Thursday, 31 May 2012

Top of the Pops: 19th May, 1977.

Rod Stewart sings
Rod Stewart by Helge Øverås (Own work)
[GFDL (,
CC-BY-SA-3.0 (
CC-BY-2.5 (],
via Wikimedia Commons
The Olympic Torch may be wending its way through the streets of this land even as we speak but there's only one beacon to be seen lighting the boulevards of Nostalgia.

And that's this week's TOTP.

Will it burn bright - a symbol of hope for all mankind?

Or will it splutter and die like the dampest of squibs?

Only David “Kid” Jensen can tell us. For it is he who's to guide us through the flaming cul-de-sac that men call, “The Past.”

Straight away, we launch into Suzi Quatro and - inevitably for an opening song - a track that rings no bells with me whatsoever.

It's a performance that can only be labelled, "Relaxed."

But that seems inevitable. Like whatever that single was she was on doing a few weeks back, it's not the most grippingest of tracks. In fact, some might call it positively lukewarm. Suzi really did seem to be treading water at this stage of her career. Still, thanks to hindsight, we at least know better was to come.

The song seems to be called Roxy Roller and, as it finishes, Kid declares it to be, “exciting,” suggesting he's incredibly easily excited.

Now it's Heatwave and Too Hot to Handle.

It's the typical Heatwave performance, them in silly outfits doing a song that sounds like Heatwave.

Now it's time for The Moon And I, sung by Linda Lewis.

I always thought Linda Lewis was a porn star. Assuming she isn't, just who was I mixing her up with?

Three songs into the show, and this is the third track I've never heard of.

But what a sweet little thing she seems.

Was this really written by Gilbert and Sullivan? Why isn't it all short notes and silly words?

Whoever wrote it, in the hands of Linda it's all going a bit Minnie Riperton.

Still, whatever its unlikelihood, I find it strangely intriguing and have the desire to hear it again, if only to find out what I make of it second time round.

Now for the Bay City Rollers with It's a Game.

If this hadn't been on two weeks ago, it would've been tonight's fourth consecutive track I've never heard of.

One solitary audience member waves a scarf. I wonder if she was the only Bay City Rollers fan left in Britain at this stage?

Now it's Carole Bayer Sager and You're Moving Out.

At last, a track I recognise!

I may know the song but I'm not sure I've ever seen her before. On first viewing, it does strike me that she looks like Popeye's Olive Oyl.

Like Barbara Dickson all those weeks ago, while she's making a good go at it, she's somewhat hindered by the invisibility of her backing singers.

I remember seeing Lynda Carter doing a version of this somewhere. It wasn't a patch on Carole's version.

Then again, Carole Bayer Sager'd probably struggle with playing Wonder Woman – especially when it comes to finding her invisible plane.

Joe Tex is at it again.

And now Legs and Co are dancing to Disco Inferno.

You'd think this was a perfect track for them to dance to, as it gives them an excuse to just dance and not have to act out any kind of narrative.

The only problem is that, for no noticeable reason, Flick Colby's ordered hub caps be strapped to their every extremity, meaning that, instead of focusing on their dancing, all you can notice are flashing discs. Flick Colby, a woman who could be relied upon to achieve defeat no matter how much easier it'd be to achieve triumph.

“From the land of a thousand dancers,” declares Kid, it's the Jacksons.

Are there really only a thousand dancers in the United States?

That does seem an unlikely stat.

Actually in the studio, rather than on video, they're doing Let Me Show You. I must admit it's not one of my favourite Jackson tracks, feeling oddly leaden compared to others of that vintage.

Michael seems to be the tallest of the Jacksons, which can't be right, can it?

To be honest, Michael's starting to get on my nerves now, with his random exclamations.

But at last it's the moment we've all been waiting for. Entire musical epochs collapse before our eyes as punk finally hits TOTP, with the debut of the Jam. Admittedly, you could argue the Jam weren't really punk but it's as close as we've got thus far on the show.

Paul seems a little angry. Bruce seems a little angry. It's a contrast from the Jacksons, that's for sure.

And an even bigger contrast is with Rod Stewart who's hit the heady heights of Number 1 with The First Cut is the Deepest.

