Tim Rose: Published Obituaries   Photo: Tim & me

Tim Rose, singer-songwriter, was born in Washington on September 23, 1940. He died in London on September 24, 2002, aged 62.

This is a long page - I recommend printing it out or saving it to read it off-line. It consists of the obituaries printed by the UK national broadsheets in the few days following his death. On separate pages of this website, are two detailed interviews, one given to me for the website, the other given to the Ptolemaic Terrascope. I also plan to create a page which contains other articles about Tim that have appeared in various publications. Please see the index page or the links at the foot of this page to move to these additional pages.

 

The Independent (Spencer Leigh):

Tim Rose: Nonconformist singer of Hey Joe and Morning Dew

Tim Rose's gruff, hypnotic voice could be tender one minute and aggressive the next, and his whole life was full of similar contrasts. He was too much of a nonconformist to make the big time but it is doubtful that he ever yearned for success. In I Gotta Do Things My Way (1968), he sings, "My mama often told me, she said, 'Tim, you've got to bend to get along' / But if you bend, you're bound to break, so I don't bend at all."

Rose was born in Washington in 1940, but raised in Virginia. His grandmother had been a pianist for silent films and his aunt had studied opera. He became proficient on the five-string banjo and then the guitar, winning a high-school prize as the best musician in the school. When he was 13, he was dismissed from a seminary for smoking, but a few years later he accepted the discipline of the forces, becoming a navigator in the USAF Strategic Air Command.

Back as a civilian, Rose played in various folk-styled groups in Washington, New York and Chicago. In 1963 Rose and his friend Cass Elliot met the singer James Hendricks and they formed the Big Three. Hendricks married Elliot to avoid the draft, which caused friction with Rose. They had further disagreements as Elliot wanted a traditional sound like the Weavers and Rose wanted to be electric. The tension can be heard on the Sequel Records compilation The Big Three (1995), but they did record a song which became a staple part of Rose's repertoire, Fred Hellerman's anti-war Come Away Melinda, originally sung by Harry Belafonte. Rose recalled: "I remember a gig at a high school in New York where we got $50 for the show and spent $75 on the limo, and, as Cass had all her dresses handmade, everything cost a fortune. We broke up when we were singing at a big oil race in Indianapolis. We were throwing pies at each other and so I grabbed a Mustang and drove it to New York City."

The Big Three disbanded in 1964 and Rose said in 1998, "Cass was always right and I was the same way." Elliot became Mama Cass in the Mamas and the Papas and her days with the Big Three are recalled in their hit record Creeque Alley.

Rose became part of the Feldmans, alternating with the Lovin' Spoonful at the Night Owl in Greenwich Village, but Columbia Records offered to sign him as a solo artist. The cover of his first album, Tim Rose (1967), shows him in black T-shirt, smoking a cigar and staring defiantly at the camera. It was a joke but it also said something about his macho personality. The album contained three key songs, Hey Joe, Morning Dew and the remake of Come Away Melinda in which Rose played both the young girl and her father. The authorship of Hey Joe is disputed, and I asked Rose about this when he played St Helens Citadel in 1998: "When you're working in acoustic folk clubs, you hear bits and pieces by lots of singers. I heard Hey Joe one day but this guy, Vince, was singing it in a monotone all the way through. I added a verse and went up a third. I was essentially writing a new song but using the inspiration of the four or five lines that I heard. I know Chas Chandler, who managed Hendrix, played my version to Hendrix as he told me so, but I was not thrilled with what happened next. I was accused of taking a Hendrix song, but I said, 'No, it is the other way round.' I know I'm not the guitar player he was but I still think my version is better. Hendrix had a unique voice and he did it very well, but not as well as me."

Starting with Lulu and Jeff Beck, Morning Dew, attributed to Rose and Bonnie Dobson, has been recorded by over 60 artists. Rose told me that Morning Dew was an old song in the public domain "I put 'Arranged and adapted by Tim Rose' when I recorded it. I embellished the melody and added a bass line. We got a call from a publisher saying that, independently of me, Bonnie Dobson had also recorded the song and we agreed on co-authorship. I still enjoy the song and, every time I sing it, it means something different."

