Euro-Duffo: Clown Prince of Rock? The “naughty but nice” ZigZag Interview (UK, 1979)

Posted on 19th June 2016

1979.04_zigzag_pic_1Did Jeff Duff flee Australia in the late ’70s to find his natural home in punk UK? This is one thesis (see Glenn A. Baker on Duff); and corresponds, in part, to Duff’s own anticipations, as he marked off the days on his Sex Pistols calendar until he took flight; "Oh Lord, a one-way ticket out of here, please!" (TWEE, p. 95).

However, after landing on the Queen’s soil in 1978, some initial reactions to Duff from what remained of UK’s punk purists didn’t match these theses and enthusiasms. Gobbed off stage and beaten up by punk rock punters at his first Lyceum gig (where the Pistols played their first abortive gig, way back in ’75), Duff soon found himself pummelled by UK’s heavyweights of music broadcasting: by Russell Harty (on ITV, quite nastily) and by Anne Nightingale (on The Old Grey Whistle Test, tongue-in-cheekily). As for die-hard punk rockers still flailing on the street, there was a particular article in their latter day street-pamphlets that sought to bust the head of this brazen outsider. This was authored by punk-purist music journo Robin Banks—in the 10th anniversary issue of the music mag ZigZag.

While starting out as a hippie music mag, by 1979, ZigZag was a self-consciously low-brow champion of pure punk. Barely anyone other than the Sex Pistols and The Clash got a kind rap in this rag. Trying to copy at least the look of US punk mag Flashez, ZigZag‘s production values were poor, with cheap, ugly photography, and cramped, haphazard layout, while the text was often made up of a broken English word salad; an anti-literary complement to rubber-bands and piercings, as anti-jewellery, in their anti-Queen rebellion. So, for example, in this issue in which "Duffo" was featured, a journo starts writing about Lene Lovich with the words "This gourds-churningly terrifying sshhuck! noise whistles malevolently close to Debbie Harry’s collatoral on a Saturday loan …". And only pure punk will do; the issue also proclaims that a new Roxy Music album "veers from ordinary and not noticeable to good-when-its-on", and Jonathan Richman is all a "fairyland of kiddie-romance and nursery rhyme nonsense" (what they would make of today’s talentless, infantile pop …). Banks himself writes of being left "breathless" when first listening to some Clash album, and to this day cites little more than his Pistols and Clash articles as meriting the historical record. Even readers chime in at this level; The Clash is said, in this issue’s Letters, to be "the best band in the land and have never recorded a duff record".

This did not bode well for Banks’ interview with Duff—with one of Duff’s songs on his first UK album even entitled Duff Record; check it out on iTunes or GooglePlay. True to form, and to the appetites of ZigZag readers, the article begins by promising a report about "something totally ridiculous" as a way "to enliven our tenth anniversary edition". Banks claims that he made a "lengthy search" for someone who seemed to "fit the bill". Then he tries to be too clever beyond his ken in describing his encounter with this "someone" as "an insight into what might concur [sic] if Dr [sic] Spock met the Flying Doctor … and crashed".

Jeff Duff parties with Bill Wyman

Jeff "Duffo" Duff parties with Bill Wyman

Duff is then introduced as a creature found somewhere in Chelsea, in a grove (actually, Edith Grove, home of Duff’s esteemed publicist, Tony Brainsby) once associated with the Rolling Stones (who Banks also doesn’t like, writing that the Stones have since left this place for "puke-ridden greener pastures") … (see the pic, left, for another Duffo-Stones association). Duff first appears to him in (or as) "a freak glimpse of a pointed-ear-bearing character sporting bad make-up and striking velvet cloak". As for his music, well, because it’s not pure punk—Duff mashes it up with rock-n-roll roots, even cabaret of the Calloway type, with touches of Music Hall and Gilbert & Sullivan—Banks writes that Duffo’s first album contains 12 tracks "at least seven of which are stone cold turkeys".