He's on the TOTP jumbotron. I thought it'd long-since been retired due to the audience's disheartening tendency to stand with their backs to it.

It's that performance from last week.

He's waving his bum again.

As the show draws to a close, Kid signs off by wishing us, “Good love.” Heaven alone knows where he got that one from.

We play out with Boz Scaggs' Lido Shuffle.

This is my favourite Boz Scaggs song, by a mile. It sounds like Rick Davies' efforts for Supertramp. Given that Davies was always overshadowed by Roger Hodgson, that might not seem a good thing but Boz clearly knew how to make that sound work.

So, it was a night when musical differences were stretched almost to breaking point. What other music show could ever have dared give us Gilbert and Sullivan and the Jam in the same broadcast?

But that was the greatness of TOTP. While the BBC's other great 1970s music show The Old Grey Whistle Test had to crunch gears furiously to adjust to the arrival of the "new" music, TOTP's great amoeboid mass simply absorbed and accommodated any sound the charts could throw at it, before rolling on unperturbed.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Top of the Pops: 12th May, 1977.

Microphone in hand, Kenny Rogers sings
Kenny Rogers was edited out of tonight's early
edition - but not out of this blog.
By ACT1 at en.wikipedia
or CC-BY-SA-3.0
from Wikimedia Commons
It might be Eurovision this weekend but there's a far more important battle for pop supremacy underway.

And that's the battle to be Number 1 thirty-five years ago.

Can ABBA reclaim their crown?

Will the sound of punk spit its way majestically to the top of the hit parade?

Or will some previously unexpected twist of musical fate appear from nowhere to claim that coveted crown?

Only Jimmy Savile can tell us.

And tell us he shall - for it's his turn to play Katie Boyle and guide us through the douze and nul pointers of this week's chart.

First up, it's someone or other.

The producers have done it to me again. They've started with an act I don't recognise at all.

This time it's not as bizarre as Contempt but it still seems a pretty rum set of coves.

Whoever they are, they clearly believe in having loads of sax.

That main singer's pelvic rotations and groinal thrustings are disturbing me. I'm not sure they're appropriate for a show like TOTP.

The group're very funky and groovy, whoever they are.

Jimmy's just told us they're all the way from that legendary home of funk - Southampton. And they're called Honky. There's a name you couldn't imagine a modern act having.

Barbra Streisand's back with that song about chairs.

But Kris Kristofferson seems to have disappeared since last week.

Oops! No! He's back again!

Stop kissing her hands, Kris! I don't like it. I like my TOTP performances to be devoid of all affection.

I'm sure it's a lovely song but it really doesn't hold my attention at all.

Was Kris Kristofferson in the Jessica Lange King Kong remake? Or was that Kurt Russell? I still can't remember which is which.

Now it's I'm Going to Capture Your Heart by someone or other. One of these days I'm going to have to try and pay attention to the intros, so I actually know who the acts are.

This is all pleasant but insipid.

And now my razor-sharp senses tell me that - from the huge writing on the drums - that they're called Blue. Weren't they on the other week, doing another song?

Either way, this track really isn't getting going at all.

“Gonna take my soul to town,” They declare. Why? Do they normally leave it behind?

Now it's The Trinidad Oil Company. Another act I've never heard of.

By the looks of it, they've literally brought the entire oil company along with them. And I thought Showaddywaddy were the most overstaffed group in history.

Now, for those who don't know what they are, they're helpfully running through the months of the year.

And now they're doing it again.

It's not what you'd call lyrically involved.

In fact, it's what some might call total crap.

Still, they all seem to be wearing fluorescent visibility clothing, so at least they won't get run over while they're in the studio.

Argh! We're suddenly on the receiving end of that music they used to use in The Muppets and The Benny Hill show. It might be called Mah-Na Mah-Na but don't quote me on that. Speaking as the only person on Earth who was immune to the appeal of the Muppets, I could do without it.

Dressed as giant flowers, Legs and Co have looks on their faces that suggest that even they think dancing to this is beneath them. It says something when even Legs and Co look down on your work.

And it just goes on and on and on...

And on and on....

Oh, for God's sake, go away!

The nightmare's finally over and we launch into 10cc with Good Morning, Judge and that video again.

Now it's The Martyn Ford Orchestra. Yet another act I've never heard of.

