Wednesday, October 27, 2004

TRULY, IT WAS THE PEELENIUM: There was a stock gag in 60s and 70s TV shows where a woman, usually, and elderly, always, would do something odd; in response, the male lead would turn to someone else and say "She's not been the same since Gracie Fields/George Formby/Harry Lauder went..." - the joke being that feeling the resonance of an entertainer's death isn't the sort of thing that should cause a genuine emotional response. The trouble is, at the moment, I can picture my wife thirty years hence explaining away a bout of bad behaviour at a barbecue with the words "He's not been the same since Peelie went..."

There's been a massive outpouring of affection for Peel over the last twenty-four hours - to a degree that would both surprise and embarrass him. There's been talk that the Second Stage at Glastonbury might be renamed after him as a tribute, although something more permanent might be fitting.

Amongst the tributes, I might be getting overly sentimental but Tony Blair actually did sound like he had a catch in his throat. Newsnight took a risk by inviting Mark E Smith on at damn near closing time - he kept doing an odd thing with his tongue and did a George W style "can i talk now?" before asking Gavin Esler if he was "going to be the new dj" and - what with only the illest of winds blowing everyone no good - Fergal Sharkey must have made about a hundred thousand pounds from the number of times Teenage Kicks got played.

Even The Daily Mail and Express have found front page space:

... although, obviously, the red tops couldn't squeeze a mention in, as there were pictures of Tina O'Brien in a push-up bra coming in. The broadsheets made room:

Nothing on the front of The Times, though - surely Murdoch's not so sour about the BBC as to refuse a front page memorial?

Much more stuff to read:
The Scotsman is running the Press Assocation reports of the tributes
New York Times - "possibly the only British DJ known by name" and headlined "John Peel, who played new rock on the BBC, dies [As the NYT puts things behind a glass shutter, you can read the text here - tributes from, amongst others, Supergrass
Rolling Stone - rather brief obit, suggesting that the NYT is better on left-field music these days
London News Review - "living life at the wrong speed"
ACME - wonderful ten reasons why...
The Times - might not have put him on the front page, but they got Caitlin Moran to pen a few words
Roger Waters Online - he was a paid up member of the Pink Floyd fan club ("along with George Best") in 1968, you know
The Guardian invite Peter Hook, Charles Shaar Murray, Kevin Shields, Andy Kershaw and others to contribute
The Independent Radio reviewer Robert Hanks focuses on "what he would have been horrified to think of as his moral influence"
Independent Obituary - Spencer Leigh traces the life, remembering Peel being instructed not to play Bolan because he "sounds like Larry The Lamb"
Independent Appreciation - Andy Kershaw reports on hearing the news ("Jenny Abramsky, the BBC's controller of network radio, called me and said: "I've got some bad news for you, and I think you ought to sit down." As soon as she said that, my mind just raced and in a flash, before she had said it, I thought "Peel's dead".) Kershaw also repeats what he told Channel 4 News last night: "The last time I saw him he looked absolutely worn out. We went to a café near Radio 1 and I said: "John, you look terrible." He said: "They've moved me from 11pm to one at night and the combination of that and Home Truths (his Radio 4 show) is killing me." He felt he had been marginalised."

There's much more around the web, of course; we'll add to this list during the day.

As promised:
This was the pocket cartoon on The Guardian today:

Since we noticed in the logs - almost before they'd finished announcing the news of the death - people searching for 'peel+underage+sex' and other, even less savoury variations, our understanding of what happened was that he married, perfectly legally, a fifteen year old while in the US, but couldn't cross any state boundaries with his new wife as then she would have turned from being a legal spouse into a minor. We also have a recollection that her pa wasn't best pleased. It's also quite important to remember he wasn't sixty-five at the time, either.

