Los Stop – or Cristina y Los Stop, as they are often called now – were one of Spain’s most successful groups of the late 1960s. The five piece from Barcelona dictated the sounds of Spanish summers for a couple of years before Cristina quit the band, taking two of its members with her. She would later embark on a solo career.
Lead singer Cristina was born Maria del Carmen Arévalo in Barcelona in 1943.
She joined a group with the unlikely moniker of Donald Duck in 1964. They played at local clubs before winning a local radio contest, which attracted the attention of bosses at the Belter record label.
However, Belter insisted that the group change their name. Britain ruled the pop world at the time, and so they opted for a name that included one of the few English words that the average Spaniard would have understood at the time – hence Los Stop.
Besides Cristina, the group included Andrés Gallego (drums), Fernando Cubedo (bass), José María Serra (guitar) and Juan Comellas (keyboards).
The fivesome was herded into the studio to record versions of four international hits for their first release, issued in 1966.
The EP led with El último tren a Clarksville, a version of The Monkees’ Last train to Clarksville, and also included El forastero Mr James (Manfred Mann’s Semi-detached suburban Mr James), Catedral de Winchester (The New Vaudeville Band’s Winchester Cathedral) and Un hombre y una mujer (the Francis Lai-penned Un homme et une femme).
Significant radio play ensured it became a hit, albeit a minor one. However, bigger was to follow.
When the group won the 1967 Fortuna song contest – held in Murcia – with the song Casi nada, Belter realised they had potential stars on their hands and threw themselves wholeheartedly behind the group.
They were entered for the Mallorca song festival with El turista 1.999.999. This ode to holidaymakers – the saviours of the Spanish economy – proved especially popular with the hoteliers on the jury and came close to winning. But no matter that it didn’t – the song sold by the bucketload all the same. It was even deemed worthy of a Spanish cultural prize and has gone on to become a classic, albeit at the kitsch end of pop’s promenade. (The B-side was an appealing version of The Turtles’ Happy together, Los dos tan felices.)
Having become household names, the group fared even better with their follow up, Tres cosas (salud, dinero y amor). The song topped the Spanish charts and became one of the songs of the summer of 1967. The single came in a brightly coloured sleeve that pictured a newly slimmed-down Cristina wearing the haughty look she would become known for.
With no original material in the can but keen to capitalise on their signing’s success, Belter issued a couple of unnecessary and somewhat belated EPs offering translated versions of songs from that year’s San Remo and Eurovision song contests. They included takes on Iva Zanicchi’s Non pensare a me, Sandie Shaw’s Puppet on a string (Marionetas en la cuerda), Géraldine’s Quel coeur vas-tu briser? (¿Qué corazón será?) and Minouche Barelli’s Serge Gainsbourg-penned Boum bada boum, but – deservedly – both releases passed largely unnoticed by the record-buying public.
The El hombrecito EP saw the group cover, amongst other things, The Four Tops’ Reach out I’ll be there as Extiende tus brazos.
But, the follow up, a reissue of Casi nada, served only to highlight a lack of new material. Ironically, however, the EP did include Con su blanca palidez, a version of The Moody Blues’ Nights in white satin, and, like the original, is considered one of the group’s best recordings.
The follow up offered more new material, in the form of Molino al viento, a version of a hit by Italian singer Little Tony (Mulino a vento), plus No duerma en el metro (Petula Clark’s Don't sleep in the subway) and the Giorgio Moroder-penned ¿Cuánto tiempo he de esperar? (How much longer must I wait).
An LP, released early in 1968, provided what was effectively a greatest hits compilation. Those tracks that were actually new were soon released on an EP – leading with a version of African singer Miriam Makeba’s Pata pata.
When Massiel won the 1968 Eurovision song contest for Spain with La, la, la, Belter whisked the group into the studio to record versions of the song. A Catalan version was issued on one of two EPs that the group cut in the language – much to the delight of record buyers in their home region. (This EP is the only one credited to Cristina y Los Stop, the name they are now commonly known by. On all other releases, however, they were simply Los Stop.)
However, having the group record a Spanish version of Massiel’s song was a pointless exercise and the result was thoroughly overlooked in favour of the original. But when DJs flipped over the single to find Yo te daré and began giving it airplay instead, Belter reissued the song as an A-side. The track, a Galician folk theme set to a cheesy pop beat, became a big hit that summer.
Two further singles, La grúa and Vamos a cantar, saw out the year, and a second album, released in time for the Christmas market, filled many a fan’s stocking.
However, none of these final releases was given much promotion, as the group were in the throes of breaking up. Cristina took two of the boys with her, but they were prevented from using the Los Stop name, so they became Cristina y Los Tops. Singles included Me acuerdo de ti, ¿Donde están los mozos? and Gracias Mamá.
The remainder of the group roped in two new band members and a new front woman, Miriam, and issued the single Te vi, te miré y... in 1969.
Neither party was overly successful, and within a year Cristina struck out on a solo career. Pruébalo became the first single credited to Cristina alone, though Viva la vida, issued at the end of 1969, remains more popular with fans.
Eurovision was hugely popular in Spain at this time, following consecutive wins by, first, Massiel in 1968 and, then, Salomé in 1969. So, entering the national final to select a singer to represent Spain at the contest in 1970 was a sure-fire route to media exposure. However, Cristina’s Me gusta, me gusta was resoundingly beaten by Julio Iglesias in the final. She went on to record a version of Dana’s winner at the pan-European final, All kinds of everything, retitled Todas las cosas, though it failed to sell.
A second attempt the following year saw her finish way behind Karina in the Spanish selection for the country’s 1971 Eurovision song contest entry.
Although she would continue to release a couple of singles a year until the mid-1970s, she never managed to regain anything like the popularity she had enjoyed with Los Stop.