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                Guest For  MONDAY DECEMBER 28, 2009

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                                     JOHN STRAUSBAUGH

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                     GIORGIO  GOMELSKY

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John Strausbaugh & Giorgio Gomelsky - Air date: 07-16-01- JOHN STRAUSBAUGH &





John Strausbaugh is a journalist and cultural commentator based in New York City. His previous books have examined the history of recreational drug use (The Drug User: Documents 1840-1960, co-edited with Donald Blaise, 1990), the intersection of politics and popular culture in the White House (Alone With the President, 1992), the priesthood that spreads the gospel of Elvisism (E: Reflections on the Birth of the Elvis Faith, 1995) and Rock and Roll's infidelity to the youth culture that created it (Rock 'Til You Drop: The Decline From Rebellion to Nostalgia, 2001), which was declared “the definitive word on the senescent Rolling Stones” by The New York Times. Rock Til You Drop established Strausbaugh as a favorite on American and British radio and television talk shows.

Strausbaugh's next book (Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture, 2006), explores race relations in popular culture, including the pervasive and long-lasting impact of black-face performance in rock and roll, hip-hop, advertising, “gangsta-lit” and contemporary Hollywood film-making. The book firmly established Strausbaugh as a writer of erudite, engaging and penetrating social commentary. His vivid writing style and candid treatment of controversial subject matter are exemplified in Sissy Nation: How America Became a Culture of Wimps & Stoopits, which will be released on February 5th, 2008.

Strausbaugh is a regular contributor to The New York Times and is host of the New York Times “Weekend Explorer,” video podcast series. See some of the latest episodes:

“Weekend Explorer” John Strausbaugh is On the Trail of Brooklyn's Underground Railway




Strausbaugh has also written for the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, Forbes Magazine, NPR and PBS.

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Giorgio Gomelsky

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Giorgio Gomelsky

Background information
Born February 28, 1934 (1934-02-28) (age 75)
Origin Georgia (country) (former Soviet)-Georgia
Occupations music manager, record producer
Years active Mid-1950s - present
Labels Marmalade, BYG Records
Associated acts The Rollin' Stones, The Paramounts, The Yardbirds, Magma, Blossom Toes, Julie Driscoll

Gong, Soft Machine

Giorgio Gomelsky (born February 28, 1934) is a filmmaker, impresario, music manager and record producer. He owned the Crawdaddy Club where The Rolling Stones were house band, and he was involved with their early management. He hired The Yardbirds as a replacement and managed them. He was also their producer from the beginning through 1966. In 1967, he started Marmalade Records (distributed by Polydor), which featured "Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity", The Blossom Toes, and early recordings by Graham Gouldman, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, who became 10cc. The label closed in 1969.

Giorgio was also instrumental in the careers of The Soft Machine, Daevid Allen and Gong and Magma.

He now lives in New York City.



[edit] Early Years

Giorgio Gomelsky was born in Georgia. His father was a medical doctor, and his mother was from Monte Carlo. The family left in 1938 and via Syria, Egypt, Italy, and in 1944 settled in Switzerland, the country where his father had trained.

Giorgio discovered jazz at the age of 10, while living in Italy. One Sunday he was caught out by the 4pm German curfew, so he stayed in the house of friends. Exploring their attic he discovered a gramophone and some jazz records. As a symbol of defiance he and his friends took to occasionally briefly blasting the music out of the window. Fortunately they were never caught. After the liberation, eventually black GI's arrived and furthered his jazz education,

He attended a Benedictine school in Ascona, near Locarno, Switzerland, With the war over, he was able to pool resources with friends to start a record collection. By 1946 the American Forces Network had been established and Giorgio was exposed to be-bop via the Cool City program on VOA. (In 1964, his father having died and left him some money, Giorgio would returned to Ascona and stage a jazz festival in a local airfield.) .

He attended a progressive private school, the School of Humanity run by Paul Gehheb, in the mountains of Switzerland. While on vacation, with friends, he travelled round Europe by bicycle. In post-war Germany, they found a thriving cellar-jazz scene in towns like Düsseldorf. They visited Milan, and pedaled all the way to Paris to see Charlie Parker perform at the Salon de Jazz.

His mother was a hat designer. Her father had worked for the Société des Bains de Mer - the casino operator - in Monte Carlo, a popular resort for the British, and so she spoke English and became an anglophile with a particular love of English literature. Thus her employer - Claude St. Cyr of Paris - sent her to run his atelier in London. She would send her Swiss schoolboy son the English music paper Melody Maker on a weekly basis, and that is how Giorgio learned English, and also became familiar with the British jazz scene.

There was still at this time limited opportunity to hear new jazz in Europe. Apart from Willis Conover on VOA. there was an Italian jazz radio show; Flavium Brosetti's show on Swiss Radio ran just 20 minutes a week; there was Charles de Lournay (sp?) jazz show on Europe 1 in Paris; and Charlie Fox on the BBC; and maybe a couple of German shows. There was a scene in Copenhagen. Aficionados in many cities set up jazz appreciation societies, and Giorgio and friends set one up in Locarno. A trio was formed, Roland Schramlei on bass, Bert Armbruster on piano, and Giorgio on drums. Resources were so limited that, only possessing a ride cymbal, Giorgio would have to hire a drum kit every time they had an engagement.

The main jazz magazine was Les Cahiers du Jazz from Paris, and there was also one in Italy. In both countries the magazines organized the local Jazz Societies into Federations which could then stage concert tours. Giorgio followed their model and formed a Swiss federation that staged concerts. In 1954, having been denied permission to stage a concert during the Zurich Festival by the city fathers, the Federation staged a daring protest on a Sunday - they publicly mooned the City Hall. The resulting publicity persuaded the City to reverse its decision, and thus the Zurich Jazz Festival was born (and exists to this day). [1]

Having become a Swiss citizen, Giorgio had to perform National Service, undergoing basic training with Swiss Air Force, where he flew Bucher bi-planes. Although a proficient pilot he deliberately failed promotion tests and, after rejection, was then free to leave the country.