More coverage:
Stereo - it's in Dutch, which seems somehow appropriate; back before the days of internet radio, we have fond memories of the number of letters he'd read out from the Benelux nations, gifted a signal thanks to the properties of Medium Wave radio after dark
Our Descent Into Madness - one of the first blogs to remember the man
Momus - "He seemed so secure and so eternal, so institutional and so protected, that it seemed okay to take shots at him, as Julie Burchill did in her 1999 piece Rake's Progress and I did - rather more affectionately - in my essay On Gatekeepers."
Paul Morley - For BBC News: "He became more and more a fixture in British life, someone you heard every day, someone you thought about all the time, because he was the perfect example of how to play the game of life, the game of fame, the game of being the best at whatever it is you do."
Teaching The Indie Kids To Dance Again are marking the occasion by offering up a download of Teenage Kicks (we're sure nobody could complain, the royalties that have already been made off the back of the song this last twenty four hours)
3Hive also have a musical tribute, a Cinerama session track for download. Again, apt, as we were thinking it's kind of fitting that David Gedge did his last Peel session under the Wedding Present banner.
Liverpool Echo - now, if you must have a two minutes silence, Liverpool, now is the time. Although, of course, Peel wasn't from Liverpool, he was born more in the realm of the...
Daily Post - they have a photo of him accepting his OBE, which he says he only said "Yes" to because otherwise he'd have become the sort of bloke who hangs around pubs saying "Yeah, of course, I was offered the OBE... turned it down, though..."
MediaGuardian -records tributes for a man called "the saviour of radio one", as opposed, of course, to the other bloke
MediaGuardian Press & Publishing - asking the all-important question 'Did Peel finish his autobiography'; the publishers say that they don't know - but the listeners do: no, he hadn't; he'd been telling us about his progress. And how heartbreaking is that story he told the other week about how his computer crashed and wiped out an afternoon's work in this new context?
Blogcritics - manages to be factually incorrect (cut his DJing teeth on Caroline, did he? But his pirate boat was Radio London, and he'd already been dj-ing in Texas before that) while being emotionally spot-on
Blogcritics - second post with a range of responses; you can date people by what their memory of him playing is
Drowned In Sound - covers the news that Glastonbury are going to name the second stage after him
New York London Paris Munich has got a wealth of good things, as you'd expect, including a tale of being passed a tape of Peel playing your music, Martin Skidmore calculating how much time he'd spent listening to Peel. He came in at 5000 hours, we reckon we might have clocked around 4,300 - not counting all the stuff we stuck on tape to listen to again - which reminds us of another Peel memory; our friend Sara was talking about having taken a trip with another friend, Seanna, who had been playing a tape of the Festive Fifty: "But she got it wrong... she edited out all the speaking parts..." NYLPM also have Tom: "I sometimes used to worry that they'd sack him. I imagined him looking glumly through records he wouldn't get the chance to play on the radio. It honestly never occurred to me he might die first."
DJ Martian has a very Martian-esque round-up of linkage and commentray
NewsNow have set up a feed for all the latest

[2.20 pm, 27/10/04 - we'll update this list again later]

Further reading:
TV Cream - "Accidentally accrued over countless years, Peel must have had more ‘catchphrases’ than Everett and Steve Wright combined, though of course they weren’t designed as such. Less enlightened souls might suggest they were the aural ramblings of a bloke who didn’t quite know what he was doing, but we knew better. There were the baroque eulogies to a just-played Fall track, of course. The way he always refused to talk over the endings of records, which often led to a battle of wits with some stop-start new wave effort, invoking the terror of dead air (“For a moment there I thought the BBC emergency backup tape would kick in there, and then the nation would be at war.“) There were anecdotes about John Walters, Peel’s like-minded but rather more extrovert producer, who as the ‘80s progressed took to “producing” Peel’s programme from a deckchair in his front garden." (It's a big quote, but only TV Cream and Mark E Smith in his opinion dividing pissed Newsnight interview seem to have mentioned Walters so far, which is a bit like doing an Eric Morecambe obituary without mentioning Ernie Wise. Also it's a big quote because there's lots and lots more there)
Radio One - Peel picture gallery
Radio One DJs - Chris Moyles manages seven words, although there's no comedy sound effects, for which we must be thankful
BBC News Online - mixture of pictures and audio from "the John Peel hitlist"
Mark Radcliffe - "I worked with John many times during my career, but the last time I saw him was when we were covering this year's Glastonbury Festival for BBC Two. I was brought in in case John got fed up with it all and decided to walk off."
Indymedia - slightly grumbly thread suggesting that Peel was little more than an establishment trick, to make us think that you could be alternative AND live in a house with a wife
Loopy Librarian - another metapost linking to other posts
The Diner At Panda's Realm recalls the rules for the John Peel Sweet Eating game
Mark Maynard - "Fuck, fuck, fuck, not Peel"; links through to some choice Peel parts
Various blogs record the news and their reaction: Shatnerian; Completely Confused; Minta; Miaow The Cat; Dr.Beeper

