Jimmy Webb's Immortal "Wichita Lineman"

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One of the immortal songs of the last 50 years.
Hell, even Kool & the Gang covered it on Live at the Sex Machine.
How fuckin' cool is the tremolo too? A great tribute to the working man.

Polo Pony, Thursday, 16 January 2003 06:54 (11 years ago) Permalink

There's a great rendition of it by Urge Overkill on a 7" from way back when.

mosurock (mosurock), Thursday, 16 January 2003 07:07 (11 years ago) Permalink

That does sound very smooth. I liked Urge Overkill's cover of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon." I'm not a Tarantino hater either. I think it's lazy to dismiss him as a hack. Actually, I'm amazed "Wichita Lineman" isn't in a Tarantino soundtrack. Or is it?

Polo Pony, Thursday, 16 January 2003 07:12 (11 years ago) Permalink

glenn campbell's version would be in my top 10 of orl tyme. i've never heard urge overkill cover it and i never want to.

michael wells (michael w.), Thursday, 16 January 2003 09:39 (11 years ago) Permalink

There's a terrible version by BEF (i.e. Heaven 17) on their 1982 Music Of Quality And Distinction Vol 1 album.

Marcello Carlin, Thursday, 16 January 2003 09:43 (11 years ago) Permalink

Wasn't it a ripoff of Bowie's "Starman"?

dave q, Thursday, 16 January 2003 11:24 (11 years ago) Permalink

?

michael wells (michael w.), Thursday, 16 January 2003 11:29 (11 years ago) Permalink

"Wichita Lineman" was written before "Starman", surely !?

robin carmody (robin carmody), Thursday, 16 January 2003 11:50 (11 years ago) Permalink

of course it was.

michael wells (michael w.), Thursday, 16 January 2003 11:52 (11 years ago) Permalink

I like it, it's nice. Great drums at the end.

Nick Southall (Nick Southall), Thursday, 16 January 2003 11:56 (11 years ago) Permalink

think dave q is being facetious yo...

but i agree...they're the same song!

wichita lineman is the better of the two though. in fact, its the best song ever (apart from ooh i like it)

gareth (gareth), Thursday, 16 January 2003 11:59 (11 years ago) Permalink

yeah, i wondered whether dave q. was having a giggle, hence the non-comittal "?".

michael wells (michael w.), Thursday, 16 January 2003 12:02 (11 years ago) Permalink

btw, gareth is otm except that it is the frankie knuckles remix of rufus & chaka khan's 'ain't nobody' and not 'ooh i like it' that is slightly better than 'wichita lineman'.

michael wells (michael w.), Thursday, 16 January 2003 12:09 (11 years ago) Permalink

Freedy Johnston used to play it fairly frequently during his post-This Perfect World "residence" phase here in town.

TMFTML (TMFTML), Thursday, 16 January 2003 14:27 (11 years ago) Permalink

I don't see why it's so great and I don't think it sounds like Starman. Sometimes you lot confuse me quite a lot.

N. (nickdastoor), Thursday, 16 January 2003 14:29 (11 years ago) Permalink

Starman is a ripoff of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, as any fule kno.

bham, Thursday, 16 January 2003 14:32 (11 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, I can see that more.

N. (nickdastoor), Thursday, 16 January 2003 14:36 (11 years ago) Permalink

gorgeous, perfect song. heard smokey robinson and the miracles' cover? its, erm, interesting...

stevie (stevie), Thursday, 16 January 2003 17:10 (11 years ago) Permalink

Mick Ronson's phased-wah? + lush strings riff in "Starman" is very similar to strings in "Wichita Lineman." Just in one part. Both songs are amazing, but Jimmy Webb simply outshines Mick Ronson as a songwriter and producer.

Polo Pony, Thursday, 16 January 2003 17:16 (11 years ago) Permalink

Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" is almost as good. I really like both Issac Hayes & Nick Cave's versions.

