Monday, 20 March 2017

Ticket 4: Plant A Chorus; Grow An Intro


The beginning is the most important part of the work.

- Plato

Many songs begin by cycling through the verse chords till it's time for the vocals. This wastes valuable time that could be spent acquainting the listener with the main themes.

Instead of starting with minor elements start with the hooks – the chorus refrain, a riff, or a fill that stands out. Create a unique section that puts the hooks front and centre, so that when the listener hears the chorus for the first time it already seem familiar. This approach can work well for codas (outros) and instrumental sections too.

Skippable Theory

This concept is the heart of classical composition. Pop songs are modular – each section (verse, chorus) having little in common with the others - but classical music throughout most eras relies on the development of melodic themes that grow and evolve through the piece. For example, a vast amount of Beethoven's 5th Symphony (running over 30 minutes) could be said to derive from the first four notes.

Beatles Application

The Beatles exposure to this concept undoubtedly came through George Martin (a graduate of The Guildhall School of Music and Drama) who, as a producer, helped to arrange their early hits.

Four songs perfectly encapsulate this idea.

She Loves You has two hooks that appear in the title line of the chorus, 'She loves you' and 'yeah yeah yeah'. The intro is essentially the same as the chorus but replaces the swing line* ('with a love like that') with another title line (and throws in an extra 'yeah' for good measure).

Can’t Buy Me Love follows a similar pattern (though drawing it's source material from the bridge) – the title/swing/title/swing pattern of the bridge becomes title/title/title in the intro, and the underlying chord progression is altered to make this work.

Help! has a more complex development. Though the chorus is title/swing/title/title, each title line is different and the one-word title is partially obscured by the number of words in each line ('Help me if you can I'm feeling down'). The intro throws the hook into sharper relief by creating new lines that isolate the title ('Help! … I need somebody'). They also halve the length of the chord progression (two bars per chord instead of four) and, again, change the structure to title/title/title (with an extra 'Help!').

The chorus of I'm A Loser has title/swing/title/swing. The intro removes the second swing line but keeps the chords. So lyrically/melodically the intro cuts bars 3-4 of the chorus but harmonically (i.e. chords) cuts bars 5-6.


More Beatles Applications

The Beatles use of development isn't limited to mining the chorus for intro ideas.

The harmonica intro on Please Please Me is a mutated version of the verse melody. The outros of All My Loving and From Me To You contain 'reimagined' material from the main hooks and the coda of Here Comes The Sun restates a pattern from the bridge (1:29 and 2:58).

The verse melody of Piggies supplies the theme developed in the intro, solo and outro and similarly the connecting links in Blackbird (0:23, 1:42) are derived from the guitar parts in the verse and chorus.

In the pre chorus of She Loves You they reuse the title while George plays a chordal version of the 'yeah' hook as a fill (0:29) and create an entirely new outro section by using the 'yeah' hook three times over an altered version of the pre chorus chords (2:06).

Guest Artist – Passenger

You can hear this approach on the intro of Let Her Go by Passenger. An altered version of the chorus melody is played by piano, glockenspiel and acoustic guitar over a different chord sequence. When the chorus enters (0:26) the instruments revert to playing part of the chorus melody.

Suggested Application


  • Examine your chorus for the hook lines (usually centred around the title). Strip away the rest of the vocal line and try to create a new section that throws the hook into sharper relief. Especially look at replacing swing lines with title lines.
  • Look for instrumental hooks scattered throughout the song and experiment with ways of repeating them more often. If you can identify more than one try recombining them into a single section (as The Monkees do in the intro of I'm A Believer).
  • Play a simplified, instrumental version of the vocal melody hook.


*swing line – Any line of a chorus that does not contain the hook/title

Further Reading

Ticket 9: Create new parts from melodic or chordal fragments
Ticket 53: Write a 'jazz-style' intro verse
Ticket 61: Introduce your song's most unusual element as soon as possible
Shane Adams: Writing A Killer Chorus


The Be-Atletudes
About Beatles Songwriting Academy

See the full list of songwriting tips here - Tickets To Write

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Friday, 3 February 2017

Under The Influence: Bob Dylan (again!)



