October 30, 2014


Chapter 2 Sex Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll : 
? and the Mysterians
Derail the Last Train to Clarksville

What are we doing in New York City? Manhatten? 1966 – How
did we get here?
How did we get here, New York, of all places, Manhattan?
We never planned this—we never even talked about it, but we
did make a recording.
BUT, I must confess that I had set my goals for Broadway
back in 1957.
My main goal of course was to be on American Bandstand in
1958, and show the world how to dance, then to proceed in NY, Manhattan, to do
a tv show that was very popular from 1950-1960, which I also wanted to be on so
I could show the world how to dance. The show was called The Arthur Murray
Party and featured dancing and guest vocalists. Of course ultimately I wanted
to make my presence known on Broadway – in a musical production, or any kind of
production, and later on as a serious actor.
When I said how did we get here, I am referring to ? and the
Mysterians. I don’t know what their goals were back then – Little Frank
Rodriguez, our keyboard player, was just 14 and our guitarist Bobby Balderrama
only 15. I’m not sure they, or Frank Lugo and Eddie Serrato HAD any real goals,
so I really should say “what am I doing here”? This wasn’t how I planned it.
In August, 1966, we arrived in Manhattan at night on the
22nd and I wrote my mother that tomorrow I was going to visit the Empire State
Building and was going to go all the way to the top (which I did, to the 102nd
floor) Of course I was on the inside, looking through the portholes on the
102nd floor –King Kong was on the outside.
BUT, lets go back to the 1st week of August because this is
about a so-called group called the Monkees and another group called ? and the
Mysterians and who was going to get to the top spot on the Top 100. Of course,
we were. I had no doubt even before I ever heard of the Monkees that we were.
I told everyone when we recorded “96 Tears” that it was a
million seller. The first week of August 1966 we were in Dallas TX promoting 96
Tears, which was then still on the Pa-Go-Go label. We already knew it was to be
released the 1st week in September on the Cameo Parkway label. We were at a radio
station doing a promo stop and a dj there told us “We really like your song a
whole lot better than this new group we have to play. We’ll play yours next
week. The reason is because they have a TV series called “The Monkees” coming
out.” Of course I replied “Its too bad we don’t have a tv series” and that set
in motion the plan to derail the Monkees from reaching the top spot on
Billboards top 100 before we did.
At the time, there were also such notable groups as the
Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys who went on to become the
so-called “greatest” groups in Rock and Roll History.
The clock starts now and is ticking away. The last week of
August, ? And the Mysterians “96 Tears” was listed on the Billboard rankings
as  #112  
“bubbling just outside the top 100”. There were no Monkees listed.
September 3, 1966 – Lyndon Baines Johnson was president and
the 24th Science Fiction convention honored Gene Roddenbury-a week later “Star
Trek” debuted on NBC.  On the top 100, 96
Tears has jumped to #75, while the Monkees, even with their upcoming tv show,
were only at 101, just outside the top 100. The Beatles Yellow Submarine was #5
and their Elenor Rigby #47, Beach Boys “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” was at #11 and the
Rolling Stones “Mother’s Little Helper” was fading at 40. The race was on.
By September the 10th, ? and the Mysterians are now
recording our first album. Everyone KNEW this record was going to be a major
hit so into the studio we went. “96 Tears” is now #45 but the Monkees are now
climbing and are at #67. Beatles Yellow Submarine #3 and Elenor Rigby jumped to
26, Beach Boys Wouldn’t It Be Nice at 11 AND 42 God Only Knows.
On September 15th, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson responding
to a sniper attack at the University of Texas at Austin, writes a letter to the
United States Congress urging the enactment of gun control legislation. The
Monkees TV show debuted on the 12…by September 17th 96 Tears has continued to
climb to 25 and the Last Train To Clarksville chugged along at #43. Still
floating the Yellow Submarine was #2 and Eleanor Rigby at 14. The Beach Boys Wouldn’t
It be Nice counted in at #8 and God Only Knows at 40. We were still ahead of
the prefabricated fake tv band.
From September 24-30, Hurricane Inez, killed 293 in the
Caribbean, Florida & Mexico. In OUR world, in the week ending September
24th , 96 Tears has broken into the top ten, at #8, the fastest rising single
on the charts. The Monkees “Last Train To Clarksville” crawled to #26; The
Beatles “Yellow Submarine” dropped to #4 and “Elenor Rigby” just at 11; The
Beach Boys “Wouldn’t It Be Nice “ was #9 and their “God Only Knows” was at 39
A little trivia for everyone out there– how many of you
owned a Chevy Camaro at one time or another- did you know it was originally
called the Panther. It was first released September
29 , 1966. That same week, the week ending October 1st ,
finds 96 Tears at #6, up two positions, Yellow Submarine dropped to 8 and
Eleanor Rigby in at 11, Last Train to Clarksville was at 18, Beach Boys
Wouldn’t It Be Nice at 23 and God Only Knows on its way out at 45. Neither of
the Beach Boys songs from their highly acclaimed album made #1, In fact God
Only Knows didn’t fare well at all.