Urge O. was a pretty good cover band. Their version of "Emmaline" by Hot Chocolate is also nifty.

earlnash, Thursday, 16 January 2003 20:36 (11 years ago) Permalink

There'll be a load of compromisin'
On the way to my horizon

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Thursday, 16 January 2003 21:29 (11 years ago) Permalink

what's wichita line man about anyway?

gaz (gaz), Thursday, 16 January 2003 22:02 (11 years ago) Permalink

Also Search: Optiganally Yours' cover of "Wichita Lineman"

T. Weiss (Timmy), Thursday, 16 January 2003 22:15 (11 years ago) Permalink

I came two seconds close to doing a 2 hour Witchita Lineman show for a radio station fundraiser. I think after searching for songs we decided to cut it to 1 hour and then I eventually had to give up the idea because I thought it would be overkill. Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle) does a kickass version.

One time at this pub where Finley Quaye was playing snooker I put Witchita Lineman on the juke to play 4 times in a row, thinking if he was down he would show some pleasure. Sad to say not a single person in the pub jumped for joy on hearing the song 4 times in a row.

Carey, Thursday, 16 January 2003 23:38 (11 years ago) Permalink

Cassandra Wilson sings a nice version.

briania, Friday, 17 January 2003 00:24 (11 years ago) Permalink

I arrive back from the wilderness (well,Denmark actually) and not a moment too soon.

Wichita Lineman is the greatest song ever made and here's why:

1. The descending base intro (played by Carole Bayer Sager apparently). Well, it's just perfect isn't it? a five note orgasm of the senses.

2. The imagery. there are only 37 different words in the whole of the song, Bob Dylan never created an image as evocative as this in his whole musical career of 3 and a half billion words.

3. The poetry of the thing. It's only possible comparison is Wordsworth's "Solitary reaper" for sheer poetic beauty.

4. Martin Carr from Boo radleys, Bill Drummond from KLF/K foundation and Bob Stanley from St ettienne (3 people with impeccible taste) all agree.

It's good to be back.hi everyone.

kris england, Friday, 17 January 2003 01:21 (11 years ago) Permalink

One question I still don't know the answer to is whether the lineman works in Wichita, Kansas or around Wichita Falls, TX (Wichita County). I have lived both places.

Aaron A., Friday, 17 January 2003 01:49 (11 years ago) Permalink

Search: 'Houston Lawman' by Culturcide, the best 'Witchita Lineman' cover ever

Destroy: Martin Carr

Andrew L (Andrew L), Friday, 17 January 2003 07:56 (11 years ago) Permalink

Carole *Kaye* on bass, I'd imagine.

Yep, Jimmy is God, & this is one of his best.

harveyw (harveyw), Friday, 17 January 2003 14:09 (11 years ago) Permalink

2 years pass...
I arrive back from the wilderness (well,Denmark actually) and not a moment too soon.

Wichita Lineman is the greatest song ever made and here's why:

1. The descending base intro (played by Carole Bayer Sager apparently). Well, it's just perfect isn't it? a five note orgasm of the senses.

2. The imagery. there are only 37 different words in the whole of the song, Bob Dylan never created an image as evocative as this in his whole musical career of 3 and a half billion words.

3. The poetry of the thing. It's only possible comparison is Wordsworth's "Solitary reaper" for sheer poetic beauty.

4. Martin Carr from Boo radleys, Bill Drummond from KLF/K foundation and Bob Stanley from St ettienne (3 people with impeccible taste) all agree.

It's good to be back.hi everyone.

-- kris england (jimmywebbisgo...) (webmail), January 17th, 2003 1:21 AM. (link)


5. the string surges and weird break-through notes on the organ that evoke a telegraph

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 04:39 (9 years ago) Permalink

this is one of the greatest songs ever written.

mark p (Mark P), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 04:44 (9 years ago) Permalink

Carole Kaye is the greatest bass player known to this earth.

gygax! (gygax!), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 04:47 (9 years ago) Permalink

Freedy Johnston used to play it fairly frequently during his post-This Perfect World "residence" phase here in town.
Yup. When I saw him, that Gerard Depardieu-looking guy from the Blood Oranges did an excellent job on that bassy lead guitar part.