We were driving through Colorado [and] we had the radio on and eight of the Top Ten songs were Beatles songs. In Colorado! 'I Want To Hold Your Hand,’ all those early ones.

They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid… But I kept it to myself that I really dug them. Everybody else thought they were for the teenyboppers, that they were gonna pass right away. But it was obvious to me that they had staying power. I knew they were pointing the direction where music had to go… in my head, The Beatles were it. In Colorado, I started thinking about it but it was so far out I couldn’t deal with it - eight in the Top Ten.

It seemed to me a definite line was being drawn. This was something that never happened before.

Bob Dylan

Quoted in In My Life: Encounters With The Beatles ed. by Robert Cording, Shelli Jankowski-Smith and E.J. Miller Laino (p 12)


More from Bob on the Beatles here and here

More from the Beatles on Bob here and here


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Friday, 27 January 2017

The Silkie Sounds Of Lennon And McCartney

On 9th August 1965, 3 days after releasing You've Got Hide Your Love Away, The Beatles were back in the studio (IBC in London) re-recording it.

The Silkie were a folk group in the 'Peter, Paul And Mary' style, formed at Hull University with a wealth of Beatles connections. They were signed by Brian Epstein after a gig at the Cavern Club and managed by Alastair Taylor. This naturally paved the way for covering The Beatles but their session had the added bonus of being produced by John and featuring Paul on guitar and George on Tambourine. The record went to no.10 in the States.

Friday, 23 December 2016

BSA PODCAST EPISODE 6: Shownotes




OUT NOW: Episode 6 of the Beatles Songwriting Academy Podcast! The podcast is free to everyone who subscribes to the BSA mailing list and each episode will only be available for ONE MONTH. Sign up now to get the current episodeWhaddaya waiting for!


0:00 - Intro - 1969 Christmas Wishes From Paul

Christmas Links from Beatles 1969 Christmas Fan Club Record


2:02 - Who Wants To Be Carol? (1966 Lennon And McCartney Interview)

Interview background on Beatles Bible

A Hard Day's Night - Peggy Lee
All My Loving - Matt Monro
And I Love Him - Lena Horne
Wait - Frankie Laine


13:10 - Wishy Woo Merry Christmas (Yule Be Improvising)

From Beatles 1969 Christmas Fan Club Record


14:15 - Eleanor Rigby's Ghost (Aaron Krerowicz takes a Beatles Minute)

Beatles Minutes on Aaron Krerowicz
More on Madrigalism


17:14 - Five Ideas For More Interesting Intros (From Motown to school assemblies, Bon Jovi to the Beatles)

Put Your Song On A Diet! - Ticket 2
Building Up On The 5th - Ticket 65
Jazz Style Intro Verses - Ticket 53
AABA Structures - Ticket 26
Mutate Your Intros - Ticket 4
Combining Song Ideas: Two Become One - Ticket 55
Post by Shane Adams that includes the concept of a Swing Line
Wikipedia posts on Anacrusis, A CappellaRecitative and Musical Development
More on the '7 seconds to skip' concept can be found in Jay Franks' book Futurehit.DNA download the first chapter here


53:17 – Tomorrow Never Jingles (Christmas Mash-Up)

Jingle Bells by California Beatles tribute band The Fab Four from their album Hark!


54:56 – Bob And The Band In The Basement With Hank And Lennon Too! (Troubadour Timing or The Lennon Edit)

Bob Dylan, The Band And The Basement Tapes documentary on IMDB and Youtube
The Lennon Edit - Ticket 37
The Lennon Extension - Ticket 52


58:40 – That Dirty No Good Robbin'... (Who Stole Stewball?)

