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Archive for August, 2010

“Becoming Jimi Hendrix”

When I read in the recent Rolling Stone that Brad Schreiber had just written a book with my friend Steve Roby about the early years of Hendrix, I clicked the BUY button on Amazon and purchased “Becoming Jimi Hendrix”. Then I reached out to Steve to see if the authors would participate in a Rockonomics Q&A.  But first, I want to mention that I know Steve Roby from my early days at Rhino Records.  We worked on a compilation of Jimi Hendrix’s early recordings as a session player that we had hoped Rhino would license and make available.  These recordings showcased Hendrix’s back-up work with Rosa Lee Brooks, Little Richard, The Isley Brothers, etc…  Although it was never released, it was a great idea, and really put the evolution of Hendrix’s guitar playing into context.

Q:  Steve It seems as though Jimi Hendrix was very determined to be successful, doing whatever it took to get his break.  He backed up lots of famous musicians, was there one in particular that championed his playing?

A: King Curtis. When I interviewed Cornell Dupree, he said Curtis gave Jimi two or three songs to spotlight his playing during the regular nightly sets they did in 1966. Jimi would always launch into an Elmore James blues number, and the crowd loved it. Curtis really wanted to be a guitarist, and I gather he liked his unique style.

But like the many other regimented R&B bands he played with, Jimi had to adhere to a strict dress code or face fines, or even termination. It was not uncommon for backing musicians at the time to polish their shoes with Vaseline for the ultimate shine, but more importantly to keep the nagging leader off their backs. While Jimi was with King Curtis, it was a case of showing up at a gig, and not wearing a tuxedo. Curtis not only fired him, but humiliated him on stage in front of his fellow musicians and the audience.

Brad, please see this quote below…

Michael Bloomfield was quoted in Guitar Player, August 1971  Jimi Hendrix

“Sound was his thing. He played the guitar, but he could get any sound in the world through it, and sound was what he was looking for. I think that he was the most advanced. There was no one near him in any way. He had everything: speed, control, and on and on. The cat was the most amazing guitarist I had ever met in my life. I think his work will be studied for years and years.”

Q:  In a few sentences what makes Jimi Hendrix so “studied” today?

A: No one would deny Jimi’s unparalleled ability to get a stunning variety of sounds

out of the electric guitar. But he loved all kinds of music and showed a willingness to explore each genre, be it rhythm and blues, rock ballads, acid rock, fusion, jazz and so on. He could listen to a silly pop song and hear the one section that was truly sonically interesting and catalog it in his head.

Q:  Steve, as I mentioned I ordered “Becoming Jimi Hendrix” but I’m a huge fan…  If I were just an average fan, please tell me why I’d be interested…

A: Jimi’s life story has been covered in several biographies. Some emphasis has been given to his early career, but the main goal for most authors was to document the familiar years with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In Becoming Jimi Hendrix, however, we show how and where he developed that “hellish and robust sound,” as one reporter called it.  For example, listen to “Fire,” and that classic R&B riff. Where did that come from?

Success would have never happened for the often-shy guitarist if he’d given up early and returned to Seattle, settling for a job at a brewery or at Boeing, like many of his classmates did. Jimi had this amazing fortitude, and tolerance. He was determined to play his style no matter what others told him to do. He’d rather starve.

We interviewed his friends, lovers, and band mates, and developed this extraordinary story of Jimi’s rocky journey on the R&B circuit, discovery of LSD, and for those that relish information, there’s a complete tour listing and sessionography that spans the various groups he played with from 1962 to 1966. It took about four years of research to compile this book, and I know even the average fan will walk away with a different impression of the Hendrix they thought they knew.

Q:  One last question for Brad, who were a few of Jimi’s influences?  And was there someone in particular he tried to seek out and perform with while backing bands up?

A: Jimi, during his development in R&B, met and paid careful attention to players like B.B. King, Albert King, Albert Collins and Curtis Mayfield. But what is important to remember is that Jimi loved all kinds of music and utilized the blues of an Elmore James as much as he did the surf guitar of Dick Dale. He was an alchemist of sounds and of all genres.