5. the string surges and weird break-through notes on the organ that evoke a telegraph
Songs Featuring A Guitar Lick That Sounds Like A Signal Coming Down A Telegraph Wire

Ken L (Ken L), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 05:03 (9 years ago) Permalink

is it really a guitar lick?

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 05:20 (9 years ago) Permalink

Now I'm not so sure. I thought it was trebly guitar.

what's wichita line man about anyway?
I thought it was about the guy who climbs up the telephone poles and maintains or fixes those long distance lines- the irony being that he is facilitating everybody else's phone calls while he is stuck out there all by his lonesome unable to talk to the one he loves. Or maybe he fixed train lines, or maybe he fixed telephone lines that ran in parallel to train lines.

Ken L (Ken L), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 05:22 (9 years ago) Permalink

I just put this on
my "country that doesn't suck"
CD for my friend

glen campbell's voice is
underrated for real though,
he nails that last note

Haibun (Begs2Differ), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 05:44 (9 years ago) Permalink

The imagery. there are only 37 different words in the whole of the song

53 by my count.

fact checking cuz (fcc), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 06:43 (9 years ago) Permalink

...of which 44 are one-syllable words, the poet's best friend.

fact checking cuz (fcc), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 06:49 (9 years ago) Permalink

the saddest song ever, and one of the most beautiful ever written. I'd hate to ever hear a cover, because Glen Campbell nails it. the baritone guitar does it for me, i think, and the pick up at the end. a beautiful, beautiful song.

did you catch Belle and Sebastian's tip-of-the-hat in 'Photo Jenny'?

derrick (derrick), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 07:46 (9 years ago) Permalink

i need you more than want you...

polyphonic (polyphonic), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 07:49 (9 years ago) Permalink

saddest line ever.

derrick (derrick), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 07:57 (9 years ago) Permalink

...and i want you for all time. greatest lyrical couplet in all popular music.

glen played his own bass on "wichita lineman."

also recommended: jimmy webb's own rendition on his solo Ten Easy Pieces album - the piano accentuates the song's hidden bill evans harmonies.

Marcello Carlin, Wednesday, 19 January 2005 08:01 (9 years ago) Permalink

One of the greatest songs ever. Absolutely purrfekt.

Jay Vee (Manon_70), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 10:03 (9 years ago) Permalink

6. the rolling guitar arpeggios in the verses. someone will mention the drums in a minute and then we'll have every element in the song seperately listed as a reason for its perfection!

debden, Wednesday, 19 January 2005 10:17 (9 years ago) Permalink

just reading this thread and thinking about this song sends shivers down my spine. and yes, it's all to do with that "i need you more than want you" line. why is it not on my iPod? bugger.

grimly fiendish (grimlord), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 14:02 (9 years ago) Permalink

yes...and the way he sings 'need a vacation' and the line about the strain....

its genius. the 'I need you' is one of the single greatest lines in western art.

who produced it? its got this golden lustre to it

Campbells voice is under rated......he sings Galveston beautifully as well. Didnt he sing/play on some Beach Boys records?

Carel Fabritius (Fabritius), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 14:10 (9 years ago) Permalink

producer: al de lory.

campbell toured as a beach boy in '64/5 after brian dropped out of doing gigs. plays guitar on pet sounds, SMiLE passim, as well as being a spector/wall of sound regular.

brian wrote and produced glen's 1965 why-wasn't-it-a-hit "guess i'm dumb" single. glen is also the lead vocalist on "my world fell down" by sagittarius, which record had input from bruce johnstone and brian wilson (the sound FX in the middle section were originally intended for the "in the cantina" section of "heroes & villains").

Marcello Carlin, Wednesday, 19 January 2005 14:15 (9 years ago) Permalink

The version by the Scud Mountain Boys on 'Pine Box' (or 'The Early Year') is really, really lovely.

aldo_cowpat (aldo_cowpat), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 14:15 (9 years ago) Permalink

Justus Köhncke's version is pretty great too but, as derrick said, Glen Campbell's version is the one.

jed_ (jed), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 14:25 (9 years ago) Permalink

in fact i thought Campbell's was the original til now.

jed_ (jed), Wednesday, 19 January 2005 14:27 (9 years ago) Permalink

Am I crazy that I don't see what's so great about this song? I always find the chorus really clunky "The Witchita lineman is still on the line." It sounds like a rejected ad campaign slogan or something.