More on Stewball and Merry Xmas (War Is Over)
More on the Beatles uncredited co-writers


1:01:27 – Trouble With These Glasses (George And Ringo On Songwriting)

Interviews with George (1965) and Ringo (1964) from On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2


1:04:53 – Getting Under My Fingernails (Deconstructing My Own Song For Beatles Clues)

Descending Line Starting From The b7th - Ticket 31
Recycle Your 'O's Ticket 4
The Lennon Edit - Ticket 37
More on 10 Ways The Beatles Have Radically Changed My Songwriting
Buy Fingernails on BandcampiTunesAmazon UKAmazon USSpotifyCD BabySoundcloud and Google Play.


1:18:12 - Outro (250 Good People)

Buy my music
Follow me on Spotify

Closing theme - 'Piggies' performed by The Black Heartthrobs available here
Idents by Poddingham Paul courtesy of LeftLion



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About Beatles Songwriting Academy

Monday, 14 November 2016

Ticket To Write Playlist: #3 Create Instrumental Hooks


For a full discussion of this songwriting tip go here

1954 Hoochie Coochie Man - Muddy Waters (0:00)
1955 Mannish Boy - Muddy Waters (0:18**)
1959 Money (That’s What I Want) - Barrett Strong (0:00)

1963 Love Me Do - The Beatles (0:00)
1963 Please Please Me – The Beatles (0:12 and 0:19)
1963 Twist And Shout - The Beatles (0:00)
1963 Money (That’s What I Want) - The Beatles (0:00)
1964 A Hard Day’s Night - The Beatles (1:19)
1964 And I Love Her - The Beatles (0:00)
1964 I Feel Fine - The Beatles (0:06)
1964 Words Of Love - The Beatles (0:00)
1964 O, Pretty Woman - Roy Orbison (0:02)
1964 My Girl – The Temptations (0:05)
1965 Ticket To Ride - The Beatles (0:00)
1965 Help! - The Beatles (0:01)
1965 Day Tripper - The Beatles (0:00)
1965 In My Life - The Beatles (0:00 and 1:28)
1965 Michelle - The Beatles (1:25)
1965 (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones (0:00)
1966 Got To Get You Into My Life - The Beatles (0:11 and 1:05)
1966 Paperback Writer - The Beatles (0:06)
1966 And Your Bird Can Sing - The Beatles (0:51)
1966 Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles (0:04, 0:31, 1:08 and 1:21)
1966 For No One - The Beatles (0:49)
1966 I'm A Believer - The Monkees (0:00, 0:28, 0:46 and 1:37)
1966 Good Vibrations - The Beach Boys (0:25)
1966 Hold On, I'm Comin' - Sam And Dave (0:00)
1966 Get Ready - The Temptations (0:00)
1966 Gimme Some Lovin' - The Spencer Davis Group (0:00 and 0:14***)
1967 Strawberry Fields Forever - The Beatles (0:00 and 1:18)
1967 Penny Lane - The Beatles (1:09)
1967 Lady Madonna - The Beatles (0:00)
1967 Hey Bulldog - The Beatles (0:00)
1967 Sunshine Of Your Love - Cream (0:00)
1967 Purple Haze - Jimi Hendrix (0:05)
1968 Helter Skelter - The Beatles (0:42 and 0:45)
1968 While My Guitar Gently Weeps - The Beatles (0:00)
1968 Hey Jude - The Beatles (0:51)
1968 Yer Blues - The Beatles (0:24)
1968 Birthday - The Beatles (0:02)
1968 Piggies - The Beatles (0:00 and 1:06)
1968 Martha My Dear - The Beatles (0:30, 0:57 and 1:16)
1968 Long, Long, Long - The Beatles (0:16)
1968 Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) - Jimi Hendrix (0:10)
1969 Don’t Let Me Down - The Beatles (0:00)
1969 Get Back - The Beatles (0:43*)
1969 Two Of Us - The Beatles (0:09*)
1969 Let It Be - The Beatles (1:41*)
1969 Something - The Beatles (0:01)
1969 Octopus’s Garden - The Beatles (0:00)
1969 Here Comes The Sun - The Beatles (0:23)
1969 Come Together - The Beatles (0:00)
1969 I Want You Back – The Jackson 5 (0:01)
1969 Communication Breakdown - Led Zeppelin (0:00)
1969 Heartbreaker - Led Zeppelin (0:00)
1969 Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin (0:00)

