Monday, February 16, 2009

Before ?uestlove, There Was ? and the Mysterians

Did you know latinos may have invented punk rock?

Yeah, me neither. And of course any premise related to an individual invention of a genre of music is destined to be refuted; but did you know latinos were even remotely in the realm of being able to claim punk rock as something they came up with? Much like harlem-born negroes and leaping off of snow-capped mountains in Norway, I figured mexicans and punk-rock to be on some never the twain shall meet sh*t.

Nothing better than filling the ignoramus holes in your brain, so you can imagine my cultural scavenger's delight in discovering an icon of american assimilation: ? and the Mysterians.

The myspace identifies them as "the first band to be described as punk rock". The wiki says, "the first Latino rock group to have a general audience hit record in the United States" (and you know what they mean by "general audience" riiight?). Throw in that the band formed in the apparently culturally-rich and Mexican-rich MICHIGAN (basic recon only identifies the mexican denominations in the "latino" group, so don't yell at me), and everything adds up to a whole lot of awesome. These dudes are like a youtube mashup video come-to-life.... in the 60s!

Plus, we have a pioneer of the change-your-name-to-a-symbol club in "?" née Rudy Martinez, and he is described in the wiki thusly:

The band's frontman and primary songwriter was Question Mark. Though the singer has never confirmed it, Library of Congress copyright registrations indicate that his birth name is Rudy Martinez. His eccentric behavior helped to briefly establish the group in the national consciousness. He claimed (and still claims) to be a Martian who lived with dinosaurs in a past life, and he never appears in public without sunglasses.

Yeah that sounds about right: if you're an eccentric latino, playing somewhat unprecedented garage-band rock, starting in the 50s 60s, you're probably going to keep the glasses on at all times. Lest you and everyone's head explode from being exposed to this Bizarro-America glitch in the matrix.

Hopefully some young punk-rock loving latino/a is reading this and deciding to write a book on these folks. Like right now! Cause it needs to be done! One of their hit songs -- 96 Tears, clip below -- has a nice riff done by a 14-year old Frank Rodriguez, so I haven't even begun to touch on all the WTFness going on here. 14-year old mexican music geniuses in michigan in the 60s, how come I didn't learn about that in social studies dammit!

I'm marinating with the music now; punk's not a dominant flavor for me, but I think it holds up nicely. Some video clips of their hit "96 Tears" below:

1 comment:

  1. Jeffimix2/17/2009

    Surprised you've never heard of them... but I grew up in Grand Rapids Michigan. Good band.


Related Posts with Thumbnails