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Feb 15

FRAGMA – “Toca’s Miracle”

Popular56 comments • 5,807 views

#856, 22nd April 2000

fragma I don’t know that turning a meat and potatoes trance tune into a dance-pop banger passes theological muster, but as pop miracles go it’s a welcome intervention. Unless, that is, you’re Coco Star, the singer whose vocals grace “Toca’s Miracle”, an unasked and – she later claimed – unpaid borrowing from her 1996 “I Need A Miracle”. “The Millennium Prayer” was cheekily fingered as the first mash-up number one: “Toca’s Miracle” has a much stronger claim. And like the bootlegs of 2002, the Internet was at the heart of it – Star says that the DJ who’d laid “Miracle” over the rather drab “Toca Me” had grabbed her vocals off a file-sharing site. Meanwhile jobbing German producers Fragma found themselves – quite by accident, since the bootleg was none of their doing – with albums and follow-ups to arrange sharpish. How much had changed since Loleatta Holloway got ripped off for “Ride On Time”? At least Star got to appear in the inevitable sleazy video.

In this swampy world of dance hit origins, few emerge with credit. But at least the unnamed DJ makes up for his ethical fail with an aesthetic win: “Toca’s Miracle” is a blend comfortably superior to either of its ingredients. Star’s “I Need A Miracle” is decent enough – a (non-UK) garage track showcase for that strong but yearning vocal workout – but no kind of breakthrough. “Toca Me” is less exciting: second-rate trance happy enough to rub BPMs with bigger hits in a DJ set but never likely to stand on its own. Together, though, they have alchemy: Star’s vocals give “Toca Me”’s moodiness some momentum and structure, and Fragma’s uninspired builds and rushes are the fuel “Miracle” needs to become a better pop song.

The result still doesn’t surprise, but it has an urgency to it, a melodrama neither of its originals possessed. The finished product hints at the cornball magnificence and thrill-power of italo house and disco. It was an inevitable development for trance: with the standardised sound a regular chart presence, better gimmicks – and better songs – were needed to cut through. Not one for the purists on any level, “Toca’s Miracle” is cheapo fun, and showed how the toolkit of chart trance could work melded to a pop structure. It was a lesson an awful lot of people were learning.

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Comments

  1. 1
    flahr on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Positiva Records! Those sleeves are just so strikingly gorgeous.

    The hookiness of the singing about pushes this above utterly generic into good, I think. “It’s so physical what I need!”: 6/7 [6]

  2. 2
    Tommy Mack on 27 Feb 2015 #

    How does this work legally? If you use someone’s recording as an uncredited sample, you can probably get away with it on a bootleg but a hit record is surely just one record company infringing another’s copyright? Not moral outrage, just curious how they got away with this?

  3. 3
    Tommy Mack on 27 Feb 2015 #

    #1 Yes, one of the most iconic designs from my youth.

    I always thought the lyric was ‘it’s MORE than physical what I need’ I.e. not just sex but love-making but works equally as an ecstasy reference.

  4. 4
    Tom on 27 Feb 2015 #

    I think by the time it actually became a hit record the writers were getting paid but of course no money or credit went to the original performer – hence the Black Box comparison. Standard practise I’m sure.

    Anyway thanks to Mike TD on Twitter the DJ is nameless no more – step forward Nottingham’s marvellously named DJ VIMTO.

  5. 5
    JLucas on 27 Feb 2015 #

    I’m pretty sure that *is* Coco Star in the video actually, and she promoted it on quite a few TV shows at the time. Here she is being explicitly introduced at the Dance Star awards and it’s definitely the same girl.

    http://youtu.be/OawFeN0Ts9s

    I really like this. I find both individual parts quite dreary, but they come together surprisingly well – Fragma giving a greater sense of urgency to Coco’s mid-tempo minor hit, and she providing Toca Me with a solid hook.

    Not one for the ages, but another likeable number one in a year that – for me – has many of them.

    7

  6. 6
    Tom on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Ah, OK – I assumed given the payment beef she wanted nothing to do with it, but the details on the payment stuff came from a 2013 Guardian article, so perhaps it blew up later! I will amend.