Click Here For More Information

Becoming Jimi Hendrix: From Southern Crossroads to Psychedelic London, the Untold Story of a Musical Genius [Paperback]

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For the most part, I always felt the bands the Supersuckers toured with were a good fit.   Some obviously more than others.  And some just downright amazing and fun like Zeke, Hangmen, Danko Jones, Mydols, Throw Rag, Railbenders, and Trainwreck.

I hope to feature more interviews here in my ongoing series “Rockonomics Field Recordings” that shed light and share insight.

I’m not one to force people into seeing shows these days, although I do encourage everyone I know to learn about and listen to Michael Bloomfield, but go and see Trainwreck…  They’re fun, entertaining, great players, and bring it.

Tell them I said hello.  And a special thanks to, Hal BrigishMike A and Brian Baltazar.

More Field Recordings coming soon…

Trainwreck Tour Dates Below… Don’t Be Late!

Sept. 4th – Long Beach, CA – Dipiazza’s

Sept. 15th – Foxborough, MA – Showcase Live

Sept. 16th – New York, NY – Mercury Lounge

Sept. 17th – Buffalo, NY – Mohawk Place

Sept. 18th – Albany, NY – Jillian’s Of Albany

Sept. 20th – Baltimore, MD – Bourbon Street

Sept. 21st – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl

Sept. 23rd – Toledo, OH – Frankie’s Inner City

Sept. 24th – Bowling Green, OH – Howard’s Club H

Sept. 25th – Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen

Sept. 27th – Minneapolis, MN – 400 Bar

Sept. 28th – Sioux Falls, SD – Nutty’s North

Sept. 30th – Denver, CO – Cervante’s Ballroom

Oct. 1st – Fort Collins, CO – Hodis Half Note

Oct. 2nd – Colorado Springs, CO – Triple Nickel Tavern

Oct. 4th – Aspen, CO – Belly Up Tavern

Oct. 5th – Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge

Oct. 6th – Reno, NV – Tonic Bar

Oct. 8th – Eureka, CA – Red Fox Tavern

Oct. 9th – Oakland, CA – The New Parish

Oct. 10th – Bakersfield, CA – Fishlip’s

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The new site had it all.  It’s still one of the best band sites out there.   Very easy to navigate and resourceful without giving the user a headache.  Video’s, Music, Bio’s, Photo’s, Tour dates, News and contact information.  I can assure you not one email or phone call went unanswered.  The voice mail number was set up so when fans called they heard a message from Dan or Eddie: “Hello This is Dan Thunder Bolton of the Supersuckers please leave a message,” and we’d call them back.    There was no customer service it was me, chris@supersuckers.com .  As Eddie Spaghetti said

“If you have any comments or questions just email, call, or write The Mid-Fi Guy, Chris Neal at chris@supersuckers.com He’s one efficient, friendly and thorough fella and he’ll be more than happy to help you with all your romantic queries”.

I felt we weren’t in a position to make ourselves hard to reach.  I wanted the fans to know they had someone they could count on and the fans were the most important part of the operation.  If someone wanted to book the band or license a song, I believed in making us easy to find.  This paid off a thousand times from the band playing private parties to getting songs on MTV.  My cell phone number was included at the bottom of the emails that once went out to 40,000 fans.  One time during a show in Eastern Europe my cell phone rang and it was Eddie Vedder looking for Eddie Spaghetti.  In fact this happened more than once.  I often wonder if the Supersuckers would’ve gotten those dates in Canada with Pearl Jam if we weren’t easy to find.  I’ll never forget that first call “Hello this is Ed from Seattle… I’m looking for Eddie”.  I mean I about died.  The Pearl Jam tour was a highlight for sure and it deserves it’s own chapter.  But first let me say, it was 5 shows in Canada and as much as we talked about it, you’d think we toured with them for at least 6 months.  And I was even able to get fan club members free tickets to the shows.  The respect and admiration I have for Pearl Jam is immeasurable.  Everything about them and their camp is top-notch.  And I’d work for them in a heartbeat if they ever called me at 213-944-9200…hint hint hint

All the work and set up we did for Must’ve Been Live, paid off for Motherfuckers Be Trippin’.  Some people thought it was a silly name for an album and that having that title would hurt sales but most retailers ordered it and only some had us put a sticker over the title.  I printed off thousands of stickers and problem solved.   No big deal.