They're treating us to a song called Let Your Body Go Downtown. Yes do. But, as Blue could tell you, don't forget to take your soul with you.

Its bass-line sort of reminds me of the South Bank Show theme tune.

And, of course, its title reminds me of every song Lana Del Rey has so far recorded.

With its square-looking orchestra members and its "funky" singers, has there ever been an act whose two constituent parts seem so ill-designed to go together ?

Legs and Co are back, this time dancing to what might be Marvin Gaye. For some reason I can't imagine, they seem a lot more into this than they were Mah-Na Mah-Na.

But now that's over and at last we get a good record.

What am I talking about? It's not a good record. It's a great record.

It's Billy Paul and his version of Wings' Let 'Em In, which we all know is far superior to the original and brings a whole new dimension to it in a way few cover versions of songs have ever done.

Billy Paul looks like he's just walked in fresh from a movie.

The audience look like they've just been drugged. Move! For god's sake, you shuffling zombies of indifference! Move!

Sadly Martin Luther King couldn't be with us tonight and Billy's having to do all the speechifying himself. Personally I'm disappointed they didn't get Jimmy Savile to do the talky bits.

But this really does show the idiocy of the BBC's insistence on the acts having to record new versions of their hits for appearances on the show.

To be honest, I felt Billy was a little inhibited by the lack of proper speeches and the lifelessness of his audience.

Now it's Dr Feelgood with a song that might be called Lights Out.

It might be pub rock but, slowly but surely, we're edging closer towards punk actually putting in an appearance.

The singer seems quite angry. I'm not sure about what.

Perhaps he's angry about Deniece Williams still being Number 1.

In which case, he shouldn't be because it's still a very nice song and she's still doing that thing with her hand that impresses me more than it strictly ought to.

I wonder what's going to be on the play-out?

It's Joe Tex and Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman). It's an outrage. As we all saw a couple of weeks ago, a man like Joe deserves to be seen as well as heard.

But, then, tonight's show could be seen as a tale of people who deserve something other than what they've received, with Billy Paul deserving better than having to do a half-arsed version of his classic record, and the people behind Mah-Na Mah-Nah deserving a good shooting.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Top of the Pops: 5th May, 1977.

Mr Punch
By Musphot (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons.
Well, I've girded my loins. I've strapped on my armour. Now to see what challenges the second of this week's instalments of the world's greatest music show has in store for us.

What it first has in store is Noel Edmonds, as always looking as unlike the presenter of a popular music show as it's possible to be. You did always feel Noel would've been far more at home working in banking than in the entertainment business.

And, for once, we kick off with an act I actually recognise.

It's the Bay City Rollers...

...and a song I don't recognise.

Remembering they're meant to be objects of lust for girls too young to feel lust, they're showing off a lot of chest, which is a good thing, as I'm sure it's the sort of behaviour that gets us all a little excited back here in 1977.

The song seems OK but lacks the overwhelming sense of optimistic pop unstoppability of their earlier hits. Even at the time it must have seemed clear the sun was slowly setting on the Rollers' days of supremacy.

Someone whose sun was still hovering somewhere around noon, was Rod Stewart who's on next with First Cut is the Deepest.

It's a pleasant enough track but not one of my Rod favourites.

And this is where we get a reminder of the problem with Rod. He's doing a sensitive ballad then suddenly turns round and starts waving his arse at us all.

This is why I believe people are wrong when they say he sold out by going disco. For a man with a determination to wave his bum in everyone's faces at every opportunity, when disco came along he must have felt like at last he'd found his true calling in life.

Delegation are back, and looking older than ever. I don't like to be narrow-minded but I can't help feeling that men of that age really shouldn't be wearing such figure-hugging, chest-revealing outfits.

Mac and Katie Kissoon are up next.

Noel introduces them like they're old friends of the show, though I must admit I've never heard of them.

Nor have I ever heard of the song but they seem to continue that Marilyn McCoo/Billy Davis Jr tradition of an attractive woman paired with a man who looks like talent scouts found him lurking in the cellar beneath Paris Opera House.

As for Katie, she has some strange sort of creature attached to her chest. It seems to be one of Molly Sugden's old hats from the Liver Birds.