1970 Layla - Derek And The Dominos (0:00)
1970 Immigrant Song - Led Zeppelin (0:01)
1970 Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath (0:37)
1970 War Pigs - Black Sabbath (0:51)
1970 Paranoid - Black Sabbath (0:00)
1970 All Right Now - Free (0:00)
1970 Iron Man - Black Sabbath (0:27 and 1:13)
1971 Sweet Leaf - Black Sabbath (0:03)
1971 Children Of The Grave - Black Sabbath (0:13 and 2:08)
1971 Black Dog - Led Zeppelin (0:12)
1972 Superstition - Stevie Wonder (0:00 and 0:09)
1972 Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple (0:00)
1972 Supernaut - Black Sabbath (0:03)
1973 Sabbath Bloody Sabbath - Black Sabbath (0:00)
1973 A National Acrobat - Black Sabbath (0:00)
1973 Papa Was A Rollin' Stone – The Temptations (0:00)
1973 The Ocean - Led Zeppelin (0:08)
1973 Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) - The Rolling Stones (1:10)
1975 Walk This Way - Aerosmith (0:00 and 0:03)
1975 Jive Talkin' - Bee Gees (1:17)
1975 It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll) – AC/DC (0:00)
1975 Kashmir - Led Zeppelin (0:00)
1975 Symptom Of The Universe - Black Sabbath (0:00)
1976 Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap – AC/DC (0:00)
1976 Nobody’s Fault But Mine - Led Zeppelin (0:00)
1976 Don't Fear the Reaper - Blue Öyster Cult (0:00)
1976 Wonderful Tonight - Eric Clapton (0:01)
1976 Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder (0:00 and 1:04)
1976 The Ripper - Judas Priest (0:45 and 1:32)
1977 We Will Rock You - Queen (0:00)
1977 Whole Lotta Rosie – AC/DC (0:00)
1977 Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be – AC/DC (0:34)
1978 Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty (0:23)
1978 Riff Raff – AC/DC (0:45)
1978 Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love - Van Halen (0:00)
1979 Highway To Hell – AC/DC (0:00)
1979 Girls Got Rhythm – AC/DC (0:00)
1979 Beating Around The Bush – AC/DC (0:07)
1979 Parisienne Walkways - Gary Moore (0:03)
1979 My Sharona - The Knack (0:00 and 0:07)
1979 Good Times - Chic (0:01)

1980 Another One Bites The Dust - Queen (0:00)
1980 Hells Bells – AC/DC (0:19 and 1:18)
1980 You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC (0:00 and 0:16)
1980 Back In Black – AC/DC (0:00 and 2:49)
1980 Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne 0:17)
1980 Mr Crowley - Ozzy Osbourne (3:19)
1980 Heaven And Hell - Black Sabbath (0:00)
1980 Breaking The Law - Judas Priest (0:00)
1980 The Rage - Judas Priest (0:00)
1981 The Sign Of The Southern Cross - Black Sabbath (1:17)
1981 For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) - AC/DC (0:00 and 0:16)
1981 Under Pressure - Queen and David Bowie (0:00)
1981 Tainted Love - Soft Cell (0:03)
1981 In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins (3:40)
1981 Under Pressure - Queen And David Bowie (0:00)
1982 My Face Is On Fire - Felt (0:01)
1982 Run To The Hills - Iron Maiden (0:00 and 0:07)
1982 Hallowed Be Thy Name - Iron Maiden (0:00 and 0:59)
1982 Mickey - Toni Basil (0:00)
1983 The Trooper - Iron Maiden (0:00 and 0:12)
1983 Waiting For Darkness - Ozzy Osbourne (0:26)
1983 Blister In The Sun - Violent Femmes (0:00)
1983 Little Red Corvette - Prince (0:50)
1983 Holy Diver - Dio (1:13)
1983 Blue Monday - New Order (0:00 and 1:18 ****)
1984 I Want A New Drug - Huey Lewis And The News (0:01)
1984 Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr. (0:13, 0:21, 0:46 and 2:01)
1986 You Can Call Me Al - Paul Simon (0:00)
1986 The Final Countdown - Europe (0:13)

