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639781 Posts in 25568 Topics by 3634 Members - Latest Member: godette502 November 21, 2018, 01:01:07 PM
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Author Topic: Fire Music - building which burned down  (Read 2104 times)
Angua
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« on: June 16, 2018, 10:47:01 AM »

Does anyone know any details about the building 'down the street' which burned down and caused them to halt the project?  I'm doing an art book based on the fire music and wanted to include some images but can't find any details online.  I did find out something I didn't know, but I expect you guys probably know already, that Gold Star burned down several months after it closed in 1984.  Interesting ;-)!
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« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2018, 03:21:53 PM »

This is a worthwhile area of inquiry although it's somewhat opaque; the idea that Brian linked the recording of "Fire" to an (unspecified) fire or group of fires in the area has been repeated many times, but who knows for sure which fire(s) Brian was referring to or if there was in fact any such fire in the first place.  To my knowledge no one has really followed up on any actual real-life fire(s), and why would they? After all, the real significance of this story isn't the fire - which fire was it, where it was located - as the fact that Brian was linking his own creation in the studio to actual, real-life fire.  In other words, Brian's internal state of mind has always been the interesting part of the story, not the fire(s) itself. 

Having said all that, it is true that there was a fire at an ABC radio broadcasting studio on Vine St. in Hollywood  near Sunset -  a few blocks north of Gold Star - in late December 1966.  This would make it maybe close to a month after the actual "Fire" session, I think. Does that mean this was the mysterious fire of legend? It could be, but I don't think anyone could say that with any factual certainty. 
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« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2018, 01:00:25 AM »

Did you try to find some old newspapers? I guess you could go through them and look for reports about fires in the area. Wikipedia has the session dates as November 28, 1966 Ė June 29, 1967. I don't have my Smile box at hand but I would compare this with the session dates in the book.
I think it would certainly be an interesting project. Did the number of fires really go higher or was it just Brian's perception?



Having said all that, it is true that there was a fire at an ABC radio broadcasting studio on Vine St. in Hollywood  near Sunset -  a few blocks north of Gold Star - in late December 1966.  This would make it maybe close to a month after the actual "Fire" session, I think. Does that mean this was the mysterious fire of legend? It could be, but I don't think anyone could say that with any factual certainty. 


That's interesting!
Although it happened before Brian started the "Fire"-sessions, there was the big loop fire in L. A. County on November 1st/2nd 1966. Maybe that was also still on his mind.

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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2018, 08:36:21 AM »

There was also a fire at the L.A. Record Plant studio shortly after the Fire tape was re-discovered and played by Dennis and engineer Tom Murphy at Brother Studio in '78...
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« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2018, 10:00:26 AM »

I actually did (in my own way) try to figure out exactly what happened behind this whole story-legend years ago. My memory has dimmed a bit since then, but here are some things I remember to consider, or maybe someone else can pick up the ball:

First - When I dug into this, it was roughly 40 years after the fact, which of course now is 52 years later. What I remember is there were no archival daily logs of the LAFD publicly available if available at all. Whenever a fire call came in, it was logged as an alarm bell, in fact some cities still use/used call box numbers for the dispatches, as in "Box 34" or whatever would be Hollywood and Vine, or whatever...if that makes sense. So on any given day a city could have dozens of calls come in and each was logged. Factor in large events like the wildfires or the Watts riots from August 1965, and the number of calls would be massive.

So having said all that, *perhaps* there are now archives more readily available or which have since been found in some Indiana Jones type storage warehouse or something.

What someone would need to do is start with the dates and location of the "Fire" session(s). Find the call/box/dispatch logs for the LAFD specific to whatever engine and ladder company covered that area from that date and however many weeks dated ahead and see if there were more than the normal amount of fires in that area. Then see if it adds up.

Sound a bit impossible to do? If someone wants to research it, and the logs are available, that's the foolproof way to boost or bust the mythology with hard facts.

The fire company where Brian filmed his Good Vibrations promo film used to be a working company for the Hollywood studio area, which is why that station has appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, but has since been converted into the LA fire museum, complete with cool antique firetrucks and other items. Perhaps they may be able to help.

The other route is the LA Times newspaper archives. Again, find the session dates and work forward. But consider the LA Times was one of the largest metro newspapers in the country, and unless it was deemed newsworthy there would most likely be no reporting of a larger number of fires in a given area, unless it was the work of a serial arsonist (something sensational in terms of the news) or like the previously mentioned Watts riots which was international news. If a building caught fire near Gold Star studios, it may get a few lines on Section B page 25 column 3...unless there was something sensational to the story.

