The autumn of 2009 marks the 30th anniversary of a radical shift in the Genesis mythos. It was 30 years ago that while on hiatus from Genesis albums and hot on the heels of their acclaimed 1978 And Then There Were Three world tour, that Tony Banks, a co-founding member of the band, released his solo debut, 1979's A Curious Feeling. Although he was not the first member in the Genesis camp to release a solo album, it is this period of creativity that allowed singer/drummer Phil Collins to take personal time away from the band (essentially keeping the band intact), while also permitting members Banks and Mike Rutherford to pursue their own creative interests outside of the confines of a group environment.

Arguably, it was this shift toward allowing band members the freedom to work on outside projects that kept Genesis together the better part of their 40 year history. To commemorate this significant solo release, Esoteric Records will reissue a deluxe CD+DVD remixed and remastered pressing of
A Curious Feeling overseen by Tony Banks himself. The deluxe reissue (which is also available in a traditional stereo CD only pressing) includes a rich 5.1 audio track and newly remixed stereo by long time Genesis Producer and Engineer Nick Davis. The deluxe edition also features special packaging rare music videos that, even as a fan, I've never seen prior to this reissue's release!

As a solo artist, Tony Banks has released seven projects outside of the band (and the soundtrack to the 1982 film
The Wicked Lady), the last of which being the aptly titled orchestral album, Seven. In addition, Tony has been instrumental in the band's epic undertaking of remixing and remastering the Genesis back catalog in both stereo and 5.1 surround sound. Previous box sets 1970-1975, 1976-1982, and 1983-1998 have featured the band's studio output while September 2009 also sees the release of the Genesis Live 1973-2007 box set, a newly remixed and remastered set of the band's live albums with several bonus tracks.

This will be followed by the November 2009 release of the Genesis
Movie box set, which features the band's officially recorded concert videos, some of which have never been on DVD previously, including the much sough after Mama Tour and Three Sides Live concert films. In recognition of the band's significant influence on popular music in the 20th Century, 2009 also saw Genesis' nomination to the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame, who's ranks include The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Elton John, and many more of rock music's most defining artists. 

On September 30, 2009, Tony Banks sat down with World of's Dave Negrin to talk very candidly about the new reissue of
A Curious Feeling, his recollections of the making of that first solo album and its significance to the Genesis history, the newly remixed and remastered Genesis back catalog reissues, the new Genesis Live 1973-2007 box set, the forthcoming Genesis Movie box set, Genesis' nomination into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame, and much more! 

World of Genesis: There are elements of A Curious Feeling that have a very strong And Then There Were Three feel. Were the basis of many of the songs from A Curious Feeling taken from unused material or unexplored ideas you had from those Genesis sessions?

  WOG: Many people find doing solo projects liberating, because they have more creative control than they might otherwise in their respective bands. That being said, knowing that you wrote a great deal of And Then There Were Three with Mike, which was probably more creative room than you had making any Genesis album up to that point, how did doing your first solo album liberate you as an artist? Prior to Phil's requested hiatus from the band after the 1978 tour, had you been thinking about doing something on your own?     

TB: Well, the first time I ever thought about doing a solo project was after Peter [Gabriel] left the band around Trick of The Tail. Then I thought, if Genesis is going to carry on, we really need to put all of the best ideas into that next album. Obviously, Steve [Hackett] did go off and do a solo album at that point, which was kind of difficult for us in a way, because we felt we needed all hands on deck at this particular time.

The songs I had written at the time… I had originally thought of things like “A Trick of The Tail”, “Mad Man Moon”, “Robbery, Assault, and Battery” and assorted musical bits and pieces that ended up on that album, as being part of a possible solo album. So, it had sort of been in the back of my mind to do that.

I think within Genesis, perhaps once or twice in the early days, you did get that feeling where you did have to compromise a little bit too much, but I’d been able to get almost complete songs out quite a few times. You know, there’s things like “Firth or Fifth” and things like that. It was just a fact that we didn’t do enough albums, really. I mean, we were all writers and we all wanted to get stuff out and one album a year or so didn’t give you much possibility to get your stuff out. I mean, it would be 10 or 15 minutes of your own music with a lot of group stuff.  So, it was important to me. I wanted to do more, and I knew I could do more. 

