Category Archives: Music

Take to the Skies Tonight!

Sky Pilot by the Animals! One of the greatest bands of all time. Eric Burdon!

Angie Cohen just posted a list of Christian songs that you can listen to if you wish.

Actually it’s not about Christianity. Or maybe it is. It is absolutely about the Vietnam War though! A sky pilot is not God as I thought. Instead the sky pilot is the name for the military chaplain. The song is about the military chaplain looking over wounded and possibly dying soldiers in Vietnam. However, as the military chaplain is also a Christian minister of God, the song could still be about Christianity.

If it’s a Christian song, it is one of the greatest Christian songs I have ever heard.

The footage is from the 173rd Airborne Regiment of the US Army, otherwise known as “The Herd.”

Following the lyrics, the bit of prose that follows is my attempt at literary writing, in case you were wondering. This is what I call flash fiction. I write some flash fiction things now and again. I have no idea if it’s any good, but some people love my stuff, especially females.

Good stuff, huh?

You’re welcome.

He blesses the boys as they stand in line
The smell of gun grease
And the bayonets they shine
He’s there to help them all that he can
To make them feel wanted – he’s a good holy man

Sky pilot [x2]
How high can you fly?
You’ll never, never, never reach the sky

He smiles at the young soldiers
Tells them it’s all right
He knows of their fear in the forthcoming fight
Soon there’ll be blood, and many will die
Mothers and fathers – back home they will cry

Sky pilot [x2]
How high can you fly?
You’ll never, never, never reach the sky

He mumbles a prayer, and it ends with a smile
The order is given
They move down the line
But he’ll stay behind, and he’ll meditate
But it won’t stop the bleeding or ease the hate
As the young men move out into the battle zone
He feels good, with God you’re never alone
He feels tired, and he lays on his bed
Hopes the men will find courage
In the words that he said

Sky pilot [x2]
How high can you fly?
You’ll never, never, never reach the sky

You’re soldiers of God, you must understand
The fate of your country is in your young hands
May God give you strength
Do your job real well
If it all was worth it
Only time it will tell
In the morning they return
With tears in their eyes
The stench of death drifts up to the skies
A soldier so ill looks at the sky pilot
Remembers the words
Thou shalt not kill

Sky pilot [x2]
How high can you fly?
You’ll never, never, never reach the sky

Sad Song

The rocket, if it was a rocket at all, raced across the sky towards the dawning hours away. The roar split the clouds. We thought the sky would fall down. In its wake, it was just the two of us, you and me, shuddering in the screeching silence, and don’t you know the the whole damn world can go to Hell. When it all comes crashing down, we will still be standing here, you and me, shivering amidst the ruins.

How high can we fly?

Sky pilot!

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Filed under Christianity, Literary Excursions, Music, Religion, Rock

Tom Petty Is Dead

Heart attack in Los Angeles. Just happened an hour ago. He was rushed to the hospital and was just taken off life support. Age 66. Too bad. I always loved Tom Petty. Maybe I should put some of his music up there.

Link.

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Filed under Celebrities, Music, Rock

The System of Nature: or The Laws of the Moral and Physical World, by Paul Henri Thiry d’Holbach

I have never heard of this early French philosopher, nor have I heard of his monumental doorstop of a book, quoted in the title.

The prose below is from 1773, and I doubt if anyone can write better today. I think this shows that our brains are about as smart now as they were in the times of the Revolutionary War at least in terms of raw IQ or brain speed. In fact, some studies have shown that Victorians had dramatically faster brains than we do (by reaction time). So the suspicions of us cynics may be true after all – of course we are getting stupider. Just look around you. How can it not be so?

Knowledge is one thing and intelligence is another. Intelligence is probably defined best as a measure of raw brain speed. The faster the brain, the more intelligent the person is.

