Any Major Beach Vol. 1

June 23rd, 2016 5 comments

Any Major Beach

Summer is on its way, in the northern hemisphere, and for many people that means going to the beach — or dreaming of sun, sand and sea. So, having given you five mixes of Any Major Summer already, let’s go to the beach.

On our way, we give a tip of the hat to reader Rob, who suggested this idea as a sequel to the summer mixes. The idea in the Any Major Beach mixes — yes, there will be more — is that the songs must be set on the beach or at the sea, even if only as an idea or memory.

Obviously many beach songs are cheesy, evoking Elvis in modest bathing shorts on Hawaii. There must be space for such banal fun, and The Supremes provide it here with their ditty from a 1965 movie. But many songs here offer a more sober view of the beach.

Of course, a beach mix must include the Beach Boys. They are represented here twice: with a 1968 song, and an exquisite cover of Surfer Girl by the very fine Dave Alvin. The Beach Boys track is as superb as it is pitiable in Mike Love’s desperate appeal for the Beach Boys to return to the old beach, surf and cars tropes of yesteryear, rather than Brian Wilson’s studio doodling. Wilson was game though. He wrote a fantastic melody for Love’s lyrics, and made an arrangement with Carl that would satisfy both Love’s anachronistic sentiments as well as his creative production values, with loads of overdubs. Wilson calls it his best collaboration with Love.

One man we don’t really associate with beaches is Prince; still, here it is suggesting sex on the beach. The song was credited to “The Artist (Formerly Known As Prince)”.

My new friend Rob suggested the inclusion of The Drifters’ On The Boardwalk. That song may feature in another volume in the form of a cover version (not Bruce Willis’ though!); here The Drifters offer something of a sequel to that great hit.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R to play in your transistor radio and includes home-sunburnt covers. PW  in comments.

And don’t forget apply your sunscreen!

1. The Hollies – Postcard (1967)
2. Blondie – In The Sun (1976)
3. Kirsty MacColl – He’s On The Beach (1985)
4. Martha And The Muffins – Echo Beach (1980)
5. Grace Jones – All On A Summer’s Night (1978)
6. Chairmen Of The Board – Beach Fever (1983)
7. The Dazz Band – Do It Again (1980)
8. The Artist (formerly known etc) – Sex In The Summer (1996)
9. George Duke – Brazilian Love Affair (1979)
10. War – All Day Music (1971)
11. Harry Nilsson – Down By The Sea (1975)
12. The Beach Boys – Do It Again (1968)
13. The Supremes – Beach Ball (1965)
14. The Pleasures – Let’s Have A Beach Party (1965)
15. Pat Boone – Love Letters In The Sand (1957)
16. The Drifters – I’ve Got Sand In My Shoes (1964)
17. Ralph McTell – Summer Girls (1992)
18. Jack Johnson – To The Sea (2010)
19. Zac Brown Band – Toes (2008)
20. Dave Alvin – Surfer Girl (2006)
21. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band & Linda Ronstadt – An American Dream (1979)
22. Joan Armatrading – Ma-Me-O-Beach (1980)
23. The B-52’s – Theme For A Nude Beach (1986)

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Any Major Summer
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Any Major Fathers Vol. 2

June 16th, 2016 1 comment

Any Major Fathers Vol. 2

In many parts of the world, this Sunday is Father’s Day. Following on from the first Any Major Fathers mix from two years ago, here’s the second volume.

As last time, some songs are from the perspectives of Dad (Ben Folds’ Gracie is the winner among those), others from that of the children. These tend to be more or less positive songs about father-child relationships — except one. The Sweethearts’ Sorry Faddy is an answer record to the The Limelites’ Daddy’s Home. Here the son is saying, “too late to come home; I’m gone”. A cautionary tale for fathers.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-inseminated covers (yuk!) — in case you forgot to get your dad a Father’s Day gift. PW in comments.

1. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Someday Never Comes (1972)
2. Jackson Browne – Daddy’s Tune (1976)
3. Jerry Jeff Walker – My Old Man (1968)
4. Guy Clark – The Randall Knife (1983)
5. Georgette Jones & George Jones – You And Me And Time (2010)
6. The Everly Brothers – That Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine (1958)
7. The Sweethearts – Sorry Daddy (1961)
8. Paul Peterson – My Dad (1962)
9. Dolly Parton – Daddy’s Working Boots (1973)
10. The Bobkatz – The Man In The Picture (2006)
11. Ben Folds – Gracie (2004)
12. Dave Alvin – The Man In The Bed (2004)
13. Eric Clapton – My Father’s Eyes (1998)
14. K’s Choice – Dad (1995)
15. Nina Simone – My Father (1978)
16. Marie ‘Queenie’ Lyons – Daddy’s House (1970)
17. Joe Simon – I Found My Dad (1972)
18. The Whispers – A Mother For My Children (1974)
19. Chaka Khan – Father He Said (1981)
20. Stevie Wonder – Isn’t She Lovely (1976)

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Any Major American Road Trip – 3

June 9th, 2016 4 comments

Any Major American Road Trip - Stage 3

The third leg of our musical road trip through the USA takes us from Texas via New Mexico and Arizona to California, including an extended stop in Los Angeles.

The rules for this journey — which is taking us from the East Coast to the West Coast and back east, beginning in Boston and ending in Miami — demand that the itinerary must be at least notionally plausible. But some zig-zagging is allowed. This is unavoidable in the early part of this leg.

Having left Lubbock, TX in our rear view mirror in last leg, we start off in Amarillo (I knew the way and decided to go with the original of the great George Strait hit, which you can find on the Any Major Morning Vol. 2 mix). We head west via the small town of Tucumcari, mentioned by Little Feat, to Santa Fe and Albuquerque where, after a fast food meal at Los Pollos Hermanos, we must make a decision.

See, I want to go to El Paso (for the dramatic Marty Robbins song), which means a four-hour drive south, but I also want to see the Grand Canyon, a six-hour drive west. So we’ll make a massive detour: first we go to El Paso and from there we take the nine-hour drive via Winslow to the Grand Canyon (I could have had a song about the Grand Canyon but don’t want to include landmarks. So Winslow, pop. 9,479, gets its song).