I was thrilled with the album, title, art, and most importantly the songs.  Fox used the “Fight Song” during an NFL game and MTV used it a few times as well.  In fact, a lot of the songs off of this particular album were used in too many places to list.  I always thought the “Fight Song” would be  a stadium classic.  “Rock N Roll Records (Ain’t Selling the Year)” was Eddie’s obvious homage to Willie Nelson’s “Sad Songs and Waltzes,” “Rock Your Ass” was an instant classic, “Bruises to Prove It” I believe was inspired by someone close to the camp.  My least favorite song was “Bubble Gum and Beer” and I felt that song was an insight into how Eddie’s writing would begin to change.  One song that didn’t make the album was “Flying Into The Mid-Day Sun.”  This song appeared later on Devil’s Food. Regardless, the album was stellar and was one of their biggest selling albums.

We used Ken Phillips Publicity press (again), hired Planetary to work college radio (again) and we hired one of the larger radio consulting companies to work the single “Rock N Roll Records (Ain’t Selling the Year).”  And when KROQ in Los Angeles played “Rock N Roll Records (Ain’t Selling the Year)” one sunny afternoon in April, 2003, I knew we were onto something…

The band even had a video for the song.  Directed by Jeremy Hunt.  Jeremy was a huge fan and made the “Cracked” logo even more recognizable when he wore a Supersuckers hat in the internet movie sensation “405”, which yahoo named as “one of the most important events in the history of the internet.” I’ll never be able to thank him enough for the incredible video.  We mailed it to everyone from VH1, MTV, etc… We got turned down from a lot of the big places but it did get played in Europe, Canada, and on some local markets in the US.

I did most of the servicing (mailing out the video myself, including some record stores and online stores) and reached out to everyone I knew for help.  We hired a company called Rive Video to help with more serving and distribution too.  Even if we didn’t have huge success on a national level we still had it regionally and Rive helped a lot.  Also, it was a great promotional tool too.  Promoters could use the video on their web site to advertise a show, record stores could use it to advertise the release, and  sites like Yahoo would have something to feature.  We were lucky to have it and we included the video on the CD as a quicktime file too.  Years later, it’s still one of the highlights with my time with the band.

My Thoughts on Making “Rock and Roll Records (Ainʼt Selling This Year)” – Jeremy Hunt 8/24/2010

Where to begin? Well I’ve been a fan of the Supersuckers since the La Mano Cornuda record and probably saw every show that they played anywhere in Southern California for the next 10 years. I am a huge fan.

Fast forward to around April of 2000. I was a digital VFX artist working on various television shows. A friend and I wanted to make a short and set out to do just that. We had zero money to hire actors and on the day of the shoot, since I didn’t protest as much, I was tapped to star in our little movie. It just so happened that on that day I was wearing my trusty Supersuckers hat. The film went on to become 405 which is now considered the first viral original short on the Internet.

Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Hunt

That success got me and my co-director a lot of success and opportunities. One gig was directing a commercial for the Seattle film festival. While eating lunch on set with the agency creatives I mentioned that the upcoming weekend was going to be awesome because I was going to see the Supersuckers on Friday night and AC/DC on Saturday night. He chuckled and asked how much of a fan of the Supersuckers I was. He then informed me that he was friends from high school with the suckers and played in a weekly poker game with them when they were in Seattle. Wow..so cool. The next day, while we were in a transfer session for the commercial he whipped out his phone and called Rontrose to get me tickets and VIP access to the show.

After that show I was determined to find Ron just to say thank you for the tickets etc. I patiently waited while he finished a conversation with some ladies. I stuck out my hand intending to explain who I was and say thanks and he immediately said “dude! you’re the guy in that movie where the airplane lands on the old lady!” what?! Ron knew who I was? Turns out my Supersuckers hat prompted a lot of people to search for “Supersuckers” and they had a huge spike in traffic to their site. Over the next few weeks Ron and I chatted on the phone a few times about the band and what was going on, the heartbreak that was Evil Powers…he even sent me the original version of the songs that were recorded for Interscope. Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. Ron is a really cool guy and he hooked me up for the next show that they played in LA. At that show he wanted me to meet Eddie, so after the show I was backstage shooting the shit with Eddie, talking about everything from the band to his lip synch performance of Ratt’s Round and Round as a high schooler. If you haven’t had the opportunity to talk to these guys, yes, they are that cool. Just really nice.