So that's what is out there in terms of checking the factual and recorded history to get to the bottom of this, 2 out of perhaps more options. Maybe since I was digging around years ago more archives or materials have been made available or found.

Other than that, it's a case of taking the word of people who were there at the time.
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« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2018, 10:11:52 AM »

And on the issue of peoples' word who were there, and please correct this if anyone remembers this differently, here are scenarios that would make the most sense regarding the "Fire" mythology.

Scenario 1: Apparently in the timeframe after the Fire sessions, there was indeed a specific warehouse or building of some kind (let's say for sake of discussion)  that burned down 'across the street' from the studio or close enough to be noticeable.

Scenario 2: Apparently after the Fire sessions, there was a noticeable increase in fires around the area of the studio(s).

Scenario Addendum which may not have happened: Apparently according to someone whose identity I can't recall, Brian asked that someone look into the number of fires in that area, or something...can't recall the specifics or who said this, but according to that memory, Brian noticed and wanted to get more info on the number of fires breaking out in the area.


Additions or corrections more than welcome! But that's about it.

And just an FYI, if anyone doubts it...the word is there were indeed "Fire" tapes burned back in the day as a result of this, even though some reports say that never happened. But obviously it was not the master multitrack reel or reels.
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« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2018, 12:48:54 PM »

If it's of help to anyone inclined to dig into this, the date of the Gold Star recording session for "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" was November 28, 1966, 2:00pm-5:30pm. That's from the AFM contract, and the same date is inscribed on the track sheet attached to the tape reel box (so we can be more than reasonably sure it is correct).

The date of the Record Plant fire was January 10, 1978 (an electrical fire broke out in Studio C, destroying it; the damage included a vintage pipe organ). On a Robert W. Morgan Special of the Week radio program, Dennis recounted how he had played the recovered "Fire" tape for Brian the day before (not at the same studio, though - as I mentioned above, that would most certainly have been at Brother)...
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« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2018, 12:53:11 PM »


The date of the Record Plant fire was January 10, 1978 (an electrical fire broke out in Studio C, destroying it; the damage included a vintage pipe organ). On a Robert W. Morgan Special of the Week radio program, Dennis recounted how he had played the recovered "Fire" tape for Brian the day before (not at the same studio, though - as I mentioned above, that would most certainly have been at Brother)...




Did Brian learn about the fire at Record Plant? I wonder what his reaction was  Shocked
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« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2018, 02:33:34 PM »

Thanks for all your help with this.  The book is only an art book so exhaustive research is probably a bit of a waste of time as what I really need are images rather than words - though I find it interesting anyway. The fact that Gold Star was also destroyed in a fire considering it's history is another mysterious and weird fact.  In consideration of the Record Plant you can't help but wonder if someone was playing Fire that night ;-)! 

It also seemed to me that considering VDP's involvement in SMiLE, his interest in early Hollywood, the images in the film and the sound effects at the beginning especially, that there is a very significant nod to the Harold Lloyd film 'Fireman Save My Child'.  The fire truck emerges from the garage, the firemen fall of it and run behind it.  So I'm using those similar images anyway.
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« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2018, 04:01:31 PM »

Brian didn't witness the fire, I presume someone told him about it or he read about it in the newspaper.  Or someone else read about it in the newspaper and told him.  I  think the L.A. Times is still the way to go.  Any other papers publishing at that time covering the L.A. area?
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« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2018, 09:06:11 AM »

There was also a fire at the L.A. Record Plant studio shortly after the Fire tape was re-discovered and played by Dennis and engineer Tom Murphy at Brother Studio in '78...

Wow, this is great. There was one of those Beach Boys Memorial Day or 4th of July Radio Show broadcast specials in which Dennis states "We found the Fire Tapes".

I've been searching for that radio show for a long time but haven't had any luck.  I guess it's my personal little Beach Boys Holy Grail item. I assume it went out to radio stations on vinyl. Late 70's sounds right. I was in High School at the time and being a Beach Boys fan I recorded it on cassette but those tapes are long gone.

If anyone has a date or any information please let me know....please Smiley.
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« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2018, 11:18:33 AM »

There was also a fire at the L.A. Record Plant studio shortly after the Fire tape was re-discovered and played by Dennis and engineer Tom Murphy at Brother Studio in '78...

Wow, this is great. There was one of those Beach Boys Memorial Day or 4th of July Radio Show broadcast specials in which Dennis states "We found the Fire Tapes".