From there we’ll go to Phoenix and make another detour to Tucson, which allows me to include the rooftop concert version of The Beatles’ Get Back, which sets up our departure from Arizona for some California grass, much as Jo-Jo did in the song.

Any Major American Road Trip 3 - map

Six hours later we arrive in San Diego. And our Californian journey isn’t the most sensible either. Instead of the two-hour drive along the coast to LA, we turn inland, simply because there are few good songs about Carlsbad, none about Irvine and not much about Anaheim either. So we go twice the distance via Palm Springs (from where we can take an imaginary excursion to the Joshua Tree National Park), San Bernardino and Pasadena to enter LA from the north.

Our LA songs cover some of the essential areas — Hollywood, Beverley Hills, Laurel Canyon, Watts & Compton — as well as Randy Newman’s cynical view of the city and the racism encountered there by black people who came from the south in Dorothy Morrison’s song (written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill). Also included is Echo Park, which is said to be LA’s nicest neighbourhood.

We then turn to the coast to make our way north, beginning in Santa Monica and Malibu before hitting Ventura Highway. The America song isn’t actually set on the Ventura Highway; the idea of driving on that road is notional, pretty much like this road trip.

Notional or not, the bulk of the fourth leg will keep us in California. I expect there’ll be another three parts to the series after that.

As always: CD-R length, cover, PW in comments.

1. Terry Stafford – Amarillo By Morning (1973  – Amarillo, TX)
2. Little Feat – Willin’ (1972 – Tucumcari, NM)
3. Arthur Crudup – Mean Old Santa Fe (1950 – Santa Fe, NM)
4. Neil Young – Albuquerque (1975 – Albuquerque, NM)
5. Marty Robbins – El Paso (1959 – El Paso, TX)
6. Eagles – Take It Easy (1972 – Winslow, AZ)
7. Gorillaz feat. Bobby Womack – Bobby In Phoenix (2010 – Phoenix, AZ)
8. The Beatles – Get Back (live) (1969 – Tucson, AZ)
9. Ralph McTell – San Diego Serenade (1976 – San Diego, AZ)
10. Slim Gaillard & His Flat Foot Floogie Boys – Palm Springs Jump (1942 – Palm Springs, CA)
11. Christie – San Bernadino (1970 – San Bernardino, CA)
12. Bee Gees – Marley Purt Drive (1969 – Pasadena, CA)
13. Randy Newman – I Love LA (1983 – Los Angeles, CA)
14. Dorothy Morrison – Black California (1970, Los Angeles, CA)
15. 2Pac feat. Dr Dre – California Love (1995, Los Angeles, CA)
16. Weezer – Beverley Hills (2005 – Los Angeles, CA)
17. Joseph Arthur – Echo Park (2002 – Los Angeles, CA)
18. Tim Rose – Goin’ Down In Hollywood (1972 – Los Angeles, CA)
19. The Mamas & The Papas – Twelve-Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon) (1968 – Los Angeles, CA)
20. The Beach Boys – Santa Ana Winds (1980 – Los Angeles, CA)
21. The Sweet – Santa Monica Sunshine (1972 – Santa Monica, CA)
22. Hole – Malibu (1998 – Malibu, CA)
23. America – Ventura Highway (1974 – Ventura, CA)
Bonus track:  Bill Withers – City Of The Angels (1976)

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Previously on American Road Trip

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Muhammad Ali – A music tribute

June 4th, 2016 8 comments

Muhammad Ali - Any Major Tribute

I rarely post special tributes on the death of non-music public figures. The last time I did that was for Nelson Mandela in 2013 (still available), and, as an anti-tribute, Margaret Thatcher. Here is a tribute to the boxer Muhammad Ali, who has died at 74.

Ali was special because he was a great boxer, because he was a giant in the art of self-promotion, because he bore his illness with such dignity. But he was more than any of that. He was, like Mandela, a man of consistent principle, and a man of highest ethics (even if nit in his private affairs, as it also was with Mandela).

His politics were militant at a time when black militancy could get you killed; he converted to Islam when many Americans saw such a thing as a hostile act (and little has changed in that respect), he refused to be drafted into the army to participate in a war he considered unjust when such a refusal was regarded as an act of disloyalty to the flag (but when George W Bush ran for the presidency, draft-dodging became acceptable, provided you dressed it up right).

Ali might have had an easy gig in the US Army, as celebrities often did. He could have been a promo man for the military and a clown for the troops, never seeing a Viet Cong up close or enjoying the smell of napalm in the morning. But he didn’t want to legitimize an unjust war against people with whom he had no quarrel: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs?”

He was prepared to pay a considerable price for a principled stand, just as he was on top of the world. And he did pay that price. Notably, the greatest trash-talker in sports never trash-talked those who persecuted him, even as he spoke out against the actions and attitudes that were immoral. And by his willingness to make profound sacrifices in uncompromising fidelity his convictions, he was a model of highest ethics.

The songs here don’t meditate much on this side of Muhammad Ali. Their focus is on Ali the pugilist, though a couple do riff on his background and his persecution. A few songs here are not directly about Ali but make reference to him, and a couple are by Ali himself — one with Sam Cooke, the other as part of a n anti-tooth decay drive (true story). One song doesn’t mention Ali at all. Ben Folds’ song is in the voice of a boxer speaking to the famous American sports broadcaster Howard Cozell — Folds has said that this boxer was Muhammad Ali.

R.I.P. The Greatest!

As always, CD-R length, covers, PW in comments.