Knowledge is another matter altogether and is more related to culture. For instance, we are much smarter now than we were in 1773 in terms of knowledge. We know so many more things and we understand the world so much better! We can make so many fancy things and solve so many difficult problems now solely on account of our accumulation of knowledge. So while we may be dumber than Victorians in terms of raw intelligence, we are much smarter than Victorians in terms of knowledge. The latter may well compensate for or even overwhelm the former. A fast brain is not a worth a lot if you barely understand the world around you.

It’s also useful to note that knowledge has nothing to do with intelligence necessarily. For all we know, cavemen may have had very fast brains. Brains in 1770 may have been even faster than in the Victorian Era. No one knows. We have always been an intelligent species. But while men in the Middle Ages and Dark Ages may have had brains that worked about as fast as ours, they were nevertheless not able to figure out the world very well.

Knowledge is more a matter of luck than anything else because ideally it is cumulative. With each generation or at least with each century or millennium, man has increased his knowledge and has managed to figure out the world better. Nevertheless, at the beginning the process is quite slow. Look at how long we lumbered along in comparative ignorance, even with presumably fast brains. This shows us that intelligence needs knowledge to be worth much of anything. Intelligence minus knowledge does not add up to a hill of beans. How impressive is a fast brain if it has the worldview of a caveman?

As I noted, knowledge ideally is cumulative. This is not always so, and there have been shocking histories of actual cultural and knowledge loss. The Tasmanians were separated from the mainland 10,000 years ago and afterwards they seem to have lost the ability to make fire and craft fishing hooks among other things. They may have also forgotten how to sew. So Idiocracy is nothing new. It’s been going on somewhere for at least 10,000 years.

Nevertheless, knowledge throwbacks are an anomaly because knowledge tends to be cumulative. It is also interesting to note that there seems to be some critical mass at work here. As knowledge gains, the acquisition of new knowledge seems to speed up somehow. Critical mass may well have been reached perhaps 100 years ago. Since then the leaps of knowledge have been spectacular. We now learn more in decade now than we did in a millennium.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the basics, we are hardly more competent now than we were in 1773.

Modern writers have not superseded the prose below; in fact, many cannot even achieve this 1773 level of competence. When it comes to certain things like the ability to write down our ideas, all of our knowledge seems to hit a roadblock. All of the massive knowledge we have piled on in the last century has not enabled us to craft better prose than the prose of 250 years ago.

I seriously doubt if your artistic skills have improved either. We now paint better than Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci? Really?

What about music? Are we really better musicians now than Bach or Beethoven? Really?

It’s doubtful that our psi skills have improved much.

Are our social skills really better now than they were in the past? Are you sure?

Are we better able to achieve psychological health than in the past?

Do we know any more about the mysteries of life such as the soul and death than we did then?

Has our philosophical knowledge actually improved? We still cannot surmount Plato and Aristotle.

Anyway, check out this awesome prose:

The source of man’s unhappiness is his ignorance of Nature. The pertinacity with which he clings to blind opinions imbibed in his infancy, which interweave themselves with his existence, the consequent prejudice that warps his mind, that prevents its expansion, that renders him the slave of fiction, appears to doom him to continual error. He resembles a child destitute of experience, full of ideal notions: a dangerous leaven mixes itself with all his knowledge: it is of necessity obscure, it is vacillating and false:–He takes the tone of his ideas on the authority of others, who are themselves in error, or else have an interest in deceiving him.

To remove this Cimmerian darkness, these barriers to the improvement of his condition; to disentangle him from the clouds of error that envelope him; to guide him out of this Cretan labyrinth, requires the clue of Ariadne, with all the love she could bestow on Theseus. It exacts more than common exertion; it needs a most determined, a most undaunted courage–it is never effected but by a persevering resolution to act, to think for himself; to examine with rigor and impartiality the opinions he has adopted.

He will find that the most noxious weeds have sprung up beside beautiful flowers; entwined themselves around their stems, overshadowed them with an exuberance of foliage, choked the ground, enfeebled their growth, diminished their petals; dimmed the brilliancy of their colors; that deceived by their apparent freshness of their verdure, by the rapidity of their exfoliation, he has given them cultivation, watered them, nurtured them, when he ought to have plucked out their very roots.