Because of frequent airplay by Simon Dee on Radio Caroline, Morning Dew established Tim Rose in the UK, although it was not a hit record. Rose came to the UK for concerts for which he was accompanied by the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation. He also recorded a UK single, Long Haired Boy, about groupies, but at the last minute an arrangement of With a Little Help from My Friends was given to Joe Cocker instead of Rose and became a No 1 record.

Rose himself turned down the job of replacing Brian Jones in the Rolling Stones: "I played enough rhythm guitar to fit into the Stones. But I thought I was on a roll. I was getting airplay and living in a posh hotel in London at the time." He became a popular act at festivals, both in Britain and in America: "I remember closing the Woburn Jazz Festival because neither Jimi Hendrix or Frank Zappa wanted to close it. There was freezing rain and I was on stage in an overcoat, but 8,000 people stayed. My big regret is that I didn't do Woodstock. I was headlining in a club in New York that weekend and everyone was coming in and talking about how great this festival was. There is a pattern in my life with all the opportunities I've missed."

His second album, Through Rose Coloured Glasses (1969), lacked the significant songs of the first and the arrangements were too diverse. His next album, recorded for EMI in London and produced by Shel Talmy, Love - A Kind of Hate Story (1970) was considerably better and Rose, once again, almost had a hit single with his intense cover of the Bee Gees' I've Gotta Get a Message to You. His next, Tim Rose (1972), was produced by Gary Wright of Spooky Tooth for Playboy's record division and included a rasping You've Got to Hide Your Love Away, an indication of what Rose could have done if he had not been stymied on With a Little Help from My Friends.

The Musician (1975), largely produced by his manager Jonathon Rowlands, had considerably less bluster, but no one wanted a mellow Tim Rose. Rose became so impoverished that he borrowed 10 from his former drummer John Bonham, now with Led Zeppelin, for a Laker flight to the US to see his mother. In 1977 Atlantic funded the sessions for The Gambler but the results were so overblown that it was not released. A reworked version for another label was issued the following year.

In 1978 Rose was accepting any work that came his way and he played guitar on a minor punk hit, Boys on the Dole by Neville and the Punters (1978). Ron Ellis, a.k.a. Neville, says, "His guitar solo made that record and it still stands up today. He had little money and he told us that he was living off the earnings of a prostitute in Fulham Road, which could well be true."

Rose became a construction worker in New York City but he did sing on commercials for Wrangler jeans and the Ringling Brothers Circus. Then he worked in the stock market and was married, though neither lasted. He drank and wanted to perform again. He said, "I was trying to impress 20-year-old secretaries that I knew Paul Simon."

Nick Cave recorded Long Time Man (1986) and Rose learnt that his albums had been reissued in the UK. In 1995 he returned to the UK for an appearance at the Half Moon club and he had changed dramatically, with long grey hair and a much fuller figure. He settled in Britain and released a new album, Haunted (1997), saying, "I've never made it so I can never be a has-been." He had a successful concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and opened for Nick Cave at the Royal Albert Hall. His most recent album was American Son (2000) and many of its songs were about ageing.

Rose was content to play at small venues throughout the UK. Even though I saw him with only around 100 people at St Helens Citadel, there was no doubting the power of his performance.

Codicil

Further to my obituary of Tim Rose, writes Spencer Leigh, the singer and songwriter Bonnie Dobson, who wrote Morning Dew after seeing the film On the Beach, says that the song was published in Broadside magazine in 1962 and recorded on her live album Bonnie Dobson at Folk City.

The lyric was amended by a fellow performer, Fred Neil, who recorded it with Vince Martin in 1964, but did not take a songwriting credit. Tim Rose, in an interview with myself in 1998, said that he had heard Martin perform the song as a dirge, and he quickened the tempo, added a rock backing and released his own version. He claimed to have added words but, as Dobson points out, they are very close to Martin and Neil's version.

Dobson and Rose have differing accounts as to how his name came to be added to the credits for a 25 per cent cut.

 

 

The Daily Telegraph (unattributed):

Tim Rose, who died on Tuesday aged 62, was held in high regard by rock aficionados as an outstanding live performer and a successful songwriter; he was responsible for such hits as Morning Dew and Come Away Melinda, and for arranging Hey Joe, one of the most ubiquitous songs of the 1960s.

