On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
? & The Mysterians – 96 Tears (1966)
We’re staying in the US, dear reader (I hope you don’t mind), and heading northwards to Michigan where today’s guests originated. ? alias Rudy Martinez was the creative force behind ? & The Mysterians. ? claimed to have been born on Mars (hmmm!) and that he was alive when the dinosaurs were (erm?), so he was a guy of fanciful claims that certainly piqued the interest of onlookers. The group specialised in garage rock and 1001 Songs has gone with their biggest hit, one that almost makes them a one hit wonder for they never could replicate the success of this song. It is, of course, 96 Tears.
In 96 Tears, ? takes on the vocals and the role of a narrator who sounds as if they have come out of a painful relationship. ? describes how his ex-lover is doing well, she is above him and looking down while he is far below, helpless, and weeping the 96 tears of the song’s title. However, the narrator is not content for this to go on. He wants to turn the tables on his ex, he wants revenge. He tells us that they will get back together, briefly, then split up. When that happens, he will be the one at the top looking down on his weeping lover but he will be merciful, give her a chance to come back and be on the same level as he is. The narrator informs us that his ex has not extended this same courtesy to him. Truth be told, he is the only one weeping here. His ex has moved on.
I have been familiar with 96 Tears for a long time. I was most familiar with the cover version by The Stranglers from 1990 but did eventually go back and revisit the original by ? & The Mysterians. That organ theme is one of the most memorable parts of the track and instantly grabs you. I’ll be honest, but until today I hadn’t delved too deeply into the lyrics but when you do the outlook is pretty dark. ? & The Mysterians would continue after 96 Tears, which topped the charts in the US, but it would be the peak of their career which is a shame.
Favourite songs so far:
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
The Mamas & The Papas – California Dreamin’ (1965)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody (1965)
The Who – Substitute (1966)
The Kinks – Sunny Afternoon (1966)
The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby (1966)