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The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Sun May 20, 2012 1:05 pm

On May 20th 35 years ago Elvis started on his penultimate tour. I thought it might be fun to follow this tour on a day-by-day basis. Not one of the best tours, certainly, but not as bad as could be expected, either... :)

The tour concentrated on the north-eastern part of the US, with 4 southern stops added as make-ups from the aborted March tour.

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May 20th 1977, Knoxville, Stokely Athletics Center (attendance 13000)


This was Elvis' 3rd visit to Knoxville in the 1970s, the previous ones being in 1972 and 1974. The Stokely Athletics Center is located on the University of Tennessee campus - currently it's slated to be torn down.
Stokely, which is described as having some major code issues, is scheduled to be demolished after being vacated in December 2012. In recent years, it has housed offices for a number of UT athletic officials as well as ROTC. Volleyball and indoor track practices are still held there. The original part of the structure opened as the 7,800-seat UT Armory Fieldhouse for basketball in 1958, with permanent seating on the west end and temporary seating elsewhere. It was enlarged to its current seating capacity of 12,700 in 1966 and renamed after a financial gift from canning industrialist William B. Stokely... Entertainment stars from Elvis Presley to comedian Steve Martin also performed there.

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Elvis arrived to the venue just minutes before he was to take the stage, presumably directly from Lisa Marie and Graceland. A former student of Dr. Nichopoulos, Fred Hurst, was backstage and had a brief glimpse of Elvis as he walked past him:
He arrived just before it was time for him to go on stage...he was pale, swollen, he had no stamina. He looked over to where I stood, someone told him I was a former student of Dr. Nick; he smiled, nodded his head - very friendly, very. He stayed in his dressing room for about 1 minute, and one of his head honchos (Esposito?) was repeating over and over "45 minutes now, 50 minutes at the most, no longer." ...When Elvis came on stage, I thought, Elvis Presley is a sick, sick man. The stress and the tension he's under will kill him.

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Guralnick's book, for example, certainly gave me the impression that Elvis was examined by a Knoxville physician, whereas in truth the said physician just had the brief glimpse. Dr. Nick was also in attendance, so there would have been no need for an outside physician, anyway. The big problem of the show on this date was the fact that the venue had no air-conditioning. From Dr. Nick's book:
Just minutes into the show, he was sweating profusely and working even harder to deliver over a substandard sound system. This won't last long, I thought, sympathizing with how pale and lethargic Elvis looked in his heavy stage clothes...he thanked the crowd for coming "to sweat with me...when the show's over, I'll only be three feet tall." As always, the audience appreciated his wit, and the rest of the night sailed along good-naturedly.

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Larry Geller also remembers this night:
He was visibly shaky, and his face, especially his eyes, reflected the fear that his efforts might fail. Standing next to him in the wings, I said quietly "Elvis, tell me something. How do you do it? How do you get onstage and perform feeling the way you do?" Elvis stood motionless, then said, "Larry, a man has to meet the occasion, no matter what it is. A real man rises to the occasion..." After a few songs, I looked up at Elvis from where I was kneeling at stage left and was astonished to see his face so radiant, the puffiness and pain gone. He had come back to life, for now.

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This was one of the shows conducted by Marty Harrell, who also would do the honors in Louisville the next night. After that Joe Guercio would take over for the rest of the tour - some have suggested that he was actively trying to avoid these duties now, but this seems to suggest just a scheduling conflict.

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The show itself had no surprises; Elvis was on stage about an hour. There is an audience recording of the show which I have not heard. The comments I've read indicate that while no disaster, this was a below average show, highlights being Hurt and How Great Thou Art, as was usual in this timeframe.