The audience are suddenly heading for them just as they're fading out. Bearing in mind the audience were presumably there to see some pop acts, just where have they been all the way through the song?

Noel cracks a joke I don't understand at all, about something doing you good.

What I do understand is Leo Sayer who's back with his video of multi-layered Leos and still showing us his “fun” side.

Next, on to Joy Sarney - yet another act I've never heard of before.

It soon becomes obvious why, as she quickly plummets into what must be the worst performance in TOTP history. Actually managing to make Rick Dees look like a latter-day Beethoven, she launches into a truly bizarre duet with Mr Punch.

At this juncture I should point out she looks like Steve Does Top of the Pops favourite Jolene Blalock.

I like to think that, if Jolene Blalock ever launched a pop career, this is what it'd be like.

I suspect that Jolene Blalock, on the other hand, likes to think otherwise.

But it has to be quite the cheeriest song about domestic violence I've ever heard. "He's been in trouble with the law for grievous bodily harm," she gushes, prompting the thought that Joy Sarney should've been in trouble with the law for grievous bodily harm to music.

Now it's Frankie Valli, and yet another song I've never heard before. It really is turning out to be a night of discovery for me.

Seeing as it's Frankie Valli, I keep expecting him to go all high-pitched but he resolutely refuses to do so. In places, the track vaguely brings to mind the work of Harry Chapin. In others it doesn't.

Now, proving he really would have been more comfortable in banking, Noel tells us it's, “Legs and Company.”

It's that weirdly happy dance they did the other week to Andrew Gold's Lonely Boy.

ABBA have finally been kicked off the Number 1 slot and replaced by Deniece Williams with Free.

I'm pleased to report that, after finding it boring the last time it was on, I'm starting to get into it again after all these years. It can't be denied it's a classy track and she has a decent set of pipes on her, even if she does blow too hard on them from time to time.

She's doing the waggly thing with her fingers again, which still impresses me far more than it ought to.

It's Stevie Wonder's turn to get the fuzzy end of the lollipop this week by receiving the honour of playing us out.

So, what can you say? The night's earlier edition was completely dominated in the memory by one strange and inexplicable act in Contempt, and this show was likewise dominated by the bizarre horror of Joy Sarney - whereas perfectly tasteful acts like Frankie Valli and Delegation are already slipping from the mind. It just goes to show that, in the magical world of showbusiness, being memorable and being worthy of remembrance aren't necessarily the same thing.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Top of the Pops: 28th April, 1977.

10CC in 1974
10CC By AVRO (Beeld En Geluid Wiki - Gallerie: Toppop 1974)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons.
Britain's greatest music show's clearly determined to work me into a frazzle by broadcasting two editions in one night.

Needless to say I shall rise like a lion to this challenge by running away from it and saving my account of the second of tonight's shows for a couple of days' time when the internet has had chance to recover from the strain of this posting.

It's Steve Does Top of the Pops' first ever cliff-hanger. I feel just like an episode of Dr Who.

But first it's Dave Lee Travis doing the honours.

And, with no introduction from him, we launch straight into a song by...


The first few bars in and I still don't know what it is yet. So far it all sounds a bit Cockney Rebel but the singer seems to be Mr Benn – and I don't mean Anthony Wedgwood.

We're well into the thing and I still don't have a clue who it is. Is it someone from a musical? They sound like Queen but don't look like them.

Is that Mika on guitar?

Frankly I'm baffled. Is that the bloke from The Band on the drums?

Whoever they are, they do seem fixated with money.

Dave Lee's back-announced them but I didn't hear what he said. So I still don't have a clue who they were or what they were on about.

Not only that but, while I was typing, I missed the intro to the next act.

It's a woman being danced to by a totally different woman who I assume to be from Legs and Co.

Actually I'm not sure it is a woman singing. It might be a high-pitched man.

Wait. It seems to be I Wanna Get Next To You. If only I could remember who did that.

Was it Gladys Knight?

Oh. No. It seems it is a man singing.

It turns out it was Rose Royce, danced to by Pauline, which leaves me no closer to knowing if it was a man or a woman singing.

Now for a bunch of people whose gender is never in doubt. It's the Detroit Spinners with Could It Be I'm Falling In Love?