  7. 7
    lmm on 27 Feb 2015 #

    I remember this as a fun record at the time – too young to recognise either of the sources, and I guess no one was in a hurry to point them out. Do wish I’d known the wonderful DJ name though.

  8. 8
    AMZ1981 on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Reading the relevant articles on Wikipedia suggest that she was reasonably happy with the exposure at the time but the exact legalities weren’t worked out well.

    The only point of real note with this record was that it was a two week runner despite being considerably less memorable than the chart toppers on either side (that said two week runners were relatively common at this point in 2000 – the madness starts later). It actually presided over a rare static top three (Fill Me In at two and Sisquo’s Thong Song at three), possibly because the schedulers were running scared of Oasis who lost their chart halo when Who Feels Love entered at four, their lowest charting single since Cigarettes and Alcohol in 1994.

  9. 9
    Simon on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Not a patch on the eventually-released-in-incredibly-watered-down-form Found An Angel (Paul Van Dyk vs Rachel McFarlane).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5bZlM6YYsY

    Used to blow the roof off the 2,000 capacity student disco Double Vision I used to play at in Liverpool in the second spring of trance (!)

  10. 10
    Chelovek na lune on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Good fun, no more, no less. 7

  11. 11
    James Masterton on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Technically speaking the claim for the first ever mash-up Number One goes to Beat’s International’s Dub Be Good To Me ten years earlier although I guess it would have required the original SOS Band vocals to be laid over the top of Norman Cook’s Invasion Of The Estate Agents to properly qualify.

    Anyway, the tale of the creation of Toca’s Miracle is a little murky. DJ Vimto did indeed make the original bootleg however the full commercial release was created by Toca producer Ramon Zenker himself after Positiva records called him up and said “fuck me we’ve got something massive here, but we need to take ownership of it”. He claims I Need A Miracle was so close in tempo to his own record he barely needed to change a think to make the two tracks fit together.

    Oh yes, and Coco’s grumpiness may stem from the fact that singing uncredited on a Number One single never became the springboard to success she was hoping at the time. She’d been a backing singer for East 17 in the 90s before being signed to her own deal. The failure of the original issue of I Need A Miracle in 1997 had derailed her label’s plans for her and she’d been stuck spinning her wheels for two and a half years. This record was supposed to be her salvation, which is why she readily appeared in the video.

  12. 12
    Tom on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Thanks James – very handy background!

  13. 13
    AMZ1981 on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Pedants note; both the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles and the Virgin Book of Top 40 Charts give the artist credit as Fragma (Vocals by Co Co).

  14. 14
    mapman132 on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Which was the original video anyway? There seems to be one involving an indoor soccer game, and another with two women (not at the same time) and a guy in a bedroom. Both are listed on Youtube as 2008.

    6/10 sounds right either way.

  15. 15
    JLucas on 27 Feb 2015 #

    The video I saw at the time was the one with the indoor soccer game.

    Like many dance acts at the time (include at least two soon-to-appear bunnies), Fragma managed to string out the success of this song into a short run of much-poppier hits, including a top ten album.

    ‘Everytime You Need Me’ (featuring a fully credited Maria Rubia) was a likeable little trance-pop ditty that got to #3 and had a surprisingly solid chart run of its own.

    Their third single ‘Alive’ was a little more Europop and got to #4 – although I doubt it sold half of what ‘Everytime’ did, dropping off the charts much more rapidly.

    Three hits seems to be the maximum for this kind of act. ‘Say That You’re Here’ got to #25 in December 2001 (I can’t remember it at all), and then aside from ‘Toca’s Miracle 2008’ that was about it for Fragma.

    Coco never capitalised on her belated good fortune, while Maria Rubia actually did score a top 40 under her own steam with ‘Say It’ – but only just.

  16. 16
    Steve Mannion on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Ramon Zenker was one of Hardfloor so it was particularly odd to find he’d switched from 303 bangers to lightweight trance. Not so odd to have had more chart success with the latter though.

  17. 17
    glue_factory on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Re: 16. Wow, I never knew that. He’s gone slightly down in my estimation now :-) Although it wasn’t a unique path as Emmanuel Top (creator of Heavenly Social 303 favourite Lobotomy, amongst other tracks) was one of BBE who scored big with Seven Days And 1 Week, and Flash.