And Then There Were Three, you still, in a sense, had to slightly compromise within the group concept, and I was happy to do that and I’ve always loved the way we worked together, but it is a different way or working. I’d abbreviated songs like “Undertow” and “Burning Rope” in particular. They ended up being much shorter songs, because it was on a Genesis album.

I wanted the freedom to actually allow that to do whatever I wanted to do. You know, make it longer or whatever.
What I actually ended up doing with A Curious Feeling was to expand a song like “One for the Vine” or “Burning Rope” over a whole album in a way. So, I let every bit kind of breathe and let the quiet bits become sort of complete instrumental sections on their own. I needed to do that. I needed to do that badly.

Tony Banks
: Well, the main thing would be the first piece, “From the Undertow,” which obviously has a relationship from the title. A version of it was originally written as an introduction to the song “Undertow” from And Then There Were Three.  I’d actually adapted it and kind of turned it totally inside out and turned a small piece into the main part of it for the film The Shout, which we were asked to do the music for, and I needed to get something together quite quickly, and I thought that would work really well. And I like the way it turned out, although I wasn’t particularly pleased with the way it was used in the film.

So, I ended up wanting to use it as a sort of starting point for a solo album. I felt that it sort of set up quite a nice feeling, you know? Other than that, there was really nothing else that had been around. There were no sort of reject bits or anything. It was totally written [for
A Curious Feeling specifically]. I’d pretty much drained all of the stuff I had written for And Then There Were Three. Most of the stuff I had written were used on that [album]. I certainly can hear a relationship between the songs on A Curious Feeling and particularly with the song “Burning Rope,” I think. There’s a bit of a connection there and perhaps to “Undertow” as well. 

WOG: Speaking of your work on the soundtrack for the film The Shout, have you considered remixing the rest of your solo catalog in 5.1 similar to what you have done with
A Curious Feeling? If so, are there any plans to potentially add bonus audio? For example, adding original tracks from The Shout, The Wicked Lady or your demos from 2010 to your Soundtracks compilation album?

TB: Well, I hadn’t thought of... Well, I wanted to do A Curious Feeling quite badly, because I’d always felt that sonically wasn’t as good as it should have been at the time. Having just redone all of the Genesis stuff, I was amazed at how much the period like And Then There Were Three and Duke, which A Curious Feeling is from, had improved sound-wise.

I really wasn’t surprised that we got a much better sound on the early period, because technology had moved on a lot. So, things like “Cinema Show” [from
Selling England By The Pound] and everything sounded a lot better. So, I felt with this album, I could definitely get it better. I wanted to explore what that would be like, so  I got in there with Nick Davis and we were really pleased with how the stuff sounded on tape and we knew we could make it a lot better than it did originally… to get rid of… kind of the ‘wooliness’ that the album had originally.

In terms of anything else in 5.1, well, that’s a question. It depends on quite a few things. I mean, I wanted to do this and see how that goes, I suppose. I had considered perhaps just doing a selection of later tracks and putting together sort of a ‘best of’ if you like, because some of the later albums are sort of much less well known in any way. Anything is possible, but at the moment, I’m not planning to do any more remixing. Although, I’ve got a feeling that we might do something while we’ve still got the studio and Nick’s still up for it. It would be quite fun to try and do something. 

  The time it came was obviously forced on us a little bit by Phil and his need to take a little bit of time out, but it was an important change over. I think the fact that we’ve all been able to do solo albums from then – obviously, with varying degrees of success – but it allowed you to get it out of your system a little bit and when you came back as Genesis, it gave us something new to do. I think that change kept the group going a lot longer than it would have otherwise.  

WOG: In retrospect, what tracks on A Curious Feeling are you most proud of?

TB: It’s a funny thing with A Curious Feeling more than any other album I’ve ever done, really. I look at it more as an entirety. I think you can listen to it from the beginning to the end and it has something about it that is strong. It’s almost like one song. If I had to pick a piece, I would probably have to choose “The Waters of Lethe.” I think it’s the best instrumental piece I’ve ever done. The melodies are nice in it, it just builds very well, and the whole structure of it is really nice. It’s in a good place on the album, because it comes after a very heavy track, “Somebody Else’s Dream.” You have this slightly wistful melody coming out, where the tragedy of the album has first become apparent.