A one-time student priest and air force navigator, Rose began his professional career playing acoustic guitar with the Journeymen and went on to work with some of the best-known names of pop music. He was also rumoured to have "almost" replaced Brian Jones in the Rolling Stones.

Rose had a great gravelly voice and a fine sense of drama, yet never quite made the big time and found his fame second-hand. It was Jimi Hendrix who immortalised Hey Joe, and Morning Dew was recorded by, among others, Jeff Beck, the Grateful Dead and Rod Stewart.

Tim Rose was born on September 23 1940 and brought up in Washington, DC, where he won the top music award at High School, though he lost a university music scholarship to a tuba player.

A Roman Catholic, he trained for the priesthood but was thrown out for "inappropriate behaviour". He subsequently served as a navigator in the US Air Force Strategic Air Command, trained as a pilot, worked as a merchant seaman on the SS Atlantic and spent some time in a bank, before returning to the music business in the early 1960s.

Rose began his professional musical career with the Journeymen, a folk group which featured John Phillips and Scott MacKenzie.

In 1962, he met "Mama" Cass Elliot and teamed up with her and James Hendricks in The Big Three. During a busy year, they recorded two albums and appeared on 26 television shows before parting in acrimony in 1964, after Rose found that Cass and James had secretly married.

Rose then embarked on a solo career. His first solo album Tim Rose (1967) included a dramatic version of I'm Gonna Be Strong, previously recorded by Gene Pitney, and the anti-war song Come Away Melinda, on which Rose's gritty vocals were particularly effective.

Although the album came to be recognised as a classic, CBS found it difficult to market at the time, since its mixture of blues, folk and rock fitted no obvious niche. And though Rose had hits with singles versions of Hey Joe and Morning Dew, it was left to others to bring them to a wider audience.

Rose spent the late 1960s and early 1970s working with, among others, John Bonham, Aynsley Dunbar, John McVie, Andy Summers and Eric Weissberg, and appeared with Traffic, Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel, The Doors, Uriah Heep, Johnnie Mathis, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and Rod Stewart.

But his second solo album Through Rose Coloured Glasses (1969) lacked the strength of its predecessor and he was never again to match the vigour of his early work.

Rose moved to England in the mid 1970s, performing occasionally in clubs around London, sometimes with his fellow expatriate Tim Hardin. These appearances were often shambolic; Hardin's addictions to heroin and alcohol made him unpredictable and the partnership soon collapsed.

After The Musician (1975), Rose went into semi-retirement from the music business and moved back to New York. Over the next 20 years, he worked on building sites, did voice-overs for television commercials, took a degree and worked as a geography teacher and as a Wall Street broker.

He continued writing and performing at select venues and, in 1991, President Records issued The Gambler, an album which Rose had recorded in 1977.

A chain-smoker and heavy drinker for most of his life, Rose finally kicked both habits in the early 1990s. In 1996, encouraged by Nick Cave, he returned to Europe and played at both the Royal Albert Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

A new album, Haunted (1997) was released with recordings from these performances mixed with older material. A further album of new material, American Son, released earlier this year, won favourable reviews.

A rather menacing-looking, overweight figure in his later years, Rose was described as looking more like a mafia don than a singer, an image that suited the often depressing subject matter of his songs.

At the time of his death, he was working on music commissioned by the actor Patrick Bergin for a forthcoming film. A short film about his life, Where Was I? is currently doing the rounds of continental film festivals.

Tim Rose was divorced and had no children.

 

Shakenstir.co.uk (unattributed):

