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"96 Tears"
Single by ? & the Mysterians
from the album 96 Tears
B-side "Midnight Hour"
Released 1966
Format 7" 45 RPM
Genre Garage rock
Length 2:38
Label Cameo-Parkway Records
Writer(s) Rudy Martinez
Producer Rudy Martinez

"96 Tears" is a popular song recorded by ? & the Mysterians in 1966. It hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and is ranked #210 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.



The song was originally written by likely Question Mark, Rudy Martinez, around 1962. The recording was done in Bay City, Michigan. It was first released on the small Pa-Go-Go label and then picked up by Cameo Records for national distribution. The original issue is quite rare and sought after by record collectors.

Known for its signature organ licks and bare-bones lyrics, "96 Tears" has been widely-recognized as one of the first garage band hits and has even been given credit for starting the punk rock movement.[1] It is generally accepted that rock critic Dave Marsh coined the term "Punk rock" when referring to this song.

The song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966 and was the band's only major hit single. Follow-up song "I Need Somebody" peaked at number 22 later that year and no other U.S. top-forty singles followed. It appears on the band's album 96 Tears.


  • Lead singer Question Mark (believed to be Rudy Martinez, born in Mexico but raised in Michigan's Saginaw Valley)
  • Lead guitarist Robert Balderrama
  • Keyboardist Frank Rodriquez
  • Bass player Frank Lugo
  • Drummer Robert Martinez


The song has been covered by the following artists:

It is alluded to in the song "Plus Ones" by folk band Okkervil River and also by the B-52's in "Deadbeat Club". Other allusions to "96 Tears" occur in the songs "Johnny Hit and Run Pauline" by X and "Human Fly" by the Cramps.

In popular culture


  1. ^ Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson.
Preceded by
"Reach Out I'll Be There" by The Four Tops
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
October 29, 1966
(one week)
Succeeded by
"Last Train to Clarksville" by The Monkees


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