I like Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb, too.

Hurting (Hurting), Friday, 5 August 2005 14:27 (8 years ago) Permalink

Am I crazy that I don't see what's so great about this song

yes. it is the essence of music itself.

grimly fiendish (grimlord), Friday, 5 August 2005 15:05 (8 years ago) Permalink

3 months pass...
By the way if, by any chance, you wanna learn how to play this song on guitar and then try to find out the chords on the interweb, there's always one chord they get wrong - but which I sat down and worked out one day, I don't know what you call it but it's perfect
Well?

k/l (Ken L), Wednesday, 30 November 2005 16:08 (8 years ago) Permalink

Possibly F6(9) right before "But it don't look like rain"?

everything, Wednesday, 30 November 2005 17:01 (8 years ago) Permalink

I think that's it except we played it in G - all it is holding all the strings down at the G fret with one finger, an open chord I believe it's called

Oh No, It's Dadaismus (and His Endless Stupid Jokes) (Dada), Thursday, 1 December 2005 13:26 (8 years ago) Permalink

i am a linesman for notts county

hold tight the private caller (mwah), Thursday, 1 December 2005 15:09 (8 years ago) Permalink

does anyone know how to play Webb's "P.F. Sloan"? I was truly excited recently to talk to P.F. Sloan on the phone, he was here in Nashville recording a new album with Jon Tiven and a bunch of people. Very nice fellow, he played the Bluebird (I ended up writing the blurb for the show) but I missed it, because the same night the ultra-rare Eggleston film/video "Stranded in Canton" played.

I think that F6-9 is right for "Wichita," by the way--I've always played it in F major.

edd s hurt (ddduncan), Thursday, 1 December 2005 17:02 (8 years ago) Permalink

2 years pass...

Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9x_1Ri3XxE&feature=related

James Redd and the Blecchs, Sunday, 30 March 2008 02:19 (6 years ago) Permalink

Worthy of note: It still pains Jimmy Webb to this day that he "falsely" rhymed time with line.

libcrypt, Sunday, 30 March 2008 02:27 (6 years ago) Permalink

Heard him confess this on Fresh Air.

libcrypt, Sunday, 30 March 2008 02:28 (6 years ago) Permalink

Jimmy Webb is a grumpy old man.

James Redd and the Blecchs, Sunday, 30 March 2008 02:29 (6 years ago) Permalink

I just want to say the comment section in that Glen Campbell youtube link above is the greatest thing I have ever read in my entire life.

kornrulez6969, Sunday, 30 March 2008 03:50 (6 years ago) Permalink

One of my favourite songs ever

'And I need you more than want you and I want you for all time'

The Urge Overkill version is worth a listen. MASSIVE open, alt- tuned chords.I just love the last eight bars. It finishes on one of those lovely suspended chords. If anybody knows the chord, please let me know!

The original is the best though. What a voice!

Fer Ark, Sunday, 30 March 2008 21:19 (6 years ago) Permalink

1 year passes...

the reunion album is v. good

figuratively, but in a very real way (amateurist), Saturday, 12 December 2009 02:44 (4 years ago) Permalink

2 years pass...

Somebody on my Facebook just shared a video of this song, seeing fit to add the caption "Bitches love a lineman!" to the post.

Electro-Shock Rory (C. Grisso/McCain), Friday, 29 June 2012 04:00 (2 years ago) Permalink

Really dumb but very touching misinterpretation of the song by its best interpreter at the end of this:

Three Word Username, Friday, 29 June 2012 07:00 (2 years ago) Permalink

Would love to see that version of "Daddy Sang Bass" in its entirety

ratso piazzolla (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 29 June 2012 11:24 (2 years ago) Permalink

no one mention freedy johnston's version yet?
pretty solid.

jimmy_chop, Friday, 29 June 2012 13:42 (2 years ago) Permalink

No, it was mentioned a few times.

ratso piazzolla (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 29 June 2012 13:53 (2 years ago) Permalink

One of the greatest songs ever.