TIM ROSE: AMERICA'S SON

I first met Tim early in 2001 on the occasion of his live performance just minutes from my home in Wrexham (I was really looking forward to seeing him perform here again in a few weeks' time). I knew very little about him or his music, that is until I interviewed him after a brilliant performance. You see, Tim could talk the hind legs off a donkey and provide a musical history lesson in the process. Tim's performance that night said it all; the gravelly, expressive and immensely powerful voice; the superb guitar-playing, the humour, the pain, the memories, the classic songs, the long flowing yellow hair. It was all there, it was all wonderful; an object lesson to any singer/songwriter, to any musician, to any human being. The interview went very well and we talked for well over an hour, due in small part to interruptions where Tim used his immense charm to sell another CD or another book. The information he provided during the interview was unique in that few artists around today played with or were friends with such major musical icons. It was a fascinating evening. We then corresponded by e-mail up until the last time I saw him perform in Chester earlier this year. When I arrived at the club, I found Tim sitting with his guitar barking commands to bar staff in an endeavour to set-up the lighting (in the absence of the responsible club personnel). The sound-check then took just a couple of minutes and we sat down for a chat and a coffee. We talked about his new album, American Son, which he felt was his best record, and he thanked me for my review. During the conversion he asked, "Tony, did The Times like my album or not? I just couldn't figure it out." I replied that I was afraid I could not enlighten him, because I couldn't work it out either. Tim also told me that he had made changes to the album/song title after 9/11. His performance that night was special. He seemed to empty himself of energy and music. He completed a passionate performance with his classic Morning Dew, tossed aside the mic and stormed off the stage, ignoring the demands for an encore. As he passed me on the way to his dressing room he looked particularly pale and very drained, but was still able to send a sly wink my way as he disappeared into the darkness. That was the last time I saw him.

Tim Rose stands tall as one of the finest and most durable American Troubadours. Consider this: at sixty-two years of age Tim Rose continued to perform, write and record. How many of today's so-called 'pop stars' will ever achieve this? It is my view that Tim not only performed for his own benefit, but in homage and memory of his fellow Troubadours who didn't last the distance, and like him, failed to make it 'big-time', despite their historic musical contributions. Tim took basic song structures from others and made them his own. He left a legacy of his own songs which will continue to be recorded and admired by his peers. I will remember him for his humanity, his charm, his enduring music, his passion and his tenacity. His parting gift and farewell to us all is his last great album American Son. As I entered the Chester venue to see him for the last time, I noticed a blackboard outside described his music as 'acoustic rock'. The two missing words were, 'the best'.

 

The Times (unattributed):

Tim Rose: one of the last of the Sixties troubadours, who enjoyed a late flurry of appreciation after years in the wilderness

There was a time in the late 1960s when the cream of American singer-songwriters all seemed to be called Tim. There was Tim Buckley, whose best-known songs included Morning Glory and Song To The Siren, and who died of a drugs overdose in 1975. Then there was Tim Hardin, who authored If I Were A Carpenter and Reason To Believe, and died of similar causes five years later. The trinity was completed by Tim Rose, whose survival instincts were more sharply honed and whose best-known recordings included Hey Joe and Morning Dew.

The connections between the three were informal. They were contemporaries who shared the same folk-music influences and started out playing the same clubs and coffee houses in New York's Greenwich Village at about the same time. But the death of the last of the trio marks the severing of one of the few remaining links with the era of the great Sixties troubadours.

Rose grew up in Washington in a Roman Catholic family and learnt to play banjo and guitar as a child. By the 13, he was studying for the priesthood but he soon dropped out. "I realised I wasn't going to be the Pope," he later joked. "And if you can't be the boss, why join the company?" After a spell in the USAF, serving as a bomber-navigator in Strategic Air Command, he moved to Chicago and formed a folk group called The Triumvirate, with Cass Elliott, later of The Mamas and the Papas. The group became The Big Three, and made two albums, notable for the use of electric instruments long before Bob Dylan shocked the folk world by going electric in 1965.

When the group split, Rose moved to New York and played Greenwich Village clubs such as the Bitter End and the Night Owl as a solo performer. It was 1966, and record company talent scouts were still touring the Village looking for "the new Dylan". Rose landed a recording contract with Columbia, where he was assigned to Dylan's producer, Bob Johnston. His first, self-titled album appeared in 1967 and remains a milestone in folk rock.

Yet although the record was dominated by his own compositions, it was, ironically, a trio of cover versions that made his name. Hey Joe had started life as a traditional murder ballad of uncertain authorship. Rose took the song and revamped it, his rasping voice giving it an air of malevolence in an arrangement which has often been cited as the source of Jimi Hendrix's hit version.

Morning Dew was written by the Canadian folk-singer Bonnie Dobson as a mournful dirge. Rose gave it a radical rock interpretation and turned the song into an anthem for the growing anti-Vietnam War movement. There has to be some debate over whether he deserved the co-writing credit he claimed. But there is no doubt that his was the definitive version which inspired a spate of further cover versions by artists ranging from the Grateful Dead to Jeff Beck. More recently, Robert Plant covered the song on his album released this year, Dreamland.