WOG:  I was really pleased to see that you were reissuing this album in 5.1 surround, but what really shocked me were that it includes promo music videos. To be honest, I wasn't aware that any promo videos were even done for
A Curious Feeling prior to this reissue's announcement. 

TB: They’re not the best, but they are there (laughs)!  “For A While” came out as a single. Things went quite well with the album initially, so we thought we’d do a promo for it. It was sort of a simple promo with Kim singing and me playing the piano. I mean, I’m doing about as much as I ever do, which is look onerously at the keyboard!

We had a bit of time left over, and I thought while we were there I’d like to do one for “The Waters of Lethe” as well. I knew it would never get used for anything, but I thought why not just do it? The director was quite keen to have a go, so we just did it and made a little film of it. Its fairly cliché sort of stuff, with shots of water and me playing various instruments and things, I think it’s quite nice to have. Coming back to it, I’m pleased to have it, because it’s part of the period 30 years ago, and it gives a little bit more of an image to go with the album. As I said, they’re not the greatest videos, but they’re not offensive (laughs)! …They’re alright (laughs)!

WOG: (laughs) Were you surprised at the initial commercial success of A Curious Feeling when it opened on the charts?


I have two sides to me, really.
I have the Genesis side, and
I have the solo artist side that
has much less exposure, but it’s undiluted me, if you like.


  TB: Actually, when it first came out, we were writing Duke. I thought, “This is great!” The album went to #20 or something and then next week it was #21, and then after that it was kind of gone. It was all a little bit brief, I suppose. Looking back on it, I was happy enough, really, but once it came in that high, I thought it was going to do better than that. It really didn’t get any kind of radio play or anything.

I always thought because the previous Genesis albums up to there, particularly
Trick of the Tail, Wind and Wuthering, and And Then There Were Three, I’d sort of been, I suppose, pretty heavily featured as a writer and I thought I would carry more of the audience with me than I did, but I can’t really complain.

WOG: I understand that Nick Davis has mixed Seven in 5.1 surround back in 2004. Might that see the light of day as a CD+DVD release?

TB: Yeah, we do have a 5.1 mix of Seven that we did at the time when we were originally recording it. Actually, I haven’t really heard it actually since then! Obviously with a classical piece; it’s a slightly different kind of thing. You get more of a concert hall ambiance out of the piece, which is quite effective, I think. It would be quite fun to go back to that I suppose… At the moment though, I really haven’t decided what to do with these kinds of things. There are no plans to put that out yet.

WOG: What was it about the Flowers for Algernon story that inspired you to create an album around the concept? How strongly did the book influence you, lyrically speaking, on this album?

TB: I’d read the story quite a few years before I’d done this album, and I’d sort of kept it in the back of my mind.  I just thought it was a great little story that would lend itself to music very well. It’s quite emotional and I felt that I could tell this story quite well. I did write the whole thing – all the lyrics - to fit this particular plot, it was only after I was informed that there was a musical coming out based upon the story. At the time, I didn’t know if this was going to be a musical as big as Jesus Christ Superstar or something. I had heard that Michael Crawford was going to star in it, who’s obviously a big English actor, so I thought it could do well.

So, the advice was to not do it. In many ways, I was in two minds at the time. Probably, left to my own devices, I would have carried on with it, but the advice from everyone else was to change it. So, I adapted the story.

It’s obviously no longer based around
Flowers for Algernon anymore. Although, there are some resemblances to it in that there’s a man who consciously loses his mind, which is the part of the story I liked the most. I think the way it was done in the original story was very neat, and I liked the story very much. It was a very clever little science fiction story... It’s quite short and obviously a real classic as well.

WOG: Were there ever any other stories you’ve read that inspired you to craft either an album or a song around their story?

TB: I don’t think so much later after that. Remember, even in 1979 when A Curious Feeling came out, ‘a concept album’ was kind of a dirty word. Although, that didn’t necessarily worry me all that much, I didn’t feel like doing that approach again.

Everything I read influences me when it comes to lyrics. Back in the early days of Genesis, obviously we were the Greek and Roman myths, which influenced us all a bit, I think… science fiction and stuff… I used to enjoy that. If I was stuck for an idea, there were certain books that I would perhaps look at and try and get some ideas from (laughs).  