1. Cassius Clay – ‘Rumble – Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee (1963)
2. The Alcoves – The Ballad Of Cassius Clay (1964)
3. The Best Ever – The People’s Choice (1975)
4. Alvin Cash – Ali Shuffle (1976)
5. Eddie Curtis – The Louisville Lip (1971)
6. Ali and His Gang – Who Knocked A Crack In The Liberty Bell (1976)
7. Sir Mack Rice – Muhammed Ali (1976)
8. Johnny Wakelin – In Zaire (1976)
9. Faithless – Muhammad Ali (2001)
10. LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
11. The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Tuff Enuff (1986)
12. Big Head Todd and the Monsters – Muhammad Ali (Tribute to The Greatest) (2010)
13. Jon Hardy & The Public – Cassius Clay (2015)
14. Skeeter Davis – I’m A Lover (Not A Fighter) (1969)
15. Cassius Clay with Sam Cooke – The Gang’s All Here (1964)
16. De Phazz – Something Special (2010)
17. Dennis Alcapone – Cassius Clay (1973)
18. Mark Foggo – The Day I Met Muhammad Ali (2010)
19. Verne Harrell – Muhammed Ali (1971)
20. Nirvana – Watch Out Cassius Clay (1973)
21. Don Covay – Rumble In The Jungle (1974)
22. Mister Calypso – Muhammad Ali (1971)
23. Johnny Wakelin – Black Superman (Muhammad Ali) (1975)
24. Jorge Ben – Cassius Marcelo Clay (1971)
25. Ben Folds – Boxing (live, 2005)
26. Muhammad Ali – ‘I’m the real champion’ (1974)

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In Memoriam – May 2016

June 2nd, 2016 6 comments

IM_1605_1Some musicians wait tables while they try to make it in the business, others make porn movies. The latter was the path Candye Kane took. Born Candace Hogan in 1961, Kane capitalised on her pretty face, large breasts and libertine nature by becoming a star in mostly softcore porn movies with titles like Bra Breakers, Big Melons and Let Me Tell Ya Bout Fat Chicks in the 1980s and ’90s. This allowed her to support a career as a well-respected blues musician who would cross over into other genres. Indeed, she was signed by CBS as a country singer — and quickly dropped when the label learnt about her other career. As a singer she collaborated with acts as diverse as Black Flag, Los Lobos and Dwight Yoakam. She was also a philanthropist and activist in areas such as Down’s syndrome and gay rights. She died from pancreatic cancer, aged only 54.

The country Outlaws are falling one by one. Last month it was Merle Haggard, this month it’s Guy Clark. Clark’s biggest successes were as a songwriter of hits for others, most notably LA Freeway and Desperados Waiting for a Train for Jerry Jeff Walker (and the latter again for Outlaw supergroup The Highwaymen). Clark was very close to Townes van Zandt and Steve Earle; the three recorded the lovely Together At The Bluebird Café in 1995 — it was a fundraising event organised by Clark’s beloved wife Susanna for an inter-faith dental clinic for the poor. One of the tracks from that collection features here. Another track, the title track from his final album in 2013, My Favorite Picture Of You, is about Susanna, who died in 2012 after 40 years of marriage. He held the photo of Susanna about which he sang on the CD cover — it was taken when Susanna was very angry at another one of van Zandt’s alcohol-fuelled escapades at the Clarks’ home.

Perhaps more than any other genre, funk is driven by the bass. With the death at 75 of Marshall “Rock” Jones, one of the great bass players has joined the Great Disco in the Sky. Jones was a founding member of the Ohio Players, and of the group that preceded them, the Ohio Untouchables, of whom the bass player was the last surviving member. In the Ohio Players, Jones’ trademark was the white turban, the headgear he wore long after the band’s demise in 2002.

Why would a French actress who never released a record nor had a history of appearing in musicals feature here? Well, Madeleine Lebeau was seen singing in one of the great music interludes in film history: in Casablanca she played the woman jilted by Rick Blaine who then ostentatiously flirts with German soldiers, but recovers her French nationalism during the Marseillaise vs Wacht am Rhein sing-off (as the camera focuses on her tear-filled eyes, her impassioned voice is amplified). Lebeau, who died at 94, was the last surviving credited actors on possibly the greatest film of the 1940s.IM_1605_2Before the Beastie Boys were a pioneering hip hop trio, they were an average punk quartet comprising Adam Horwitz on bass and Mike Diamond on lead vocals, as well as drummer Kate Schellenbach (later of Luscious Jackson) and guitarist John Berry, who was replaced in 1982 by Adam Horwitz. John Berry died this month at the age of 52. His work with the Beastie Boys is preserved on the tracks that appeared on the group’s debut EP, the eight-track Polly Wog Stew from 1982. That EP is out of print, but the songs were re-released along with other early Beastie Boys work in 1994 as Some Old Bullshit. The band started in 1978 as The Young Aborigines. It was Berry who came up with the name The Beastie Boys.

Just as I revived the Any Major Flute series, jazz-rock flautist Jeremy Steig died — as it happens before I could re-post Vol. 3, on which he featured; though it is his flute that scores the Beastie Boys’ Sure Shot on Any Major Flute Volume 2.  Steig released close to 30 LPS, solo and as collaborations, and played as a sideman on the albums of many others, including Richie Havens, Nat Adderley, Hank Crawford, Art Farmer, Idris Muhammad, Lalo Schiffrin, Johnny Winter, Art Garfunkel, and Yoko Ono. Steig, who had retired to Japan with his Japanese wife, actually died on April 13, but his death was announced only in May.

The German new wave band Trio is now solo. After the death of Gert ‘Kralle’ Krawinkel in 2014, drummer Peter Behrens is now gone, leaving only singer Stephan Remmler. Trio, who had a massive international hit with Da Da  Da in 1982, broke up in 1986. Behrens, who before Trio played for Krautrock band Silberbart and trained as a clown, tried his hand at a solo career, without much success — though he did sing official song for the European Football Championship 1988. He acted in a few movies and when he was not being an artist he did social work.

Don Draper did not, after all, dream up the famous Coca-Cola hilltop commercial while meditating in a hippie commune. The man who did, McCann-Erickson advertising executive Bill Backer had that idea during a long forced layover in Shannon Airport in Ireland. It is perhaps the most famous commercial featuring original music (sort of; the melody had already been used on a record; I told the story in The Originals Vol.  36), which justifies Backer’s inclusion here. Backer also originated the slogans “Things go better with Coke” and “Coke is the real thing”, as well as the term “Miller Time” to indicate the hour at which diluted urine ought to be consumed.

