Origin: Hamilton, Ontario
The band originated from Hamilton, Ontario Canada and was put together by four childhood friends in the early 60's. The four original members included myself, Paul Marcoux (lead guitar), Steve Urech (rhythm guitar), Nick Urech (bass guitar) and Jim Hall (drums). Steve and Nick are brothers. Influenced by early Beatles, Rolling Stones and "R & B" music, we became a group, before we even knew how to play our instruments. Eventually we learned how to make musical sounds, then play whole songs and named ourselves "The Fates".
The first vocalist in the band was Bill, a red-haired Mick Jagger look-a-like who had good stage presence and energy, but lacked in vocal quality. After some searching we added a fifth member (Al Pope) who had a fair voice and a look the band required (long black hair, charming to the women). Over the next while the band evolved, matured musically, began gaining a following in the local teen dance scene and changed the name to S.T.O.P. (Sound’s Typical Of People). The Village part was added later because of the "Yorkville" happening in Toronto and "Greenwich Village" in New York, at the request of a manager we soon acquired as we were becoming popular. He felt it would be more "in" with the music scene at that time.
One of the places we started at was the Y.W.C.A. on Ottawa street in Hamilton. They had a great thing going for the teens at that time. Tuesday night was "Audition Night". For 25 cents you could get in to watch 3 or 4 bands audition for the popular Saturday night dances. It was a great time with the whole Hippie thing just getting into full swing. We did the audition one night, got a Saturday night gig and learned it was going to be a big event that they were really pushing. The "love In" gatherings were starting to be an "In Thing", the term "Freak Out" was heavy into the language and face painting was the rage.
We decided that we needed to come up with something to "hip" up our show and be "with" the whole "happening" scene. The theme of the dance was to be called the "Freak Out" and what we did was to be the start of a whole new era and level of popularity for the band. Now, to this day, I swear "Kiss" saw our group when we later played in New York City. More about that later. This was "1966" and our idea was to take the face-painting thing just a little further. We were the "first" to paint our whole faces in black and white and that was only the start. We also learned a Frank Zappa tune off his "Freak Out" album called "Help I'm A Rock" which became a permanent part of the show.
Our change to the show was such a hit we kept it in and built on it over the next year. First we changed to fluorescent paint and started painting our hands as well. Then we painted all our stage equipment then added black lights and a strobe light (very popular in dance halls). Eventually we incorporated a Liquid Light show as well, which had been becoming the "in thing" with West Coast groups. The first night we added the black lights we were even amazed at the results. But we couldn't stop there! We decided to make ours a visual show as well as musical one and built the whole last set around the paint and black lights. We planned the last set to be a build up from an easy opening to an energetic and thunderous ending. Two of the members (Nick and Jim) started wearing swimsuits and we painted their whole bodies. We put the Zappa tune at the end and we would all wear robes in the last set with the body paint hidden underneath.
Since the music was fairly simple, I (Paul) would keep the music going along with our rhythm player (Steve) and the vocalist (Al) standing in on the drums. Our bass player and drummer would throw off their robes to expose the full body paint, run through the audience with mikes in hand, repeating parts of the Zappa tune as the sound man added special effects to the voices. We gained great popularity with the drug crowd for some reason!!To enhance the stage show even more, we started making our own stage outfits. Steve and Nick’s mother was a seamstress and made costumes for the Hamilton Theatre Company. Steve learned how to make patterns from his mother and imagination was the limit.
In The Sidelines
During this time another group from St. Catharines, called the "British Modbeats", had become very popular producing several 45's and an album of cover material. We caught their show a couple of times and were very impressed and influenced by their lead vocalist, Fraser Loveman. He was an excellent showman who had a background in dancing and used it in their show. He would jump in and out of sync in a routine with the Go-Go girls they had as part of the show, and drive the crowd wild. We always talked about how we needed a front man like that. Little did we know it was going to happen.
U.S. - The 1st Tour
We did some touring in the US and lived in New York City for about three months. It was early 1968, "2001:A Space Odyssey" was just premiering down the street on Times Square, "Hello Dolly", with Carole Channing was across the street and the musical "Hair" had just started off broadway. We played a club on the "Square" called the Space Club and opened for a few of the "then" recording acts. They included: The Box Tops, Booker T & The MG's, The Music Explosion, Rick Derringer (out of the McCoys and doing heavy , before the Edgar Winter Group), John Fred & the Playboys and an up and coming New York group, The Vagrants (with Lesie West before his stint with "Mountain").
Someone from The Village Voice came to see us one night and did a nice little article about us in one of the issues. Because we were in "New York City" and it was considered one of the hippest places to play, we had decided to spice up our act a little in an attempt to be "New York Hip". Since "Hair", along with its nudity, was big and playing Off Broadway, we wanted to be in character with the whole scene so Nick and Jim did their parts in jock straps, and Steve did a little quick genital nudity near the end of the set. Everything was painted so we never did know if anyone in the audience really caught it. It was now 1969, and again, I still think future members of Kiss (formed in 1973) saw us when we played there and got the idea of the painted faces from us. Even the thing with the costumes was a very similar idea. I'll give them the high boots part, that's theirs, but the rest, I'll probably never know!
