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Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Runaways & Edgeplay: 2 Movies About One Band

Two very different movies about the same band. The Hollywood version, starring Dakota Fanning & Kristen Stewart and released in 2010 mainly spotlights the relationship between Currie & Jett, yet gives little kudos to Lita Ford or the brilliant Sandy West. Also no mention is given to bassist Jackie Fox and her departure from the band when the band were in Japan. Whilst the movie is okay (has a good soundtrack and performances by The Runaways) it does fall far short of a definitive treatment of the band and their influence. The movie is based on Cherie Currie's book 'Neon Angel' and both Currie & Joan Jett gave the movie their blessing. But so much seems to be missing in the film from the 'real' story of the band.

You Can Watch Parts of The Movie Here.

Edgeplay, is a different beast altogether. Made by former Runaways bassist Victory Tischler-Blue and released in 2005. Vicki manages to get interviews with all The Runaways except Joan Jett. The final cut of Edgeplay is actually very different to the movie that Blue created. This is what she had to say about her movie and the struggles to get it released and on the new movie. This is taken from The Sydney Morning Herald (July 9th 2010):

''It was ugly,'' Tischler-Blue says. ''Blackheart [Jett's management company] have been very ugly about it. There have been a lot of lawsuits going back and forth.

They made the release of my film very, very difficult. They destroyed the first version, which is all about the music, the performances, the songs, by putting a claim against the film. I lost the rights to the Runaways' music, so I had to go back and re-edit to make a completely different film.''

As a latecomer to The Runaways after their initial rush of '75 to '77, the muso-turned-filmmaker was in a unique position to document a truly historic, if creatively meagre, rock'n'roll phenomenon.

The band she joined was already damaged: a disparate alliance of
17 and 18-year-old Los Angeles girls facilitated by glam-rock impresario Kim Fowley (see Kiss, Alice Cooper) and thrown to the wolves from San Fernando to Tokyo.

Currie, the band's bombshell front chick, was only months away from quitting the group. As the band's junior focal point, she hadn't coped with the fame, drugs and other abuses that greeted a pretty blonde minor wearing corset and suspenders on the '70s rock stage.

''Jailbait rock'' was a media catchphrase encouraged by Fowley. He's portrayed as a deranged comic-book villain in The Runaways but cuts a more disturbing figure in Edgeplay's interview footage.

''Kim and I are friends, always have been,'' Tischler-Blue says. ''My take on Kim will probably surprise you but he gave me great gifts as a kid, tremendous tools and self-belief. I'm very grateful I had him as a mentor, as weird as he is; as twisted and inappropriate as he is - and he is.''

Currie and lead guitarist Lita Ford give vent to much less charitable views of Fowley in Edgeplay. Their scathing recollections of his verbal violence and Machiavellian style come across as the tip of an iceberg of abuses by parties unnamed.

''I have to be very careful what I say, for legal reasons,'' Tischler-Blue responds. ''There are stories that I can only half-tell in the film for a variety of reasons, legal as well as moral. I could only go so far.''

What's clear from the often uncomfortable interviews in Edgeplay is a tangled web of abiding hostilities between various band members - and the lasting anger and emotional torment of several of their parents.

Drummer Sandy West, a co-founder of the band who died from lung cancer four years ago, cuts an especially tragic figure.

None of this appears in the Hollywood version, which is re-imagined by rock-video director-screenwriter Floria Sigismondi as a redemptive buddy drama between feisty brunette Jett (played by Kristen Stewart) and blonde ingenue Currie (Dakota Fanning).

''I have issues with it,'' Tischler-Blue says. "I've been contacted by a few of the actresses in the movie. They told me they loved Edgeplay, they watched it religiously to get a feel for the girls and their nuances, what their characters were about. That made me feel good.

But with the movie, the slant is the Joan-Cherie relationship. I feel like they could have honoured Sandy's memory a little better.''

The worst casualty of both films, however, is the music. In The Runaways, we cop Fanning's dud karaoke version of their sole hit, Cherry Bomb. In the documentary, thanks to Jett's legal embargo, it's replaced by Ford's solo noodling and a couple of tracks gifted by elder stateschick Suzi Quatro.

"And that, unfortunately, is not my call," Tischler-Blue sighs. ''The first version of my film [the one with all the performance footage] may someday be released as a bootleg. Who knows? Maybe I should just put it out there, create a viral video.

''It's a shame. I'll never understand it. Nor will my bandmates. I suspect it's more Joan's management than Joan. But I don't know. I really don't know.''

Ultimately, as with all stories, what we're left with after each film is only a version of whatever the truth might be. The Hollywood construct naturally comes with a neat and tidy subtext: girls can do anything together. Asked about the moral of Edgeplay, Tischler-Blue is less upbeat.