Jeremy Steig, 73, jazz-rock flautist, on April 13 (announced in May)
Richie Havens – Indian Rope Man (1967, on flute)
Jeremy Steig – Up Tempo Thing (1972)

Doug Raney, 59, jazz guitarist, on May 1
Jimmy Raney & Doug Raney – Have You Met Miss Jones (1979)

Madeleine Lebeau, 92, French actress, on May 1
Casablanca – Medley: Die Wacht Am Rhein & La Marseillaise (1942)

Paul Dowell, 84, singer of the Temperance Seven and actor, on May 2
The Temperance Seven – You’re Driving Me Crazy (1961)

Kristian Ealey, 38, English singer (Tramp Attack; Edgar Jones & the Joneses) and TV actor, on May 3

Reggie Torian, 65, lead singer of The Impressions (1973-83), on May 4
The Impressions – Sooner Or Later (1975)

Olle Ljungström, 54, singer and guitarist with Swedish rock band Reeperbahn, on May 4

Isao Tomita, 84, Japanese synthesizer pioneer, on May 5

Candye Kane, 54, blues singer-songwriter and porn actress, on May 6
Candye Kane – All You Can Eat (And You Can Eat It All Night Long)

Paul Brown, jazz bassist and teacher, on May 6

Rickey Smith, 36, singer and American Idol contestant (Season 2), in traffic collision on May 6

John Stabb, 54, singer of hardcore punk brand Government Issue, on May 7

Joe Temperley, 86, Scottish saxophonist, on May 11
Tony Crombie and his Orchestra ‎– Stop It (1954, on baritone sax)

Peter Behrens, 68, drummer of German New Wave group Trio, on May 11
Trio – Halt mich fest, ich werd’ verrückt (1981)
Peter Behrens – Dep De Dö Dep (1990)

Julius La Rosa, 86, pop singer and actor, on May 12
Julius La Rosa – Anywhere I Wander (1953)

Tony Gable, jazz-fusion percussionist, on May 12
Tony Gable & 206 – The Bus Song

Buster Cooper, 87, American jazz trombonist, on May 13

Bill Backer, 89, advertising executive and songwriter, on May 13
Hilltop – I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke (1971)

Tony Barrow, 80, press officer of The Beatles (initiated the term “Fab Four”), on May 14

Paul Smoker, 75, American jazz trumpeter, on May 14

Cauby Peixoto, 85, Brazilian singer, on May 15
Cauby Peixoto – Conceição (1956)

Emilio Navaira, 53, country and Tejano singer, on May 16
Emilio Navaira – Ella Es Asi

Fredrik Norén, 75, Swedish jazz drummer, on May 16

Guy Clark, 74, folk and country singer-songwriter, on May  17
Guy Clark – Desperados Waiting For A Train (1975)
Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt & Guy Clark – Randall Knife (1995)
Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture Of You (2013)

Marlene Marder, 61, guitarist of Swiss punk rock group Kleenex/ LiLiPUT, on May 17
Kleenex – Ain’t You (1978)

John Berry, 52, guitarist and original member of the Beastie Boys, on May 19
Beastie Boys – Jimi (1982)

James King, 57, bluegrass musician, on May 19
James King – These Old Pictures (1993)

Nick Menza, 51, German-born drummer of Megadeth, on May 21
Megadeth – Countdown To Extinction (1993, also as co-writer)

Marshall Jones, 75, bassist of funk band Ohio Players, on May 27
Ohio Players – A Little Soul Party (1968)
Ohio Players – Skin Tight (1974)

Mike Barnett, 89, co-founder of vocal group The Lettermen (left 1958), on May 27

Jimmy Borges, 80, Hawaiian vocalist, on May 30

Thomas Fekete, 27, guitarist of indie band Surfer Blood, on May 30
Surfer Blood – Swim (2007)

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Life In Vinyl 1984 – Vol. 1

May 26th, 2016 5 comments

Life in Vinyl 1984

The year 1984 in vinyl comes to you in two parts; not because 1984 was a particularly good year — it wasn’t — but because to me it was two years in one. For eight months I lived in South Africa; then I moved to London via a two-month European road trip. Part 1 concern itself with the South African half of 1984.

I see 1984 as the year that gave rise to the corporate mega-star. Michael Jackson’s Thriller had hit big in 1983 and was still hitting big, Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down was mega big, Bruce Springsteen turned out his most commercial album, Prince donned the dandyish purple and became an icon, in Britain Wham! and Duran Duran hit heights of superstardom, U2 hit their stride, and towards the end of the year Madonna released an album that would turn her into the quintessential 1980s star.

It all felt artificial, even if not all of it was. While Springsteen must have been aware that he was putting out a commercial album, most of the songs wouldn’t have been out of place on The River four years earlier — but I don’t think he knew just how stratospheric it would go . And I defy anyone to claim that Prince compromised his art for anything. Rather, it was the corporate icon-building, as if music was a Hollywood dream machine from the 1930s, that felt artificial.

And music has never recovered the already compromised innocence it lost in the mid-80s. There were moments in the ‘90s when it felt it might do so. The grunge scene was a rebellion to the corporate hi-jack of music. Hip hop offered an antidote. But the corporates simply poisoned the well by co-opting whom they could or promoting hack acts to replace those who were threatening the hegemony.

Now nobody threatens the hegemony any longer. We have our megastars and they hang around longer than their ancestors did. In the past, a teen star like Justin Bieber would have been off the scene the moment his fans grew pubic hair. Now he has unlimited shelf life, a star for the sake of being a star. The process of raising and maintaining stardom is driven by image management; new blood is added as needed, but the process is entirely in corporate hands.  And 1984 was a watershed in the inexorable process that, of course, had begun much earlier.covers gallery 1This collection, and certainly the second part, would better be called “A Life in Cassette Tapes”. Of the 19 tracks here, I had five on record (Grandmaster & Melle Mel, Tubes, Cars, Style Council on LP; Frankie on 12”. And I bought the Sade LP as a present for my sister). The rest I had on tape — bought or taped off records. Once I had a car, having stuff on tape was necessary.

