licks and bare-bones lyrics, "96 Tears" is recognized as one of the first garage band hits, and has even been given credit for starting the punk rock movement.[5]

The song appeared on the band's album, 96 Tears. The follow-up song, "I Need Somebody", peaked at number 22 later that year, but no other U.S. Top 40 singles followed.



The Stranglers' cover version reached No. 17 in the UK Singles Chart in 1990.[7]


  1. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1966
  2. ^ "Question Mark Bio". pharaohweb.com. 
  3. ^ "The Making of 96 Tears". vice.com. 
  4. ^ "Question". classicbands.com. 
  5. ^ Fred Bronson (October 1, 2003). Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th ed.). Billboard Books U.S. p. ?. ISBN 978-0823076772. 
  6. ^ "Question Mark: Library of Congress copyright registrations indicate that his birth name is Rudy Martinez". 96tears.net. Retrieved 2014-04-08. 
  7. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 535. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
Preceded by
"Reach Out I'll Be There" by The Four Tops
US Billboard Hot 100 number one single
October 29, 1966 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Last Train to Clarksville" by The Monkees
Preceded by
"See See Rider" by Eric Burdon & The Animals
Canadian RPM number-one single
October 31, 1966 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Last Train to Clarksville" by The Monkees