Is music criticism like this of any use at all? Its yardstick begins and ends with what the critic personally likes; what is good is only what speaks to the critic’s own bit of space and time, as if the world is what is filled up by your very own drop in the ocean. Isn’t this just a low, banal, barely pubertal level of aesthetic appreciation—the aesthetic equivalent of egoism as the arbiter of moral reasoning (Kohlberg), or of the senses as the sole informant of the intellect (Piaget)? Asking why the musician does what s/he does is surely the start of a more developed critical approach, at least getting towards 20th century wisdoms of aesthetic appreciation, with more to offer readers than self-promotion of personal likes and dislikes, beyond childish liking of art as a choice between candy and brussel sprouts for tea.

BTW, others reviewing this album have found in it associations with The Kinks, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Tubes, "Bowie (in his guise as Anthony Newley)", and even Monty Python; Banks himself finds an association with early (but, of course, "sub-standard") Ian Dury. Also, these reviewers have pointed to the album’s "witty lyrics with a pronounced strine inflection" and that "Duffo sings well and invests the entire disc with a self-deprecating sense of absurdity". The album is available on iTunes, Google Play, etc..


span style=”color:#c0c0c0;”>Duff did not himself, of course, claim pure punk "credibility" for this early period of his Euro career; and he soon explored and immersed himself in other Euro trends—with peer and punter respect in tow. For example, as reported some months after his return to Oz, after a decade away …
Duff in the press: 1987.05.03 sun-herald

Robin Banks does, however, eventually doff his mohawk to Duffo. Of the infamous Number 10 body-stocking stunt (see Chapter 5 of This will explain everything from Melbourne Books for more info), Banks offers a perceptive and sensitive appraisal …:

 I should say here and now that Duffo struck me as more of a victim of cheapskate publicity endeavours than a straightforward media manipulator himself, quite the opposite. He came over as a person running hard to present himself in the only way he knows how, and for that he gets ten out of ten for trying. If he doesn’t quite cut it, then at least he’s made the attempt, and that’s far more than most people do. Robin Banks

Banks then applauds Duff for the sense of humour he showed in giving the esteemed NME music journo Tony Parsons—now self-proclaimed "Tory scum"—an exploding cigarette. The story is that Duff, having been summoned to an interview with Parsons after getting some adulation for the original, self-titled Duffo album (Beggars Banquet, 1979), entered the journo’s club, in Carnaby Street, as a blindman, with dark glasses and walking-stick, and gave Parsons a cigarette that, exploding on being lit up, swept Parsons toppling off his seat, left him helpless on his hind, much to the mirth of fellow journos in the club.

Duffo badge modelled by Golly

1979 Duffo badge, designed by Duffo, proudly modelled by Golly; photo by GG

Banks also notes how Duff has his fans—Duffo’s performance at The Venue was "well-attended and well-received", and "I have even seen people sporting Duffo badges (which he designed himself) so it’s obvious that some people do actually like the guy". (See the Duffo badge, above, as proudly worn by our house-model (my dear friend) at the Institute for Duffological Studies and photographed by GG.) Banks even uses the term Duffophiles to describe these creatures—much to the surprise of this writer, who independently came up with the term.

Banks also usefully records some quotables of lingering note re Duff on himself. Faithful to the low-brow ethos of the mag, Banks writes that he could not audio-record the interview because his tape-recorder was in a pawn-shop. Still, he seems to have scribbled down or committed to memory some notable words verbatim. So Duff could well proclaim that he was breaking new ground: "I want to prove that somebody completely different can come out of Australia and make it. That you don’t have to be Olivia Newton-John or the Bee Gees." And, whatever the reaction, he would not be deterred—like a Dali, his art was his life, and it was sanctioned to its freedom with entertainment as his mission:

 I’m not just Duffo on stage or on record. Duffo’s whole life is a performance. But I do feel the need to sing and show what I can do. I don’t care if people laugh with me or at me, as long as they laugh. And I don’t mind being regarded as the Clown Prince of Rock ‘cos I guess I am. Jeff Duff

(Summing up something of the Oz industry attitude to Duff at the time of his flight, the moniker "Clown Prince of Rock" was actually how a DJ, back in Brisbane only some weeks before then, introduced Duff to an audience; "which I thought was quite fitting", Duff himself added—TWEE, p. 96. So did Duff’s initial UK reception, as in ZigZag, just reflect, magnify and/or focus on that aplomb? A happy, even natural, outcome, after all? See TWEE [Chapters 5 & 6] for more by Duff himself on Euro-Duffo—and how all this early controversy actually gave him "keys to the city.")