I think as years went by, later on, I tended to try and stick a little bit closer to the things that sort of came out of my head, which were part of my experiences. Not necessarily about me, but things I could relate to and things I could see about other people. Rather than going to someone else’s story.

I think it’s a self confidence thing as much as anything else. In the early days, I was less sure of lyric writing, and I needed the help of someone else’s story in a way. Whereas later on, I felt more able to kind of do my own thing.

  It was brought down to Earth slightly when Mike’s solo album [Smallcreep’s Day] came out and it did rather better… and, of course, when Phil’s [Face Value] album came out… Well, that kind of eclipsed everything slightly (laughs)! I became fairly philosophical about it after that. I mean, I’m not writing… these aren’t hit singles, you know what I mean? I can’t really expect to have that kind of success, and if I want to follow these ideas right through – and it’s not particularly easy music -  the chances are that it’s not going to be commercially successful, but I just thought that’s ok if I’m happy with what I’m doing. I’m getting a lot of commercial success with Genesis. I have two sides to me, really. I have the Genesis side, and I have the solo artist side that has much less exposure but it’s undiluted me, if you like.

WOG: Did you have any reservations about including the bootleg video footage on the box sets?

TB: If you’re talking about the studio album boxes (1970-1975, 1976-1982, and 1983-1998), we just included anything we thought was kind of good enough to include. We went through an awful lot of bootleg stuff, a lot of which wasn’t very good. We just put the stuff in we thought was better. I mean, a lot of the so called video bootleg material was stuff we actually did for television shows and things.

There’s a version of “Supper’s Ready” that ended up there that was done for a French TV show that I hadn’t seen before. I certainly didn’t see it at the time it aired. I found it on the Internet, on YouTube, I think. I thought, “Well, that looks quite good, you know?” So, we got the tapes and it was ok, so we thought we’d use that. There were no reservations about adding something. Particularly from the early period, there isn’t much video that exists that is of any decency at all with Peter singing and we were fairly unique live act at the time. It was nice to use what we could find.

WOG: Is there anything audio or video-wise that you would have liked to include on the box sets but didn't get to use or ultimately chose not to use?

TB: No, I don’t think so. I was probably the most closely involved in all of this, so I was able to kind of pick and choose a little bit. So, I think it all worked out ok. The most difficult one has been the live box set (Genesis Live 1973-2007) and the Movie box set coming afterwards. To try and choose what to put on has been a slight problem on these, really. Originally, we were going to include Live Over Europe (on the Genesis Live 1973-2007 box set) and When In Rome DVD (on the Movie box set), but a lot of people [on the forum] said, “Well, we’ve got these already, you’re just making us re-buy them again for more money.” So, we thought we’d take them out and reduce the price by that and leave a hole in the box for people who want it.

Then, the question was, do you include 5.1 mixes of things like
The Way We Walk and everything when fans have already got the live DVDs with the 5.1 surround mixes already? So, to try to keep the box sets manageable and not have them in masses and masses of albums and taking the comments made into consideration, we took the decision we did, which was to release 5.1 versions of the albums that didn’t already exist in video form…  which included the early Genesis live albums up to and including Seconds Out. In all honestly, my vote was to include it all into one boxed set, which would have combined the two, which would have been everything that would not have been otherwise available.  That would have been quite a good package, I think. It would have been bigger, but I think it would have satisfied the fans more.

WOG: How did you come to work with Kim Beacon on the project?

TB: Well, I needed a singer, and I thought of a few people I could use who were possibly more famous, but  I contacted them and nothing really happened.  So, I just listened to a lot of tapes really in the end trying to find someone who I thought was suitable. He was, in fact, singing with a group called String Driven Thing, who were also on the Charisma label. He wasn’t the main singer with them. He sang on the later version of the group. I actually didn’t know about that Charisma connection, but someone from the group did send me a tape of some of the stuff he had done with a few songs on it. He sang the song, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” which is not a song I like very much at all, actually (laughs)… but I thought he sang the song really well, and I liked his tone range and everything. So, I got him down here and we tried a few things out, and I thought he sounded great! So, I liked the tone quality of his voice and the way it fit with what I was writing.