Probably more to come in the next couple of days - if you think I'm missing anything especially good, send us the URL [2.00, 28/10/04]

Further pieces:
A Head Full of Wishes - tribute paid through a couple of Galaxie 500 and a Luna Peel Session track - a push for a re-release of Teenage Kicks as a tribute to Peel leading to speculation about the Christmas Number One - even before the bread rolls are buttered for the funeral tea, people are swarming asking "so, what will you do with all those records, then?": an American Radio company has apparently bid a million bucks for the collection (what US radio company would be interested in Stump seven inches and a massive slew of late 90s Drum and Bass? Apparently, the British Museum is also interested...
John O'Neill - The Undertones and That Petrol Emotion's O'Neill writes for the Belfast Telegraph: "That's what music does for you and that was exactly what it continually did for John Peel. He recognised the essential ingredient to the best music and in particular to the best rock and roll, is passion. The fact that he felt this from our first record will forever be as incredible a compliment as we could get."
The Australian - strong on his time at the helm of Dandelion records: "At one point he even had the bizarre idea of forming a group called 101Sharons, with the intention of finding that number of female singers with the same name. Legend has it that he abandoned the project when he got to 40."
Malaysia Star - one of the fans of Peel's World Service show, R S Murthi, remembers "for many years, he was the only true sympathetic “friend” I had. The voice may have come floating from an incredible distance, but it spoke a language you could relate to."
Blabbermouth - thoughts from Ginger from The Wildhearts ("He championed so many great bands that we would never have heard (you have your own, mine is BIG BLACK). He didn't give a fuck about acceptance, and because of that everyone not only accepted his lead but embraced it. Now Radio One is officially shit.") and Pitchshifter's J S Clayden ("If you look on your PITCHSHIFTER albums you will see that we always credit John Peel. He was instrumental in getting the band out there and often played our music on the radio when no one else dared.")
Daily Telegraph - Gillian Reynolds, radio reviewer, praised his style on Radio 4's Home Truths but confesses "I couldn't abide Home Truths. I didn't like to hear the old lion tamed; the wizard of hippiedom weaving sentimental spells for the suburbs. John Walters, his late and much-respected producer, didn't care for the show either, nor did Andy Kershaw, who shared their jumbled Radio 1 office." (We're a little surprised that Walters didn't like it - we could have sworn that he presented the thing once, but maybe that's our minds playing tricks)

[Updated at 00.24. 29/10/04]

Trust The DJ - Nick Doherty of Fabric recalls: "He had an immeasurable impact on music and club culture; purely, simply, unquantifiable. It shouldn't ever be understated, that he was one of the greatest broadcasters there has ever been. Thankfully, music got him."

[Updated at 21.25 29/10/04]

The Observer - Simon Garfield retells some of Peel's favourite stories: "I don't tend to mix with bands. I'm too shy or respectful, and I don't think I would know what to say. I don't know very much about their history. Also, there's that thing about not wanting to lower my admiration of them, which I might do if I met them, and I feel they'd certainly have a lower impression of me."
The Heaven & Earth Show on BBC ONE this morning replayed an interview with Peel, which included some talk about dying - he didn't believe in the afterlife, but hoped it would exist, so that he could ask his Dad if he meant him or his brother to inherit the Welsh Dresser.

[Updated at 11.20 31/10/04]