[edit] Filmmaking in England

The weekly readings of the Melody Maker, and the lack of further documentation, convinced Giorgio that his vocation would be to film the burgeoning UK jazz scene. He had seen the 1948 film Jammin' The Blues and had formed forward-thinking stylistic ideas including synchronised fast cutting. He succeeded in obtaining a 500 UKP commission from a young Italian TV station and departed for the England.

In London he established a relationship with the National Jazz Federation, run by Harold Pendleton, who also managed Britain's top jazz star of the time Chris Barber. Despite Giorgio's inclination to shoot the avant-garde Johnny Dankworth, Pendleton prevailed on him to shoot Chris Barber. The resulting piece comprising four songs, intercut establishing and audience reaction shots from the Royal Festival Hall with a separate studio session footage. The studio footage, shot in one day, used cutting-edge technology like large Mitchell cameras with 'elephant' suspended mics that restricted camera movements in the small studio, preventing Giorgio from getting all the angles he had hoped for.

This first film was sufficiently well-received that two years later that Giorgio filmed Chris Barber for a second time - this time a 3 camera shoot in b&w Cinemascope.

Harold Pendleton had started the National Jazz Festival and Giorgio had participated as a volunteer helper at the first one in 1959. He was able to secure the rights to film the 1960 festival, A producer/backer was found - Frank Green, the owner of a facility on Wardour Street where Giorgio had edited his earlier films. Filming was with 4 b/w cams. Sound was recorded on the Levers Tich (sp?) synchro-pulse system, allowing separate recording of audio on magnetic tape[2]. The intercom between the cameras was the Royal Artillery's system which, designed to be heard over cannon fire, was so loud that at times it would get picked up by the stage mics! Giorgio edited two pilots from the footage, including a piece of the new Alexis Korner Blues Incorporated with Charlie Watts on drums, but Green was unable to find a buyer. [3]

[edit] British Rhythm & Blues

Chris Barber's trad-jazz band had launched the skiffle craze, and their hit 'Rock Island Line' had made the band's banjo player Lonnie Donegan a star. As skiffle became passé, Chris, whose sets were structured around the history of jazz, began to feature blues in its place, utilizing his school friend vocalist/guitarist Alexis Korner, and harmonica player Cyril Davies. [4]

While the Barber blues set was strictly country style, Korner was set on expanding the sound to incorporate the more modern electric Chicago sound and an improvisational jazz approach. He formed his own group Alexis Korner Blues Incorporated and recruited musicians like drummer Charlie Watts and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith.. Giorgio, then writing for Jazz News, became inspired by this to the extent of becoming evangelical. He coined the term BRB - British Rhythm and Blues, wrote articles, and bent the ear of anyone who would listen.[4]

Alex and Cyril had a club in a pub upstairs room on Wardour St where blues aficionados would gather on Wednesdays but they needed a larger venue for the noisy big band. With some difficulty, and support from Barber, Giorgio persuaded Pendleton to run a weekly Blues Night on Thursdays at his newly opened neighboring club The Marquee. Korner's new band, and others, were duly booked. However the audiences were still limited to a small group of enthusiasts and the future was uncertain.[4]

A Jamaican Blue Beat club just off Portobello Road (immortalized in the move Scandal) was one of the hottest spots in London at the time. On a visit Giorgio had a chance encounter with its most notorious clients - Christine Keeler & Mandy Rice-Davies. He invited them to visit the Marquee Blues Night and they showed up the following week. The publicity generated was enough to give the night sufficient cachet to become fashionable and successful.[4]

Giorgio wanted to build on the success of The Marquee Blues night with more shows but Pendleton wasn't interested. He began to organize the bands, suggesting that they work co-operatively to obtain bookings and do other business, just as the Jazz Societies had earlier federated. Giorgio persuaded the Portobello Jamaican club to host a couple of blues bands, but the patrons were not impressed. [5]

Giorgio then discovered an alternative venue - the Cy Laurie Piccadilly Club in Ham Yard. Formerly a major London hotspot, it was now on its uppers. He was able to secure a Saturday night for a fee of $5 and proceeded to stage the first festival of British Blues. Bands appearing included Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, Blues By Six (which included Nicky Hopkins), the Rolling Stones. Although attendance was slight, as a promotional device Giorgio prevailed on a number of friends to stand in line outside to attract the attention of passers by, and give the impression of a larger crowd. Pendleton was not at all happy with this local competition for his club.[5]

[edit] The Crawdaddy Club

Giorgio was certain that the vitality of the genre depended on attracting new young fans, and that attracting young fans depended on involving young musicians. Giorgio believed that residencies were the key to building an audience for the new bands and, in an example of the lateral thinking instilled him in the Switzerland mountain school, hit on the idea of eschewing central London and weekday nights altogether - to become so far removed that Pendleton could have no grounds for complaint. Thus the Richmond Blues Association was formed and he secured a series of Sunday nights at the Station Hotel in Richmond, a suburb of West London. What Giorgio knew, from his earlier be-bop interests, was that the nearby Kingston Art School was a fertile hotbed of musical enthusiasm, and also there already was an established blues club in the basement of the ABC Cafe in nearby Ealing. Another group having dropped out The Rolling Stones were given the first residency. The first night only attracted three people, attendance not being helped by Giorgio, in a typical malapropism, accidentally writing "Rhythm & Bulls" on the advertising sign outside the venue. Nevertheless the talents of the Rolling Stones, and a promotional scheme that gave complimentary admission to any patron that brought two friends, soon led to healthy crowds.[6] Also, in order to liven up the proceedings, he convinced the Stones, whose repertoire was stretched by the demands of two 45-minute sets, to incorporate a 20 minute rave-up version of Bo Diddley's Crawdad as the finale of their show. [7]

In fact Giorgio had taken on much of the responsibility for managing and promoting the Rolling Stones. Looking to get press on the band, he prevailed on The Richmond and Twickenham Times, a conservative local paper owned by TV presenter Richard Dimbleby, to send a reporter to the Station Hotel. Eventually a reporter, Barry Gay, undertook to write an article and visited with a photographer. [7]

Giorgio also considered he could exploit his reputation as a jazz writer and film-maker to generate interest in the band and entice the jazz critics to visit the Sunday Richmond sessions. He announced that he would make a short promotional film of these "illustrious unknowns". As news spread first Norman Joplin, and then Peter Jones showed up, but no copy resulted. Peter Jones did, however, return bringing his friend Andrew Loog Oldham. [7]