As always, I don’t endorse everything on these mixes which are supposed to evoke that particular year for me. I can’t say many good things about Laura Branigan’s Italo-pop hit other than that hearing it takes me back to the driver seat of the blue Beetle I was driving in 1984. But I am also cheating a little by omission. When I think of May 1984, I might also think Matthew Wilder’s The Kid’s American, a song so bad I really cannot inflict it on you, no matter what other liberties I’m taking here. There are a few others. Ollie & Jerry’s breakdancing anthem Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us anyone? But I do include as a bonus track Break Machine’s rather good Street Dance, because breakdancing mattered.

Some songs here have personal meaning, a couple of them deeply emotional (including the Chris Rea sing), others quite comedic. On the latter front, the Thompson Twins’ Doctor Doctor represents a series of songs, which also included the two Jumps by van Halen and the Pointer Sisters, that soundtracked my curation of my younger brother’s first drunken barroom adventure. It culminated in little brother covering the interior of my friend’s car in vomit. To his credit, my friend took it in good spirits and cleaned the car while I put little brother to bed.

I might also have included Phil Collins’ Against All Odds, which accompanied the sound of my first broken heart, or Prince’s When Doves Cry, which excited me like no other song that year (Prince didn’t like his stuff to be featured on the web, so I’ll leave that one out). I went to see Purple Rain at the movies in consecutive screenings. The only other time I did that was later in the year, with the infinitely greater Once Upon A Time In America. I also watched the Sylvester Stallone & Dolly Parton vehicle Rhinestone twice in a day, first in the afternoon on my own and in the evening with friends, but let’s leave that bizarre decision alone. (Apparently Stallone turned down leads in Romancing the Stone and Beverly Hills Cop to film Rhinestone!).

I might have bought the Sade album for my sister but I loved it. I was torn about whether to include Your Love Is King or her wonderful cover version of Timmy Thomas’ Why Can’t We Live Together. Soul music gets short shrift on this mix. I also would have liked to include Patrice Rushen’s Feel So Real, Deniece William’s Let’s Hear It for the Boy or Cherelle’s I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On (later a hit for Robert Palmer).  

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes covers. PW in comments.

covers gallery 2

1. Grandmaster & Melle Mel – White Lines
2. Via Afrika – Hey Boy
3. The Tubes – She’s A Beauty
4. The Cars – You Might Think
5. Snowy White – Bird Of Paradise
6. Marillion – Punch And Judy
7. Style Council – You’re The Best Thing
8. Re-flex – The Politics Of Dancing
9. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes
10. Alphaville – Big In Japan
11. Nena – 99 Luftballons
12. Ultravox – Dancing With Tears In My Eyes
13. Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
14. Evelyn Thomas – High Energy
15. Thompson Twins – Doctor Doctor
16. Sade – Your Love Is King
17. Laura Branigan – Self Control
18. Chris Rea – I Don’t Know What It Is (But I Love It)
19. Mel Brooks – To Be Or Not To Be
Bonus Track: Break Machine – Street Dance

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Any Major Night Vol. 1

May 19th, 2016 7 comments

Any Major Night

A couple of years ago I posted a couple of mixes on the theme of mornings; I have played Any Major Morning Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 many times, especially in the car. I have also test-driven this mix, on the theme of night.

Obviously there are hundreds more songs one could choose; I hope the reaction to this collection will justify a few more mixes on the theme.

The opening track is one of those songs that could work on more than one Any Major Mix. The Nightfly might have gone on to the Any Major Radio mix, or on to the Any Major Road Trip – Stage 2 mix (with DJ Lester’s greetings to Baton Rouge).

I enjoy the whole mix, but I love especially the sequence from the Lloyd Cole track to that by the excellent Justin Townes Earle which builds up to the great country cover of AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long by The Twang. The German group specialises in covering pop hits in country and bluegrass fashion. It sounds like a novelty thing, and in a way it is. But these covers are not there to be laughed at, even if it is amusing to hear the lyrics to the Village People hit YMCA (“You can hang out with all of them boys”) or the Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop set to the sound of country music, and that done well. Some of the covers work better than others — see how you like You Shook Me All Night Long in a Nudie suit.

Two other songs here are covers: Martha Reeves channels the grumpy Ulsterman, while The Dells cover themselves. They first recorded Oh, What A Night as a doo wop number in 1956; featured here is a reworking of the song from 1969, with Marvin Junior still on lead vocals, sharing them with Johnny Carter, who had replaced original co-singer Johnny Funches in 1960. Poor health by Marvin Junior and fellow founding member Chuck Barksdale ended the band’s run of exactly 60 years in 2012. Marvin died a year later at 77.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-dreamt-up covers. PW in comments.

 

1. Donald Fagen – The Nightfly (1982)
2. Little Feat – Walkin’ All Night (1973)
3. Barry Ryan – Loneliest Night of the Year (1972)
4. Paul McCartney – Every Night (1970)
5. Carole King – A Night This Side Of Dying (1974)
6. Lamont Dozier – Let Me Start Tonite (1974)
7. Martha Reeves – Wild Night (1974)
8. The Dells – Oh What A Night (1968)
9. The Walker Brothers – Saddest Night In The World (1966)
10. Sammy Davis Jr. – Night Song (1964)
11. Nancy Sinatra – The City Never Sleeps At Night (1965)
12. Sammi Smith – Help Me Make It Through The Night (1971)
13. Buckingham Nicks – Crying In The Night (1973)
14. Bruce Springsteen – Prove It All Night (1976)
15. Nils Lofgren – Night Fades Away (1981)
16. Everything But The Girl – The Night I Heard Caruso Sing (1988)
17. Missy Higgins – Nightminds (2004)
18. Lloyd Cole – Late Night, Early Town (2003)
19. Richard Hawley – The Nights Are Made For Us (2003)
20. Neil Diamond – Save Me A Saturday Night (2005)
21. Justin Townes Earle – One More Night in Brooklyn (2010)
22. Thompson Square – If It Takes All Night (2011)
23. The Twang – You Shook Me All Night Long (2003)

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Any Major Flute Vol. 2

May 12th, 2016 27 comments

Any Major Flute Vol. 2

The first volume of the flute in pop (rock and soul) was well received. Perhaps there was a gap in the market. So here’s the second volume, with a third one in the works. Thank you to those who have given some very good ideas — in the comments section, on Facebook (become my friend) and elsewhere — seven years ago, when I first posted this, and on the recycled Any Major Flute Vol. 1, which ran in early April. You’ll find some suggestions from the first time around incorporated here, or in Volume 3. I think I will do fourth mix at some point of tracks recommended by readers (in 2016 and 2009). And, yes, I’ve caved and included the Tull. What next? Glockenspiel in rock?.

