"96 Tears" is a song recorded by the American garage rock band ? and the Mysterians in 1966. In October of that year, it was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. and on the RPM 100 in Canada. Billboard ranked the record as the #5 song for 1966. It is ranked #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.
Known for its signature organ licks and bare-bones lyrics, "96 Tears" is recognized as one of the first garage band hits, and has even been given credit for starting the punk rock movement.
The song appeared on the band's album 96 Tears. The follow-up song, "I Need Somebody", peaked at #22 later that year, but no other U.S. Top 40 singles followed.
A Spanish version of the song was also recorded by ? And the Mysterians
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 #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.
"I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free"