Hell, even Kool & the Gang covered it on Live at the Sex Machine

This was so mindblowing to me when I found out about it. I mean what now?

(✿◠‿◠) (ENBB), Friday, 29 June 2012 13:56 (2 years ago) Permalink

Went on Spotify and didn't see Kool and the Gang version but did find one by Dennis Brown.

ratso piazzolla (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 29 June 2012 14:47 (2 years ago) Permalink

OK, got it thx.

ratso piazzolla (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 29 June 2012 14:51 (2 years ago) Permalink

We discussed the GC farewell tour a little on this thread Glen Campbell: Outlaw!

ratso piazzolla (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 29 June 2012 15:27 (2 years ago) Permalink

Obviously the best song ever written. Maria McKee does a particularly haunting version of it.

Everything You Like Sucks, Friday, 29 June 2012 19:34 (2 years ago) Permalink

1 year passes...

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Saturday, 27 July 2013 00:43 (11 months ago) Permalink

well shit

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Saturday, 27 July 2013 00:45 (11 months ago) Permalink

damn, Glen's people are fast!

Remember! The cormorant is a big brrd. It has got a long neck. (unregistered), Saturday, 27 July 2013 00:46 (11 months ago) Permalink

Love this one. Looks like Glen is on some other planet with a 6-string bass.

Elvis Telecom, Saturday, 27 July 2013 00:48 (11 months ago) Permalink

(and one of my favorite covers of it)

Elvis Telecom, Saturday, 27 July 2013 00:49 (11 months ago) Permalink

pplains, Saturday, 27 July 2013 02:11 (11 months ago) Permalink

i'm currently working out a cover of this for my cabaret project.

hannah arendt you glad you didn't say banana (get bent), Saturday, 27 July 2013 02:56 (11 months ago) Permalink

Love this one. Looks like Glen is on some other planet with a 6-string bass.

That's the Jaguar Baritone guitar.

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Saturday, 27 July 2013 05:19 (11 months ago) Permalink

Baritone guitar suggestions?

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Saturday, 27 July 2013 05:19 (11 months ago) Permalink

That's the Jaguar Baritone guitar.

Nope. It's a Bass VI - three pickups instead of the two on the Jag baritone. More to the point, Jag baritones weren't made until 2004.

Elvis Telecom, Saturday, 27 July 2013 05:43 (11 months ago) Permalink

(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fender_Bass_VI ) - "Glen Campbell used a Fender Bass VI (borrowed from fellow Wrecking Crew musician Carol Kaye to play the solo heard on his songs "Wichita Lineman" and "Galveston"."

Elvis Telecom, Saturday, 27 July 2013 05:45 (11 months ago) Permalink

http://www.americansongwriter.com/2012/01/behind-the-song-wichita-lineman/

“He and (producer) Al DeLory were obviously looking for a follow-up to ‘Phoenix.’ And I remember writing ‘Wichita Lineman’ that afternoon. That was a song I absolutely wrote for Glen.”

It was the first time he had written a song expressly for another artist. But had he conceived any part of “Wichita” before that call?

“Not really,” Jimmy says. “I mean I had a lot of ‘prairie gothic’ images in my head. And I was writing about the common man, the blue-collar hero who gets caught up in the tides of war, as in ‘Galveston,’ or the guy who’s driving back to Oklahoma because he can’t afford a plane ticket (‘Phoenix’). So it was a character that I worked with in my head. And I had seen a lot of panoramas of highways and guys up on telephone wires … I didn’t want to write another song about a town, but something that would be in the ballpark for him.”

So even though it was written specifically for Glen, he still wanted it to be a ‘character’ song?