A third song on the record, Come Away Melinda, was another anti-war song with a similarly convoluted authorship. Again Rose's melodramatic interpretation has become the definitive version.

By 1968 Rose was spending much of his time in Britain, touring with a band that included the drummer John Bonham, shortly to join Led Zeppelin. He recorded the single Long Haired Boy, one of the first songs written about the groupie phenomenon, before returning to New York in 1969 to record his second album, Through Rose Coloured Glasses.

When it failed to sell well, Rose was forced to supplement his income recording voiceovers for television commercials and even used his pilot's licence to fly weekend charters. His third album, Love - A Kind of Hate Story, was recorded in London in 1970, but sales were once more disappointing.

When he signed to Hugh Hefner's Playboy label in 1972, there was a hint of desperation. The album that resulted - again titled Tim Rose - did nothing to revive his fortunes and included far too many cover versions, among them a somewhat overbearing interpretation of Hardin's If I Were A Carpenter.

By 1975 he had signed to Atlantic and was back in Britain to record the over-slick soft rock album, The Musician. He continued to live in Britain, but with the arrival of the punk era, London became an inhospitable place for 1960s survivors. He made one more album for Atlantic, which put up 100,000 for the recording sessions but then declined to release the results.

By now, as Mark Brend put it in his book American Troubadours, Rose was "clinging to the wreckage of a career" and seemed "like a man out of place and out of time".

He returned to America and worked as a labourer fitting plaster wallboards, although he wrote a television jingle for Wrangler jeans in the mid-Eighties which funded a return to college to obtain a degree. He also worked briefly as a stockbroker and got married.

When the relationship broke down, Rose began drinking heavily. With the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, he eventually conquered his demons and, by the beginning of the 1990s, his career had taken a surprising upturn. Nick Cave recorded one of his songs, Long Time Man, his first album was re-released on CD to critical acclaim and the renewed interest led in 1991 to the release of The Gambler, the "lost" tapes from the 1977 album which Atlantic had shelved.

Resident once again in London, Rose returned to the live stage in 1996 with an engaging show which mixed his songs with long and witty monologues about his chequered career. The following year he released Haunted, his first new album in 21 years, which included interpretations of his old favourites and new compositions.

He continued to perform regularly and was due to have begun a three-month residency at London's Borderline venue earlier this week. He died two days before the scheduled opening night, following an operation for bowel cancer, which had originally been diagnosed as benign.

He had no children and did not remarry after his divorce.

 

ROBERT BARR (Associated Press), as published by the 1010 Radio station, New York

Tim Rose, a raw-voiced folk-rocker who recorded memorable versions of Hey Joe and Morning Dew, has died at 62, according to obituaries published in British newspapers.

Rose died Tuesday at Middlesex Hospital in London, The Independent and The Times reported. Rose died shortly after surgery for bowel cancer, according to his Web site.

"I've never made it so I can never be a has-been," Rose once said, ruefully surveying a career of missed opportunities including, he said, an offer to join The Rolling Stones after the death of Brian Jones.

In his first musical venture, the Washington, D.C., native teamed with Michael Boran in a duo billed as Michael & Timothy.

Rose worked with Cass Elliott, a future member of the Mamas and Papas, in a group called The Triumvirate. When James Hendricks - who later married Elliot - joined the group, it was renamed The Big Three.

The group lasted only a year, as Rose's enthusiasm for electric guitars clashed with Elliott's folk traditionalism.

"I wanted to take the folk genre and put in electric guitars, bass and drums; Cass said she would never do that with her music - she never wanted to be a rock singer. Famous last words, right?" he said in an interview with Brian Mathieson, who runs a Web site devoted to Rose.

"We broke up when we were singing at a big oil race in Indianapolis. We were throwing pies at each other and so I grabbed a Mustang and drove it to New York City," he said.

Rose worked the folk scene in New York, and signed a recording contract with Columbia in 1966.

His debut album, Tim Rose, appeared the following year. He composed most of the songs on the album, but it is mainly remembered for his versions of Hey Joe, Morning Dew and Come Away Melinda.

Hey Joe is a traditional song of unknown origin, but Rose claimed that he formulated the version that was covered by Jimi Hendrix and others.