Blimey they're getting stuck in. They're moving around like their backsides are on fire. You have to hand it to them; they're not very coordinated but they certainly are frisky.

Now it's 10cc and Good Morning, Judge.

I liked this when I was younger but will I like it now? I must confess that, in adulthood, the appeal of 10cc has paled somewhat. I can't help feeling they sacrificed emotional integrity for the sake of futile cleverness.

Now that it's almost over, I've come to the conclusion that Good Morning, Judge is still acceptable to my adult ears, although I'm really not that bothered if I never hear it again.

From them, we launch into Joe Tex, with Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman) in another clip from Soul Train.

I do like what I've seen of Soul Train. Everyone on it seems to be enjoying themselves so much more than the audience on TOTP ever do - although you do start to realise after a while that each of the the dancers has just one move that they keep repeating endlessly like they're a living animated gif. It's an effect that reminds me of the dancing scenes they sometimes used to have in old Charlie Brown cartoons.

Someone's got up on stage to dance with Joe! If it were TOTP instead of Soul Train, that person would've been Dave Lee Travis. Bearing in mind the title of the song, he'd probably have been in drag and blacked up. I'm sure that would've gone down well on Soul Train.

Next it's Kiki Dee. Until I started watching these repeats, I never realised how many hits she'd had. Or what an attractive woman she was. For some reason, until I was reintroduced to her by these shows, I'd always remembered her as having a face like a slapped haddock. What a fool I was.

Billy Ocean's back for what seems like his 99th consecutive week. I don't mind, as it's a great song and he always gives it his all but he does seem to be hogging the show somewhat.

At least this time he's got company, as he now has a pair of dancers with him.

I assume they're also from Legs and Co, clearly determined not to be outdone by Pauline's earlier bid for solo glory.

I once bought some wrapping paper like Billy Ocean's jacket. It was actually quite expensive.

When I say expensive, I mean I didn't get it from Poundland. I might have got it from WH Smiths.

Barbra Streisand is on now with Evergreen.

This is all a bit creepy. Some bloke with his back to us keeps doing stuff to her.

Is it Kris Kristofferson? We can't see his face and I always get him mixed up with Kurt Russell anyway.

Either way, it's a terrible video. Objects and backs of heads keep getting in the way, and now Babs is trying to strangle herself.

Barry Biggs is back with a thing called You're My Life.

What the hell is he wearing?

He's somehow managing to make Billy Ocean look conservatively dressed.

Frankly, I don't fancy his chances of reaching the top of those stairs.

I never realised before that Barry Biggs looks remarkably like Hans Holbein's portrait of Henry VIII, with the huge body, the beard and the tiny head.

Not that ABBA need worry about that - or anything else. With the staying power that saw them become Sweden's biggest export apart from Volvo, they're still Number 1.

This week's victim of the play-out curse is Rod Stewart with First Cut is the Deepest, which, going on previous experience, presumably means we'll never get to see it on the show proper.

All in all, it was an odd edition. In terms of quality it was probably the most consistent since I started watching. Off the top of my head, I can't remember a single bad song - even the first act were too weird and disorienting to actually be described as bad - but, then again, it seemed an oddly unfocused show that never quite got into its stride. The breaking up of Legs and Co into splinter groups was a noteworthy innovation and it'll be interesting to see if it's a policy that's maintained in coming weeks.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Top of the Pops: 21st April, 1977.

Voyager star Jeri Ryan, microphone in hand, at the Creation Star Trek Convention at the Hilton Hotel in Parsippany, New Jersey, 2010
Because Jolene Blalock alone cannot keep Aggy satisfied,
here's ex-Star Trek Voyager sex-bomb Jeri Ryan.
Photo by Gary Burke  (Jeri Ryan)
[CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
It's been an exciting day today, as the nation's gone to the polls to decide just who's going to be ruling our towns and cities for the next few years.

But there's only one man rules our hearts.

And that's Tony Blackburn.


Because only he can guide us through the strongholds and marginals that are the pop charts of 1977.

And we kick off with someone or other.

Is it Eddie and the Hot Rods? I'm basing this assumption on the singer's bared chest and the fact he's moving around a fair bit. I don't have a clue what it's called but I do know it's not Do Anything You Wanna Do.