As ever, CD-R length, home-blown covers. PW in comments.

1. Manfred Mann – Mighty Quinn (1968)
Flutastic Moment: 0:01 Appropriately, the mix kicks off with the flute. What came first, the Mighty Quinn or Come Together?

2. The Coasters – Love Potion No 9 (1970)
Flutastic Moment: 1:38 The flute starts up suddenly and quite frantically as the whole Leiber & Stoller classic goes into funk mode.

3. Canned Heat – Going Up Country (1968)
Flutastic Moment: 0:01 The flute introduces the song until Alan Wilson’s odd counter-tenor vocals begin, making the occasional cameo appearance throughout.

4. Jethro Tull – Up To Me (1971)
Flutastic Moment: 0:02 The Tull giggle as though they are high (surely not!), and the almost percussive flute comes in.

5. Donovan – Sunny Goodge Street (1965)
Flutastic Moment: 1:33 Alas, poor Donovan. History underrates him dreadfully. But hear this and tell me he did not profoundly influence Nick Drake. The flute solo is quite lovely.

6. Minnie Riperton – Light My Fire (1979)
Flutastic Moment: 1:59 The interplay between keyboard and flute is impressive. José Feliciano comes in later to duet on this (superior) cover of his interpretation. One wonders how big Riperton might have been had cancer not claimed her. She had one of the most beautiful, sexiest voices in music, apart from her ability to surf the octaves.

7. Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. – You Don’t Have To Be A Star (1976)
Flutastic Moment: 0:04 The flute hook introduces the song by these two former 5th Dimensions, who by then had gone soul.

8. Albert Hammond – It Never Rains In Southern California (1972)
Flutastic Moment:0:08 The brief flute interlude, which recurs at 1:56, sets the scene for the vocals.

9. George Harrison – Dark Horse (1974)
Flutastic Moment: 1:08 The flute is going discreetly in the background until it decides to let its presence felt.

10. Marshall Tucker Band – Take The Highway (1973)
Flutastic Moment: 0:05 The flute drives this song from the start. A flute rock classic.

11. CCS – Whole Lotta Love (1970)
Flutastic Moment: 0:35 The purring flute holds its own against the thumping rhythms in the Collective Consciousness Society’s fantastic cover of boring old Led Zep, which British readers may know better as a theme for Top Of The Pops.

12. The The – Uncertain Smile (1982)
Flutastic Moment: 1:21 I don’t know if The The ever appeared on TOTP. For the flute in this, they (well, he) should have. Hear where Lloyd Cole got his ideas from.

13. Men At Work – Down Under (1981)
Flutastic Moment: 0:03 One of the most famous flute songs in pop, with perhaps the most recognisable flute riff. Men At Work are often seen as a naff ’80s outfit (and written off as — calumny! — a one-hit wonder). They were fronted by Colin Hay, who is not in any way naff. And his recent letter of advice to the ghastly Ted Cruz was quite satisfying.

14. Saint Etienne Nothing Can Stop Us (1991)
Flutastic Moment: 1:17 The whole thing is a chilled-out house thing, but when the flute comes in, the song gets soul.

15. Esther Williams – Last Night Changed It All (1976)
Flutastic Moment: 0:30 Dance music in the mid-’70s made great use of flute hooks (and, yes, The Hustle will feature in Volume 3). What a groove!

16. The Chiffons – Just For Tonight (1968)
Flutastic Moment: 1:14 The alto flute solo gives the latter-day girl-band a whole new sound.

17. Marvin Gaye – Stubborn Kind Of Fellow (1962)
Flute Moment: 1:04 But the flute solo also did a fine job in early Motown.

18. Love – Orange Skies (1966)
Flutastic Moment: 0:31 The flute comes in to echo and emphasise the singers declaration of love. When he sings about how happy he is, the flute responds as if it was a cartoon bird. It’s like Mary Poppins for love-struck hippies.

19. Chicago – Color My World (1970)
Flutastic Moment: 1:54 Damn, Chicago were good before the group was hijacked by the extravagantly coiffured Peter Cetera. The flute solo takes a long time coming, but when it arrives, it is quite beautiful and it sees out the remaining minute of the song.

20. The Guess Who – Undun (1969)
Flutastic Moment: 2:15 The Guess Who might have given English teachers nightmares, but they knew how to use a flute to good, albeit far too brief, effect.

21. Lou Reed – Sad Song (1973)
Flutastic Moment: 0:01 Is the flautist trying to get to the melody of Somewhere Over The Rainbow?

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In Memoriam – April 2016

May 5th, 2016 9 comments

This year is a real bastard; in my years of doing this monthly round-up I cannot remember a sequence of months in which the Grim Reaper picked off fixtures in my music collection at such a relentless rate. At this point I fear for Stevie Wonder, Kris Kristofferson, Van Morrison, Donald Fagen, Burt Bacharach, Frankie Beverley, Hal Blaine and all four members of ABBA.IM0416_gallery_1In the great 1980s battle between Michael Jackson and Prince (who were born just 73 days apart), I was a cheerleader for the latter. Don’t misunderstand, Jackson was immense, and I’ll sooner listen to Off The Wall than to any Prince album (on the other hand, Purple Rain easily trumps Thriller, as I showed HERE). But Prince wrote his own songs (and for others), arranged them, played on them, was a fine dancer and great showman, and he played the guitar so beautifully. And he had something to say. Prince was a genius, and if he had not been so obsessed with hunting down the use of his music on blogs and YouTube, he’d feature heavily on Any Major collections.