See the complete ZigZag article as a pdf here—with more Duff in the media here.

Clown Prince of Pre Post-Punk Rock? Duffo on German TV

Clown Prince of Pre Post-Punk Rock? Duffo on German TV

For more about Euro-Duffo, see this Duffo album launch-poster in NME, his write-up in the German music press, and his German Rock-Pop TV Show performance, the interim 1982 report back to Oz in the Australian Women’s Weekly, this poster of his performance at The Factory, the inclusion of his Give Me Brack Me Brain single on the New Wave Greats 1976–1983 UK compilation CD, among other stuff.

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Big Time Operator: Jeff Duff on Sony’s “big bold booming voices” album

Posted on 21st May 2016

43Sony Music Australia has released (this 3rd week of May, 2016) a new Various Artists album entitled Big Time Operators: The Big Bold Booming Voices Of The 60s & 70s.

And, of course, quite fittingly, Jeff Duff appears among the esteemed artists.

Artists include Duff’s own hero, Scott Walker, with the song Duff himself covered on his own latest album: The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore). Walker is also on the album with Joanna. Other artists include Johnny Cash (Ring Of Fire), Long John Baldry (You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’), Leonard Cohen (Suzanne), Blood, Sweat and Tears (You’ve Made Me So Very Happy), and—another Duff hero—Bill Medley (Peace Brother Peace).

It also has the original Seasons of change by Blackfeather, which has been covered by Duff (on the Angels and Rascals album, and live on TV:)

—and of Eloise by Barry Ryan, also covered by Duff—but unfortunately with rotten, static-laden sound quality in this live-on-TV performance:

—and Duff also offers a version of this CD’s Long John Baldry song: from Ray Martin’s midday TV show:

And the Duff song on this 2 CD album? That’s on CD 2, Track 6: Easy Street, with Kush.

See the ARIA page here for details of the release. Seen to be available at all the usual outlets, including iTunes, Amazon, EBay, JB HiFi, etc..

And lest you assume this is just an album full of fellas, it’s got at least one sheila on it too: The Aussie Alison MacCallum, best known for her politically arousing It’s time, but here with Excuse me (as one youtuber comments, sounds like a James Bond theme song, and with impressive Bassey-like touches too).

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“This will explain everything”: The Jeff Duff autobiography

Posted on 9th March 2016

jeff_duff_autobiography_cover_b_1The long-awaited Jeff Duff autobiography has been published — released in May 2016.

Crafted by Duff over many years, gloriously published by Melbourne Books, the work has a provocative promise as its title: “This will explain everything“, being a 248 page tome, hard cover printed on gold foil, beginning with a Foreword by Molly Meldrum. Here are some excerpts from Australia’s mainman of the popular music industry:

molly_meldrum_4

 Unique is an over-used word in showbiz. But Jeff Duff is unique. …

 Flamboyant, eccentric, cheeky, charming …

 Jeff Duff is one of the greatest entertainers Australia has producedMolly Meldrum

Order here from: melbournebooks.com.au.


Promo on Channel 7’s Daily Edition:

Promo on Channel 10

Excerpt of the ABC Radio National interview of Jeff Duff with Wendy Harmer ahead of the Sydney launch:


Interview with Duff re the book on RRR radio program The Australian Mood 26 May: on demand here or see the program page here.


Interview with Duff re the book on Maynard’s webcast here.


Performing Young Americans at the Basement (Sydney) launch of the book, Tues May 31




And listen to Lazarus from the same gig:

Pic of Duff at the Flying Saucer (Melbourne) launch of the book, Sun 5 June:

#JeffDuff at @flyingsaucerclubmusic yesterday…

A photo posted by Karen Freedman (@maccak) on

QUESTION: What was one of the earlier proposed titles for Duff’s autobiography (according to his blog of some years ago)?

