Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Perfect Songs - 96 Tears

96 tears spanish single
Now I'm going to need to track this down.
When people talk about garage rock, I think the first thing everyone with some knowledge of what that means thinks of is The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie." And for good reason. That's a seminal track that really does capture everything about what garage rock was and is about. It set the standard of barely intelligible lyrics yelled out, loud bass, drums that sound like they are in your living room all playing a very simple song and maybe missing notes and cues along the way, but who cares. It's about the feeling. But for me, a better definition of the style is "96 Tears" by ? & The Mysterians, a perfect song.

A hallmark of garage rock is R&B covers played rough and sloppy, like "Louie Louie." Yet, "96 Tears" is not only an original song, the recording isn't all that sloppy. It's almost so on the beat, it's hypnotic. Yet, somehow, that feeling of guys in a garage, just throwing it together comes across. That opening organ, leading into a continuous, almost circus/church counter melody while ? acts as carnival barker/preacher, talking/singing/testifying to this girl and how he's done crying about her and now it's her turn, is something I fell in love with the moment I first heard this song, sometime when I was a kid, listening to the oldies station, Magic 102.7, back in the 80s. It's a sound and feeling that I"m always looking for, and it's one reason the garage revival of the early 2000's that gave us everyone from The White Stripes and Black Keys to The Dirtbombs, The Kills and The Yeah Yeah Yeah's, excited me. But I have to say that as much as I love those bands and others that have come since, none has truly captured what this band captured on this song (maybe King Khan does). To top it off, this was a band with an aura of crazy that starts with the lead singer's name, ?, long before Prince became a symbol.

What makes most songs work is when they hit on something universal and human that comes through in the music. This is no different. The fact that it's an original song doesn't separate it at all from classic R&B, because in it's own way, it is classic R&B. It's got a groove that nobody can deny. That organ dances with the bass line in a way that belongs in a club, while at the same time, still capturing that DIY, garage feel. Garage rock can be a lot of things, but when it works best, the energy and abandon has to be palpable. It is in this song and it's damn infectious. It's perfect.

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