WOG: I had an opportunity to meet up with Chester Thompson last week, and we talked about the making of A Curious Feeling. During that interview he talked about staying at your house during that period. What are your recollections of the making of that album? At what point did you involve Chester in the project? Were you still on tour together with Genesis at the time?

TB:  We’d just done the 1978 tour with Chester for And Then There Were Three. I really liked Chester and I really liked his drumming. I thought his playing style would give a slightly different flavor to what I was doing. He’d also been quite enthusiastic about some of the things the band had done… Things like “One for the Vine” which, in a way, since he came from such a different background from me… I mean, his whole approach to the jazz rock stuff… his whole musical background was so different, yet he seemed to quite enjoy that kind of music. So, I thought, if he can get into that, he can get into this. In a sense, because it’s like “One for the Vine” done over 45 minutes of an album (laughs)!  

So, he could add to that. I was really pleased I used him. It was nice to have a friendly face. He was very enthusiastic. He came out here and then we went to Polar Studios in Stockholm, which was ABBA’s studio, where we actually made the album together and everything. He gave me a sort of confidence about it, really. I mean, I knew I wanted to try and do try and do everything else myself, but I knew I couldn’t drum and I couldn’t sing, so I wanted to make certain that I had a good drummer that I felt secure with. He was the obvious person to use in many ways, but I wanted to use him because I liked his style very much.

WOG:  Speaking of your interest in playing most of the instruments on A Curious Feeling, that seems like a very bold thing to do for a first solo album. Why did you want to take on that responsibility?

TB: I had no real problem with guitar, because I knew most of the guitar on it was going to be acoustic sort of rhythm guitar. I’d done a lot of that with Genesis and I’d written a lot of Genesis’ music on that – particularly parts of “Supper’s Ready”, “Cinema Show”, and things like that. So, I was kind of well up for that, really. I had also written things like “A Curious Feeling” and “Lucky Me” on guitar. So, I had no problem with doing that. I just wanted a little bit of a lead guitar and I knew that was going to be more of a problem. The bass was the only other factor, and in many ways, perhaps I should have gotten a bass player? I don’t know. I quite liked the idea of doing it myself, because I wanted it to be as personal as possible.

Having done about ten years of Genesis by that stage, where you pool your ideas and everything kind of gets diluted a little bit. I wanted something where I could just completely do the whole thing without anyone else. Something that was as much me as possible. So, the bass was more of a struggle. In those days, it was before you could do proper bass lines and things [on the keyboard], so I had to play it on the bass guitar itself. I had to sort of tape it up and put foam on it and everything to stop all the strings from resonating. So, I kept the bass parts really simple… as you can probably hear (laughs)!


Genesis in 1978 (clockwise from left): Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford,
Tony Banks (center), Daryl Stuermer, and Chester Thompson

There was another factor with these boxed sets which was that it was kind of a definitive version of all of the things we had. So, the live boxed set has all of our live albums on there, so that works well from that point of view.  Otherwise, you might have had to leave one or two of them off. It’s a difficult one. It was much more straight forward with the studio albums. We knew exactly what to put on those. It was the studio albums plus all of the relevant b-sides from the period with any additional bonuses we could think of.  In the end, you have to make decisions and everything is a slight compromise, but there are still some nice stuff on these live albums – no doubt about it!

WOG: Were you disappointed that the Live 1973-2007 box could not be produced in SACD format (the box set is only available in CD + DVD format worldwide)?

TB: Well, this is the thing… The reason for not doing SACD is that in the States, it’s virtually a non-existent format now. Over here [in England], it’s definitely not used as much as well. It just means that you have to have all of these extra CDs and stuff.

It’s actually a much better format in many ways, especially because you can actually put the stereo mix and the surround mix on the same piece of plastic – which also saves on materials. Having doubled everything else up on the previous boxed sets, at this stage, because we had rather too many CDs and things anyhow, we thought we’d just keep it in DVD format… which is a slight shame, because the quality of sound isn’t as good on DVD.  I suppose some time in the future when all of this stuff has been ironed out with all of the different formats, there will probably be a format that will give you a perfect sound, and I suppose they will come out again (laughs)!

WOG: I know some people are talking about the prospect of Blu-ray Audio discs as a possible format of choice for surround sound and loss-less audio…

TB: Yeah, well it may be. In the end, what will happen is that you’ll get more and more information on one disc.  Then again, maybe the discs themselves will soon become irrelevant. Maybe it will all just be downloaded? Either way, you still need quite a few bits of plastic to get all of the information out with all of this stuff. 