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2001 Theme / C.C. Rider / I Got a Woman -Amen / Love Me / If You Love Me Let Me Know / You Gave Me a Mountain / Jailhouse Rock / O Sole Mio - It's Now or Never / Little Sister / Teddy Bear - Don't Be Cruel / And I Love You So / How Great Thou Art / Introductions / Funny How Time Slips Away / Hurt / Hound Dog / Can't Help Falling in Love

The two local papers still refused to review an Elvis show; they'd had an altercation with Elvis' bodyguards back in 1972, and hadn't reviewed the 1974 show, either. The university student newspaper did review the show, and not very favorably:

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To Friday night’s Stokely Center audience, Elvis was still the King. But he is an aging king whose enthusiasm or talent for performing has nearly diminished and whose old material needs uplifting. Presley began his performance with the upbeat C.C. Ryder and was acting fairly energetic, prancing about and waving his guitar to the beat of the music. He then gave the audience a thrill with his ole hip shaking routine in between numbers. After that the act went down quickly...Women brought him all kinds of gifts. He received flowers, handmade decorated guitars, pillows, stuffed animals and even a picture with a note written on the back. To these people, Elvis will always be the King. He has made it as a sex symbol. He had his Elvis voice and his Elvis appeal and the audience showed Friday night that those qualities are all that matters.

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Elvis with just two of the many gifts he received that night. The photos I've used here are by Harold Newton and Bob Heis; the first candid is by Ersie Goins. And isn't that Mr. Newton in the left hand corner of the right hand pic taking a shot? I guess the shot he is about to take was in the TFC book on pages 179-180...? I wonder why the said book had no review from this show: could it be it was because they could not find it at elvisconcerts.com...? :twisted:

Following the show, Elvis flew directly to Louisville arriving there just after midnight - but that's a story for another day. :)

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Sun May 20, 2012 1:24 pm

Great job, thnx Tom

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Sun May 20, 2012 2:31 pm

Many thanks Tom for sharing this great job :D

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Sun May 20, 2012 4:43 pm

Thanks Tom.
A tour with ups and downs..

At this point, getting Elvis up on stage was a challenge itself.
Once on stage, he still made his fans happy...

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Sun May 20, 2012 9:58 pm

Thank you Tom,

great topic !

Ed

The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Sun May 20, 2012 10:20 pm

Great stuff Tom. Thanks!

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Mon May 21, 2012 2:11 am

Very nice post, you put a lot of work into it to make a vivid, complete story.

Thank you for creating this. One tiny request: is it possible to make the newspaper review scans large enough to read? If you do so, and attach them as a file, they will not disrupt your layout.

Thanks again.

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Mon May 21, 2012 2:22 am

Looking forward to your Providence recap. Thanks for doing this. Feel free to borrow my avatar.

Poor man looks so terribly uncomfortable and unhealthy.

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Mon May 21, 2012 2:37 am

Could someone go check on Ian? All these pictures got me worried.

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Mon May 21, 2012 9:31 pm

Thanks for the nice comments, let's continue, if a little late...

May 21st, Louisville, KY: Freedom Hall (attendance 19000)

As already mentioned, Elvis left Knoxville right after the concert and arrived in Louisville shortly after midnight.

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This was the fourth visit to Louisville, and only 10 months after the previous one in July 1976. The venue for the concert was the Freedom Hall as in all other appearances before this one - "a huge building in the middle of the state fair grounds." It is still used regularly, hosting concerts, horse shows, conventions, and basketball games.

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Elvis stayed at the Executive Inn, about three minutes ride from Freedom Hall. The hotel has since fallen on harder times. :wink: There is even a website commemorating this hotel: http://executive-inn-louisville.blogspot.com/

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It was here that according to Larry Geller Elvis' head was dunked in a bucket of ice water by Dr. Nick to revive him: this was witnessed by the Colonel also. Naturally, Elvis was none too happy about the Colonel barging in on him and possibly because of this he had new plans the following day...given the state he was in just a few hours before the show ("I feel whipped, like a fondue."), it is not apparent in the way heperformed or in the way he looked. If anything, he looked more alert on this date than in Knoxville.

Elvis left for the concert in the evening, accompanied by Ginger Alden. If the dunking incident is true, what was Larry thinking watching his boss get in his limo?

