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The Village S.T.O.P.

 The Village S.T.O.P. - North Country / Vibration - 7

North Country / Vibration - 7"
Ruby - 1969

Michael Panontin
If we are to believe guitarist Paul Marcoux, the Village S.T.O.P. were pretty much the cutting edge of Canadian freakdom back in the day.

The Hamilton quintet had just landed one of their first gigs, a coveted Saturday night slot at the local YWCA back in 1966, and decided to take the night's 'Freak Out' theme straight to heart. "We decided that we needed to come up with something to 'hip' up our show and be 'with' the whole 'happening' scene," Marcoux recalled on his long-defunct webpage (which was recently reposted on the MOCM website). "We were the first to paint our whole faces in black and white [and] we also learned a Frank Zappa tune off his Freak Out album called 'Help, I'm a Rock'." The ploy proved so popular that the band went full out, eventually adding fluorescent paint, black light, strobes and of course the cliched liquid light to their act. "Two of the members 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."

In early '68, the five took their freak show to New York City, with a three-month stint that saw them share stages with the likes of the Box Tops, Booker T and the MGs, the Music Explosion, Rick Derringer, John Fred and His Playboy Band and the Vagrants. On a later trip there the following year, with casts in Hair and Oh! Calcutta! baring all Off Broadway, the lads pushed that envelope a tad or two further. "We wanted to be in character with the whole scene," he explained, "so Nick [Urech] and Jim [Hall] did their parts in jock straps, and Steve [Urech] did a little quick genital nudity near the end of the set."

But all gimmickry aside, by 1969 the Village S.T.O.P. had actually gelled into a pretty taut acid/psych act, especially so after adding former British Modbeat singer Fraser Loveman to their roster. The cool wah-wah-laden 'Vibration' is a stunner of a track and quite rightly was originally intended to be the top-side. But, as was so often the case back then, things got a bit crossed and it ended up on the reverse instead. And though pressed up in a tiny run of just a thousand copies on a hopelessly obscure label, it managed a spin on the influential CHUM-AM radio station in Toronto but, as Marcoux laments "without the Canadian Content rule, we never had a chance at success."

Fast-forward to the nineties and a pair of New York musicians who, after scoring a copy of 'Vibration', included the track on their bootleg compilation, World of Acid. This internet-only LP somehow found its way into the hands of devoted DJs as far away as the US, UK, Germany and Japan, who dutifully rescued the Village S.T.O.P. and the amazing 'Vibration' from the clutches of vinyl oblivion.

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