The Naked Singer
The Disappearing Boy
I am a Genius
They said he was a fragile spaceman
Bashed, Banned but Unbewildered

More Duff quiz questions here.

FACT: It’s been a longtime coming. Already in 2004, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Duff was "putting the finishing touches to an autobiography that will be published next year". See the SMH article here.

From the launch of This will explain everything at Better Read Than Dead 265 King Street Newtown, NSW · Sun 19 June 2:00 p.m.:

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Jeff Duff on the Darren Sanders Show

Posted on 2nd March 2016


Darren Sanders was joined on his Channel 9 GO! TV show recently by the Australian music legend Jeff Duff—screened on 28 Feb, including performance of “Vampire Lover” and chat about 70s Glam Rock and his other career d’amour … in cricket.

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Ziggy returns

Posted on 25th January 2016

Ziggy The Songs of David BowieJeff Duff’s Ziggy: The Songs of David Bowie show returns to NSW venues in June 2016—as reported by noise11.com.

5 dates announced so far—from Newcastle to Wollongong—including a station to station dash from the Thirroul show down south on a Friday up to the Enmore Theatre, Newtown, on the Saturday. See the “Hot stuff” sidebar for dates.

Going by previous Ziggy shows, Duff might well lead the band and feed the crowd with performances of Ashes to ashes, China girl, "Heroes", Let’s dance, Sorrow, Space oddity, Starman, Young Americans and the ever-astounding rendition by Duff of Wild is the Wind à la Bowie.

With Brydon Stace on board for the high-top singing, he might also pull out Under pressure. And with Steve Balbi on board, there’s a good chance of burning off on a blistering Moonage daydream.

There are plenty of ‘tubes out there to get an early fix of the show, as performed at the Sydney Opera House, the Enmore Theatre, et al., in previous years. See the duffstuff catalogue of Duff tubes here—links to 17 tubes from the Ziggy Shows, + 31 from the Bowie Unzipped shows. For example, for starters:



Blogposts/Reviews re earlier Ziggy shows: 2014, 2013 and 2012 at the Opera House, 2012 in Adelaide, and 2011 at the Enmore Theatre.

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Vital Duff video from the vault

Posted on 24th January 2016

Fresh light of vid on long unseen Duff originals from his Lexicon and Bob the Birdman albums:

  • the dada-esque approach to Warholian themes in Sandy’s Drum:

  • and a stylish reflection on James Dean:

  • Duff’s invitation to "Come drown with me":


And there’s more …! VIZ: a contemporary version of Walk on the Wildside, and a more recent video of Duff’s Hide-and-seek, all re-released via Laneway Music.

See all Duff tubes from most recent to earliest, on youtube and vimeo, catalogued here. That’s all of about 190 tubes, or about 14 hours of viewing.

As of tonight, they’ve collectively had 270,102 views (as calculated by the Duff Rover). That’s over 60,000 down from late last year when the original Easy Street video (performed by Kush, live on the Paul Hogan Show) was pulled by youtube due to copyright issues (presumably related to a Paul Hogan retrospective on mainstream TV). Sadly, because this was by far the most viewed Jeff Duff video on youtube. But ~ an alternative copy of that vid still lurks on youtube …

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Jeff Duff, in the light of the blackstar

Posted on 12th January 2016

… at sbs.com.au, the Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald, and 9news.com.au

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Jeff Duff’s Santa song

Posted on 24th December 2015

Santa-Rocket-Sleigh-Space-Classic-Christmas-Card-02Could this Russian Xmas card—from the US/Soviet Space Race era—have been the inspiration for Jeff Duff’s merry tune "Santa is an astronaut"?

The perfect antidote to the supermarket sound-track this season—preview via iTunes here or via GooglePlay here—off Duff’s "novelty" album Cyril Trotts to Bogna.