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A few minutes later, he hit the stage:

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In the audience were at least 4 Elvis photographers that I know of: Len Leech

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Nancy Cunningham

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Ken White

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and Michael Wathen

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in addition to a couple of thousand Instamatics, I'm sure. :)

Again, I can't comment too much on this show. It is out on cd-r audience recording, which I've still to hear- it has been rated better than average for the period.

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C.C. Rider / I Got a Woman -Amen / That's All Right / Love Me / If You Love Me / You Gave Me a Mountain / Jailhouse Rock / O Sole Mio - It's Now or Never / Little Sister / Teddy Bear -Don't Be Cruel / My Way / Heartbreak Hotel / Funny How Time Slips Away / Introductions / Hurt / Hound Dog / Can't Help Falling in Love
Of interest are the outings for That's All Right and Heartbreak Hotel, and an earlier than usual appearance of Funny How Time Slips Away. On the other hand, we have a case of the QCS (Quick Close Syndrome) with Hurt - Hound Dog - CHFIL after the intros... :roll:

The show was reviewed by the local paper, which noted the similarities of this show to previous ones - hence Elvis Rerun...

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So it went last night as Elvis Presley – the once, present and future king of rock ’n’ roll – came to Louisville for the third time in four years to prove, again, that even in middle age he still can turn on a crowd unlike anyone in show business. You’d think, after awhile, that even the most ardent Elvis fan would grow weary of the show. The performance last night was essentially the same one he did here four years ago. The same songs, the same souvenir hucksters selling “Super Elvis Treasures”, the same warm-up groups, the same comedian with the same tired jokes.

But the true-blue Elvis fan cares not a whit. Never mind that the show seems set in granite, or that Elvis has this bad habit of mumbling into the microphone so nobody past the first few rows can hear. All that matters is the opportunity to see and hear their idol.

To his credit, Elvis looked pretty good. His hair and eyebrows were jet black and his waistline, while a bit pudgy, was not out of control. On the whole, he looked considerably better than most guys in their early 40s. The voice was still there, too. From C.C. Rider to That’s All Right Mama to Jailhouse Rock to Hurt Elvis proved that the pipes still are there. And of course, he is still the only man in America who can simply glance over his shoulder – or wiggle his left thigh – and turn thousands of women into stark-raving animals.

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After the show, it was again straight to the airport and towards Baltimore where he would set up camp next. But that, as they say, is another story... :wink:

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Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Mon May 21, 2012 9:56 pm

Again, great post and I particularly like this one.
People sitting few rows below must have had one of those "obstructed view" seats!

Rob, great memories for you!

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Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Tue May 22, 2012 6:28 am

Great stuff Tom Wilson I really enjoy posts like this.

The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Tue May 22, 2012 7:37 am

Two thumbs up Tom

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Tue May 22, 2012 10:51 am

great posts, thanks Tom

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Tue May 22, 2012 11:12 am

Wonderful post ,thanks Tom ::rocks

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Tue May 22, 2012 2:09 pm

Thanks, Tom. We'll see you in Largo tonight.

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Tue May 22, 2012 2:15 pm

Really fantastic stuff! Thanks for the hard work. I particulary like the long-distance shot of Elvis coming on stage. Something about that is very cool. Bravo!

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Tue May 22, 2012 7:00 pm

Landover, MD May 22nd; Capital Centre (attendance 19000)
Having left Louisville around midnight, Elvis' arrival in Baltimore took place the wee hours of the morning, which might account for the lack of candids from the arrival. He lodged in the Baltimore Hilton for his stay in the area. According to Larry Geller he enjoyed five Banana Splits for breakfast in preparation for the evening's show.

The show was held in the Capital Centre. This was the second time Elvis visited the arena after the first one less than a year earlier. Capital Centre was built in 1973 and demolished in 2002. It served as a home to Washington Capital NHL team, for example, for 23 years. The arena featured luxury suites and instant-replay screens.
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The arena's implosion can be found at YouTube:
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As there are no candids that I know of Elvis outside the arena, let's move inside:

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As can be seen, Joe Guercio is back conducting and would remain there until the end of this tour. The sound system irritated Elvis this evening, and he switched microphones during the show. He also complained about how their sound system had blown up in Saginaw the previous tour. As he leaves he also comments that "the next time we will have our sound system right." That regrettably was never proven...