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Hunt

Those guys have a really great way of making you really feel like you are a part of the band if you just get that first big toe in the door. And honestly, I never felt like they wanted anything, they were just into the idea that I was a fan and gave them some props on the net.

A couple of years later, my directing partner and I were writing a lot of music video treatments. It’s a horribly frustrating process because you fall in love with an idea and rarely get to execute it. We came up with one such idea. It was this concept where a band was going to perform in the middle of a nuclear explosion. Destruction and debris falling all around. The label ultimately passed on it, but I wasn’t willing to let it go. I knew the Supersuckers were getting ready to release MFBT so I pitched an idea to my partner. Let’s see if we can fund a video as a demo reel piece and see if the suckers want to be the band. I figured it was a win win. We would get to make the video we wanted and the suckers would have a kick ass video for virtually free. I pitched it to Eddie and he immediately bit. We rewrote the treatment to fit the vibe of the suckers, adding some humor etc and set off to get the ball rolling.

Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Hunt

The guys were coming through town so we secured a location in the Lucerne valley outside of LA. We got a production company to hook us up with insurance & producer and we begged, borrowed and stole all the gear we’d need. We ended up with a rather hefty and professional crew. I’ve since done a number of music videos and I can safely say that the Supersuckers just get it. A performance video has to have some good performance or it’s going to be boring. We had no problem there. Take after take, every setup, the guys were at 110% acting like idiots as we would yell “a huge chunk of plane is flying right at you! duck!” seeing Eddie drop down into some James Brown splits right on cue without missing a beat floored me. It was like that all day.

Once we got back, we spent the next month on post production and visual effects. It was a lot of hand painting the guys off the background in order to wrap them with the wind and derby and junk we added flying around them. It was a ton of work. Thank god they write short songs.

It was a really great experience. The band let us do what we wanted and in return I think we gave them a pretty memorable video. Chris ended up making me a lifetime fan club member and I have never paid for a bit of suckers merch or shows since. Not only that but I rarely had to ask. If they were coming through So Cal, I would usually getting an email asking if I needed any tickets.

A couple of years later they flew me up to Seattle to film Eddie as he recorded his second solo album, Old No. 2. We turned that into a little video that was included with the cd I believe. Another great experience.

I’ll wrap this up with one of my favorite stories from the shoot. Call time was 6am but I was nervous about being late so I got there a bit early. Slowly everyone started to arrive and we had an area

Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Hunt

sectioned off so that no cars would drive on it. I wanted a pristine cracked desert floor and tire tracks would ruin it. We had all of the production trucks positioned and people were setting up gear. Out of nowhere a little pickup truck veers off the road, flies past the production trucks, and starts doing donuts right in the middle of my set, totally tearing up the ground. I was fuming. I’m begging for this asshole to stop so I can literally kick his ass. It’s a fucking desert, I was willing to walk a few miles and bury a body. After five or six donuts the truck stops and I’m right there. Out pops Bolton grinning ear to ear. He looks right at me and says “Lets make a video!” I burst out laughing. Fucking rock stars… We had to tear down and move all the gear. But it was totally worth it.

Inside the CD packaging was a paper insert advertisement that was shaped like a CD and placed on top of the actual CD.  This insert was an advertisement for the web store. Another brilliant idea.  And Rontrose gets the credit.

And here’s one of the contests we did around the same time.  I’ve included the radio spot!!!  Hear the radio spot – click here

Do you like chicken? Do you like rock-n-roll? Do you like Arkansas? Well if you’ve answered yes to at least two of these questions then do we have a deal for you! The winner of our latest Ebay auction will receive two plane tickets to Little Rock Arkansas, (that’s right, you heard me, Little Rock!) to join us at Sticky Fingers Chicken Shack where we will be hosting a chicken wing eating contest and playing a rock show to help celebrate their 15th year of sticky digits! You’ll also be put up in a nice little hotel room to help you sleep it all off that night.

