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October 18, 1989 - Image 7

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-10-18

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___ RTS
Wednesday, October 18, 1989

The Michigan Daily
The g
s ngle

Page 7

reatest

t me1

of

all

'96 Tears' makes its Mark in history

BY NABEEL ZUBERI
OBSESSION: I am a
stylus
Question Mark & the Mysteri-
ans' "96 Tears" provides vindication
that pop music is more important
than Mahler and more sublime than
Shostakovich, Schubert or anything
else that cultural elitists care to
throw at us. My engagement with
this piece of vinyl plastic is com-
plete. I'm swallowed whole in its
depths and moved by all its intimate
vibrations. It's rare to be so absorbed
by a cultural product. After all, isn't
this what every art aspires to -
complete entanglement with it. My
dangerous liaison with "96 Tears" is
sensual, erotic, downright physical. I
seek to penetrate it and discover all
its potentialities. I'm embedded in
its groove; I imagine myself a sty-
lus.
PRE-HISTORY: Yanks
copy Brits copying
Yanks
The Beatles first came to the
U.S. in 1964 but it was the subse-
quent invasion of other British
groups that was to send satanic shiv-
ers through American youngsters.
These groups had grown up on dirty

rhythm and blues; the Rolling
Stones, the Animals, Pretty Things,
and The Yardbirds studied every riff
and vocal inflection on records by
Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf,
Sonny Boy Williamson, Chuck
Berry and James Brown, and then
produced their own bastard offspring.
Jagger clapped his hands above
his head, did the J.B. shuffle, and
American youth was instantly
aroused. Flushed girls crossed their
legs and boys gripped their guitar
necks with purpose. Across the land,
young men cranked out songs of
angst and frustration in their parents'
garages. Punk was born. The phe-
nomenon produced countless classics
by the likes of The Shadows of
Knight, Count Five, Mouse & the
Traps, The Standells, the best of
whom could transform any song into
"Louie Louie.",
After Dylan turned the Beatles on
to LSD, some of these youngsters
experimented and produced the weird-
est garage punk. The Chocolate
Watchband, Electric Prunes and 13th

Floor Elevators had a brief and fruit-
ful existence releasing such nuggets
as "Fire Engine" and "I Had Too
Much To Dream Last Night" before
the genre became too laid back, too
Californian, and submerged into a
trough of "concept" music. Just be-
fore the downswing Question Mark
& The Mysterians released "96
Tears" on the Cameo Parkway label
in 1966.
HISTORY: The thing
itself
The Mysterians were four Mexi-
can boys, average age 18, from Aca-
pulco: Bobby Balderamma (lead gui-
tar), Frank Lugo (bass), Eddie Ser-
rato (drums) and Frank Rodriguez
(vital organ). After a sojourn in
Texas, where they probably chewed
too much loco weed, they ended up
in Flint, Michigan. Yes, Flint! Lead
singer Question Mark joined the
group one night when they were
playing at the at Mount Holly Ski
Lodge. Not even the group were said
to know his real name (Rudy
Martinez) or anything about his
past. He lived alone and reputedly
never removed his sunglasses. "96
Tears" was written by Martinez and
was No. I for two weeks, selling a
million by the end of November
1966.
All this historical data is satisfy-
ing, but I yearn for the real nuts and
bolts of history. I ask the important
questions:.Did Question Mark have
his shades on when he sang? Did the
band record more than one version?
What time of day was it when they
recorded it? Was it raining outside?
What did the guys eat that day? I
want to know everything, from the
quality of the light to the consis-
tency of the air in the studio.
SADOMASOCHISM: I
love you, I hate you, I
need you, you suck
Where does the potency of "96
Tears lie? Obviously, a lot of it has

IL

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412- 5-0667. Cathy and Alan.

SEX!!! Now that we've got your attention,
listen up! If you're sing[e and looking for
someone to have a good time with then check
out T'he University Singles Connection. The
University Singles Connection is the weekly
pubication where U of M singles come to-
~ ther! For more information about The
onnection, write to- The University Singles
Connection P.O. Box 7154, Ann Arbor,
48107.
Still curious?Take initiativel
SUPER QUICK. Everything you need from
the drugstore. Village Apothecary. 1112 S.
University.
THERAPEUTIC MASSAGE. Certified
practitioner. Debra K. Rozek, M.A. 663-
7547.

to do with the simple, but awe-
somely catchy organ riff (Farfisa or
Hammond?). But the heart of its
greatness is that it's the most honest
song written about the torture and
pitfalls of love. And apart from Joy
Division's "Love Will Tear Us
Apart" and Iggy's "Your Pretty Face
is Going To Hell," "96 Tears" real-
izes the paradox of fragility and mal-
ice on vinyl. Few songs have such a
malicious tendency yet aching heart
at the same time. It's plain that
Question Mark had known pain to
write and sing with such conviction.
Just imagine Dostoyevsky's Under-
ground Man talking to his prostitute
girlfriend. Question Mark initially
explains how his girl is "on top,"
the femme fatale to his subjugated
self. The central theme is the subor-

dination of one's personality to a
lover. Question Mark manages to
turn the tables (he doesn't tell us
how) on her and he becomes the
master, "on top," leaving her to cry
96 tears. But remorse and regret enter
the picture as he realizes that he's
lost her love forever and he's the one
now crying those four score and 16
tears. But the most intriguing and
disturbing aspect of this minor,
tragedy is the finale, in which Ques-
tion Mark repeatedly exclaims,
shouts, berates, spits: "you're gonna
cry 96 tears/ all night long/ night
and day/ let me hear you cry." Has
there ever been such a sadistic fade-
out in 45 RPM history? Is he con-
soling himself in the thought that
she will be unhappy as well - that
he won't be alone in his misery?

Aristotle would have been proud of
these boys' abilities to induce
catharsis in the listener. You may
also ask why 96 rather than 25 or 47
or any other figure. Has Freud told
us, or is it a biblical reference? My
pet theory - an extremely fanciful
one, I'll admit - is that 96 is an
inversion of 69, the sexual position,
which is itself an inversion of the
"norm," and the song deals primarily
with inversion of power in a roman-
tic relationship. Put that in your
pipe and smoke it!
POST-HISTORY: The
fallout, and am I the
song?
"96 Tears" has continued to exert
a fascination for musicians. Aretha
See '96 TEARS', page,8

rr-

Read Jim Ponlewozik Every
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Ad vanced

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ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT
APPLYING TO
GRADUATE SCHOOL AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
SCHOOL OF EDUCATION?
If es, cme to a meeting:
WHEN: 'TODAY, 6 p.m.
WHERE: Room 1322 (Tribute Room)
School of Education Bldg.
Faculty ,and staff will be available to answer questions
about programs, financial aid OppOrtunities, and
admission requirements.
/j"you have questions, call.'
OFFICE OF ACADEMIC SERVICES
(313) 764-7563
1033 School of Education Bldg.
Ulf OffU

PhD/MS
Quantitative Physical Scientists
Physicists
Engineers
Mathematicians
Economists
Statisticians/OR
The Center for Naval Analyses will be interviewing on campus at
the Student Activities Building in the Career Planning and Placement
Center on Thursday, October 26, 1989.
CNA conducts scientific analyses of operations, system performance,
investment, and planning problems for the U.S. Navy and Marine
Corps. We seek people with advanced degrees and strong quantitative
backgrounds to conduct studies vital to national security planning in
this era of new uncertainty. Check the Career Planning and Placement
Center for written and video information. If interested, please schedule
to meet our representative.

Candidates

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