Man seeks to range out of his sphere: notwithstanding the reiterated checks his ambitious folly experiences, he still attempts the impossible; strives to carry his researches beyond the visible world; and hunts out misery in imaginary regions. He would be a metaphysician before he has become a practical philosopher. He quits the contemplation of realities to meditate on chimeras. He neglects experience to feed on conjecture, to indulge in hypothesis.

He dares not cultivate his reason, because from his earliest days he has been taught to consider it criminal. He pretends to know his date in the indistinct abodes of another life, before he has considered of the means by which he is to render himself happy in the world he inhabits: in short, man disdains the study of Nature, except it be partially: he pursues phantoms that resemble an ignis-fatuus, which at once dazzle, bewilders, and frighten: like the benighted traveler led astray by these deceptive exhalations of a swampy soil, he frequently quits the plain, the simple road of truth, by pursuing of which, he can alone ever reasonably hope to reach the goal of happiness.

The most important of our duties, then, is to seek means by which we may destroy delusions that can never do more than mislead us. The remedies for these evils must be sought for in Nature herself; it is only in the abundance of her resources, that we can rationally expect to find antidotes to the mischiefs brought upon us by an ill directed, by an overpowering enthusiasm. It is time these remedies were sought; it is time to look the evil boldly in the face, to examine its foundations, to scrutinize its superstructure: reason, with its faithful guide experience, must attack in their entrenchments those prejudices, to which the human race has but too long been the victim. For this purpose reason must be restored to its proper rank,–it must be rescued from the evil company with which it is associated. It has been too long degraded –too long neglected–cowardice has rendered it subservient to delirium, the slave to falsehood. It must no longer be held down by the massive claims of ignorant prejudice.

The System of Nature: or The Laws of the Moral and Physical World

– Paul Henri Thiry d’Holbach, 1773.

As an aside, while reading this, I kept thinking, “This describes just about everyone I know.” Although Holbach may have been thinking about other types of ignorance and another type of reason, the passage still rang a bell. After all, look who we just elected President. The triumph of ignorance over reason right there. Look at our entire political culture. It’s all based on cultivated ignorance. Where’s the reason? There is none.

The only reason or logic that Americans follow is the logic that leads them to making more money. If it makes me money, it’s true. If it loses or costs me money, it’s false. That’s the reason by which most Americans live their lives. Obviously this leads to a lot of irrational if not insane decisions because the thing that costs you money is often a more rational decision than the decision that makes you money.

Guess what, Americans? I got some news for you.

Money does not equal truth.

Loss of money does not equal falsehood.

That’s a most peculiar moral philosophy we have set up for ourselves in this idiot Yahoo Country.

I know few people who want or try to challenge their core beliefs, which I believe is what Holbach is ultimately getting at above. The original purpose of this site – “If I Am Not Making You Mad, I Am Not Doing My Job” – was not to troll the world but instead to force readers to throw more of their beliefs up for grabs. I was out to challenge just about everything you believe in. Why? Because that’s what you need to do. You need to throw as much of your beliefs as possible up for grabs, as painful as that is. It’s very hard to do, so most just don’t bother.

About the book, this looks pretty cool. It was originally written in French, so that translation looks really cool. I am not sure if I could handle 993 pages of that prose though!

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Filed under American, Art, Culture, History, Intelligence, Modern, Music, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, Sociology, Writing

Talking Heads, “Heaven”

From 1979!

Great song! This is one of my all-time favorite bands. They were one of the first punk/new wave bands out, in their case out of the New York art school scene. All band members met in art school. David Byrne is a damned genius, and everyone else in the band was also very smart. I always loved Tina Weymouth, the chick on guitar. Their first album was actually called More Songs about Buildings and Food and was usually listed as a punk album alongside the Clash, the Pistols, etc. though they were always more weird and arty than punk.

Fear of Music, which this song is off, was the second album. It came out in 1979. It’s one of the best rock music albums ever made! This song is great, but really they are all great. The whole album is great from start to finish.