John Peel: What Now? - London News Review propose a Peel replacement service: a rotating, no-playlist programme with a single producer. (We're not sure if they'd still call it The John Peel Show; that might be a little bit too much like Taggart)
Mark Lawson - since the PM stressed how genuinely upset he was about the death of Peel, how could Blair handle the death of Yasser?
The BNP - we'd imagine that Peel would welcome sympathy from the BNP in the same way he'd welcome a hug from DLT. Interesting that both the pygmy-brained thug party and the Daily Mail raced up to try and claim a man so internationalist in his outlook as part of their nasty little world
Belfast Telegraph - Gerry Anderson admits he doesn't have much to add, but just felt he wanted to add his sympathy: "I only spoke to him once, at a BBC staff Christmas party in Broadcasting House in London. I knew I shouldn't have. I had just read one of his articles in a magazine and told him I thought he was just as good a writer as he was a disc jockey. He looked at me for a moment, smiled and said that he wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not. There was a short embarrassed silence and I was saved by someone else tugging at his arm. It's always a mistake to address one's heroes. It never comes out right. It must be slightly puzzling to Peel while Home Truths was so quickly adopted as part of the Radio 4 furniture - and a sofa with a disc jockey sat upon it, to boot - while his substantially similar Anderson Country was chased off the network with a fairly nasty little campaign.
Sunday Herald - BBC Radio Scotland's Vic Galloway insists the best memorial would be more djs like John Peel
The Sunday Times - Robert Sandall tries to assess Peel's influence: "In the late 1980s, Peel became a devoted fan of techno music. The absurdity of his position did not escape him. As a family man who hated hanging around in nightclubs and never knowingly danced in his life, Peel knew that he was hardly cut out to enjoy 180-beats-per-minute dance tracks. But he played them on his show anyway, claiming, if asked, that he found something beguilingly human in the robotic intensity of these machine-made sounds."
Scotland On Sunday - Colin Somerville's appreciation; he points out that Peel's love of Ivor Cutler had nothing to do with Cutler being the only artist to regularly appear on his show older than he was.
This week's pop papers includes more Peel stuff

[Updated 1/11/04 08.40]

Coventry Evening Telegraph - Two Tone stars pay thanks to Peel
WRR, Texas - a tribute from the station in the US where Peel started his career
BBC World Service - a recording of the show from the World Service this weekend, hosted by Mark Coles, and a tracklisting of the music played on Peel's final WS programme
Home Truths - listen again to the weekend's programme and read a Peel webchat transcript

[Updated 1/11/04 19.30]

Slate - "It's no surprise that the Brits who grew up listening to Peel's twice- or thrice-weekly shows have been filling message boards with their fond memories of him. What is surprising is that Americans are doing the same—far more than for the Californian garage-rock standard-bearer and rock historian Greg Shaw, who passed away Oct. 19. There could hardly be a lower-profile job in America than British radio announcer; most of those mourning Peel in the United States probably can't name two other BBC hosts."
Tony Parsons - sniffy about the mourning for Peel, which would be fair enough (if you don't like music, I guess much of the last week would have left you cold) but its based on some very woolly thinking. First, Parsons complains that Peel "lost interest" in Rod Stewart when he "started banging out the hits". Well, yes, oddly Peel did find less to love in Stewart when he cranked out rubbish like Sailing. I wonder why? Then, Parsons says "But where were The Clash? Or Bruce Springsteen? Or Bob Marley? Or any of the greats of soul music? You'd search for them in vain on the Peel show.[...]But, of course, you would never have heard The Clash, Elvis or the Ronettes on Peel's show. Just not obscure enough." People who have spent time sifting the playlists available to Parsons online, had he wanted to actually research his piece, report that he's spot-on about how you'd never hear Elvis on the Peel show - he hadn't played Presley since 2003. In his last week of broadcasting, he included Whatever You Want by Status Quo in his choices. And I don't know if he ever did play the Ronettes, but I can certainly remember Sam Cooke and Fontella Bass on the Peel Show.

[updated 02/11/04 19.15]

PR Week - trying not to sound too delighted, PR Week remember Peelie as the dj who you couldn't plug too
Job in the bank? - according to The Times today, Rob DaBank has been told that the Peel slot is his "for the forseeable future" - though to be honest, we don't know if that simply means for the period up until Christmas, as our understanding was that Radio One planned to review its evening programmes early in the new year
Spiked - Andrew Calcutt claims that Peel died in 1998 when he started presenting Home Truths. Oddly, Peel had apparently managed to survive for the few years prior to Home Truths he'd been presenting exactly the same programme under a slightly different name (was it Family Album? Family values?) in the early evening slot on Saturdays.
NewsLetter - Home Truths colleague Liz Kennedy points out that Peel didn't feel entirely at ease with the concept of Home Truths, either
Steve Midlesbrough - remembers sharing a stage with the John Peel Wingding: "We got there and the room was full of 100 people in dinner jackets, who didn't look like they would be into Peelie's kind of music. So he accidentally on purpose bashed his head on the lighting rig so he didn't have to do the gig. He told me to take over and pretend I was his fellow Radio One DJ, Gary Davies. Somehow we got away with it."
Blog of Death - the American answer to PoppedClogs catches up with John
Wibbly - "[Julie Burchill's] disgust at John's sexual predilections reminds me of the one time I saw John in the flesh, as it were, judging a Schoolperson of the Year contest at an AC/DC gig in the 70s. My mate Skip was up on stage in a white schoolboy uniform, but a young girl won, of course."
What's That Smell - perhaps the worries over Home Truths expressed elsewhere were right; this blog, which links to the likes of Biased BBC and people who spend most of their time Fisking Fisk loved it.

