Question Mark and the Mysterians (usually written as ? and the Mysterians on record labels) were formed in Bay City, Michigan, in 1962.
The group took its name from the 1957 Japanese science fiction film The Mysterians, in which aliens from the destroyed planet Mysteroid arrive to conquer Earth. A slight detour here, the film is a classic of the sci-fi genre. Director Ishiro Honda had some good films on his resume at that point and The Mysterians was no different. I tracked down a sci-fi film blog called V-Cinema (found here: http://www.vcinemashow.com/the-mysterians-1957/ which summarized the film as follows:
1) Men with advanced (read: atomic) technology land on the home islands and destroy civilian targets.
2) Said men want a small piece of land on which to build a base.
3) They also want to breed with Japanese women, much as the American GI’s did.
4) Lastly, their secret purpose is to take over Japan for themselves. America never wanted Japan’s land but our cultural influence was unmistakable.
Digression over…back to the band…
Sometimes referred to as the first “punk rock” group what is less well-known is that they were the first Latino rock band with a hit record in the US when they released “96 Tears” in 1966.
They started out as an instrumental act inspired by surf music and included Larry Borjas on bass, Bobby Balderrama on guitar, and Robert Martinez on guitars and bongos. Early on Martinez switched to drums and his brother Rudy Martinez joined on vocals, calling himself “Question Mark” (written “?”). The war called and Robert was drafted and Borjas enlisted. They were replaced by Eddie Serrato on drums and Frank Lugo on bass. Frank Rodriguez joined on keys, and this formed the classic “96 Tears” lineup.
Rudy “Question Mark” Martinez wrote their biggest hit, “96 Tears,” in 1966. The song started out as a poem called “Too Many Teardrops,” written years before the band was even formed. The song is mostly noted for Rodriguez’s catchy Vox organ riff. A low-budget adventure, the song was recorded on March 13, 1966, on a house porch in Bay City, Michigan.
The band released two more singles (“I Need Somebody” and “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby”) also charted, but were nowhere near as successful as “96 Tears”. These were compiled on the album 96 Tears along with a handful of other songs.
Question Mark and the Mysterians’ second album, Action, featured the band at the peak of its musicianship, but the album was not a commercial success. The band then briefly recorded with Capitol Records, Tangerine Records and Super K. The band lineup changed as the original members left for other projects. Mel Schacher, future bass player for Grand Funk Railroad, briefly became the bass guitarist until Richard Schultz took over on bass and co-wrote numerous songs with Rudy Martinez; including “She Goes to Church on Sunday,” which was licensed to Paul McCartney’s publishing company.
- “96 Tears”
- “She Goes To Church On Sunday”
- “Turn Around Baby”
- “I Need Somebody”