If you have never heard of this band, check them out. They’re glorious.

N.B. I saw the Talking Heads live at UCLA of all places in the summer of 1979 with some friends of mine. This was one of the first punk rock shows in LA. There were a lot of arty/nerdy college kid types there. UCLA is a very selective school, and you can’t get in unless you are wicked smart.

It was a great show! Oingo Boingo (if you have heard of them) were also there. That is another great old punk/new wave band from the old days.

Here are the lyrics. Even if you’re an atheist, it’s as great a song about Death and Heaven as has ever been written.

“Heaven – heaven is a place. A place where nothing – nothing ever happens.”

I’m not quite sure this is what the authors of the Bible had in mind, or, Hell, maybe they did. World-weariness is a thing as old as our race (and it’s always just a bit charming, especially in a handsome man of a certain age). It didn’t just sprout up in the age of Information Overload. No matter how much you love to run, you always reach a point where you just can’t go anymore, and you’ve just got to lie down, dammit. And I’ll be damned if it doesn’t feel good.

I was talking to a friend once, about death. What else is there to talk about, after all? All roads lead to the same destination. Think about it.

I asked him if he was scared.

“I don’t know Bob. I’m tired, Bob.”

Sure. Well, yeah. No train runs forever. They all run out of steam at some point, and there’s always an end of every line.

Then again, maybe Heaven is like a Chili’s where they never quite run out of applewood bacon. Which, you’ve got to admit, would be pretty cool right there, n’est pas? Better than most of my life anyway.

Last call! Last call!

Last call for alcohol! Last call for alcohol!

Hurry up boys, it’s time! Hurry up boys, it’s time!

See ya all on the other side!

Everyone is trying
To get to the bar
The name of the bar
The bar is called Heaven

The band in Heaven
Plays my favorite song
They play it once again
They play it all night long

Heaven
Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens

Heaven
Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens

There is a party
Everyone is there
Everyone will leave
At exactly the same time

It’s hard to imagine
That nothing at all
Could be so exciting
Could be this much fun.

Heaven
Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens

Heaven
Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens

Heaven
Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens

Heaven
Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens

When this kiss is over
It will start again
It will not be any different
It will be exactly the same

It’s hard to imagine
That nothing at all
Could be so exciting
Could be this much fun.

Heaven
Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens

Heaven
Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens

Heaven
Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens

Heaven
Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens

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Filed under California, Music, Punk, Regional, Rock, USA, West

Jefferson Airplane, “White Rabbit”

With fantastic visuals straight out of Alice in Wonderland. A book called Go Ask Alice came out in the 1970’s about a teenage girl who got all wrapped up into drugs and how much it screwed up her life. The lyrics in the song of course reference Alice in Wonderland, hence the refrain, “Go ask Alice.”

I saw this band at the Shiners Auditorium in 1974. LA had a police chief then who hated marijuana. There were all these flyers everywhere once you got inside saying, “This theater is not a haven for marijuana smoking,” signed by that police chief.

That chief was something of a joke to a lot of people because marijuana laws were openly flaunted at rock concerts in the 1970’s. Often people were smoking pot all around you, and we were often smoking it ourselves. The whole place usually smelled like pot, and it was not unusual to see huge clouds of marijuana smoke lofting up towards the ceiling at these indoor concerts. Outdoor concerts in baseball stadiums were much the same, pot smoking everywhere you turned around. Pot laws were a joke at those concerts, as in general they were simply never enforced, and you would have to arrest 10,000 people if you did try to enforce the law.

But at this concert, it was different. We were already blazed when we went in, and back in those early days of my pot smoking, a lot of marijuana trips were these bizarro space voyages. You were pretty much on another planet the whole time, and the whole experience was just insanely weird. Basically the experience boiled down to feeling the weirdest you ever felt in your whole life.

It was often frightening, but at the same time, I really like it because it was so damn weird. It was like going on some freako space voyage to another world every time you did it.