1991 Enter Sandman - Metallica (0:00)
1991 Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana (0:00)
1991 Come As You Are – Nirvana (0:00)
1993 Loser - Beck (0:00)
1994 Whatever - Oasis (0:11)
1997 Bitter Sweet Symphony - The Verve (0:17)

2000 Go - The Apples In Stereo (0:01 and 0:10)
2000 The Real Slim Shady - Eminem (0:00)
2001 Plug In Baby - Muse (0:05)
2002 Lose Yourself - Eminem (0:31)
2002 Cleanin' Out My Closet - Eminem (0:06)
2002 Business - Eminem (0:08 and 0:18)
2003 Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes (0:00)

2014 Fancy - Iggy Azalea (0:00)
2016 Fingernails - Matt Blick (0:00)

Notes

*Original Let It Be album version
** Original single (with 2:58 run time and female BVs)
***US single (with piano and cowbell)
****2011 Total Version


  • In order to better understand the influence of ideas on and by the Beatles songs are laid out in chronological order.
  • Songs written or performed by the Beatles are in bold.
  • Songs covered by the Beatles, or to known to have had an influence on them, are in italics.
  • Songs written by Matt Blick can be found at www.mattblick.com/songs

Did I miss an example? Leave a comment below!

Thanks to Pete Murphy, Nancy Rost, Curtis Pea, Gary Horn, Ben Spencer, Bert Zoetemeyer, Luke Seagrave, Martin Quibell, Scott Lake, Patrick Bonier, Ben Bradley, Stephen Wort, Michael Rose, Jeff Charreaux, Rod Johnson and Jonathan Nelson for suggestions.

Further Reading

Ticket 2: Take out every unnecessary section, repeat or other element
Ticket 4: Create intros, outros and solos by mutating the main sections of the song
Ticket 9: Develop melodic or chordal fragments to create longer ideas or new sections
The Be-Atletudes
About Beatles Songwriting Academy

See the full list of songwriting tips here - Tickets To Write

Check out music by Matt Blick

Join the mailing list to get the free, exclusive, Beatles Songwriting Academy podcast!

Friday, 21 October 2016

The Night That Changed American Music: The Beatles On Ed Sullivan



We gathered round to hear the sound comin’ on the little screen
The grief had passed, the old men laughed, and all the girls screamed
’Cause four guys from England took us all by the hand
It was time to laugh, time to sing, time to join the band.

I Saw It on T.V. by John Fogerty


CBS called it 'the Night That Changed America' as 73 million Americans tuned in to watch the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. Among those impacted were children and young adults who would go on to define music throughout the rest of the 60s, 70s and 80s. From working musicians like David Crosby, gleaning tips on 'how to hold an electric guitar' to five year old Richie Sambora receiving his life's calling.

Session ace Will Lee who wound up working four nights a week in the same studio the Beatles appeared in as part of his 'day job' on Late Night With Letterman thought
maybe music is gonna be my life from now on
For Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) and Robert Cray it was the most potent guitar advert possible
[It] was the beginning. That got me to learn how to play the guitar. 
The girls were screaming at The Beatles, as an 11/12 year old kid, by the time I got the guitar, I wanted that, too.
Worship songwriter Mark Altrogge says
It was electrifying - like watching fireworks for the first time - I'd never seen or heard anything like them.
Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh
I took one look and it was, ‘F**k school. I memorized every Beatles song and went to Shea Stadium and screamed right along with all those chicks