  18. 18
    thefatgit on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Yeah, I remember this. Nothing to add regarding provenance. In fact, I really can’t get enthused about this at all. I get how the component parts converge to create something marginally better, but with a bunch of better trance-pop and hard trance chart toppers to come, I can’t really go higher than 5.

  19. 19
    lonepilgrim on 27 Feb 2015 #

    enjoyable club banger – I really enjoyed the (original) video which provided a pleasingly alternative narrative of female solidarity in contrast to the usual tropes – which unfortunately the 2008 version use instead

  20. 20
    speedwell54 on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Not especially my cup of tea but two things about the football video.

    Firstly the overdoing of the lip syncing was very much like Britney

    Secondly that it recreated the Chelsea v Arsenal game from early that season; Toca’s Miracle team going 2-0 down, but coming back to win 2-3. (A Kanu second half hat trick for Arsenal in the real world).

  21. 21
    Tom on 27 Feb 2015 #

    Coco Star has been in touch on Twitter – her handle is, excellently, @No1tocasmiracle – promising REVELATIONS. I may try and direct her to the comment box.

  22. 22
    James on 27 Feb 2015 #

    OK now that thing about the football match has floored me. Best comment of the week frankly.

    One thing I forgot to mention earlier is that for years my favourite thing on Soundcloud has been Coco’s own upload of the 1997 version of I Need A Miracle where she even notes in the comments which vocal ad libs were used by Fragma on the mash-up. A quite fascinating wander through the bare bones of a very famous track.

    https://soundcloud.com/coco-star/coco-i-need-a-miracle-1997-radio-edit

    However on hearing it you will probably come to the same jarring conclusion – I Need A Miracle in that form was bloody awful. Even she herself acknowledges it is not her best vocal performance, partially because the producer wanted it more “gospel” so she’s trying to give it the full Aretha throughout and never quite pulls it off.

    The better version is actually the first to be recorded, back in 1994. Which she’s put on Soundcloud as well.

    https://soundcloud.com/coco-star/coco-i-need-a-miracle-radio

  23. 23
    Shiny Dave on 28 Feb 2015 #

    The first mash-up number one, and in my opinion a far better representative of the trance sound of 1999 than any of that year’s chart-toppers. And, of course, its components actually pre-dated 1999.

    I actually liked “Toca Me” at the time – and being CD1 track 2 on a 1999 Dave Pearce compilation (with Alice Deejay held back until track 7!) was a pretty good vote of confidence.

    I also had that compilation, and that points me to how, even though its chart run was in 2000, this song for me, even in this guise, is tied to 1999, the last unequivocally happy year of my life. Tempted to give it an 8, but can’t realistically go above a still-solid 7. Awkward bootleg or not, it’s in a different league of production quality to “Don’t Give Up.”

  24. 24
    wichitalineman on 28 Feb 2015 #

    I think Toca’s Miracle is Rob Davis’s first appearance on Popular since Oh Boy in 1975 (as writer, this time, rather than performer). Not his last, of course.

    I’m very fond of TM, and can definitely stretch to an 8, but I do wish Thong Song had sold a few more during it’s second week at no.1. One of the songs of the year – of any year!

  25. 25
    Tom on 28 Feb 2015 #

    The second FT Pop Music Focus Group has vanished from the archives, I think, but if memory serves Thong Song won it. (It was then we noticed a potential glitch in the hard science methodology of the focus groups, namely that spending an afternoon drinking and marking pop songs out of 10 works firmly to the advantage of any played later on.)

  26. 26
    wichitalineman on 28 Feb 2015 #

    Hard science couldn’t stop Thong Song.

  27. 27
    Billy Hicks on 1 Mar 2015 #

    Something technical about the track that I think I’m the only one in the universe to hear.

    The standard radio edit – and I’ve checked both the CD single and Now 45’s version and they’re identical – has some sort of mastering error, which can particularly be heard at the start and Coco’s opening few ‘Hey yeah-eh’s. There’s some very slight dropouts in the backing track and generally it sounds like an mp3 that’s been encoded incorrectly, despite coming from a proper CD.