I've been searching for that radio show for a long time but haven't had any luck.  I guess it's my personal little Beach Boys Holy Grail item. I assume it went out to radio stations on vinyl. Late 70's sounds right. I was in High School at the time and being a Beach Boys fan I recorded it on cassette but those tapes are long gone.

If anyone has a date or any information please let me know....please Smiley.


This is not what you are looking for, but I thought it would fit in here anyway. It's Carl (with Al and Mike) talking about Smile in '73. Though "Fire" isn't mentioned, Carl denies that anything was burnt.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtaBudnUClo
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To sum it up, they blew it, they blew it consistently, they continue to blow it, it is tragic and this pathological problem caused The Beach Boys' greatest music to be so underrated by the general public.

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« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2018, 02:17:00 PM »

Hello,

Regarding Dennis's playback of the "Fire" tapes:  I did that interview with Dennis in January '78 for "The Robert W. Morgan Special of the Week" which aired later that year and was re-purposed for another show a year or two later.  I was a writer-producer for Casey Kasem's "American Top 40" at the time and picked up extra income by doing interviews for "SOTW," which was also produced by the same company, Watermark, Inc.

The interview took place at Brother Studios early (for a rock star) on a weekday morning.  Dennis was bright-eyed and at the top of his game that day and recently clean-shaven.  We did a fairly standard "Beach Boys" interview as that was the content I needed for the upcoming program.  Of course, 40 years later, it kills me that we didn't spend more time on "Pacific Ocean Blue" and all of Dennis's songs from "Friends through "Holland."  Especially "Sunflower." 

When we got to talking about "Smile," Dennis hollered to engineer Earle Mankey to come inthe studio to "cue up the tape we were listening to last night."  It was "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow"-- the "Fire" tapes!  My obvious astonishment had Dennis attempting to maintain a poker face.  When I referred to the fact that Brian has claimed to have burned the tapes --even to me personally-- Dennis said, "You know Brian.  When he doesn't want to talk about something, he lies!  Nothing has ever been burned."  I truly was in shock hearing someing so legendary and presumably lost.

Shortly thereafter, I did an interview with Brian at a mutual friend's house, for the same show.  Brian was not in the best state of mind that particular day.  When I told him that Dennis had played me the "Fire" tapes, he pretty much brushed it off without comment.  It didn't seem to upset him at all, but it furthered no additional discussion.  The most significant thing I remember about that interview was Brian's admitting that he missed "the old days" and that he felt that he was somewhat forgotten.  It was a sad conversation and I made a vow to simply be his friend going forward-- to let others do the interviews.  Over the forthcoming years --until he vanished in the second round of Landy's care in '83-- I'd ask him a fair amount of questions about vocal parts and arrangements, but I don't believe we ever did a formal interview again.

I'd interview the other guys periodically, including Dennis another time or two.  But boy, on that date in January '78, he was truly as healthy, sharp, funny and charming as I ever saw him.  And despite lesser encounters, that's how I remember him.
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« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2018, 02:35:21 PM »

That's a great post, Scott! Thank you for that! I can only imagine what it must've been like to have a Beach Boy play you that legendary tape. Not many people had heard it at that point
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To sum it up, they blew it, they blew it consistently, they continue to blow it, it is tragic and this pathological problem caused The Beach Boys' greatest music to be so underrated by the general public.

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« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2018, 11:21:51 PM »

Thank's Scott! Great memories!
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« Reply #15 on: June 26, 2018, 06:00:47 AM »

That's a great post, Scott! Thank you for that! I can only imagine what it must've been like to have a Beach Boy play you that legendary tape. Not many people had heard it at that point

Definitely among my favorite memories.  Regards!
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« Reply #16 on: June 26, 2018, 06:04:47 AM »

Thank's Scott! Great memories!

You're welcome.  And yes, that day took on greater import for me as the years (and Dennis) passed.  Regards!
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« Reply #17 on: June 26, 2018, 07:16:55 AM »

There was also a fire at the L.A. Record Plant studio shortly after the Fire tape was re-discovered and played by Dennis and engineer Tom Murphy at Brother Studio in '78...

Wow, this is great. There was one of those Beach Boys Memorial Day or 4th of July Radio Show broadcast specials in which Dennis states "We found the Fire Tapes".

I've been searching for that radio show for a long time but haven't had any luck.  I guess it's my personal little Beach Boys Holy Grail item. I assume it went out to radio stations on vinyl. Late 70's sounds right. I was in High School at the time and being a Beach Boys fan I recorded it on cassette but those tapes are long gone.