Not having the facilities to film the band live at the club, he took them into the RG Jones recording studio in Wimbledon, one of the few independent studios in London at the time. Two songs were recorded and extra footage shot.[7][8]

As Giorgio was editing he got a call from Gay, who was writing his article, asking how to name the club. Giorgio, on the spur of the moment, inspired by Do The Crawdad - the high point of The Stones' show, came up with another malapropism "The Crawdaddy". [7]

Somewhat to his surprise a full page feature duly appeared in the Richmond and Twickenham Times. Giorgio showed the article to acquaintance Patrick Doncaster, the music critic of the Daily Mirror, the largest circulation British daily newspaper. Doncaster was persuaded to, in turn, visit the club, and a half-page feature duly appeared in the next day's Mirror. The powers that be at Ind Coope Breweries, owners of the Station Hotel, were aghast at the degenerate behaviour displayed in the article and the club was evicted forthwith. [7]

Almost immediately Giorgio had to return to Switzerland for three weeks as his father had died. His colleague photographer Hamish Grimes went to Pendleton, who provided an introduction to Commander Wheeler, director of the Richmond Athletic Association. They had grounds, just a block away from the Station Hotel, where the National Jazz Festival was held. An arrangement was made for the club to move to a room, almost triple the capacity of the Station Hotel, below the grandstand.[7]

[edit] Production work

  • The Soft Machine's first demos were recorded by Giorgio.
  • Gong's Flying Teapot and Angel's Egg (both 1973) were created under Giorgio's auspices.
  • Aphrodite's Child 666 (credited as "passing by")[9]
  • Vangelis Hypothesis and The Dragon (1971) (unfinished - released later)[9]

[edit] References

  1. ^ According to http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/index.html?siteSect=105&sid=899182 the Festival was founded in 1951 by André Berner
  2. ^ I can't find any reference for this, but possibly related to Direct Cinema.
  3. ^ None of this material is known to survive.
  4. ^ a b c d MacFie, Joly (April 8, 2009). "Giorgio Gomelsky - The Birth of British R&B". Interview. Punkcast. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhRQgeVxx_0. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  5. ^ a b MacFie, Joly (April 8, 2009). "Giorgio Gomelsky - The First London Blues Festival". Interview. Punkcast. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVAhST0neJs. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  6. ^ Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Dora Loewenstein, Charlie Watts, Philip Dodd, Ron Wood (2003). According to the Rolling Stones. Chronicle Books. pp. 48–50. ISBN 978-0811840606. http://books.google.com/books?id=xP_S-fAnMXYC&pg=PA48. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g MacFie, Joly (April 8, 2009). "Giorgio Gomelsky - The Crawdaddy Club". Interview. Punkcast. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLwPcNVhinI. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  8. ^ This film is also lost.
  9. ^ a b "Giorgio Gomelsky, working with Vangelis". Elsewhere and Odyssey. April 6, 2000. http://elsew.com/data/gomelsky.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 

[edit] External links




Le Souterrain FranÇais”





Giorgio Gomelsky INTERVIEW


If there ever was a man who lived and breathed music it's the International vagabond Giorgio Gomelsky. Born in the former Soviet-Georgia, his parents fled Stalin and he grew up in France, Italy and Switzerland. As a teen he took off and hitched all over Europe soaking up the influences of boho "existentialist" culture and tuning in to the jazz vibe that was influencing the scene.

In 1955 he landed in London and with friends set up a little "Espresso Coffee Bar" where soon many of the future Anglo scene makers hung out, getting a caffeine buzz late into the night. This embryonic idea turned into the prototype early London beat club (1956-1961) featuring fledgling musicians and bands playing rock' n' roll and skiffle. He wrote articles for music magazines, made a series of documentaries about the British jazz and the budding blues scene, and got involved in promoting the latter by opening a blues club later known as The CrawDaddy.

During this period a young rocker by the name of Brian Jones hyped Giorgio on his new band, lo and behold called The Rollin' Stones, they got a residency at the club which started them on their way to fame.

The rock ‘n’ roll beat was growing louder and Giorgio was leading the way. Over a span of time the Stones, the Paramount’s (who became Procol Harum), the Muleskinners (who in part ended up as the Small Faces), Rod Stewart, Julie Driscoll, the Moody Blues, the Animals and the Yardbirds would all play there.

During this time as well Giorgio had made the acquaintance of another young buck  who was kicking around ideas about making a film. As Bill Wyman recalls it, on April 14, 1963 he had a great surprise when Giorgio invited the Beatles to catch a Stones gig at The CrawDaddy and the two groups made their first contact. Ultimately the Stones signed with Andrew Loog Oldham and the Beatles with Brain Epstein going on to produce their Dadaist music film classic HARD DAYS NIGHT (hmmm, I wonder where that idea may have come from?). While secretly Giorgio must have been disappointed, to this day he carries nary a grudge, back then he barely skipped a beat.

In 1964 Giorgio produced his first Rhythm & Blues festival featuring the Yardbirds, Spencer Davis Group, Long John Baldry, a/o. That led to his involvement with Mr. Relf, Clapton and the Yardbirds. Basically a blues band at that time, he recorded their very first album, and soon with Giorgio’s help, they were making records with sitars, harpsichords and Gregorian chants as well as touring the States.

In 1967 he founded Paragon, a design, public relations and management company with a record label named Marmalade. London was swinging and Giorgio was making things happen, booking clubs, building a recording studio, recording and having great fun recording many soon to be "stars" including a young Vangelis

In December of 1969 he had a falling out with Polydor Records and Deutsche Grammophon, companies who by and large had financed this adventure and he went off to France, his mother's home country. Upon arrival there he reunited with old friend Daevid Allen who had been the Soft Machine’s guitarist and had started Gong in Paris. He began to get involved in the French music scene, met up with Magma and decided to manage them.