The contest will feature Mr. Dan “Thunder” Bolton and myself as well as at least ten to fifteen local contestants. The winner of the contest will get a free, brand new (and clean!) Supersuckers t-shirt AND they will get to choose five songs from our extensive catalog that we will play in a block during our show that night! Second place just gets the shirt and third place will receive a moist towellette, a firm hand shake and a hearty “nice try buddy” from the band (okay maybe a key chain or something too).

So get to bidding and come and join us in Little Rock. Who knows, you might even get to meet Bolton’s brother or my mom! The entire event will be dedicated to some good people in Arkansas who can’t make it for reasons beyond their control.

Eddie Spaghetti,
rock guy.
May 7, 2003

Some of my favorite contests involved ordering from the website.   We gave away loaded Eddie Spaghetti iPod’s, Fan Club Memberships, subscriptions to Rolling Stone Magazine, Snowboards, etc.  There wasn’t a band in the world doing this kind of stuff and there’s probably still not.  Everything in the store was set at a fair price too.

Oh, check this out. We recently auctioned off a couple of iPods loaded 
up with Supersuckers songs on Ebay and it was such a success that we 
want to give one away!  Here’s the deal – everyone who makes a purchase 
from our web store during the month of May will have their name entered 
into a drawing to win a brand new 20 GB iPod all loaded up with 
’suckers gold!  Also, any orders over $50 will receive a 10% discount. 
How’s that for good business? They don’t call me Crazy Eddie for 
nothing! We’re blowing it out! Everything must go! Good luck to you, 
shoppers.

Eddie Spaghetti, on the road between here and there, Cinco De Mayo, 
2004.

And of course we had the eBay auctions.  Now eBay accomplished a few things for us; first and foremost it was a great way to advertise…  I could list concert tickets on eBay as a means of advertising the show.  Also It was a great way to market potential new store items to see if there would be a demand.  We did this with the coloring books and bottle openers.  The New Years Eve shows were always terrific and the auctions we did in conjunction with the NYE shows were awesome  One show in particular, we provided a hotel room, van transportation to and from the venue, a goodie bag, and tickets to the show obviously.  And I got pretty close to having a show in Hawaii once where I was going to do an all-inclusive trip with the Supersuckers selling a certain amount of tickets on eBay at a fixed price…  I wish I could’ve pulled that one off.

We auctioned off guitar lessons, drum lessons, weekend trips with the band where we’d put you up at a hotel and invite you to soundcheck and of course load the winner up with merchandise.  And we always donated a percentage of the monies to the West Memphis 3 Defense Fund.  It was so fun knowing that not only were we doing something fun for the fans but it was a great cause.  And the band were good sports about these crazy ideas.  These auctions were so effective and fun. It was one of the highlights of working with the Supersuckers and we become known for it.


Do you like The Supersuckers? Do you like baseball? Wanna come see a great game with us? We’re offering you a once in a life time chance to come with us and watch the Seattle Mariners play the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 9th in Seattle from one of the best, private, VIP suites at Safeco Field. That’s right, see the game in style, with The Supersuckers, from right behind home plate and know that any profit (should there be any – these things ain’t cheap!) will be going to the Free The West Memphis Three Support Fund. We’re going to be putting a few pairs up to bid on over the next few weeks, this first pair comes with some deluxe hotel accommodations but we’re not sure if we’ll be able to swing that for all of the ticket winners. We hope to, but we want to make sure that we get enough money to make a nice donation to the WM3. So get to bidding! I love going to the Mariners games, Safeco Field is awesome, I dig the Red Sox and I’ve always wanted to check one of these suites out. This is gonna be a lot of fun!