[updated 06/11/04 21.45]

Paul Morley's 1979 NME interview with Peel, of course. Wonder if anyone plans to do anything with The Shend's "A Meal With Peel" features from Offbeat? (Thanks to Simon Tyers for poking this one at us)

Last night BBC Two did its tribute show - a group of people offering their memories of the man, linked together by Jo Whiley, who was also one of the talking heads: a slightly odd dual role. Also turning up, amongst others, were John Humphries, Clare Grogan, Johnny Marr, various Undertones and Mark Radcliffe. Radders was accompanied by an archive clip of him with Peel in which Radcliffe looked like a Mark Gatiss creation. It was followed by a re-run of Turn That Noise Down, the BBC Two documentary from Peel Night. It struck us midway through that we'd taped this when it went out, but had never quite got round to watching it, which means it's probably laying, unlabelled, amongst a pile of Buffy VHSes. Doubly poignant programme, of course, as it also features John Walters (returning for the first time since retirement to the office they shared and remarking with surprise that they'd put some sort of planning whiteboard up since his departure) and expressing his regret that he passed over booking the Sex Pistols for a session because - seeing them play live - he'd spotted the look in Rotten's eyes that awoke the slumbering arts teacher in him: "That is a boy I wouldn't trust to hand out the scissors." Channel Four pick up the tribute baton on Tuesday night at 11.40pm, when they're showing again John Peel's Sounds of the Suburbs.

[updated 7/11/04 15.40]

Roy Greenslade: "...all four serious national newspaper titles and the London Evening Standard reported increased sales on the day John Peel's death was announced."

[updated 8/11/04 23.10]

The Economist - obituary: "Yet selection is creating, after a fashion. A sculptor picks which bits of marble to include and which to chisel away. Mr Peel's medium was larger than that of any of the bands he championed: the whole of popular music, which was shaped, at least to some degree, according to his taste."
Phil Gyford - "For many people, Julie Burchill aside, he was someone you’d love to just go to the pub and have a chat with. There aren’t many famous strangers I can say that about, let alone radio DJs."

Sheila to finish autobiography? - The Observer reports that Transworld are hoping Mrs. Ravenscroft will fill in the unfinished bits in Peel's story
The Guardian Peel minisite
BBC News coverage of mourners arriving for Peel's funeral - including Jarvis, Jo and the White Stripes

Dallas Observer - always helps to have a local angle or two: "Though raised in Liverpool, Peel moved to Big D in the early '60s and sold crop insurance, a job that would surely prompt any sane man to look for a new gig. So in 1961--before the influential Peel Sessions, before Radio 1 and Top of the Pops--Peel cut his teeth co-hosting a little local program called Kat's Karavan, which ran from 1953 to 1967 on WRR 1310 AM."

[updated 12/11/04 13.18]