He first move was to form a talent agency, Rock Not Degenerated - Rock Pas Degeneré. It ultimately became the number one employer on the European progressive rock scene. In 1970 with the recording and release of the first Magma album, le souterrain Français - the French Underground - began to generate rumblings. From that impetus a new spirit and correlating burst of artistic and musical energy was born. Along with that as well a new cultural and musical hybrid emerged that replaced the “chanson” with a uniquely fusion of the European classics - American jazz and rock, plus the distinct character of French culture. Within 3 or 4 years, Magma ended up playing some 60 concerts a year, to 2,000, 3,000 people and selling 150,000 albums in France alone.

Today he lives in NYC since 1978. For the last 40 years Giorgio has been the ultimate instigator and promoter of avant music. He has always been ahead of the curve stylistically and constantly striving to stretch the boundaries of rock music in general. More importantly, for fans of “Euro Rock”, he was at musical ground zero in France. The story he has to tell is fascinating, and Giorgio is a bard extraordinaire. So here we go…

Q: What was the music scene like in France when you first went over there after working in the UK for many years? What year did you go there?

January 1970. I had spent 15 years in London and had enough of the “perfidious Albions” as Napoleon called them! My mother was French, so I spoke the lingo, had family and friends there and visited the country often. While living in London (from March 1955 to December 1969) many French (and other “continentals” or “frogs” as the British called us!) were relying on me to interpret for them what was going on and then to arrange interviews with UK artists for TV, radio and magazines. I guess I was probably also the first of the “managers” in London to set up early club dates, tours and promotional activities in continental Europe. I did believe that if the “prophet goes to the mountain” it would pay dividends for the artists down the road. Besides, the local pop music scenes on the Continent were very “pasteurized” poor copies (and translations!) of US commercial stuff. Imagine a French version of “Tutti-Frutti”! I felt an injection of the energy developed in the UK by young and more “authentic” artists could help bring about a change in those countries music scenes too. Furthermore, I liked touring there; the food was so much better!

 Q: Who were the initial bands you heard?

First of all, I had left England because after 15 years in London, I wanted some time to think about my life and my work, which was filmmaking. Although I managed to produce some documentaries in England, (all about music), I felt I now needed to concentrate on getting a feature film off the ground and get away from “managing” bands which I had taken up only because someone had to help the scene… ROCK & FOLK, a very respected French music magazine, ran a long interview with yours truly and during the interview played me a tape of a French band, which somehow seemed puzzling to them and asked for my opinion. I remember it well, even today. The music was original, with influences derived from non-anglo folk, classical, jazz and experimental music and, I said something like “very ambitious stuff, these guys seem to want to take on a lot, if they are really serious, it could be interesting.” There must have been a conspiracy, because wherever I went in Paris, people were asking me if I had heard THAT tape! It turned out to be MAGMA!

I had rented a house in the country some 25 miles from Paris and started putting some order in my thoughts. I was living with a gorgeous French girl (Brigitte, later my wife), and my only ambition, after 15 years of intense work, was to do nothing at all for a while…

A few days after the interview was published, I got a phone call from Faton, Magma’s pianist. They had read it and wished to ask me if I was interested in checking them out. I think they were playing one of their rare gigs a few days hence. No way, was my answer. No more taking on unknown (or any other) bands! I tried to explain to him I had gotten away from that scene and wished to sit under my tree and just watch nature and think. A few days later he called back. I got rather irritated and put him off as hard as I could.  Brigitte however wanted to go to Paris to see her friends and, knowing me, suggested we should just go and have a good time, no strings attached.

So, a few days later we went, and the rest is history. I had never heard anything like it. I was very impressed by their “sources” and their musical skills. This was not run-of-the-mill stuff. It also wasn’t “commercial” by any stretch of the imagination. But I’m a sucker for underdogs, so I was tempted to take on the challenge. At that time there wasn’t any scene whatsoever for “independent”, original music. The business in France consisted in descending order of the 3 great “auteurs-compositeurs”, Georges Brassens first among them, a true pipe-smoking poet, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and setting to music his immensely perceptive insights into the French psyche and the infinite variety of everyday events befalling humans. Than there was Jacques Brel, a Belgian by origin, with a beautifully crafted repertoire of tightly woven, somewhat sad and yet comic anecdotes of love and descriptions of  “marginal” characters. The third was Leo Ferre, a lion-like, ferocious and fearless social-critic-anarchist. All 3 were also great performers. After them you had people like Charles Aznavour, (known in the US for being in Truffaut’s films), Gilbert Becaud who wrote a number of songs which often got covered by US crooners and made him and his publishers handsome profits. Down the line there were other “variete” singers, mostly manipulated by the French music publishers’ fraternity, who hand in hand with the “major” record companies like Philips, Barclay. Vogue, etc., were really running the show. A French version of rock’n’roll consisting of cover-versions of US (and later British) hits had been provided for the younger generation, mostly represented by Elvis imitators like Johnny Halliday (who is still going!), Eddie Mitchell, Dick Rivers and other such “anglicized” rather contrived “acts”. They had originated in the late fifties from a small; more authentic rock scene based around the Golfe Drouot Club, but had soon been co-opted by the “business”, keen to exploit the young public. By the mid 60’s, based on the British model, a slew of rock bands were created by the “usual suspects” running the show. People like Les Variations, Les Chaussettes Noires, etc.. With a few exceptions, none of them were any good really. Even if they could actually play, French just didn’t lend itself to rocking. The whole thing was a bit of a farce all over the Continent really. There were however some very good jazz musicians. Paris had been, still was to an extent, when I got there a center for jazz in Europe with a number of clubs, concerts, magazines and quite a few exiled Americans, like Kenny Clark and Bud Powell, and others.

Here I must mention GONG. As you probably know back in London I had tried to help SOFT MACHINE get a recording deal, so I knew Daevid of course. I always felt bad for him because I was the one who in the summer of 1968 had sent them to St Tropez (a holiday resort in the South of France) to play in a club and get their stuff together and when they came back to the UK Daevid, an Australian citizen, was refused entrance, so he had to return to Paris where he started GONG!! 

Q: Was there any sort of organized scene?

Other than the commercial one? No.

Q: What was the cultural reference point of the French musicians? Were they as steeped in rock, jazz and other Western music styles as the British?

