Piano Teacher N8

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? the alien influences punk and Prince


1966 might be memorable partly for the fact that in that particular year, an alien topped the Billboard pop chart. Known as "Q' to his bandmates, but to the public as "?", the alien and The Mysterians rose to fame when their hit song "96 Tears" emerged from another planet and reached a cult following among fans.

That is, of course, the version that the band would like us to believe.

Having legally changed his named to "?", Rudy Martinez made the acquaintance of the Mysterians one night at a concert and offered to manage them. In time, he would soon become the lead singer and main songwriter of the Mexican-American group which borrowed the name from a Japanese science fiction movie about aliens. The air of mystery that ? brought with him fitted well with the image of the group; and ? repaid the trust in him by providing the words to "96 Tears", from a poem of his called "Too Many Teardrops".

The hit song that came out of nowhere has been described as "a simple song infused with energy". Its simplicity extended beyond the music itself and even into the recording process. It was done in a somewhat amateur fashion in the living room of a record label called Pa-Go-Go, but the simplicity of the recording and sound, described as "proto-punk", would go on to influence later punk bands in the 1970s.

The man known as ? would also influence later generations of artistes in other ways. His habit of never taking of his trademark shades to maintain an air of mystery would be copied by other performers, as with the changing of his name to something with more mystique. Remember the pop artiste Prince? In a later contract dispute with Warner Bros, he would change his name to a symbol (although commentators would refer to him as "The Artiste Formerly known as Prince").

The Mysterians were one of many groups to top pop charts by virtue of the interest their quirkiness generated - charts would also be headed by soft metal groups, dancing animals, and groups with revolving members. ? and the Mysterians released two further singles but struggled to emulate their success. Nevertheless, with their style of instrumental music influenced by surf bands and loud raw sound, many credit them with at least partly influencing the direction of punk.

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