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Of the well known photographers at least Len Leech (above) and Phil Gelormine were in the audience:

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This is the first show of this tour which has been released on CD, way back in 1994 (the cover photo is from Rochester a few days later):

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C.C. Rider / I Got a Woman - Amen / Love Me / Fairytale / You Gave Me a Mountain / Jailhouse Rock / Funny How Time Slips Away / O Sole Mio - It's Now Or Never / Little Sister / Teddy Bear - Don't Be Cruel / My Way / Introductions / Danny Boy ( S. Nielsen) / Walk with Me (S. Nielsen) / Hound Dog / Can't Help Falling in Love
To my ears it's in above average sound quality, with an OK performance up to the point where Elvis starts to complain about the sound system - this seems to sap the show whatever energy it had. Even My Way sounds very ordinary tonight; and Hurt is missing altogether. Sherill Nielsen is brought out to pad the show out to decent length. Kinda pity, because it sounded at the beginning like it could have been a good show, with Elvis urging the band the "slow down" at the end of C.C. Rider.

I've been able to locate 3 reviews for this show, from Baltimore Sun and Washington papers Post and Star :

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The Washington reviews can be found at elvisconcerts.com, but here are a few quotes from the Baltimore review:
After more than 20 years, Elvis Presley remains the king of rock and roll. But anyone going to the Civic Center Sunday night to see his show should be prepared to wince and perhaps weep a little in between the clapping the screaming and the exciting music. At the Capital Centre Sunday, his face was puffy and pasty, his hair was dyed the same terrible color that Hubert Humphrey once tried and his paunch was only emphasized by the wide wrestler’s belt he wore. He sometimes stumbled, mumbled, giggled self-consciously and forgot names.

And yet as unattractive as Presley was by any objective evaluation, his hold on the audience was practically total and his singing was strong, fluid and often lovely. Presley is such a little boy, pouting when the microphone cut out – or when he thought it cut out – grinning cutely for the women under the beehive hairdos and acting the sullen tough when the song demanded it. He seemed to enjoy himself for the hour he was on stage, but he also seemed tired and, for a very brief moment or two, baffled as to what he was doing there.

A woman nearby said she thought it was pathetic the way the over-40 Elvis tried to perpetuate his old self. Why couldn’t he, she suggested, dress conservatively, act his age and move through his years more gracefully? This woman she attended the concert because her friends happened to have a free ticket and her reaction probably was shared by a number of mid-range fans. I think the vast majority of the audience, however, got off on Elvis just as he appeared. They, too, seemed to know that, although they looked a trifle funny as they grew older in tight pants, silly make-up and old-fashioned ideas, they kind of like it that way, and the rest of the planet be damned

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Of course, parts of this show can be viewed from YouTube by way of the TFC box:

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After the show, it was again straight to Baltimore airport and the flight to Providence...

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Tue May 22, 2012 11:58 pm

Right on Tom!
Elvis in Washington DC area..

The show could have been a solid one, but the (well sung) Nielsen cuts and a rapid finish leaves a bitter taste.
A hipshaking Hound dog ending plus an amazing final note on CHFIL were not enough to call it a success.

Sound on the boot is great.

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Wed May 23, 2012 12:47 am

Loving this thread. ::rocks

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Wed May 23, 2012 2:46 am

Great thread but that was a short-changed show in Largo.

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Wed May 23, 2012 9:32 pm

Providence, RI May 23rd; Providence Civic Center (attendance 13500)

I begin this part with some trepidation knowing certain members attended this show; perhaps elvisjock can then correct whatever mistakes and omissions will have crept in. :)

Again, I'm not aware of any candids taken of Elvis' arrival in Providence; this would have taken place in the early morning hours. Anyway, he stayed at Cranston Hilton Inn during his stay in Providence.