What Greg Kihn calls “the single most important moment in Rock history” had a visceral effect
When it ended the sudden void sucked the air out of my parent’s living room
Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) says
I remember exactly where I was sitting. It was amazing. It was like the axis shifted ... It was kind of like an alien invasion.
For Joe Perry (Aerosmith) the experience was
... akin to a national holiday … I wasn’t prepared by how powerful and totally mesmerizing they were to watch. It changed me completely. I knew something was different in the world that night. Next day at school, the Beatles were all anybody could talk about.
Nancy Wilson (Heart) 'heard the call' to become musician
The lightning bolt came out of the heavens and struck Ann and me the first time we saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. … it was a huge event, like the lunar landing: that was the moment Ann and I heard the call to become rock musicians … we didn’t want to marry them … we wanted to be them.
As did 14 year old Billy Joel
the single biggest moment that I can remember being galvanized into wanting to be a musician for life ... all of a sudden there’s this band, and they played their own instruments and they wrote their own songs, they looked like working class kids and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to be like those guys.’ That one performance changed my life. Up to that moment I'd never considered playing rock as a career. 
And Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi)
One of my earliest memories was sitting cross-legged on the floor … and watching The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. I was five years old and I remember thinking, 'Wow! That's what I want to do.' I always knew I wanted to be a rock star, and The Beatles set that in motion. 
They were the most incredible thing I ever saw. I couldn't put it into any kind of historical context at the time … but I knew, even at that young age … that I was witnessing something truly life-changing. And not just for me, but for everybody as well.
For Tom Petty it represented escape
The minute I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show – and it's true of thousands of guys - there was the way out. There was the way to do it. You get your friends and you're a self-contained unit. And you make the music. … I really saw in The Beatles that here's something I could do.
Bruce Springsteen says
It shifted the lay of the land ... Rock 'n' roll came to my house where there seemed to be no way out … and opened up a whole world of possibilities.
And for 13 year old Steven Van Zandt (The E Street Band) it was a glimmer of hope
February 9th, 1964, it all began for me. Suddenly, maybe there's hope for my life. Because I didn't fit in anywhere. And I was starting to get concerned! I didn't know that I could actually try and make a living out of doing this, make a career out of it.

This was the main event of my life. It was certainly the major event for many others, whether or not they knew it at the time. For me, it was no less dramatic than aliens landing on the planet.

Steven also points to the instant effect it had
On the day before The Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show, there wasn't a single rock and roll band in America. And February 10th, everyone had one.
Greg Kihn recalls
In a single weekend everything had changed. … Every kid in school went through the same metamorphosis. … Brylcreem lost a whole generation in a single hour. The direction of our lives shifted as radically as the direction of our hair. It was magic.
Tom Petty remembers
Within weeks, you could drive through literally any neighbourhood in Gainesville and you would hear the strains of garage bands playing ... I mean everywhere. And I'd say by a year from that time, Gainesville probably had 50 bands.
Gary Rossington (Lynyrd Skynyrd) simply states
Like everybody else in our generation [we] freaked out and wanted to start a rock ’n’ roll band.
Gene Simmons (Kiss) acknowledges the debt of many
There is no way I’d be doing what I do now if it wasn’t for the Beatles … It blew me away that these four boys [from] the middle of nowhere could make that music.

SOURCES

CBS News here and here
Greg Kihn 
Rock Cellar Magazine
Ultimate Classic Rock
Music Radar
Austin Chronicle 
Beatles Songwriting Academy 

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Friday, 14 October 2016

Under The Influence: Gary Rossington (Lynyrd Skynyrd)


This incredible music [A Day In The Life] just overwhelmed us. When it came to the middle of the song, where the orchestra rises, it sounded like a plane taking off in the room. It just killed us. And when it ended with that incredible chord, we all sat there stunned.

For me [While My Guitar Gently Weeps] was the song of the century. This may sound naïve now, but the Beatles were like gods to me as a kid. Not literally, of course, but it was like they were more than human in some way. This was the point where they embraced heavy blues-based guitar, which made musicians realise you could write modern songs with cool chords that weren't necessarily blues-based and still stick some heavy guitar in them. There were no credits on this album, so I didn't even know it was Clapton for a few weeks, and Eric literally makes his guitar weep at the end. Every guitar player loves this song – because every guitar player has a tear-stained guitar.

Gary Rossington: 'The Hour Of Music That Rocks My World' Guitar World Magazine



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