I also remember the first time I took LSD, and after that, the pot trips were a lot different. They were more colorful, and they were even more weirded out and unnerving if that was even possible. The pot trips were changed for a long time after that acid trip. I never figured out how the acid did that, but definitely that stuff has some weird lingering effect in your brain for a very long time afterwards. In time that went away, I suppose after I got more used to the stuff.

I also had a few of what I thought were LSD flashbacks, and those were unbelievably freaky too. More about that in another post. Possibly the weirdest and most unsettling things that have ever happened to me.

Anyway, they actually were enforcing the laws at this show. They had private security guards, and they were definitely grabbing people and hauling them away. The crowd booed every time they did that. One guy next to us balled up the crushed ice in his drink and threw it really hard at one of the guards. The ice ball hit him right in the head, and went down just like that! The whole crowd cheered. We smoked pot anyway at that concert, and so did the people around us. We were just very secretive about it.

A lot of us had long hair and hated cops back then over the drug laws. We’d see a cop and yell, “Fuck you, pig!”

When we saw them, they were the Jefferson Starship, but with the first few albums they were damn good. Gracie Slick was insanely out of this world. I think they actually opened with this haunting song, and the whole place roared. I must say it was quite a experience to see the Jefferson Airplane perform this song as the height of the career! Truly a peak experience!

This video has some of the lyrics wrong.

At the very end where it says, “Feed your head,” those are sheets of LSD. There’s 100 hits to a sheet. I was an acid dealer at one point in my life. I used to sell LSD, even in sheets. I remember one time I had 1,000 hits of LSD in my top drawer! It’s a good thing I didn’t get caught! 1,000 hits was a rather serious bust back then, but even with that, you would probably only do 3-4 months in jail. The laws are so much worse now.

God, I loved selling drugs! There’s no rush on Earth like the rush of being an outlaw. I’m not a criminal because I don’t like to harm others, but I can see why people take up crime. The rush you get from committing crimes and being a criminal is out of this world. There’s nothing like it. Fear, utter terror, extreme exhilaration. There’s also a very sneaky feeling like you are putting one over on everyone and getting away with it. You see a cop, and you want to laugh because he has no idea that you’re a criminal. It feels like being a spy or an undercover agent. Very sneaky feeling about it. We were always taking extreme precautions. We even had our own dealer lingo that we used to talk in, mostly on the phone. If you heard us talking on the phone, it might sound like nonsense because we had fake code words for so many things.

One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all

Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall

And if you go chasing rabbits, and you know you’re going to fall
Tell ’em a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call

And call Alice, when she was just small

When the men on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go
And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom, and your mind is moving slow

Go ask Alice, I think she’ll know

When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the white knight is talking backwards
And the red queen’s off with her head
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head, feed your head

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Filed under Cannabis, Crime, Dope, Hallucinogens, Intoxicants, Law, Law enforcement, LSD, Music, Rock

The Band, “The Weight”

Of course, this was Bob Dylan’s backup band. It was very hard to describe where they were coming from, sort of folksy redneck hippies or something. They had deep roots in the older American folk music tradition, especially from Appalachia.

From 1968. The Band was one of the all time great rock bands, but most people probably have not heard of them anymore. They had a number of other fantastic songs.

Gorgeous music.

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Filed under Folk, Music, Rock

Modern English “I Melt with You”

Great music from 1982! For some reason, I always thought this was a U2 song. I had forgotten all about Modern English. This is pretty much postpunk, new wave type music. 1982 was an excellent year for music like that. This is one incredibly beautiful song.

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Soft Rock from the 1970’s: John Denver, “Rocky Mountain High”

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Soft Rock from the 1970’s: Albert Hammond, “It Never Rains in Southern California”

Great music from the 1970’s! And it’s about Southern California, too! And it’s true! This song is never played anymore, but really it ought to be. It’s just too great to be left off the airways. It’s almost criminal not to play a song this great.

Albert Hammond was not well known, but he did have this one great hit. Love that hair too!