As we were progressing, we felt our vocalist had become the weak link in the chain. He was a super guy but our musical abilities were pulling way ahead of his and we began to feel held back. Then we learned the Modbeats and Fraser Loveman had since parted ways and another group of his had just folded which made him free at the moment. We had a manager and a fan club, and even though we didn't think we were quite up to his standards yet, we had our manger contact him to see if he would at least check us out. He agreed to meet with us at one of our practices and see what we had to offer. We ended our meeting on an uncertain note and waited to hear his decision. Meanwhile, he dropped in on one of our gigs, and saw that we were way ahead of anyone with our stage show. He found us interesting enough that it overcame any indecision on his part and he agreed to join the band. With Fraser in the line-up our musical power doubled and we aimed our sights back at the US.
While still in Canada, we made our "one and only" 45. The A side was supposed to be "Vibration" and the B side "North Country", but of course they got reversed at the time of pressing. Only about 1000 copies were made but I've been amazed at learning "Vibration" has become a 60's Garage band collector's item and is now worth about $200.00 on the Canadian market. It was actually played "once" on CHUM FM in Toronto and a few local stations, but without the "Canadian Content Rule", we never had a chance at success.
Back To The U.S. To Touch The Brass ring!!!
Heading back to the US, we played in a few places around New York State and did a few gigs in New York City before finishing our tour in Allen Town Pennsylvania. While in New York City we played at a club called Joel Hellers. It was one of the better underground gigs to do in that city and at the end of one of our sets one night, we were approached by a producer ( Peter Schekeryk) who was working for, at that time, Columbia records. He really liked the stage presence of the group and wanted to use us for a project he had just started. He had a girl friend he wanted to record and he thought we would be a great backup band for the act. We agreed to meet with him and his girlfriend at the Ed Sullivan rehearsal studios on Times Square the next day.
We were in one of the rooms when the producer and his girlfriend walked in. She was a smaller women then we were expecting but packed a powerful voice. She was basically a folk singer at that time but she did go on to some fame as Melanie of "Lay Down Lay down" and "Brand New Key". Although it was a different direction then we wanted to go, we decided to give it a try. We still had some gigs to finish up and time was needed to get things rolling anyways.
At the last gig our manager came to us one day and had just gotten off the phone with the Peter Schekeryk and their had been a change in plans. It was going to take a little longer to get material together for Melanie (we learned later Columbia wasn’t interested in Melanie) so he had come up with a different theme for the interim. Seems he had this idea to showcase some of the acts he had presently signed to the label. He wanted to stage a travelling music show called the "Super Circus" composed of three of their top acts and us. This is where it all fell apart. We had to change the name of the group to "Crocodile " and we had to come up with some original material to coincide with the flavour of the other groups. The other groups? "Ohio Express, 1910 Fruit Gum Company and Crazy Elephant!! That's Bubble Gum!!! For f##**#**!! Sake!! Acid Rock Bubble Gum??? I have to admit, at the urging of our manger, we did try!! Not too hard though. Of course we couldn't do it and our manger was not happy! We turned it down, went back to Canada and that was that!
The Great White North And The End!
Once back in Canada, the group slowed down and a few internal pressures, which had been brewing between other band members and me, took their toll on my playing and I was fired from the group. The new guitarist, although being technically a better player than I was, did not have the showmanship that was a huge part of my style and a lot of the group's fans didn't take to the change. Fraser left the group not long after I was gone and was replaced with a female singer who had none of the presence that Fraser did. It didn't last long after that and the band eventually folded.
Three of us (Fraser, Nick and I) did end up in another band for a little while in 1970, a second "Fraser Loveman Group".
The Village S.T.O.P. was a major part of my life and I still look back with warmth at those times.
Four guys grew up together, had a great psychedelic rock band together and an experience that few ever have a chance at. So, no regrets, just great memories!!
Long Live 60's Rock n' Roll !!!!!!!!
Add on 2016:
This bio was part of a web site I had up in the late 90’s early 2000’s and have revised it a little. Through that web site and the emails I received while it was up, I learned that “Vibration” was a popular song played on Radio stations featuring sixties Acid Rock hours and has popped up in the US, UK, Germany and Japan. That is thanks to a couple of musicians in New York who had a business going on the side where they would produce compilation albums of music they liked. One was a collection of unknown garage bands and was called “World of Acid” (1997). They somehow got one of our 45’s, loved “Vibration” and put it on the album and sold it on the internet. They had no idea where the band was from until I learned of the album and contacted them and filled them in. They sent me a copy of the album and it was re-issued on CD in 2012 and was still available online as of 2016.