He's dangerously close to doing the splits. Some things I don't want to see even on TOTP. I can't help feeling he's what you'd have got if Iggy Pop and Get It Together's Roy North had produced a love-child. Then again, who's to say they didn't?

It WAS Eddie and the Hot Rods. No wonder they let me do a life-or-death blog about pop when I have musical knowledge like that.

On the other hand, here's OC Smith. Apart from him having a very well-known TV show named after him that featured the bloke who was Jim Robinson in Neighbours, I still don't have a clue who he is.

Is this the song he did the other week? Or is it another one?

He still looks like Phil Lynott's dad.

I'm still not gripped by it.

It's all gone scary as we suddenly get a weird lingering close-up of a woman's face.

But no. It's not just any weird woman's face. It's a Legs and Co weird woman's face.

They're dancing to Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder.

I must confess I've never been a Stevie Wonder fan. I always like his songs when they start but, after about a minute, I'm always starting to lose the will to live.

Legs and Co are very shiny and sparkly tonight. I don't know whose idea those outfits were but one thing's for sure, the chicken'll be going without bacofoil this week.

They've flashed their bums! It's shocking the things people'll get up to now it's 1977. I've got a good mind to ring Mary Whitehouse. Wherever will this Rock and Roll anarchy end? I predict, if it's not checked, it'll end with people wearing meat bikinis. And I'm making that prediction in 1977, so, if I'm proven right, it'll be an incredible act of foresight.

Now it's Tavares.

I remember this one. I remember liking it - mostly because it mentions Ellery Queen.

I remember seeing the pilot ep for the Ellery Queen show in the 1970s and concluding that Ellery Queen was the murderer. I didn't realise it was Part 1 of a series and he couldn't be the murderer because that would've made it a very short series. I'm still smarting over the humiliation.

Tavares, meanwhile, are giving an oddly winning performance. You wouldn't exactly call their dance routine twinkle-toed but you can't help liking them.

It's time to round-up the votes of the Steve jury as Mike Moran and Lynsey de Paul are back with Rock Bottom.

I don't care how pretty she is, I just can't warm to Lynsey. There's still something I don't trust about her.

Actually it's probably because she is pretty that I don't trust her. I don't mind beautiful people – I'm fairly scrumptious myself - but they who are pretty, I don't trust.

The audience look bored rigid.

I don't blame 'em.

It's no Scooch.

Leo Sayer's on now. I don't recognise the track yet and I thought I knew every hit Leo ever had.

I know it now he's finally started singing. It's How Much Love. I think this is one of his high-pitched ones.

What a strange video. There's millions of Leos leaping up and down, spinning around, floating about in mid-air, and mostly being silhouettes.

I'm trying to work out if it's heavily influenced by Elton John or if Elton John was heavily influenced by Leo Sayer. Either way, this track could easily have been on an Elton John album.

Now for Delegation and Where Is The Love?

Someone else had a hit with a song called Where Is The Love, didn't they? Was it Black Eyed Peas? Or was it Lisa Stansfield? Or was it both?

As for Delegation, I'm not familiar with them but their style's familiar.

It's very pleasant but very like the Real Thing. I suspect you could easily sing Can't Get By Without You right over the top of it.

Elkie Brooks is back – and backless. I hope she's not going to be sexy again. The trouble I got into last time over the whole issue of Elkie and sexiness. All I can say is I will never again question the untrammelled eroticism of Elkie Brooks.

Deniece Williams is back with Free. It's another one I always like for the first minute before completely losing all interest.

She's doing strange hand movements to try and keep us interested. She's succeeding. I'm still not interested in the song but I am at least strangely taken by her hand gestures.

Now she's starting to sound like a kettle boiling.

ABBA are still at Number 1.

This week's show seems to have flown by, which I suppose means I must've found it entertaining even though there was little on it you'd call either remarkable or memorable.

And, continuing the TOTP tradition of saving the best song till the play-out, we finish with Peter Gabriel and Solsbury Hill.

This is bad news. I think I'm starting to get how it works; which is that, once a track's been on the play-out, it's doomed to never be on the show proper. Which presumably means Peter's had it.

That's a shame, as Solsbury Hill's one of the few songs from 1977 that I'd call a classic.


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