As I said, after WW II Paris had been an important European jazz center. Unlike England where the Musicians Union did not allow foreign musicians to settle (!) Paris welcomed them and so many musicians from the States had settled there. First and foremost, Sidney Bechet in the late 40s, which opened up a New Orleans/Dixieland scene and later Bud Powell, Kenny Clark, Johnny Griffin and others who were “modern” jazzmen. They needed sidemen, so a local generation of jazz musicians sprung up. Mind you, Django Reinhardt’s Hot Club de France had achieved international success before the war, so there was a sort of a jazz tradition. Matter of fact Christian’s father Maurice Vander is a very respected jazz pianist and accompanied many US jazz greats.

Compared with England – or perhaps London - the big difference with regards to the development of “bands” was the lack of a local blues scene. However there was plenty of modern and avant-garde stuff. In 1968, BTW, while touring France with JULIE DRISCOLL and BRIAN AUGER, I had come across APHRODITE’S CHILD from Greece, stranded there by the May ‘68 events and I became friends with VANGELIS – with whom I worked later…

Q: After getting there, how did you meet up with Christian Vander and the various avant musicians in Paris? Was there a specific club or area that they hung out in?

Re: Christian see above. There were jazz clubs and 2 or 3 rock clubs, but as described above, there wasn’t a  “progressive” scene as such.

Q: Both the UK and USA had local areas that served as catalysts for a larger scene sometime later – was it the same in France?


 Q: When was the first time you saw Magma play live? How big was the audience?

Around Easter 1970, there was an audience of around 300. They were about to release their first album.

Q: At some point the scene started to grow and I’ve heard you and Magma + some others began to form a national circuit for concerts and promotion. How did the normal French music managers and club owners react to this?  

They just weren’t interested in that kind of music and with very few exceptions we couldn’t count on them. There were a few “Associations” (non-for-profit voluntary music lovers’ groups), but mostly they aimed to become “big time” rock promoters! I had to invent something else…

Q: Who were the actual bands and people who instigated this circuit? Was it the bands themselves, their managers, agents, or?

This is how it happened, literally! One afternoon I went to pick up Klaus Blasguiz, Magma’s lead singer, to take him to a rehearsal. He was teaching comic strip drawing in a youth center outside Paris. I was early, so I walked around the place and, behold, discovered there was a small theatre at the back of the center. I guess it could hold around 200 people. I freaked out, sought out the center’s director and asked him what kind of events they were holding there. “None.” he answered, “we can’t afford to book people…” Wow! I had a flash! It dawned on me there was a solution here, so I asked him if he would agree for MAGMA to play there, without guarantee or any money. We would promote the show ourselves, use his Xerox machine and the young kids to distribute fliers and give him 15% of the door and keep the rest. He thought that was a good deal and agreed to give us a date. This got my juices going, so I enquired how many of these “Youth Centers” (MJC – Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture) there were and I found out there were some 200 around the country. Every political party seemed to have a “chain” of them, determined to recruit youth into their respective causes. Well, that was it! I got me a list of them and for a month I drove around Paris convincing them to go along with my plan. Just as in London with the blues in the early 60’s I was determined to get the music out there one way or another. I found 25 of these MJC – some (mostly socialist or communist!) more receptive than others, some with theaters and some with access to “community” spaces. To cut a long story short, a couple of weeks later, MAGMA did their first MJC tour. Five weeks, 5 concerts a week, a total of 25 shows. You better believe it a band gets pretty good after that kind of experience, besides we were actually making some money too, enough for the musicians to consider giving up their day jobs…

From there I started to work on the rest of the country. Within a few months we had more than 120 venues, a complete circuit!  Young people started getting interested in learning how to promote concerts, so we taught them how to form “associations”, get permits, etc., You might not believe this, but today, the major music promoters in France started with us.

After our first tour I got GONG involved and then we formed an agency “Rock Pas Degenere” and took in a whole bunch of groups which had sprung up, like Crium Delirium and many others. Later, we invited British, German, Dutch bands like ART BEARS, CAN, SUPERSISTER, etc., They in turn got the French bands gigs in their respective countries. Before long we had an international circuit…it was very cool!

Q: I’ve heard some say in effect this underground activity was in fact a virtual revolution in terms of normal French music culture. Would you agree?

Indeed…Before I left France in 1977, MAGMA were playing some 100 or so regular concerts a year in France alone and making between $5,000 and $10,000 a show. The last tour I went on was a double bill with LEO FERRE – who loved MAGMA – held in circus tents holding 5,000 people!

Q: Can you explain how it actually worked – travel, logistics, booking, payments, etc?

In the beginning we had to be very parsimonious, travel in old trucks/vans (I had a Mercedes and used to take 5 people with me) and stay with people, or in cheap (very cheap) hotels. France’s territory is not as vast as the US, so most distances were Between 100 and 200 or so miles. Payments had to be in cash of course, so we could eat, sleep and get to the next gig… Often, we just barely covered expenses. Later it got a lot better. But every time we played we were able to make friends and encourage the local scene. That really paid off!

Q: Were the bands able to make good money doing this or was it more like, “art for arts sake”?

My view was that if the music was relevant we would succeed at building an audience, and, after a while, it would lead to our own little “market” and we could make a living at it, and so could many others. This happened.

Q: At some point Magma got a large contract with the major label, Phillips. How did that come about? Did they receive a large signing bonus in advance as is usual in the music business today?

I wasn’t involved in that, it was in 1969, before my time, but I know it wasn’t a “large contract”. Some of the musicians in that first edition of MAGMA were highly respected session men, like CLAUDE ENGEL, the guitarist. He knew people in recording studios and at labels.

Q: What was the media and musical reaction like when they released their mammoth double LP in 1970?

They had no idea. Some critics, the best ones, liked it very much. MAGMA always got good “press” such as it was at the time. I guess that’s the advantage of being active in a country where originality is respected…

Q: Was that in fact the first French underground rock album to come out?

I think so…

Q: Did it open the door for more bands to make records?

MAGMA was a trailblazer group for sure. With the addition of GONG the whole scene was spreading, so a lot of new energy came about. New magazines, like ACTUEL, helped a lot too and some radio and TV programs. People looked to MAGMA to fuel that energy, to be “taken aback”, so to speak.

Q: Do you know how many copies of that first album were sold?