"When you're working in acoustic folk clubs, you hear bits and pieces by lots of singers. I heard Hey Joe one day but this guy, Vince, was singing it in a monotone all the way through. I added a verse and went up a third. I was essentially writing a new song but using the inspiration of the four or five lines that I heard," Rose said.

"I know Chas Chandler, who managed Hendrix, played my version to Hendrix as he told me so, but I was not thrilled with what happened next. I was accused of taking a Hendrix song, but I said, 'No, it is the other way round.'"

In 1968, Rose toured in Britain with a band including John Bonham, who later became drummer for Led Zeppelin.

Rose's career petered out in the 1980s. He worked for a while as a labourer, then recorded an advertising jingle for Wrangler jeans that paid for him to return to college. After that, he was a stock broker in New York, but quit after the market crash in 1987.

In 1991, Rose released another album, The Gambler, made from tapes of a live performance in 1977.

In 1996, he returned to live performing in London with a show which featured his reminiscences of the ups and downs of his career.

He contributed lyrics for four songs on an album by the Norwegian group, Headwaiter, released earlier this year.

Rose was divorced and had no children. Funeral arrangements were not announced.

 

The Scotsman (Kenny Mathieson):
TIM Rose had his only real brush with fame early in his career. His adaptation of the songs Hey Joe and Morning Dew briefly established his reputation, but he did not build on that initial platform. Instead, he left a trail of missed opportunities that seem too wilful to be accidental, and eventually left music altogether, returning only in the late Nineties after Nick Cave’s recording of one of his songs, Long Time Man, had prompted reissues of his all but forgotten albums in the UK.

He was born in Washington but brought up in Virginia. His aunt had been a cinema pianist in the era of silent films, and he learned to play banjo and guitar to a high standard as a boy. A career as a priest was nipped in the bud when he was dismissed from the seminary at the age of 13 for smoking, but it set a pattern of ingrained rebellious non-conformity to expectations which would become familiar throughout his life.

He served in the USAF Strategic Air Command in the late Fifties, then became a folk musician in the boom of the early Sixties. He played with John Phillips and Scott Mackenzie in The Journeymen, then formed a group called The Big Three with Cass Elliott (who would go on to join Phillips in The Mamas and The Papas).

The band broke up acrimoniously in 1964, but it did provide Rose with one of his signature songs, Fred Hellerman’s anti-war ballad Come Away Melinda, which appeared on his debut album alongside his two best known hits.

That album, Tim Rose, was issued in 1967, and marked the singer out as a characterful and very promising artist. Neither Hey Joe (the origin of that song remains unclear - one theory ascribes it to Scotland) nor the traditional Morning Dew were his, but his distinctive gruff delivery and individual phrasing made them his own. However, Jimi Hendrix’s version of Hey Joe eclipsed Rose’s, the first in a sequence of might-have-beens for the singer.

Heavy exposure on the pirate station Radio Caroline brought Morning Dew to a wide audience, and Rose came to the UK to play for his new following. He is said to have turned down the chance to replace Brian Jones in The Rolling Stones, and was scheduled to record a version of With A Little Help From My Friends which was given instead to Joe Cocker at the last minute, and provided the latter with a massive hit. He also missed the Woodstock Festival, something he said he always regretted.

He cut several albums in the late Sixties and Seventies (including a second record simply called Tim Rose and a more laid back production, The Musician), but this phase of his career finally stalled after a big-budget but hugely overproduced recording for Atlantic Records, The Gambler, was shelved by the company in 1977 (it appeared the following year, leased by another label, but made no impact).

He worked in the construction industry and the stock market, and went through a failed marriage. In 1995, alerted to the fact that CD reissues of his early records had created some interest, he came to London to perform, and settled in the city. He began to record again with Haunted (1997), and opened for Nick Cave at the Royal Albert Hall. His most recent album, American Son (2002), was preoccupied with the subject of ageing.

He was at work on a film soundtrack when he died. In keeping with the pattern of his life, it would have been his first soundtrack had he lived to complete it.

 
If any of the above publications are unhappy with their article being reproduced here, they should contact me and I shall remove it. All have been credited, as they appeared. Some minor factual corrections have been made, where they didn't affect the flow or style.

 

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