    Listen, however, to the version on Fragma’s album ‘Toca’ and it sounds perfect, although it’s several seconds longer as they’ve added more of a buildup. It makes me wonder if the original was done in a bit of a hurry, hence the slight audio errors, and the version on Toca – released in January 2001 – is properly mastered.

    I’d give you a youtube comparison, but irritatingly the majority of the high quality versions are of the (terrible) 2008 remix. But load up Spotify and find one of the 3:24 radio edits and you’ll hear the dropouts clearly at around 15 seconds in when Coco’s vocals start, and then compare it to this HQ rip of the album version at 0:29 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjvEBwe8Q0I .

    It’s something that’s bothered me ever since buying the CD single, and when I bought Now 45 I was surprised to hear it there too – is it just me? I suppose if I wanted the perfect version I could just take the album track and edit it so it matches the radio edit…

  28. 28
    wichitalineman on 1 Mar 2015 #

    Oh Billy. Now you’ve mentioned it, I’m always going to hear it. Like Colin Blunstone’s “dry mouth” on She’s Not There.

  29. 29
    mrdiscopop on 1 Mar 2015 #

    Coco Star turned up at my sister-in-law’s 30th birthday party about a decade ago. They don’t know each other, so none of us is quite sure how or why this happened. Anyway, there was a karaoke machine and – yes – she put on Toca’s Miracle and performed it to the stunned audience of a ropey Rochdale pub who had hitherto been enjoying beige Billy Joel covers.

    She was great. Captivating, even. But I did wonder if she just spent her Saturday nights wandering around looking for karaoke nights to hijack.

  30. 30
    Tommy Mack on 1 Mar 2015 #

    #27, #28: Dry mouth? Do tell…

    I take it everyone’s noticed John Lennon nearly fluff the second verse of Please Please Me and just pull it back?

    #29: that’s brilliant. Definitely how I’d spend my life if I had a one-off hit…

  31. 31
    Edward Still on 1 Mar 2015 #

    Looong time reader, first time commenter here. This was definitely a clichéd “Sound if the summer” for me and seemed a continuation of the chilled-out feelgood vibe of Pure Shores. Despite it’s murky beginnings I can’t help but adore it today as much as I did a decade and a half ago, definitely a high 8 or 9

  32. 32
    Inanimate Carbon God on 2 Mar 2015 #

    I wish I could give this a 9 but I’ll give it an 8 – like Ride on Time, originally a sure 10, I’ll knock a point off for the slight sense of behind-the-scenes dirty tricks. But it’s one of this era and genre of dance music’s best. That bassline. Though I tell you hwat, it’s no Planet Perfecto – Bullet in the Gun.

    And ha! Coco Star, like me, went to UWE. Unlike me, she actually got to meet and work with Massive Attack and Tricky – but give it time.

    She’s also from Welwyn Garden City, which like Hemel Hempstead*, I refuse to believe is actually a real place. Come on. It’s like a bloody greenhouse in ‘ere.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welwyn_Garden_City#Geography

    * It’s a long story, something to do with Chris Eagles.

  33. 33
    wichitalineman on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Re 33: Hemel is real enough. It used to have a great record shop in the old town (I found the first Bill Fay album there for £15 – happy days). Also has a ‘magic roundabout’ where I always think I’m going to crash. Fewer pop stars than Welwyn though, which is, of course, also home to S*M*A*S*H.

  34. 34

    Welwyn is literally the centre of the popular universe: mentioned to date in threads on The Bangles, Amen Corner, ABBA and Fragma.

  35. 35
    Andrew on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Alesha Dixon, who we sadly won’t meet on Popular (short of a future no.1) is from Welwyn

  36. 36
    enitharmon on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Kim Smith, sorry Wilde, who didn’t have a British number 1 but did have an American one, came from Welwyn but it’s important not to confuse Welwyn with Welwyn Garden City (noted for being neither a city nor a garden nor Welwyn). The smaller Welwyn always had more and better pubs than Quaker-covenanted WGC.