Here’s a small sample of the lyric …

Santa is an Astronaut

Intro announcement:

Hey! Look up into space, it’s a cosmonaut!
No, it’s an astronaut!
No! Oh, it’s only Santa’naut —
Hi Santa!

Chorus:

Forget what ya been taught
‘cos Santa is an Astronaut.
Don’t believe all ya hear
‘cos Santa rides a rocket not a real reindeer.

#1:

Space! — he’s got space in his head
for a turkey instead
of a brain.

Mars! — he’s a sucker for Mars Bars,
his stockings are all chocolate stained.

[…]

#3:
Bells! — he wears bells on his head
and scrap-metal instead
of a beard.

Sing! — he can’t sing, he can’t dance,
Xmas carols — fat chance! —
this guy’s weird.

There’s a swag more of these Russian space-themed Xmas cards, all copyright–free, at crazywebsite.com.

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Jeff Duff in “Polymorphia”

Posted on 15th November 2015

Maier's 1618 burning hermaphroditeJeff Duff is to appear in Polymorphia—a film by Sydney-based film-maker Edward Inchbold to be released in 2016. It’s a film of the short genre in which "an insane man meets the man in his head who makes his dreams". Duff plays the role of "Albert".

That’s according to IMDB, which also notes that the film stars one Felix Johnson as "Mr A B C", and one Nerida Bronwen as "The Dancing Girl", with music by Steve J. de Souza, among other seasoned artists of cinematography, production and costume design, etc.

Inchbold—this film’s writer, director and producer—also has the 2014 film Hard lines behind him. See also his early profile at the film-maker’s share-site mutinee.

Duff himself notes in his blog of 1st Oct 2015:

Film director Edward Inchbold, selected me to play one of the rather spooky characters in his new short movie called ‘Pollymorphia’. We filmed the movie in Sydney in September. I’m looking forward to seeing the completed film … apparently the aim is to have it screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

Pending more details, let’s ponder the above woodprint from 1618 of a burning hermaphrodite, which seems to fit in with the theme and perhaps even style of this new Duff project.

For more info about Duff in film and theatre, there’s:

  • Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby—background info about Duff’s appearances, alongside Leonardo Di Caprio, here, with screenshots of Duff’s cameos here, and the whole movie via amazon here for streaming or here by hard-copy
  • Andrée Greenwell’s The Hanging of Jean Lee here, being a post-punk opera about the last woman to be hung in Australia, Duff playing her victim
  • The cult Oz science-fiction/heavy-metal movie Sons of Steel in which JD sprightfully plays the role of a hyper-glam nerd of body/mind science, Secta
  • Duff’s record on IMDB
Jeff Duff astride the whole party, in knickerbockers, in Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby"

Jeff Duff astride the whole party, in knickerbockers, in Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby”


+ See also: Jeff Duff in the 2013 Melbourne Arts House staging of "The Hanging of Jean Lee":

~ and Jeff Duff singing "The Burn" in Sons of Steel:

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Digital Duff: Lots more to sample on Google and Amazon now

Posted on 9th November 2015

At least 17 Jeff Duff albums + extra tracks now available from Google and Amazon for MP3 preview/purchase—including albums only previously available in vinyl, and hard-to-find CDs.

For samples/purchases, go the links on the Jeff Duff Stuff TRACKS page. Just note that (1) Amazon MP3s are not generally available for purchase via Australia; (2) Google Play links are fine for both ample preview and purchase.

The two Kush albums Snow White and the Eight Straights and Nah, Tellus Wh’t Kush Means Yer Great Sausage are there (via Amazon and Google Play):

Kush album Snow White and the Eight Straights featuring Jeff Duff Kush album Yer Great Sausage featuring Jeff Duff

There’s also Jeff Duff Orchestra’s Alone & Paranoid album, and the two albums with Joseph Calderazzo.

Jeff Duff Orchestra: Alone and Paranoid Jeffrey and Joseph Holiday in Transylvania

The two late Duffo UK albums are finally available: that’s Bob the Birdman and Lexicon.