April didn’t claim not one but two absolute legends: Prince, but also Merle Haggard, one of the true country giants. Merle was outlaw before Outlaw Country was a thing. In fact, he was a real outlaw in his younger days, and his life of robbery and larceny ended with him locked up at San Quentin prison, near San Francisco. Even in jail, Haggard was a troublemaker — until the day when Johnny Cash played one of concerts there (not his first one there in 1958, as is often written, but one of those he did in 1959 and 1960). Watching Cash — and having had a few other formative experiences before that — Merle decided to go on to the straight and narrow and finally make it in the music business. Which he did. Merle Haggard died of pneumonia on his 79th birthday. It’s not right that people should die on their birthday.

Controversy followed the gifted Philly soul singer Billy Paul, who had a massive hit in 1972 with Me And Mrs Jones. Against his express wishes, his label, PIR, released as the follow-up the provocative Am I Black Enough For You (Paul wanted the milder Brown Baby as the follow-up). It was indeed the second-best track on the 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul album, but predictably the white pop stations weren’t ready for a black consciousness song by a soul crooner. The episode sabotaged Billy Paul’s career, some first-class releases notwithstanding. More controversy hit the singer in 1975 with the gorgeous Let’s Make A Baby when the Rev Jesse Jackson and his Operation PUSH campaigned for a boycott of the song on grounds of its supposed lewdness (the good reverend seemed to have been unaware by what act babies are made). A year later, Billy Paul’s wonderful cover of Paul McCartney’s Let ’Em In caused some controversy, and also earned effusive praise, for its name-checks of deceased black leaders such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Elijah Muhammad, Medgar Evers and Louis Armstrong.

On the same day the master guitarist Prince died, one of the men who pioneered rock guitar playing, especially in the blues-rock field that was the domain of the likes of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck and Duane Allman, passed away. Lonnie Mack’s 1963 instrumentals such as Wham! and Memphis have been acclaimed as being milestones in the development of rock music, particularly the nascent blues-infused rock guitar solo. Mack was also a great soul singer, but when R&B stations discovered that he was white, they stopped playing his records. He returned in the 1970s as a country singer before reverting to blues-rock, recording with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan.IM0416_gallery_2Congolese soukos singer Papa Wemba, who has died at 66, was one of Africa’s most popular musicians, and a favourite also in the World Music market. He was a star in Africa almost as much for his dandyish sartorial style as he was for his marvellous music. But the life of the man born Jules Shungu Wembadio Kikumba was not universally admirable. In 2003 he was convicted of being part of a network that smuggled immigrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo (née Zaire), and was imprisoned for three months in France. He later said that the experience changed him. It was not his first time in prison. In 1976 Papa Wemba, already a star, was briefly incarcerated on grounds of a suspected relationship with the daughter of a general from dictator Mobutu Sese Seko’s army. Wemba died on stage while playing a concert in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

Session drummer Dennis Davis is probably best known for having backed David Bowie during the period of Young Americans to Scary Monsters, and after that also on stage. You hear Davis on Bowie classics like Heroes, Golden Years, Ashes To Ashes and Fashion. But my pick of tracks on which Davis drummed is Stevie Wonder’s marvellous Do I Do (one of the last really great Wonder songs). Among other Wonder tracks, he also drummed on Master Blaster. Davis also backed acts like Luther Vandross, Roy Ayers, Zulema, George Benson, Jermaine Jackson, Garland Jeffreys, Smokey Robinson, Webster Lewis and more.

The trumpet of Harrison Calloway has fallen silent. Calloway was the leader of the Muscle Shgoal Horns which can be heard on a huge amount of soul records and other tracks cut at the Muscle Shoals studio, including by acts like Bob Dylan, Jim Capaldi, Paul Simon and Rod Stewart, and also on Elton John’s 1975 performances with John Lennon.  IM0416_gallery_3The gloriously named Jack Hammer (real name Earl Burroughs) is most famous for co-writing a song he didn’t write. As a performer and songwriter he had enjoyed some success in the early 1950s, but when he brought his new song Great Balls Of Fire to songwriter Paul Case, the latter didn’t like it. He did, however, like the title and commissioned Otis Blackwell to write a song by that title for a film called Jamboree. In a rare outburst of ethics in the 1950s music industry, Hammer received half of the songwriting credit for coming up with the title for what would become one of the great rock & roll classics. Hammer kept writing and recording, and in the early 1960s moved to Europe where he had a huge hit with his song Kissin’ Twist and earned the title The Twistin’ King, after his 1961 single of that name, for his dance moves.

Emile Ford, who has died at 78, was the first black musician to sell a million copies of a single in Britain with his 1958 hit What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For. Born on the Caribbean island of St Lucia, he came to Britain in the mid-’50s, more with a view to being a sound engineer than a recording artist. Still, with his Checkmates he scored a few hits. At the same time he developed a backing track system for stage shows, which formed the basis for what would become karaoke.

The rise of Rock ‘n’ Roll depended to a great degree on the rhythm section: the bass and the drum. But drums were expensive and not easy to get because the drumheads were made of animal hides, usually from calves. The advent of synthetic drumheads changed that — and the developer of the first commercially viable synthetic drumheads, Remo Belli, has died at 88.

