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“96 Tears”

Posted by purplemary54 on February 22, 2014

I was having trouble deciding on a song for today.  I just don’t really feel like I have anything to say, and my mood is . . . neutral.

Which makes the only hit by ? & the Mysterians the perfect song.  I guess.

It’s not really the song that’s so appropriate–although it is a terrific song.  It’s the name of the band.  Google, Wikipedia, etc. all spell out the name as “Question Mark.”  Now, I don’t know if that’s some kind of technical thing with search engines and the like, of if there’s some sort of ingrained prejudice against using a punctuation mark as a name.

Shakespeare asked “What’s in a name?”,  which is a pretty loaded question when you think about it.  Your name is a large part of your identity.  Corporations and manufacturers sue people who infringe on their trademarks by using their brand name for off-brand products, although it hasn’t stopped “kleenex” and “xerox” from becoming generic words for facial tissue and copies in the vernacular.  (I’m not sure if that’s a testimony to the products’ success and marketing, or the obliviousness of people.)  Women frequently change their surnames to their husbands’ names when they get legally married.  Children of married or not-married couples sometimes bear the hyphenated names of both their parents.  In the old days, you could get your name “dragged through the mud,” and it would be a great disgrace.  What people call you is a great deal of who you are.

Generally, we don’t choose our own names.  They’re given to us by well-meaning parents.  Or not so well-meaning agents and managers, if you’re a celebrity of some sort.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t have any control.  Back in the 90s, I think, a young man created a bit of a ruckus when he legally changed his name to Trout Fishing in America, the same name as a book by Richard Brautigan.  Also in the 90s, Prince changed his name to a strange symbol that he eventually copyrighted as “Love Symbol #2” but was called by a lot of people “Unpronounceable Symbol.”  (Although Wikipedia doesn’t associate the two, I was always under the impression that the name change had something to do with trying to get out of his record contract with Warner Bros.)  Basketball thug Ron Artest got himself some mental health treatment, and to signal the change he’d made personally, he changed his name to Metta World Peace.  The point is that we might be given a name, but it doesn’t have to be the final word on who we are.

But names usually stick.  You might get a shortened version of a longer name, or a nickname you never quite outgrow.  If you become a serial killer, or commit some other heinous crime, you’ll always be known by your full name, as if the whole world just turned into a scolding mother  (“John Wilkes Booth, you put that gun down right this second!”).

So if the frontman of a band wants to be known as ?, then who the heck are we to judge.



2 Responses to ““96 Tears””

  1. 45spin said

    One of cheesiest organ sounds ever recorded yet totally vital to the great vibe that comes from one of the greatest songs of the 60’s garage band era. Btw – I still have the 45 and I have it cataloged under Q for Question Mark.

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