He’s mostly just a songwriter more than a singer. He wrote songs for Johnny Cash, Elton John, Mama Cass, The Association, Steppenwolf, Sonny & Cher, Johnny Mathis, Olivia Newton-John, Petula Clark, Jose Feliciano, Perry Como, Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, Helen Reddy, Glenn Campbell, The Oakridge Boys, The Carpenters, Jefferson Starship, Leo Sayer, Chicago, and a bunch of others you probably never heard of.

One more great song of the California Dream, which was all wrapped up in White California, which is dead and gone and mourned to this day, especially by me. It was one of those you had to be there times and places. Sorry if you missed it!

Lyrics. A hint to understanding this song. It’s not really about the weather. It’s about life, the ups and downs of life, specifically the Hollywood Dream and Los Angeles, the City of Angels itself. John Rechy, Nathaniel West, Dashiell Hammett, The Eagles, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Sunset Boulevard – the street and the movie. Fortune and misfortune at the edge of the Earth where the cliffs drop off into the sea. Where people go to die. Everyone goes to LA to die. Everyone. Get it?

Got on board a westbound seven forty-seven
Didn’t think before deciding what to do
Ooh, that talk of opportunities
TV breaks and movies
Rang true
Sure rang true

Seems it never rains in Southern California
Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
It never rains in California
But girl, don’t they warn ya?
It pours
Man, it pours

I’m out of work, I’m out of my head
Out of self respect, I’m out of bread
I’m underloved, I’m underfed,
I want to go home
It never rains in California
But girl, don’t they warn ya?
It pours
Man, it pours

Will you tell the folks back home I nearly made it?
Had offers but didn’t know which one to take
Please don’t tell ’em how you found me
Don’t tell ’em how you found me
Gimme a break
Give me a break

Seems it never rains in Southern California
Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
It never rains in California
But girl, don’t they warn ya?
It pours
Man, it pours

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Filed under California, Music, Regional, Rock, USA, West

Soft Rock from the 1970’s: Dr. Hook and the Medicine Band, “Sylvia’s Mother”

Great song from 1972, little remembered to this day. Sad song about a broken love affair, heart-crushing to listen to with those deadly creaky vocals even today. Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show are little known today, but they had a huge hit in On the Cover of the Rolling Stone, another great song from around the same time which is never played anymore. It was hugely popular back in the day. Great music from the early 1970’s!

Lyrics, written by Shel Silverstein, incredibly enough.

Sylvia’s mother says “Sylvia’s busy,
Too busy to come to the phone.”
Sylvia’s mother says, “Sylvia’s trying,
to start a new life of her own.”
Sylvia’s mother says “Sylvia’s happy,
So why don’t you leave her alone?”
And the operator says: “Forty cents more,
for the next three minutes.”

Please Mrs. Avery, I’ve just got to talk to her
I’ll only keep her a while.
Please Mrs. Avery, I just want to tell her
Goodbye.

Sylvia’s mother says, “Sylvia’s packing,
She’s going be leaving today.”
Sylvia’s mother says, “Sylvia’s marrying,
A fellow down Galveston-way.”
Sylvia’s mother says, “Please don’t say nothing
To make her start crying and stay.”
And the operator says: “Forty cents more
for the next three minutes.”

Please Mrs. Avery, I’ve just got to talk to her
I’ll only keep her a while.
Please Mrs. Avery, just want to tell her
Goodbye.

Sylvia’s mother says, “Sylvia’s hurrying,
She’s catching the nine o’clock train.”
Sylvia’s mother says: “Take your umbrella,
Cause Sylvia, it’s starting to rain.”
And Sylvia’s mother says, “Thank you for calling.
And sir, won’t you call back again?”
And the operator says, “Forty cents more
For the next three minutes.”

Please Mrs. Avery, I’ve just got to talk to her
I’ll only keep her a while
Please Mrs. Avery, just want to tell her
Goodbye
Tell her goodbye
Please, tell her goodbye
Goodbye

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Filed under Music, Rock