One day, all you will need is one piece of hardware and one piece of software that will have everything on it. In the future, perhaps not so distant future, it will be out there, but for the moment, you have to play with what’s existing out there and SACD unfortunately just doesn’t seem to be a such popular medium – which is a shame because it is a much better sound.

WOG: (laughs.)

TB: …But it does the job and it works ok, so I was happy enough with the results from that point of view. I think it’s nice on a solo album… I mean, because I couldn’t sing it, I suppose was half the reason, I wanted to do as much as I possibly could. I didn’t have the feeling I could sing it or, at least have the confidence at the time anyhow that I could sing it. So, I felt I had to get everything else together.


Tony Banks circa A Curious Feeling

Tony Banks live on the Invisible Touch Tour

  WOG: King Crimson is seemingly following Genesis’ lead with the reissue of their back catalog in CD + DVD-Audio format with rare video included. Aside from the loss-less DVD-Audio, the only difference between the model Genesis established with the latest reissues is the inclusion of the original stereo mix on the DVD-Audio disc (in cases where the stereo version offered was remixed).

One can only assume this was considered because of comments like those on the forum or other forums where people have argued about abandoning the old mixes for new ones. Is that something you wish you had done?

WOG: What gave you that confidence to take on the task of lead vocals when it came time to do your next solo album, The Fugitive?   
TB: Well, that was a more difficult one for me, really. Obviously, both Mike [Rutherford] and I follow sort of pattern with this, actually.  We did the first solo albums. The difficulty we had was that the people did quite know… The identity of the album was always a problem, because if you put your name on the top of the album, everyone thinks you’re the singer. Since then, it’s become much more common, but at that stage in the late ‘70s, it was quite an odd thing to do. So, I had to try and tell everybody all the time that it wasn’t me singing.  It just made it difficult to promote a lot of the time. People had trouble with that. So, I thought with the next one, I will give it a go.
TB: No, not really. I mean, the way we look at it is that the original mixes are out there. Anyone who wants them – they are available or can be found – if you prefer that. I honestly can’t think of a single song that isn’t better with the remixes. I think its one of those things were everyone will have their own argument about it.

There really wasn’t anything we could do from the Mama album onward. I really don’t think much changed to be honest. There were a couple of things, like I think we made “Illegal Alien” sound better. I think the original mix of the
Mama album sounded great, as did Invisible Touch… but for the early ones – like you go back to “Giant Hogweed” or something, I mean the new version is so much better.
The Fugitive had happened a bit later, after we’d done [the Genesis album] Abacab. A couple of songs on Abacab, I’d just done the demo of the vocals for Phil [Collins]. Just so that he could hear them out of interest. I did it to get the idea of the vocals across a little bit. Sort of, “This is how I want it sung…” I did that with “Me and Sarah Jane” and also with “Keep It Dark” from that album. With “Keep It Dark” in particular, I thought it sounded quite good. So, I thought maybe I could give it a go.

I never wanted to be a singer. I mean, I don’t feel comfortable. I certainly never wanted to front anything, but I reckoned I could sing in tune well enough where I could get a bit of character in my voice – which is all I wanted to try and do and give it a go. So, I did with that… It was an experiment that I quite enjoyed doing. Although, having done it once, I wasn’t that keen to do it again, aside from the odd track after that. So, the approach on
A Curious Feeling was the right one, which was to get a good singer who can do really the songs justice and really deliver them.
  Of all the remixes, I think the first half in particular of “Cinema Show” I think sounds wonderful, especially, the 5.1 version of it. Whereas the old version was just sort of cluttered and things. If you go back to “Stagnation” on the original [stereo] mix of Trespass for example, the vocal could hardly be heard. I mean, these things are there.

There will always be people who like the original I suppose, because that’s how it was, but it was very arbitrary how it was at the time. I mean, it was like, you’ve only got ten minutes and you’ve got to finish this track otherwise you’ll be kicked out, you know?  So, that’s how it ended up rather than actually doing it properly. I understand where they are coming from, but all these tracks are out there for people who want them in the original mix of that is what you want.

Continued - Go To Part II)

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