If anyone has a date or any information please let me know....please Smiley.


This is not what you are looking for, but I thought it would fit in here anyway. It's Carl (with Al and Mike) talking about Smile in '73. Though "Fire" isn't mentioned, Carl denies that anything was burnt.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtaBudnUClo
Hello,

Regarding Dennis's playback of the "Fire" tapes:  I did that interview with Dennis in January '78 for "The Robert W. Morgan Special of the Week" which aired later that year and was re-purposed for another show a year or two later.  I was a writer-producer for Casey Kasem's "American Top 40" at the time and picked up extra income by doing interviews for "SOTW," which was also produced by the same company, Watermark, Inc.

The interview took place at Brother Studios early (for a rock star) on a weekday morning.  Dennis was bright-eyed and at the top of his game that day and recently clean-shaven.  We did a fairly standard "Beach Boys" interview as that was the content I needed for the upcoming program.  Of course, 40 years later, it kills me that we didn't spend more time on "Pacific Ocean Blue" and all of Dennis's songs from "Friends through "Holland."  Especially "Sunflower." 

When we got to talking about "Smile," Dennis hollered to engineer Earle Mankey to come inthe studio to "cue up the tape we were listening to last night."  It was "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow"-- the "Fire" tapes!  My obvious astonishment had Dennis attempting to maintain a poker face.  When I referred to the fact that Brian has claimed to have burned the tapes --even to me personally-- Dennis said, "You know Brian.  When he doesn't want to talk about something, he lies!  Nothing has ever been burned."  I truly was in shock hearing someing so legendary and presumably lost.

Shortly thereafter, I did an interview with Brian at a mutual friend's house, for the same show.  Brian was not in the best state of mind that particular day.  When I told him that Dennis had played me the "Fire" tapes, he pretty much brushed it off without comment.  It didn't seem to upset him at all, but it furthered no additional discussion.  The most significant thing I remember about that interview was Brian's admitting that he missed "the old days" and that he felt that he was somewhat forgotten.  It was a sad conversation and I made a vow to simply be his friend going forward-- to let others do the interviews.  Over the forthcoming years --until he vanished in the second round of Landy's care in '83-- I'd ask him a fair amount of questions about vocal parts and arrangements, but I don't believe we ever did a formal interview again.

I'd interview the other guys periodically, including Dennis another time or two.  But boy, on that date in January '78, he was truly as healthy, sharp, funny and charming as I ever saw him.  And despite lesser encounters, that's how I remember him.


Thanks Rocker.

Thank you Scott for writing in and sharing that info! I'll never forget that sound bite they used from Dennis: "We found the Fire Tapes". Exciting at the time thinking that maybe someday those tapes would officially be released.....maybe someday.  Grin

Also Scott, thanks for the radio show information and the great memories of Dennis. Good times in the "Pacific Ocean Blue" era.

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« Reply #18 on: June 26, 2018, 10:15:52 AM »

Great memories, yes! Thanks for sharing.

What I found interesting and want to try to clarify or place into context is when this happened and what else was happening at that same time.

January 1978 - I'm guessing without going over some old notes that research was being done at this time for the Byron Preiss Beach Boys book that would come out roughly a year later. That research included obviously interviews and interactions with the band members, including interviews conducted at MIU during the making of that record (including Brian's comments about the 'Air' element being a piano piece).

But where it gets interesting is the Fire tapes, and the other bits of Smile audio. These tracks were described in pretty deep detail in the Preiss book along with other unreleased/unheard tracks, but what also happened was the leaking and eventual release on those first ever Smile bootlegs of the actual audio that collectors named "The Preiss Tape". Traded on tape, apparently, to someone involved for a copy of "This Could Be The Night" (references/confirmation needed).

So "The Preiss Tape" came out with the two Fire segments on bootleg, and was eventually joined by a compilation of the other unreleased/unheard tracks as listed in the Preiss book (and a compilation if you call it that eventually did leak and is comprised mostly of tracks that sound like they were sourced from acetate or very low quality tapes). More research material that eventually got out, call it Preiss Tape Part 2.


Getting to the actual point, haha:

January 1978, consider the reasons why Dennis and Mankey and anyone else involved would be listening to the Fire tapes or any vault material of the sort at that point in time.

I'm guessing the interview scheduled as described for the Robert W radio series fell on the same week as perhaps the Preiss people were doing their research on these unreleased tapes and tracks. It all would fall together in theory, according to a basic timeline, but of course that's just a guess.