No, but it’s still around. When I appeared on the scene I worked out an independent production deal with Philips and later with A&M and RCA (for my UTOPIA label). The LIVE at the OLYMPIA double album sold 150,000 copies in France, that’s like 300,000 “units”, as they say in the industry.

Q: As an outsider I might guess that it in some way served to legitimized the scene. I say this because their second album received critical and cultural praise from more mainstream sources. So did the traditional French artistic tendency to encourage the avant-garde start to help the scene expand at that time?

Well, good press didn’t actually get you gigs – there weren’t any in the mainstream - and anyway we had that under control. What really helped was the strategy of the “prophet going to the mountain”; so many people all over the country were encouraged, enfranchised to start local scenes. Now and then we got big engagements, like at the FETE DE L’HUMA every year, the biggest open air event in France, and Christian got to write some film music, but above all we got credibility and people rallied around the cause, so to speak! This was during Pompidou’s reign, there was quite a lot of subtle repression going on, For instance, every time we had to take a toll road our van would be searched for hours and we always got to gigs late…but then we played for 5 hours, so that upset the “authorities”!

Q: At its peak how successful was this idea of an underground circuit? Did the scene in France become highly profitable for record companies and artists alike?

It completely transformed the scene by decentralizing it and by encouraging all sorts of local movements, like ALAN STIVELL in Brittany with his “Celtic” rock and the people in the southwest, with their “Occitan” poetry and music. Festivals sprung up everywhere.

As I said above, record companies were just not interested in our stuff. We did everything a few independent labels and ourselves appeared and bands self-produced themselves. Towards the end of the ‘70’s, some of the original bands in the circuit disappeared, others, like CAN for instance, got very big indeed, relatively speaking. The “local” success allowed us to export our music to England, Germany. Etc., MAGMA did very well in England. We took that country by storm! Unfortunately, the 25-day tour that was to establish the band permanently got cancelled because of internal struggles and the subsequent break up of the Vander – Jannik Top collaboration. That was when I left.

Q: At some point however things began to change Internationally in the music scene and I’d imagine in France as well. Some say punk rock caused this change; in retrospect perhaps it was the inevitable and eternal creative cycle of events in the life of any social or cultural phenomenon. What happened to the underground scene in France?

Punk rock was incorporated. The thing about Europe was, underground audiences were less divided and provided they liked what you were doing could support all manner of artists. The big event, in France at least, was that the socialists came to power and created a very strong Ministry Of Culture, which greatly encouraged native production. Had I stayed on I’m sure I could have gotten them to support “new music”, they were very keen. I think that the underground went above ground and good things happened. But by that time I had come to New York got involved in the No Wave scene here, so I never benefited from that change of political and cultural direction! I believe that to this day the MOC is helping people. MAGMA told me recently that they got quite a bit of help from them.

Q: More particularly you stopped working with Magma after their double LIVE album I think it was? To me the original spirit of Vander and his music still lives on today, but it was not the same after that LIVE album musically or in terms of their overall evolution as a challenging, innovative group. What happened with the band?

No, I produced UDU WUDU and MAGMA was still under contract to UTOPIA, my then partner got them to record ATTHAK. Frankly speaking, I lost interest after the cancellation of the UK tour and the break with Jannik. Unfortunately, most of the times, when a band hits the “top”, and there is real, substantial success, all kinds of conflicts appear. Most are rather childish and I just don’t have any time for that. Christian had a lot of plans, Stella, his (ex) wife wanted to own a studio and play a bigger part in the band, my partners were goofing it. OFFERING was started, solo records, etc. For me, the spell was broken.

Q: Around 1978, some 10 years down the road from 1968, you came to the USA and staged the first progressive music festival in the USA – the legendary ZU Manifestival in NYC. Can you talk a bit about your reason for coming to the US and why you decided to promote a festival?

I was involved with my UTOPIA RECORDS project, which had been financed by RCA and must have been one of the best independent label deals ever. I had some New York partners who unfortunately absconded with the money (what else is new!) and I had to come to NY to sort it out. It took a lot longer than I thought, so I had all this time and spent days walking around the place, I sort of fell in love with it. After the partnership resolution, RCA retained me as a “consultant” and I had a great time checking out what was happening. I came across a lot of underground NY scenes and musicians, and slowly the idea of linking the local scene with what we had been doing in Europe, began to wink at me.

I got this house on West 24th Street and we began to put on experimental stuff. As you know some of the ”Eurock”(!) bands had become fairly popular with some college radio people and I thought it might be challenging to see if we could build an “alternative” circuit for “NU” music” here in the States, like we had done in Europe. The ZU MANIFESTIVAL was the result. I thought that if we could make enough noise in NY, it would carry us over to the rest of the country – or at least some parts of it. Man, I worked my guts out on that project. I put the whole thing together with $3,000 I got from CHARLY RECORDS in London for a NY GONG album idea. The first thing I had to do was to find musicians who would constitute the basis of a “house band” that could deal among other things with the European repertoire and GONG’s in particular since Daevid had agreed to come. This is where I found Bill Laswell, and it was the beginning of the ZU (house) BAND, later MATERIAL, but that’s yet another story. 

The NY event got absolutely great reviews and I was very encouraged. Little did I know what was expecting me on the next step!!

Q: Who were some of the artists involved?

Oh dear, mostly a combination of NY guys like Rhys Chatham, Glenn Branca, Theoretical Girls, and some 50 or so others, with Daevid, Chris Cutler, Fred Frith, Gilli Smyth, Yochk'o Seffer from MAGMA, etc., The show was sold out. It started on Sunday at 12 midday and ended at 4am on Monday. At that time, the police insisted the theater cut off the juice and I remember Daevid, in a totally darkened theater, leading some 70 musicians and 1,400 spectators in a rave acoustic jam…

Q: There was also another Manifestival a year later in Los Angeles. What was the idea behind this? Was it an attempt to form a bi-coastal music network in America, or?

