Cover of the 1966 Italy single
|Single by ? and the Mysterians|
|from the album 96 Tears|
|? and the Mysterians singles chronology|
"96 Tears" is a song recorded by the American garage rock band ? and the Mysterians in 1966 (see 1966 in music). 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 1966. It is ranked number 213 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. On November 11, 1966, the single was certified as gold by the RIAA.
The song was written by Question Mark (Rudy Martinez) in 1962 in his manager's living room, and was recorded in Bay City, Michigan. 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.
Various reports have suggested that Question Mark first wrote the song under the title "Too Many Teardrops" and then "69 Tears", but then changed the title, fearing that radio stations wouldn't play the song. However, Question Mark denied this in an interview, stating that the number 96 has a deep philosophical meaning for him.
- Rudy Martinez (Question Mark) – lead vocals
- Frank Rodriguez – Vox Continental organ
- Bobby Balderrama – lead guitar
- Frank Lugo – bass guitar
- Eddie Serrato – drums
- Big Maybelle released a version of the song as a single in 1967 that reached #23 on the US R&B chart and #96 on the US pop chart.
- Aretha Franklin released a version of the song on her second Atlantic studio album "Aretha Arrives" in 1967.
- Costa Rican garage band The Thunderboys recorded a version for CBS Indica Records in 1967
- Motown singer Jimmy Ruffin recorded the song in 1966, produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier, and it appeared on his 1969 album Ruff 'N' Ready
- Shane Martin released a version of the song along with Black is Black on his 1968 45 on Columbia Records.
- The Music Explosion released a version of the song on their 1967 debut album, Little Bit O'Soul.
- Thelma Houston released a version of the song as a single in 1981 that reached #22 on the US dance chart and #76 on the US R&B chart.
- The Modern Lovers released a version of the song on their Album Live at the Longbranch and More.
- Garland Jeffreys released a version of the song as a single and track from his album "Escape Artist" in 1981 that reached #5 on the US rock chart, #66 on the US pop chart, and #75 on the US dance chart.
- The Stranglers released a version that reached No. 17 in the UK Singles Chart in 1990.
- Eddie and the Hot Rods released a version of the song on the 2000 re-issue of their album, Teenage Depression.
- Primal Scream included a version of the song on the 2009 expanded edition of their 1997 Album Vanishing Point.
- Suicide recorded it the live album 21½ Minutes in Berlin/23 Minutes in Brussels. Another live version, recorded at CBGB, was included on re-issued copies of their self-titled, debut album.
- The Bonne Villes released a version in 1967 on the Justice record label. Available on Bringing it Home (1997) and Green Crystal Ties, Volume 3: Gloria Meets 96 Tears (1998), both Collectables Records.
- The Fuzztones included a version of the song on the 2013 album Snake Oil.
- Punk Rock bands X and The Cramps both reference the song, including allusions to "96 Tears" in the lyrics to "Johnny Hit and Run Paulene" and "Human Fly", respectively.
- Bill Dahl (28 February 2011). Motown: The Golden Years: More than 100 rare photographs. Krause Publications. p. 300. ISBN 1-4402-2783-7. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
- Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (8 November 1997). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 68. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
- Gary Hartman (8 March 2008). The History of Texas Music. Texas A&M University Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-1-60344-002-8. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
- Tom Moon (28 August 2008). 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Workman Publishing Company. p. 806. ISBN 978-0-7611-5385-6. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
- Question Mark & the Mysterians, "96 Tears" US chart position Retrieved July 1, 2015
- Question Mark & the Mysterians, "96 Tears" Canadian chart position Archived 2017-12-27 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved July 1, 2015
- Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1966
- "RIAA Gold & Platinum Searchable Database – 96 Tears". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
- "Question Mark Bio". pharaohweb.com.
- "The Making of 96 Tears". vice.com.
- "Question". classicbands.com.
- "96 Tears by ? & the Mysterians". songfacts.com.
- Fred Bronson (October 1, 2003). Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th ed.). Billboard Books U.S. p. ?. ISBN 978-0823076772.
- Question Mark & the Mysterians, chart positions Retrieved July 1, 2015
- "Question Mark: Library of Congress copyright registrations indicate that his birth name is Rudy Martinez". 96tears.net. Archived from the original on 2014-04-08. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
- Big Maybelle, "96 Tears" chart positions Retrieved July 1, 2015
- https://www.discogs.com/Aretha-Franklin-Aretha-Arrives/release/576339 Retrieved November 3, 2016
-  Retrieved June 30, 2015
- The Music Explosion, Little Bit O' Soul Retrieved June 30, 2015
- Thelma Houston, "96 Tears" chart positions Retrieved July 1, 2015
- Garland Jeffreys, "96 Tears" chart positions Retrieved July 1, 2015
- http://www.allmusic.com/album/escape-artist-mw0000310354 Retrieved November 3, 2016
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 535. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Eddie and the Hot Rods, Teenage Depression Retrieved June 23, 2016.