Well, after a mental break from writing, back to Five Songs — and what more logical choice for Part 96? From ’66 — five high-school and middle-school kids from Saginaw, Mich., doing what high school kids do (or at least did) in garages with musical instruments.
Doubtless they had no idea what they were starting when Frank Rodriguez laid down the organ line that launched a billion good moods. And that, because of that song, they would be making money off it as middle-age men, as the song’s popularity prompted a late-’90s reunion that continues intermittently today.
I missed the ? and the Mysterians reunion show at the first Cavestomp! festival in New York in 1997, as I was out on vacation in San Francisco (where my consolation prize was seeing The Cramps at the Warfield on Halloween). But three months later, I saw them at Lupo’s in Providence, then at the Tune Inn in New Haven. (I interviewed guitarist Bobby Balderrama on the phone one night for a preview of the New Haven show and then called ? himself; next thing I knew, he was off to the races for two hours. Insane, breathless interview.)
And the Tune Inn aftershow was as great as the show itself — breakfast with the band (minus ?), plus the Norton Records crew (Billy Miller and Miriam Linna and pals), up from Brooklyn, at the Twin Pines Diner in East Haven.
And that Labor Day Sunday, I saw them at the Bumbershoot festival in Seattle, in one of the greatest things I’d ever witnessed.
They performed at a hockey rink in the Seattle Center, where they were greeted with a half-filled floor of snot-nosed punks who insisted on giving the old men on stage a hard time. About midway through the set, some of them held up individual sheets of notebook paper that spelled out YOU SUCK.
? didn’t bat an eyelash — Okay, if he did bat them, who would know beneath those shades? He breathlessly told the crowd before they launched into the next song, “Okay, this song goes back to the summer of 1967! Smash Mouth had a number-one hit with this song! Smash Mouth! Smash Mouth!” It was “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby,” and suddenly the kids, who were such little shits to that point, shut up. They actually started paying attention.
And by the time the band got to the ending 10-minute version of “96 Tears,” the kids were all swaying and feeding out of his hand. The best example of winning over a crowd I’ve ever seen.
Anyway, enjoy your weekend. And don’t cry, cry-cry-cry too much.