 

Mike Gibbons, 71, lead singer of Canadian group Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods, on April 2
Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods – Who Do You Think You Are (1974)

Gato Barbieri, 83, Argentine free jazz saxophonist, on April 2

Bill Henderson, 90, jazz singer and actor, on April 3
Bill Henderson with the Oscar Peterson Trio – At Long Last Love (1963)

Don Francks, 84, Canadian jazz singer and actor, on April 3

Kōji Wada, 42, Japanese singer, on April 3

Carlo Mastrangelo, 78, bass and lead singer with The Belmonts, on April 4
The Belmonts – Come On Little Angel (1963)
Carlo – Fever (1970)

Dorothy Schwartz, 89, singer with The Chordettes (1946-52), on April 4
The Chordettes – Moonlight On The Ganges (1951)

Getatchew Mekurya, 81, Ethiopian jazz saxophonist, on April 4

Leon Haywood, 74, soul singer, on April 5
Leon Haywood – Don’t Push It Don’t Force It (1980)

Merle Haggard, 79, country singer-songwriter, on April 6
Merle Haggard & The Strangers – The Son Of Hickory Holler’s Tramp (1968)
Merle Haggard & The Strangers – If We Never Meet Again (1971)
Merle Haggard & The Strangers – Always Wanting You (1975)
Merle Haggard – My Life’s Been Grand (1986)
Merle Haggard – I Am What I Am (2010)

Dennis Davis, session drummer, on April 6
Roy Ayers Ubiquity – Brother Louie (1973, on drums & percussion)
David Bowie – Breaking Glass (1977, on drums, also as co-writer)
Stevie Wonder – Do I Do (1982, on drums)

Jimmie Van Zant, 59, rock musician, on April 7

Jade Lemons, member of hard rock group Injected, on April 7

Jack Hammer, 90, musician and songwriter, on April 8
The Cadillacs – Peek-A-Boo (1958, as writer)
Jack Hammer – Kissin’ Twist (1962)

Emile Ford, 78, Saint Lucia-born pop singer and sound engineer, on April 11
Emile Ford – Them There Eyes (1960)

Mike Lazo, 83, lead singer of The Tempos, on April 12
The Tempos – See You In September (1959)

Gib Guilbeau, 78, songwriter, singer, guitarist and fiddler, on April 12
The Flying Burrito Brothers – Wind And Rain (1975, also as co-writer)

Robbie Brennan, Irish rock drummer, on April 12
Townes Van Zandt – A Song For (1994, on drums)

Ismael Quintana, 78, Puerto Rican salsa singer and composer, on April 16

Pete Zorn, 65, multi-instrumentalist musician, on April 19
Richard & Linda Thompson – Shoot Out The Lights (1982, on bass)

Richard Lyons, 57, member of experimental rock group Negativland, on April 19

Prince, 57, music genius, on April 21
I Feel For You (1979)
Sometimes It Snows In April (1986)
Starfish And Coffee (1987)
The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (1994)
Reflection (2004)

Lonnie Mack, 74, singer and guitar pioneer, on April 21
Lonnie Mack – Wham! (1963)
Lonnie Mack – Why (1963, released 1968)
Lonnie Mack ‎- Too Rock For Country, Too Country For Rock And Roll (1988)

Bill Sevesi, 92, Tongan-born New Zealand musician, on April 23

Billy Paul, 81, soul singer, on April 24
Billy Paul – Ebony Woman (1970)
Billy Paul – Am I Black Enough For You (1972)
Billy Paul – Let’s Make A Baby (1975)

Papa Wemba, 66, Congolese singer, on April 24
Papa Wemba – Le Voyageur (1992)

Remo Belli, 88, drummer, developer of the synthetic drumhead, on April 25

Wolfgang Rohde, 66, drummer of German rock band Die Toten Hosen, on April 25
Die Toten Hosen – Pushed Again (1998)

Philip Kives, 87, Canadian founder of K-tel records, on April 27

Harrison Calloway, 75, trumpeter and leader of the Muscle Shoals Horns, on April 30
Clarence Carter – Patches (1970)
Muscle Shoals Horns – Open Up Your Heart (1976)

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hn Lennon.

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Prince is your DJ

April 28th, 2016 8 comments

Prince is your DJ

Dig, if you will, a party… with Prince as the DJ.  This playlist was compiled by Prince himself — and seeing as I had most of the songs on it already, I put it together in one mix.

The background to this playlist is the TV sitcom New Girl. According to Steve Welch, an editor on the show, “[w]hen Prince was on New Girl the storyline was that our characters got to attend a party at his house. To that end, he sent us a playlist of songs he would actually play at his parties.”

It would have been a great party; Prince was channeling the 1970s, the period of his formative influences — and in some tracks one can hear the influences on his music. There’s some serious funkin’ going on, but that sequence of slow jams…ooh, babymaking music!

Prince DJ playlist

One must assume that Prince was adept at turning records over at one hell of a speed: the two Spinners songs on his list are from the same album, but are on different sides. Unless Prince was working from MP3s, the side-flipping would have required some dexterity.

The playlist exists also somewhere on Spotify, a service I’ve never used.

Because Prince’s party goes on longer than a standard 80 minutes — he’s giving us 97 minutes of joy — the mix won’t fit on as standard CD-R (and therefore no home-grooved covers). PW in comments.

If you didn’t come to party, don’t bother knockin’ on my door.

1. The Staple Singers – City In The Sky (1974)
2. Allen Toussaint – Country John (1975)
3. Ohio Players – Fire (1974)
4. Shuggie Otis – Happy House (1974)
5. Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground (1973)
6. Chaka Khan – I Was Made To Love Him (1978)
7. The Isley Brothers – Listen To The Music (1973)
8. Eugene McDaniels – The Lord Is Back (1971)
9. Sister Sledge – Lost In Music (1979)
10. Bootsy Collins – The Pinocchio Theory (1977)
11. Bootsy Collins – Rubber Duckie (1977)
12. Parliament – Rumpofsteelskin (1978)
13. Ohio Players – Skin Tight (1974)
14. The Soul Children – We’re Gettin’ Too Close (1974)
15. Curtis Mayfield – Wild And Free (1970)
16. Earth, Wind & Fire – After The Love Has Gone (1979)
17. Allen Toussaint – Back In Baby’s Arms (1975)
18. The Isley Brothers – Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight (1973)
19. The Soul Children – Don’t Take My Sunshine (1972)
20. The Spinners – How Could I Let You Get Away (1973)
21. The Spinners – I’ll Be Around (1973)
22. The Jacksons – Push Me Away (1978)
23. Shirley Brown – Stay With Me Baby (1974)
24. Aretha Franklin – The Thrill Is Gone (From Yesterday’s Kiss) (1970)

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