Duffo: Bob the Birdman Duffo: Lexicon




No more boxes for puss as Duff's all digitalSadly, only, as Duff goes streaming, cats will need to find another source of boxes to go strange in.

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Scott Walker on the Duff side

Posted on 6th November 2015

Jeff Duff offers a guide to the music of Scott Walker in the latest issue of the online magazine Rhythms. (Walker’s real surname is Engel — German for Angel — hence this Duff pic.)

In the article, Duff comments on several Walker albums/tracks. There’s also info on how Duff’s preparing a Walker-inspired show, collaborating with the producer of Walker’s Nite Flights album.

Which brings us to another of Duff’s inspirational associates: Bowie, who spoke in awe of this album, and recorded its title track, with a vid where mime beats paparazzi, and art survives (exploits?) its survey:

Duff recorded a Walker song himself — the classic The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore, on his 2014 Walking on Eggshells album. While Duff’s online catalogue is being updated, try sampling some Walker albums on iTunes: e.g., Scott 4, Climate of Hunter, and The Drift.

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Maestro Duffo Alitalia: Jeff Duff at the Norton Street Festa 2015

Posted on 29th October 2015

2015.10.25.01_festa

The Norton Street Festa of Italian culture in Sydney this October 25 did not miss a Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr rat-pack. Short of the Festa being all pasta workshops, pizza, screaming bambini, screaming Mammas, groaning Pappas, beautiful people and cheesy French Fries, the Festa sported its own Rat-Pack in the form of Jeff Duff, Glenn Rhodes and Jess Ciampa on its mainstage from 1:00 p.m.

Well, at least the water-carrier was thanked by Duff for the vodka, and an appointment was made for whacky-backy with some happy bearded man in the crowd. All in good humour, of course, given Duff’s a totally clean machine. And that was really the extent of the rat-packery. The mood was merry, charitable and festive.

Some samples follow of the songs, complete with the festive sounds of the merry crowd.

2015.10.25.02_festa

Among the songs performed by the Duffo Trio were Walk on the Wildside, Walking in Memphis, Sorrow and Sailing ….

cumberbatch_1Sailing is the Chris Cross track. It’s not usually of a cool calibre. Specifically, if you were into Duffo when Chris Cross’ Sailing first came out in 1979, you’d’ve surely missed it, maybe even sneeringly. But if you’ve since expanded your tastes, thanks especially to Duff’s own evolving catalogue, it’s a cool beauty as performed by the Trio. Sure, Chris Cross’s own version is pretty nasal; he abbreviates and just about squanders every meaningful potential of his own song. In Duff’s hands, in His Master’s Voice, and the keys and beats of Rhodes and Ciampa, this song is now a musical experience of genuine and graceful optimism—primed with Duff’s elegant elocution, and the artful way he expresses melancholy as he offers hope. There is nothing so bombastic as Walt Whitman’s claim to “sing the body electric”. There is more of the angelic hope of Keats, ready to die in the wake of the nightingale’s sweet song. Optimism that soars while being deeply anchored. Sailing, indeed. Try it at the bus-stop (I did, in Blacktown, and never lived longer).

Sailing

Love the one you’re with

The Trio of Duff, Rhodes and Ciampa was popular, driven to two encores, kindly over time. Amid these encores came the only really Italian track by the trio, given its association with "Dino Martino":

Sway

The song was recorded by Duff for the 2007 So Quiet album (available on iTunes), and Duff performed Sway on the popular nationwide Kerrie-Anne Show on Channel 9 TV:

Hard to get a shot let alone a vid at the Italian Festa without the various body parts of festival goers cavorting through every circumstance. So many of the shots from this occasion miss out on Duff’s feet. One tried hard to get a shot of what looked like a pair of particularly special Duff shoes; but whenever one got a frame on them, the Maestro’s mercurial spirit took him flying off left or right, and so on, over and over again.

For another experience of the Trio: Sun 29 Nov at St Leonards Park, Miller St, North Sydney, at the Spring into Jazz Festival from 3:00 pm. Read about Duff at last year’s Spring into Jazz here.

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