    I’m all too well aware that WGC is a real place having lived there from the age of 11 until I went off to Uni and part time from then until I was 22 and got married. Not exactly the hub of the universe. I did buy most of my music there in that period, from Rumbelows or the Welwyn Stores , and Harlequin Records when it opened, but later on I preferred Rag Records of Hatfield or the one in St Albans whose name I forget.

  37. 37
    Alan on 3 Mar 2015 #

    If Hemel Hemstead were not a place, it would really shorten the car journey to my in-laws, so that would be nice

  38. 38
    Andrew on 3 Mar 2015 #

    ah, I wasn’t aware of the distinction – Alesha is from WGC

  39. 39
    Mark G on 3 Mar 2015 #

    Consider Yourself .. Welwyn.

  40. 40
    Inanimate Carbon God on 4 Mar 2015 #

    Repeat after me, fuck stage school faux – soul!
    Repeat after me, death to the new (new) acoustic age!

    Useless generation
    Dumb sleeve tattooed, low cut T shirt wearing, cod-Edwardian bearded, LAD Bible reading, ironic penny farthing riding, conversationally inept, £65 craft beer on sale in a former salt of the earth East End boozer, cheeky Nando’s, dirty – burger munching and instagramming every meal in an era of food banks, neo liberal scum!

  41. 41
    chelovek na lune on 4 Mar 2015 #

    Stevenage is no Basildon, when it comes to hellish concrete London overspill new towns, in terms of musical legacy. (obvs, Essex > Herts in any many of other ways, too, but)

  42. 42
    Tom on 4 Mar 2015 #

    Another number one artist takes a leaf out of the Coco Star playbook: http://www.vulture.com/2015/02/watch-a-bangle-sing-the-bangles-at-karaoke.html

    (Though I fear “Eternal Flame karaoke” might attract the attention of the bunny.)

  43. 43
    Fivelongdays on 4 Mar 2015 #

    I really hope that means you are supporting the town where I live, 41, what with our legacy of Depeche Mode and associated acts, Kunt and the Gang and, oooh, loads others.

    @40 one of my pet peeves is the use of the words ‘cheeky’ for no apparent reason. ‘Ooh you like a cheeky whiskey before you go to bed’ ‘Let’s have a dirty McDonalds’ et al. My old boss did it a lot, and he was a semi-literate anti-semitic bullying fucktard.

  44. 44
    JLucas on 4 Mar 2015 #

    #42 I’m relieved that the gorgeous Susannah Hoffs was coerced into that for an article. I’d hate to think of her sadly trawling LA karaoke bars reminding baffled onlookers of her greatest hit.

  45. 45
    chelovek na lune on 4 Mar 2015 #

    #43, yes, strongly. Yes, DM, yes, Kunt (though I can’t look at the “market square” in the same light since one of his videos depicted it as being full of people chanting one of his more direct and less ambiguous lyrics while undertaking dance moves of a similarly direct and unambiguous nature…), and YES: ALISON MOYET, too. And even, really, 50% of Erasure, the Assembly, etc, etc. Bas is verging on being second only to Sheffield for brilliant electronic pop music in the UK, really.

    (Am from down the road ie the A13, and also lived, the other way down the road ie the A13 for a few years, too – both towns mentioned in the Billy Bragg song. Have relatives in both Bas and Steve, I find both places vaguely menacing, but am intrigued as to why Basildon has produced such a wealth of brilliant music, whereas Stevenage, as far as I know, despite having very similar origins and demographics – nowt)

  46. 46
    Cumbrian on 4 Mar 2015 #

    The main feature of Basildon that sticks out in my mind is that tractor factory that you can drive past on the A1235. Just row after row of blue tractors, all the same make and model – you can even see them on Google Maps.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@51.5841697,0.4758949,386m/data=!3m1!1e3

    It always makes me wonder who they’re selling them to. The farmers I knew when I lived up in Cumbria bought a new tractor once every 40 years at best – especially as they got good at keeping their current machine going – so I was trying to work out who needs all these tractors. I can’t see farmers replacing them like people replace cars somehow.

    Toca’s Miracle is very good – I don’t, as a rule, like this sort of thing very much, but it’s catchy as hell and I actually quite like it.