PS - I mentioned in an earlier post about the reality of "Fire" tapes being burned. I know I had heard at least one credible version of the story that says tapes of some kind were indeed "burned" or destroyed as according to the legend. I cannot recall who said this, it could have been the late Michael Vosse who would have actually been there to witness it. But whoever it was and whatever the case, what may be one of the more infamous Smile legends from what I recall did happen in some form...and consider that perhaps a dub-down or a legit final mixdown or some rough mix may have indeed been destroyed in the wake of those fires.

And repeating again, we have the master multitrack reels of the sessions...so those were obviously not destroyed.

But consider what came out on the Preiss tape: Rough mixes, in pretty poor quality. And the quality is *not* due to degradation from multiple dubs, because I have heard a 'Preiss Tape' which is in far better fidelity and quality than any of the boots ever featured. Except "Fire".

Then consider why we never got a legit "final mix" of the Fire track or even a decent quality version via a better quality reference mix of the snippet with the sound effects...or even some version of an attempt to join the sections. The list of possibilities can fill up quickly. But all that came out except for the session tapes from the multitracks had been what was on that early Smile boot via "The Preiss Tape" that was apparently traded for a Phil Spector track in return.

Just food for thought and speculation.  Smiley
« Last Edit: June 26, 2018, 10:17:51 AM by guitarfool2002 » Logged

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"Every single person who criticized Brian for having She & Him, Kacey Musgraves, Sebu and Nate Ruess guesting on his solo album can now officially go heartily f*** themselves." - Wirestone
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« Reply #19 on: June 26, 2018, 04:50:02 PM »

I think there was an overall run through the archives at Brother around that time, as I see lots of '60s-era tapes labeled with handwritten '78 notes indicating they were reviewed by the Brother engineers Earle Mankey and Tom Murphy.
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« Reply #20 on: August 23, 2018, 06:15:50 AM »

Iím sorry I thought after I posted the information that i wasnít writing a book youíd all give up so I only just came back to this thread today.  Thanks to everyone for your input - I know my post was only a catalyst and that the subject it is interesting in itís own right and that most of you are writing and reading it for that reason but it would be churlish not to thank you properly anyway.  I really enjoyed reading all the posts and it has given me a way forward.  As itís not a written book and as it will probably rest in my studio until I pop my clogs and then be consigned to a bin, I donít think Iíll be leading any future research astray by using Gold Star, which did eventually burn down curiously, the ABC studio and the Plant as the Ďfireí image.  I have already used the front view of Gold Star with an overlay of the Smile Shop due to their similarity - I hadnít realised that they were so similar at the time I was speaking to Frank Holmes or I would have asked him.  I think he did mention that it was based on a real shop but I canít remember the details now.  
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« Reply #21 on: August 23, 2018, 06:36:24 AM »

So, whilst looking for images of the Plant I found this

"Studio C was destroyed in an electrical fire on January 10, 1978. At the time, rocker Marshall Chapman was working with producer Al Kooper and bassist Tom Comet in Studio B on her album Jaded Virgin, and she helped other musicians and engineers carry priceless master recordings to safety outside the building. She said: "We might as well have been rescuing Rembrandts from the Louvre ... I remember seeing 'Hotel California' [marked] on one, and 'John Lennon' on another. I nearly fainted when I saw I was holding a box containing the master tape from Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life.""

It all seems a little weird that after the legend of the burning Fire master tape, a number of other important master tapes were nearly lost in a fire in a recording studio and that Gold Star burnt down! 
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« Reply #22 on: August 23, 2018, 06:46:30 AM »

Unfortunately I have no more information but this music is what started my interest in Phil Rickman books. This is from the Amazon details of his book 'December': "December has the shortest days, the darkest nights... In the ruins of a medieval abbey on the Welsh Border, four young musicians start work on an album influenced by the site's bloody history. It's December 1980 - the night John Lennon will be murdered in New York. And there'll be more horror before the sun rises and the session tapes are burned. Or are they?"

I would guess that Phil Rickman must have taken some inspiration from the legend of the Fire Tapes though he does primarily seem to be interested in The Beatles. The book contains a very interesting (and allegedly true according to the notes at the back) story about a power cut at 13.13 on December 13th, 1993 (13 years after the year of Lennon's death, though this was on the 8th).
« Last Edit: August 23, 2018, 07:11:29 AM by Ang Jones » Logged
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