Question Mark and the Mysterians – Action (1967): Forgotten Series

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Fronted by the colorful presence and personality of Question Mark, whose real name was Rudy Martinez and claimed he was from Mars, this Bay City, Michigan band is mainly remembered for “96 Tears,” which reached the No. 1 spot on the national charts in the autumn of 1966. But if you plumb the archives, you’ll actually stumble upon a series of comparably nifty nuggets.

Question Mark and the Mysterians clearly felt there was no need to change a good thing, as much of their material stuck comfortably close to the style that elevated “96 Tears” to towering heights. The dinging hum of a Vox organ, a couple of rudimentary chords, and Question Mark’s wistful whine defined the group’s sound. Yet the band benefitted from such a lean and pure approach. Instantly distinctive and proving to be massively influential, Question Mark and the Mysterians have deservedly been crowned garage rock royalty.

Although the band’s second album didn’t match the commercial success of their first long-player — which was duly titled 96 Tears — 1967’s Action (Cameo-Parkway Records) still produced an enjoyable listen and contained some of what would be the group’s finest songs.

Piloted by a lusty leer and big and bubbly rhythms, “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby” was covered by Smash Mouth in 1998, who scored a Top 15 hit with the catchy tune, while “Don’t Hold It Against Me,” “Girl (You Captivate Me),” and “Hangin’ on a String,” reel in as other essential tracks. Sleeved in sheets of choppy hooks, the perpetual ping of electric ivories, clanging guitars, and vibrant energy, these songs pop and pulsate with simple pleasures.

The Isley Brothers are given a holler on a respectable treatment of the church revival inspired “Shout (Part 1 & 2),” and “Do You Feel It” further sweats and sizzles to a crowd-wowing soul stance. For a switch in scenery, there’s “Just Like a Rose,” a gentle and delicate ballad exposing a completely different dimension of the band.

Sporting a fun and danceable vibe, Action is a great teen punk souvenir. Question Mark and the Mysterians were a cool and tight band, and here’s a set of songs validating their merits.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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