Well, as I said, the NY event was very encouraging, so for a follow-up some 4 months later I thought we take the show on the road and I started booking gigs across the country.  I did lean a lot on college radio people – whom, with a few exceptions - I had never met. To me they all sounded very together and enthusiastic. Used to European underground conditions and collaboration ideas, I took most of them at their word, trusting their good faith, and confident they represented their local situations honestly so we knew what to expect. Well, some did and some didn’t and I found out how difficult it was to “do business” in this country. We ended up with about 33 gigs over a 3-month period, and if all went as it should we’d have established a “circuit”, or so I thought. Around the middle of March I put some 24 musicians in an old school bus I had acquired, and off we went. To this day I regret that we didn’t document that incredible adventure. I think there are a few photographs here and there, but nothing that could properly describe what befell us!

There isn’t enough time to go into details now, but on the whole the 33 gigs turned out about one-third great, one-third middling and one-third disasters! Los Angeles belonged in the latter category. Early on when I was setting up the tour, I got a call from a fellow in LA who had some kind of a progressive label, can’t remember the name (Ed Note, it was Tony Harrington who had a label called ALL Ears Records). He was extremely keen to organize the LA venue and I was grateful to find someone who obviously had some experience – or so I was given to understand! Well, when we got there, I found there were all these bands on the bill he was producing/managing. Furthermore, the venue was a beautiful old theater, but on the wrong side of town. Very few people came and there was no money to pay us and he disappeared into the night! Having reasoned that LA should at least cover our expenses (about $1,000) we found ourselves stranded with no money whatsoever. Thank God, there was the school bus. My major concern (apart from feeding people) was to get the tour to the next stop, which was Phoenix, AZ, if I remember correctly. We didn’t even have gas money! So I spent 2 days and 2 nights tracking down this guy. A proper nightmare! I had never ever experienced anything like this. Some of us were watching his house, others his wife’s movements, others still his office. A real stake out. In the end we got about $100 out of him, enough to get to Phoenix. Alas, because of this guy, we got there late and the gig had been cancelled…Next…

Well, after some more adventures, like running out of gas in the middle of the desert, the radiator blowing up, the transmission falling off and other such mishaps, we made it back to NY. By that time, everybody hated everybody… That was the first and last attempt on my part anyway, to try and set up an “alternative circuit”. I think that a couple of years later, the people who ran The Kitchen and other such subsidized venues, did put together a “package” called  “New Music USA”, strangely resembling our earlier model, but without any European artists.

Q: Which do you consider the most successful Festival in musical terms as well as environmentally? What I mean is, did NYC or LA seemed more tuned in to the progressive vibe you were trying to encourage?

NY was a triumph compared to LA.  The idea of “progressive” in LA had in fact nothing to do with what I thought the word defined. It appears to me it’s gotten even worse now. I went to the ProgFest in SF last year, the one with MAGMA and GONG, and, seriously. I found very little of interest musically. I think it all stems from the mistake of considering ELP and other such derivatives, as “progressive”. Most of the music seemed to be inarticulate noodling, sometimes approaching the kind of emptiness of New Age stuff or multi-layered noise replacing a true lack of compositional ideas. I read that the guitarist Buckethead is now playing with Guns ‘n’ Roses…The major problem seems to be the lack of good composers, IMHO, but also one of true artistic endeavor and quality. But this is a large subject and perhaps merits another forum!

Q: With the dawning of 2001 we enter the new Millennium. How do you think the business of music today, and current social scene surrounding it has changed since the early 1960’s when you went to London and were involved in the jazz and r&b scene there?

When I got to London in the mid-fifties, the “pop” scene was just a pale imitation of white US commercial music. At least there was a local “do-it-yourself” music, “skiffle”, (imported to the UK by British bandleader CHRIS BARBER) derived from Lonnie Johnson and other blues/folksters, which allowed young people to take up instruments. The Beatles started out as “The Quarrymen” and were able to inject some freshness into music when they started to make it. The Stones and the other blues bands introduced a new generation to black music thereby rendering an invaluable service too. European musicians were practicing jazz, and although aesthetically more appreciated than in the US, it seemed less urgent, less “dramatic”, less speaking to a new generation. So rock took over. Later the punks kicked everybody in the proverbial ---. This opportunity is still present, but bands/managers/labels are now so focused on making it in whatever category they and the “industry” define themselves to be, that a “major breakthrough” has become well nigh improbable. It’s the old story yet again, the seemingly tragic-comic vicious circle between the true function and merit of art and that of commerce and politics. Ultimately, it’s a question of education. I’m hopeful that the internet will allow the natural curiosity of those attracted to music to explore every nook and cranny of musical production and discover where the real values are and that bands will emerge who know what directions to pursue.

Q: Magma still continues making music and some think that the whole experimental and progressive music scene is in revival. Do you think it can ever be what it once was in terms of creative spirit, or sales?

6 months ago MAGMA had their 30-year reunion, quite an event, I believe. So did GONG a year earlier, right? Jeezes, it seems incredible! I didn’t see these 30 years go by! But I also don’t see young bands coming up with that dedication to truly progressive music and the will to survive whatever difficulties to establish themselves. Perhaps in the jazz scene, there might be the possibility of new synthesis between “local” scenes, say Indian, Chinese or other ethnic music-sources and modern rock and jazz traditions. It could be a sort of World Beat improvisational affair but within serious writing “envelopes”, Harmolodic-Neo-Ethnic-Rock-Jazz-World Music!! I often ruminate about all this! Think globally and act locally is another element that I deem important. Music must resonate among the people, it must touch them because it describes them and their conditions, social, cultural and political, that allows for identification. In other words, it should be relevant to their lives.

Q: Do you feel that people in general and artists in particular are still as open to new ideas and forms of music as they were before? Or has the new dominance of limitless technology and the culture it’s generated created a kind of short circuit between left-brain (technical / analytical) functions, and right-brain (musical / creativity) processes?

I think people in general are always open to ideas. They expect the artist to provide them, and that’s where the problem is. It’s a question of imagination and vision. Today it’s easier to use self-referential matrixes and templates. Machines are good at computing bits and pieces, sequencing, calculating. A hell of a lot of technology is truly amazing and timesaving - great for entertainment. But it still needs an overall design concept, a vision of the “bigger picture” so to speak, to create original art. From the printing press to the novel it took 200 or more years and it took the same amount of time to go from Mozart to Stockhausen. Things move faster now, but distances are still there, and the universe is expanding all the time as we speak. I like to think music will continue to be a measure of our experience on this planet. It’s a relatively small place (!), where before we move into the wider perspective of space, we’ll truly have to deal with additional dimensions!