  47. 47
    chelovek na lune on 4 Mar 2015 #

    The quality of pie and mash is also far higher in Bas than in Stevo, with the place by Pitsea station being particularity noteworthy. (maybe the overall greater strength of influences from London contributes to an explanation of sorts)

  48. 48
    wichitalineman on 4 Mar 2015 #

    Erasure are 50% 1946 New Town (Basildon), 50% Expanded Town (Peterborough). Though I’d say former has more character than the latter. Towns, I mean.

    There’s still a Poppins in Bas too; it was the only half decent caff in P’boro but closed last decade some time.

  49. 49
    Mark M on 4 Mar 2015 #

    Re46: So for some twisted reason I couldn’t resist knowing more on this – and found an academic paper from Chile suggesting that the average lifespan of a tractor is 22 years, which certainly suggests the economics of the business aren’t that promising. But I suspect in large-scale agribusiness they get through tractors faster than that…
    (This is totally going to look like spam when it shows in the latest comments column, isn’t it?)

  50. 50
    Cumbrian on 5 Mar 2015 #

    49: Ha. Very good. Thanks for looking that out. Seems like the blokes I knew from up North were outliers, just good with an engine or working on non-large scale farms and not hammering their tractors in any case.

  51. 51
    punctum on 5 Mar 2015 #

    Probably the most boring “bootleg” mix yet to make number one – even on a legal level it was uninteresting since both tunes used were released on the same label – “Toca’s Miracle” constituted the instrumental track from German Eurohack dance duo Fragma’s 1999 #11 hit “Toca Me” and the (specially re-recorded) vocal from Coco’s 1997 #39 smash “I Need A Miracle.” It was big in Ibiza. Although not actively offensive in the way some Popular entries here have been, it defies me to feel anything about it; it squats there for three and a bit minutes, doesn’t even go anywhere in the sense of climax or resolution and I struggle to find reasons to give it even one point. When I arrived at the extreme of “give them 1 for not being Westlife” I knew I was being passively provoked to the nethermost regions of desperation. I do note, however, the sleeve credit which reads: “Original Concept by Vimto.” You really couldn’t make it up.

  52. 52
    Inanimate Carbon God on 5 Mar 2015 #

    @51 Ouch.

    But I’ll admit the “You lift my spirits high, come on and RES-CUE MEEEEHY!” part sounds a bit coked-up 80s Reaganrock.

    Are there any good covers of this from outside its genre? A tight, new wave or garage rock band could really pull it off.

  53. 53
    Clive Munday on 7 Mar 2015 #

    @51 the article states the vocal is from 1996, rather than the 1997 re-vocal for Positiva. The vocal is from the 1996 Greenlight Records release B-side, a totally different recording on a totally different record label. The producer crediting for the 1996 vocal is Victor Imbres with engineering by Tim Orford. The later 1997 re-recording is credited to Matt Roberts with engineering by Leon Roberts. ’97 Crediting reflects ‘coco appears courtesy of Dub Dub Productions’. Someone has likely confused the parts or ownership (assuming there even was a ’97 vocal only) and sold millions of copies of a bootleg. Later remixes seem to be random music with the coco vocal slapped on top, there seems to be over 50 remix versions for sale. remixes sound hideous, itunes credits Tiger records/Kontor as copyright holders.

  54. 54
    ciaran on 15 Apr 2015 #

    I was in favour of this at the time but it has lost a bit of its shine over the years. It sounds a bit weak especially compared to an absolute belter that we’ll get to in early 2001.Even with it playing in the background whilst multi-tasking I was already starting to lose a bit of interest.Looking like Fergie of B”” E”’ P”’ also doesnt help.

    On a good day though I wouldnt begrudge it a 6.

  55. 55
    Girl with Curious Hair on 1 Sep 2016 #

    For what it’s worth, I remember quite liking the video when I was a kid. I realise this is a really *really* low bar, but by the standards of early 2000s dance videos “girls playing 5-a-side” was almost wholesome. It’s not exactly The Second Sex, granted, but sometimes in life you’ve gotta take the little victories.

  56. 56
    Gareth Parker on 14 May 2021 #

    I think I would go one point higher than Tom here. This single has an appealing summery sound to me. 7/10.

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