Funeral Reports: - possibly the first time 1 Corinthians 13 has got a mention in the NME ("Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal"; read by Chris Lycett)
BBC News at the funeral - it's hard not to have a lump in your throat reading Paul Gambaccini's eulogy: "Gambaccini started his tribute by talking about Peel's producer and friend, John Walters, who died in 2001. "Sheila told me that just half an hour before you passed away, you said, I miss John Walters, I wish I'd spent more time with him when he was alive. And now you are with him, probably talking about us, talking about the time I got up off the table at Ronnie Scott's, taking the tablecloth with me."
The Scotsman - "One of the most moving tributes came from Peel’s children, William, 28, "Dandra", 26, Thomas, 24, and Flossie, 22. Filled with the sort of humour for which their father was famous, it recalled life chez-Peel, the shambolic domestic bliss they shared and how much he meant to them. Read by Charlie Bell, a family friend, it began with an apology that they could not read it themselves as they suffered from a trait inherited from their father which made them "weep uncontrollably" at such occasions."
Jonathon Brown in The Independent - "But it was his passion for music which first brought him to the attention of the public and earned for this unlikely public school rebel an extraordinary place in the affections of so many people. His coffin was decorated with red gerberas, the colour of his favourite football team, Liverpool. It arrived to Mozart's "Ave Verum" sung by the Stowmarket Choral Society, of which Sheila is a member."
Daily Telegraph - "Joan Armatrading recalled her early years as singer. "Like a lot of others right at the beginning of their careers, he played my music. He would turn up at recording sessions, sit in a corner, and I kind of took that as what he did. I didn't realise he didn't turn up at everybody's sessions. I felt so honoured.""
- although they're PA photos, so they'll be the same as other papers have
The Times - looks ahead to final unplayed Peel show (next Friday, World Service 9.30am). Apparently Ella Guru are on the playlist and, fittingly, The Fall.
Glasgow Evening Times - plans for a Peel memorial gig next Thursday (18th) featuring possibly up to fifty bands
We know that Peel's funeral was a little overshadowed by that other slightly tubby bearded figure's burial in Egypt happening on the same day, but we were surprised that ITV News didn't mention it at all on it's 10.30 bulletin yesterday evening - even with the Elton John flowers, which we would have thought would have been a perfect hook for the network, which exists these days purely to fill the gaps between adverts for DFS sofas. Peel's funeral was left to the local news teams to deal with, if they could be arsed. Granada did a pretty good hand, even although it decided the takeover nonesense at manchester united to be more significant (we love the way Man U fans hold aloft banners proclaiming the team "isn't for sale", as if it was their football club rather than an International Leisurewear Business, but we digress)

[update 13/11/04 13.30]

Other No Rock Peel Posts
Unseemly scuffle of the biographies
Peel funeral plans
More Peel acres - WTPPS covering the NME Peel special
World Service to run unbroadcast programmes
Snow Patrol make free Teenage Kicks available
What the pop papers say Peel special
He nearly took with him
The news is confirmed
December 2003: Peel induced into Hall of Fame
December 2003: Festive Fifty
March 2003: Bidding war for Peel's memoirs


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the round-up. Caitlin Moran is surprisingly good. And you can only hope that Andy K. is relating an upsetting story rather than it being true that the change to 11-1 affected Peel's health.

Stupidly, I'm also wishing NME came out on a different day. I could do with a bumper tribute issue.

--Alan Connor

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

Alan... your reference to pet name for genitals in Popped Clogs: would this have been while he was playing a session track by the Lunachicks called Mabel Rock, by any chance?

Anonymous said...

Mabel. That was it. Fucking hell, there's a small and strange testament to a fifteen(?)-year old broadcast. And a small and strange pleasure to share it.

Another odd one: I was idly clicking on the tracklists last night and the second one I happened on was the last one I sat down with to record as opposed to hearing casually. It was the James Yorkston session, donchaknow.

Most recent idea that did my head in: thought of never having heard Billy Bragg as a teenager.

And the rest.

--Alan Connor

Anonymous said...

Thank you for doing the Peel tribute. I always feel that people are overly kind after someone passes away, but in his case I think he deserves everything said and more.

Anonymous said...

I never heard Peel say, 'Oh, and before I go, home is an eight acre Suffolk estate. I have stables and barns. You might as well know that I'm a millionaire. Don't expect me to give that up for anyone. Hope you finish your degrees soon and tomorrow night we have a session from Bogshed.'

But then I never saw Nicky Wire punch the air, grab the mike, and say, 'Thanks, everyone. Before we play our next anti-materialist anthem that expresses our great anger at the faceless capitalist machine, I ought to share with you the news of my fabulous wealth.'

We can love people without sucking up to their myths.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

Was Peel a millionaire? How come he had so much trouble fixing his roof that time?

And it's not as if he actually made any great secret of where he lived (although I think 8 acres might be a rather generous over-estimate) - indeed, he used to broadcast from Peel Acres all the time

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