Q: You surely still have a passion for music and provocation/promotion, what are you working on today that we will hear about tomorrow?

Kepler said that “the only constant in the universe is change” and change is scary sometimes. I like to believe that the purpose of art is that of making change less fearful so we can face it with more joy than pain, with more information and less confusion, and celebrate this mysterious state of “being alive” to its fullest. Learning from the past seems important to me, so right now I’ve embarked on collecting on videotape the “oral history” of rock in New York. I’ve been interviewing some 30 people, artists, managers, club owners, writers, DJ’s and just ordinary music lovers, who have witnessed key moments of the chronicle of rock in this city. I started a similar project in London and when I’m through with that, I’ll tackle jazz and the avant-garde. It will end up on an interactive website dedicated to oral history called ohblahblah, for …talk!). The Internet is perfect for this kind of thing.

Q: If you could go back in time and do it all over again – the same way – or differently - would you?

Good question! Going back has its advantages intellectually. You could correct errors you made, be forewarned, save a lot of time. Alas, it’s not possible. Doing it differently? I think at times I should have insisted more on certain objective, practical aspects of life and perhaps less on subjective, aesthetic or moral issues, which made collective progress more difficult. Perhaps compromise a bit more? But I’m not sure even then; often compromise leads to a dilution of the original energy or vision. Who knows? Finally, we all have our tasks on this planet. Methinks, that all in all, I did the best I could. And I’m still here!

- Archie Patterson




John Sinclair (poet)

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John Sinclair

John Sinclair (born October 2, 1941 in Flint, Michigan, United States) is a Detroit poet, one-time manager of the band MC5, and leader of the White Panther Party — a militantly anti-racist countercultural group of white socialists seeking to assist the Black Panthers in the Civil Rights movement — from November 1968 to July 1969.



[edit] 1960s activism

Sinclair was involved in the reorganization of the Detroit underground newspaper, Fifth Estate, during the paper's growth in the late 1960s. Fifth Estate continues to publish to this day, making it one of the longest continuously published alternative periodicals in the United States. Sinclair also contributed to the formation of Detroit Artists Workshop Press, which published five issues of Work magazine.

[edit] Involvement with the MC5

Sinclair managed the hard-edged proto-punk MC5 from 1966 though 1969. Under his guidance the band embraced the counter-culture revolutionary politics of the White Panther Party, founded in answer to the Black Panthers' call for white people to support their movement.[1] During this period, Sinclair booked "The Five" as the regular house band at Detroit's famed Grande Ballroom in what came to be known as the "Kick out the Jams" shows. He was managing the MC5 at the time of their free concert outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The band was the only group to perform before baton-wielding police broke up the massive anti-Vietnam war rally, calling it a riot. Eventually, the MC5 came to find Sinclair's politics too heavy-handed. He and the band went their separate ways in 1969[1] but they are still friends and he has spoken at their recent reunion concerts, including Massive Attack's 2008 Meltdown at London's South Bank.

[edit] Arrest and imprisonment

After a series of convictions for possession of marijuana, Sinclair was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1969 after giving two joints of marijuana to an undercover narcotics officer.[2] This sentence inspired Abbie Hoffman to jump on the stage during The Who's performance at Woodstock to protest. It also sparked the landmark "Free John Now Rally" at Ann Arbor's Crisler Arena in December 1971. The event brought together a who's who of left-wing luminaries, including pop musicians John Lennon (who recorded the song, "John Sinclair" on his Some Time in New York City album), Yoko Ono, David Peel, Stevie Wonder, Phil Ochs and Bob Seger, jazz artists Archie Shepp and Roswell Rudd, and speakers Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Jerry Rubin, and Bobby Seale.[3] Three days after the rally, Sinclair was released from prison when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the state's marijuana statutes were unconstitutional. These events inspired the creation of Ann Arbor’s annual pro-legalization Hash Bash rally, which continues to be held as of 2009, and contributed to the drive for decriminalization of marijuana under the Ann Arbor city charter (see Marijuana laws in Ann Arbor, Michigan).

[edit] Performances, writing and poetry

On March 22, 2006, John Sinclair joined The Black Crowes on stage at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, and read his poem "Monk In Orbit" during the instrumental break in the song "Nonfiction".[4] Two days later, he went back onstage at the Black Crowes show in the Paradiso, reading his poem "Fat Boy" during the long instrumental jam following the Black Crowes' song, "How Much For Your Wings?".[5]

On Saturday 17 May 2008 John Sinclair performed 3 poems as part of the 100th weekly improvisation online video, with in London.[6]

In 2008, John Sinclair became editor-in-chief on the apolitical anthology series Headpress from the independent publishing house Headpress, a collaboration that continues with It's All Good: A John Sinclair Reader + CD, and live appearances and events.[citation needed]

On 20 January 2009, to mark Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th President of the USA, Sinclair performed a series of his poems accompanied by a live band at Cafe OTO in Dalston, East London.[7]

A day later, on 21 January 2009, he returned to the weekly improvisation to take part in yr3wk32 (the 3rd year, the 32nd week) online video with in London.

On March 12, 2009, he performed two pieces - including The Delta Sound - at The Oval Tavern, Croydon; backed by Charles Shaar Murray on guitar and Bill Smith on harmonica.[8]

On April 15, 2009, John played a show to launch his new book It's All Good at Filthy Macnasty's Whiskey Cafe in Islington. Accompanying him were Charles Shaar Murray, Gary Laminn and Buffalo Bill Smith on Harmonica.

In September and October 2009, John Sinclair had two surgeries in Detroit, MI USA to repair a hammer toe problem. He plans to return to Europe in November after recovering.

As of late November 2009, John is serving as "High Priest" at the 22nd Annual Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam.

[edit] References

[edit] External links



Welcome to John Sinclair . Us

Welcome to JohnSinclair.us

First off, Our apologies for being down for the moment. The necessary updates are being performed.

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Sites that have more information about me or broadcast me;

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                                     Monday December 28,  2009   

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