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The concert was held in the local Civic Center (today the Dunkin' Donuts Center). It was built in 1972, as a home court for the emerging Providence College men's basketball program. Current tenants include the Providence Bruins, of the AHL and the Providence College men's basketball team. The interior shot below was shot before a Grateful Dead concert in 1979.

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This was Elvis' third visit to Providence - another shot of the interior shows the 1974 concert setup, which, I presume, looked very similar 3 years later

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Without further ado, let's jump into the concert itself.

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Of the known fan photographers only Len Leech was present at this show.

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Just last year, the show appeared on CD on the famed Straight Arrow label. The release had new-to-me photos from the concert in its booklet along with a short article by FECC's own elvisjock:

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C.C. Rider / I Got a Woman - Amen / Love Me / If You Love Me / You Gave Me a Mountain / Jailhouse Rock / O Sole Mio - It’s Now or Never / Little Sister / Teddy Bear - Don’t Be Cruel / Funny How Time Slips Away / My Way / Introductions / Hurt / Hound Dog / Can’t Help Falling in Love
I would rate the sound quality of this release below the one from 22nd: it's a bit too echoey to my taste. The show itself is a step up from the previous day, with Hurt being back in the lineup. Of special note is the final appearance of Funny How Time Slips Away in an Elvis concert. At the end of the show he mentions how they're trying out a new sound system - it feels like he's still not happy with it. The sound issues would bother some of the other shows on this tour, also. All in all, this sounds like a solid, if unremarkable, show.

I'm aware of two different newspaper reviews for this show: one by the local Journal and the one circulated by UPI on different papers around the US - I wonder if any other area papers reviewed this show?

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Here's the UPI review photo in bit better quality:

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The UPI story said in part:
Elvis Presley and his female fans are growing middle-aged together - and the ladies are as adoring as ever. Presley doesn't move as much as he did in the 1950s when he hit stardom as "Elvis the Pelvis." But that didn't bother the 13,500 fans who jammed into the Providence Civic Center Monday night. Some among those who paid $10 to $15 for their 60 minutes of ecstasy complained Presley had gotten fat. Others said he didn't wiggle enough. But they all loved him.
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The local paper was very favorable in its review:
There was a point last night, during Elvis concert at the Civic Center, when started to sing "My Way." The first reaction was to bridle...But he was tremendous. Sure those lyrics about "biting it off and spitting it out" and stuff are so contrived as to be totally ridiculous., but Presley's performance saved them, hard as that may be to believe. Singing as though he really meant what he was singing, really putting his heart into, he reminded us all that he really has done it his way. The former truck driver from Tupelo, Miss., who scandalized all the 40-year-olds with his hip-shaking and such, who posed such a threat to society as we knew it, is a star now, and a big one.

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From the TFC set, parts of this show also can be found at Youtube:

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Let's close this part with two additional photos: first the photo which probably circulated most widely after Elvis' death in papers around the world - it was taken this night:

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Then a typical Instamatic candid taken from a far away seat - elvisjock's blurry candid starts to look pretty good after seeing this! :)

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This time I can't tell whether Elvis left immediately for Portland, ME. It was such a short hop that he could have made it the next day - anyone know for sure? OK, although I've never been to Maine, that's where we will meet up with Elvis tomorrow - 35 years ago.

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Thu May 24, 2012 12:35 am

It was a Monday night in 1977, the eve of my 12th birthday.

I took a bit of abuse next morning, in the schoolyard. In May, 1977 it was hardly considered cool for a kid to attend an Elvis Presley concert. KISS or Barry Manilow was cool, not Elvis.

My school was K through 6. That June, while Elvis was out on his last tour, I graduated from May Street School. In September, 1970, when I started Kindergarten, Elvis was very much on top of the world as he wrapped up the TTWII engagement. It's hard to fathom what happened to him in that relatively brief period of time.

Great work, Tom. See you in Augusta tomorrow.

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Thu May 24, 2012 2:21 am

Wonderful and insightful thread Tom! Thanks a lot and keep it coming.

Re: The penultimate tour: 35th anniversary

Thu May 24, 2012 2:31 am

Here's a few shots I've acquired over the years.
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