On October 6th there was a partial meltdown at Detroits’s
Fermi 1 nuclear reactor AND
LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is first declared illegal
in state of California, other states follow.. The Billboard charts for the week
ending October 8th, 96 Tears continued its climb, now at #3 , The Monkees “Last
Train to Clarksville” moved up to #6, Submarine down to #16 taking Eleanor
Rigby to #21 – the Rolling Stones entered with “Have you Seen Your Mother Baby
(Standing in the Shadows)” at 40 from out of nowhere, and “Wouldn’t It be Nice”
dropped to 45– God Only Knows what happened to “God Only Knows”—it was GONE.
On October 13th , 1966, 173 US airplanes bomb North-Vietnam
and on the 14th 175 US airplanes bomb North Vietnam. Back at home, the
Billboard chart for the week ending October 15, our
“96 Tears” was for a second time #3, the Monkee’s “Last
Train to Clarksville” right behind us at #4, Mother Baby has gone from 40 to 14
in a week, Yellow Submarine has dropped to 32 and Eleanor Rigby at 37 –
Wouldn’t it be Nice is GONE
October 13-Oh My Goodness, It’s my BIRTHDAY!!!
In celebration I decided to skip down Wall Street, Broadway,
5th Avenue, Greenwich Village, Time Square, Central Park, over to Harlem to the
Apollo Theatre, through Tiffany’s where I skipped right through the jewelry
because material things really don’t mean much to me, The Secretariat Building
in the UN Complex (The Glass Wall – remember the movie?), Five Points and to
the top of the Empire State Building, and on the 86th floor observatory, I
skipped all the way around there too. When you visit NYC, I encourage you to
Skip to My Lou (Judy Garland version perhaps?) around them all and photograph
or videotape it and send it over to 96TearsForever@gmail.com.
On October 21st, 144 died as a coal waste landslide engulfed
a school in Aberfan, South Wales
Billboard’s Week ending October 22, 1966 chart we moved up
one more spot- ever closer to derailing the Last Train to Clarksville….”Reach
Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops became the #1 song in America, but close on
their heels was US–“96 Tears” now at #2 and ahead of “Last Train to Clarksville”
by a single spot. Stones Mother Baby was hung up at 13, and both the Beatles
songs and the Beach Boys two hits had quietly faded away.
And then it happened…the chart for the week of October 29,
1966 was released and sitting on the top of the world was ? and the Mysterians
with “96 Tears”!
The Monkees, propelled by their tv show and big studio money
STILL couldn’t beat us, a little band of Mexicans from Michigan, to the
top…and they were #2. The Stones “Have You Seen Your Mother Baby” never got
past #9 where they were on this chart. There was not a peep from the Beatles or
the Beach Boys… We were promoting 96 Tears and our next record “I Need
Somebody” on the east coast in October and November. We were doing bigger
concerts with Sonny & Cher, The Beach Boys, The Mamas and Papas, The Left
Banke, and others who were eager to be on the show with us.
The week before 96 Tears became the #1 single in the
country, this is what happened.
? and the Mysterians are about done recording our debut
album, “96 Tears” and Neil Bogart came into the studio.
“Why don’t you guys take a break, I have something to tell
you.” he said.  “Next week you guys are
going to be #1 ; are you all excited?”
Bobby, Little Frank, Frank Lugo, Eddie Serrato all started
yelling and screaming “Number 1, Number 1!” Neil Bogart looked at me and said
“Question Mark, aren’t you excited?” and I said “No”.
Before Little Frank was in the group, back in 1963, somebody
booked us in Adrian MI, which is about 10 miles from Ohio. We had never played
any further than a 25 mile radius from home so going to Adrian MI was like
going to the moon. We knew nobody there and they didn’t know who we were but
after we played 2 sets, everyone loved us. At that time we were known as the
Mysterians, ?, X, Y and Z.
I was thinking about this, my reply to Neil Bogart was “So
what’s more exciting—we’ve gone out of MI into OH, IN, FL, NY, PA (which we
continue to do today without another gold record)
Article made by Question Mark & Susie Martin/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014
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