“Well, I didn’t want it to be about a rich guy!” he laughs. “I wanted it to be about an ordinary fellow. Billy Joel came pretty close one time when he said ‘Wichita Lineman’ is ‘a simple song about an ordinary man thinking extraordinary thoughts.’ That got to me; it actually brought tears to my eyes. I had never really told anybody how close to the truth that was.

“What I was really trying to say was, you can see someone working in construction or working in a field, a migrant worker or a truck driver, and you may think you know what’s going on inside him, but you don’t. You can’t assume that just because someone’s in a menial job that they don’t have dreams … or extraordinary concepts going around in their head, like ‘I need you more than want you; and I want you for all time.’ You can’t assume that a man isn’t a poet. And that’s really what the song is about.”

He wasn’t certain they would go for it. “In fact, I thought they hadn’t gone for it,” he says. “They kept calling me back every couple of hours and asking if it was finished. I really didn’t have the last verse written. And finally I said, ‘Well, I’m gonna send it over, and if you want me to finish it, I’ll finish it.’

“A few weeks later I was talking to Glen, and I said, ‘Well I guess Wichita Lineman didn’t make the cut.’ And Glen said, ‘Oh yeah! We recorded that!’ And I said, ‘Listen, I didn’t really think that song was finished …’ And he said, ‘Well it is now!’”

Elvis Telecom, Saturday, 27 July 2013 05:53 (11 months ago) Permalink

Stop killing my dreams man.

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Saturday, 27 July 2013 06:06 (11 months ago) Permalink

That is most likely the Bass VI heard all over Pet Sounds and Smile if that's Carole's.

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Saturday, 27 July 2013 06:07 (11 months ago) Permalink

Nope. She played a regular P-bass throughout the Wrecking Crew years - only real non-standardness being flat-wound strings and playing with a pick.

Elvis Telecom, Saturday, 27 July 2013 06:52 (11 months ago) Permalink

Does anyone have a Spotify J Webb performed by others playlist for the novice?

Thelema & Louise (Jon Lewis), Saturday, 27 July 2013 18:48 (11 months ago) Permalink

Nope. She played a regular P-bass throughout the Wrecking Crew years - only real non-standardness being flat-wound strings and playing with a pick.

Surely she played guitar and baritone guitar on sessions as well.

Orpheus in Hull (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 27 July 2013 19:19 (11 months ago) Permalink

The lyrical interpretation earlier in this thread was pretty eye-opening; I always figured "And if it snows that that stretch down south won't ever stand the strain" meant "If she freezes me out, these blue balls are gonna kill me."

Hideous Lump, Saturday, 27 July 2013 20:26 (11 months ago) Permalink

some weapons-grade challopery up in this thread

Mancunian stagger (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 27 July 2013 20:42 (11 months ago) Permalink

The version he did on Jools in 2008 was pretty amazing. Stay for the "fine" at the very end.

that's not my post, Sunday, 28 July 2013 05:01 (11 months ago) Permalink

Glen Campbell still a pretty damn good guitar player at age 72 in that clip. Lot of guys in a group setting like that would have just sang the tune and left someone in the ensemble to do all of those fills from the original arrangement.

earlnash, Sunday, 28 July 2013 22:07 (11 months ago) Permalink

OTM. Was just telling James Redd, Sr. something to that effect.

Orpheus in Hull (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 28 July 2013 23:07 (11 months ago) Permalink

that's great, as is the weird Forbidden Planet alien world studio one.

That Simpsons bit where Homer's going through his records with the implication that they're terrible and Glen Campbell is one of them bothers me beyond reason.

Fanois och Alexander (Merdeyeux), Monday, 29 July 2013 01:13 (11 months ago) Permalink

http://sadyoutube.com/post/52276658436/this-song-makes-me-cry-my-dad-was-a-truck

I am never clicking through to read this, because "My dad was a truck" is perfect enough without seeing the rest of the sentence.

Here's the storify, of a lovely ladify (Phil D.), Monday, 29 July 2013 01:23 (11 months ago) Permalink

derpoleon and d'ohsephine (get bent), Monday, 29 July 2013 01:36 (11 months ago) Permalink


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