Eddie Spaghetti

Everything we did seemed to have a marketing twist to it but we didn’t have a choice.  We had to be creative, take chances, set trends, and blaze trails.  We weren’t on the cover of Rolling Stone or USA today.  The band wasn’t played much on the radio and didn’t have much mainstream exposure.  We created our own excitement and embraced the help and support from the fans.  It wasn’t before too long that Billboard Magazine even did a feature on our marketing campaigns.  I think it was one of the few times we were ever in Billboard and it was a nice spread and a great article.

I always wanted to do an auction for “Tour with the Supersuckers for a Weekend” but we never pulled that off.  Although there’s still time to donate and enter to win a guitar and lesson from Rontrose.  This contest ends on 8/31/10 and it will be an amazing experience so please consider it and know how much the support is appreciated and how much it helps keeping this thing moving along…

More stories coming soon…  thanks

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Thanks for the Donations.  Here’s another clip with Rontrose that I’m real excited to share.

But first, I’d like to thank my buddy Mike. A for working the magic with the camera, editing, etc…  I’m lucky to have great friends.  Enjoy!

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Everyone may recall how important I felt about people working for the Supersuckers being fans first.  This was even common practice when it came to tour managing.  One of the most unconventional ideas I had was to have fans tour manage the Supersuckers.  Tour Managing isn’t easy and often our tour managers worked in a completely different business.  Often it was someone just curious about the music business or the experience of traveling with the band and someone that wanted to help.  And this was true in Brian’s case as it was with a few others too.

Eddie nicknamed him “the sponge” because of his uncanny ability to retain information.  Brian could tell you everything about the Supersuckers from track listings on albums to what Dan “Thunder” Bolton ordered at the Cracker Barrel and Starbucks.  Not only was he engaging with the fans explaining in great detail all the CD’s & merch, but there wasn’t a promoter he settled a show with that wasn’t impressed with his knack for adding up expenses off the top of his head & his positive attitude.

Brian occasionally unloads some goodies on eBay and works in the finance arena in Denver, CO and would often take vacation time from his fortune 500 company and jump in the van for a week escape.

Q: What’s you favorite story from the road with the Supersuckers?

A: Oh man, there are soo many. Things could get very witty, sophomoric, & middle-finger laced on the road, but my favorite story occurred on my first tour in September ’04. We played a show at the House of Blues in Anaheim, I was working the merch, & as many of you know Eddie would come over to the merch area after the show. It just so happened that Eddie’s son Quattro joined us at the merch area. This guy walks up to us & before I know it he’s flat on his back on the floor. I’m instantly thinking this guy is Tucker Max drunk or he has some health ailment that requires immediate attention. Before I can get the words “security” out of my mouth, he pops up & puts his prosthetic leg on the merch table & says: “Eddie, will you & Quattro sign my leg?” We were speechless. I had no idea he was on the floor to remove his leg. Eddie & Quattro signed his leg, he popped it back on & walked off. It was pure COMEDY! I hope he reads this & I hope he didn’t marry Paul McCartney’s ex-wife.

Q: What did Dan “Thunder” Bolton order at the Cracker Barrel & Starbucks?

A: Whew, gotta jump in the way back machine for these. But I believe Thunder ordered the chicken fried steak at the Barrel & 2 Venti Americano’s w/a Venti cup of ice at the Bucks. Does this sound right?

Q: What on earth ever compelled you to get in the van with the Supersuckers?

A: I was passionate about them, about what you were doing w/them/for them, saw the results we were getting in Colorado w/selling out venues by viral marketing & I wanted to learn more about the music business. Also, I wanted to see first hand how hard these guys worked, show them & you how I could improve merch sales, try to turn new fans into repeat customers, build relationships w/the existing-dedicated-passionate fan base & see the other markets that you & I would discuss.

Q: What’s your role here with Rockonomics?

A: Good question. To loosely quote my homie Darryl Lee Donald, my role is to “meditate, contemplate, master…….plan my existence” on Rockonomics. I look at my role as a dynamite opportunity to share ideas with bands & people are listening, emailing, calling, facecrackin’, tweet tubing, etc. So it feels great to have this avenue to help out.

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Since so many folks are emailing me asking for more interviews, I’ve added a couple more today.  Here Rontrose talks about his “role in the band” and how it evolved over time.

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Thanks everyone for the generous donations.

Rontrose.

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