"Oh god. Be careful what you wish for."

My own take on both movies is that I prefer Edgeplay because it is the story as told by the actual band. The only blot on it of course is the absence of Joan Jett and the music of the band (a few tracks do appear but not their most famous songs due to Jett's legal challenge to the movie). The newest movie could have been so nuch better if time was given to develop the other characters instead of just focusing on Jett & Currie.

One good thing that does come out of it all is that people discover afresh the music of The Runaways. They made a number of great albums and opened the door for more female only bands to break into the business.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

My Favourite Album(s) Part 3

The Men They Couldn't Hang - Night of a Thousand Candles

I always remember the first time I heard 'Ironmasters' by MTCH back in 1985 and being totally blown away by it. Their sound was quite different to a lot of things that were going on at the time and they stood out in the Indie sector as a band worth watching. Not sure how I missed it but their debut single 'The Green Fields of France' (1984), but I do remember it from a four track John Peel Session (July 1984)that was pretty impressive ('Walkin Talkin', 'The Men They Couldn't Hang' and 'Boy Named Sue' were the other three songs).

The album doesn't have a poor track on it and is a fine mix of Folk and Punk that few bettered back in '85. It's right up there among my favourite debut albums.

Long Tall Shorty Still Kicking Out The Shams! (Tony Morrison Interview)

Tony Morrison Interview

Formed in 1978 from the ashes of a School Punk band, The Indicators had their first shot at the ‘big time’ with a support slot with Sham 69 at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town, but they turned up at the venue late and didn’t get to play. Disheartened but not down and out the band were fortunate that opportunity knocked again three months later when a band called The Invaders bowed out of a tour with The Angelic Upstarts who, alongside a few other bands, were being groomed by Jimmy Pursey on for his new record label set up via Polydor.

Pursey liked them so much they were given studio time and under his watchful eye recorded a number of songs and got a name change, but I’ll let Tony Morrison tell you about that. Tony was one of the founding members and 32 years later he is still out there with the band making new music and wowing audiences here in the UK and other parts of Europe with the sound of Long Tall Shorty.

Long Tall Shorty made waves on the live circuit back in 1979 as a new generation of bands rediscovered the sounds of the 60’s, Zoot Suits and Scooters. Venues like The Wellington in Waterloo, The Bridge House in Canning Town became a haven for the fledgling Mod movement and even the long established Marquee Club began to open it’s doors to the new sound on the street.

Where bands like Secret Affair, The Chords, the Purple Hearts and the Lambrettas were making dents in the charts and having TV opportunities, Long Tall Shorty did not seem to catch the breaks. Despite that the band is regarded quite highly among the Mod Community and that status was set in stone with their inclusion on Universal’s 50 Track ‘Mod Mania’ album released in April 2010 (alongside The Jam, The Chords, Secret Affair, and the Purple Hearts).

Tony took some time out to chat about Long Tall Shorty - past, present and future and it give us a wonderful insight not only into the life of a band but also into the heart of a man still consumed with music 32 years on from when he took his first tentative steps in to the world of music. 

Doug: LTS began life as The Indicators in 1978 at the suggestion of Jimmy Pursey you changed your name. I read an interview stating that you didn't like the name, why was that?

Tony: We couldn't think of a name for the group and the Indicators was the best we could come up with, and after JP took us to the studio in February 1979, he came bounding in going, "The Indicators is a shit name, I've got a great one for you". We were all sitting there saying, "What, what"? and he wouldn't tell us! Eventually he blurted out Long Tall Shorty and we were looking at each other going, "that sucks" but he persuaded us and that's what it's been ever since. His next idea was for us to do a cover of The Kinks ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ as our first 45 which would have been a good move but we couldn't play it! lol. 

Doug: How did you come to the attention of Jimmy Pursey in the first place?

Tony: Our drummers’ mother was secretary to a bloke called Tony Gordon who was a real old school impresario showbiz agent. He'd managed Lulu prior to becoming Sham's manager. Because she worked there, she got us a gig supporting Sham 69 at the Electric Ballroom in Camden in about September 1978 and then when he signed the Angelic Upstarts to his new label, we were offered the support slot on the tour which was probably our 3rd, 4th, and 5th gigs. At the 3rd gig on the tour, Weybridge College of Food Technology, he saw us for the first time and said, "come to the studio boys, I'll make you pop stars", just like you always read in books. To be honest, I thought that's how it happened! We went to Polydor studio and ran through our set and he was saying, "no, try another" until we'd done everything but ‘1970’s Boy’ which was the first song I ever wrote. Our drummer kept saying, "do 1970's Boy" but it was about a minute long and we didn't think it'd ever be good enough for a record. Eventually, we played it and he said, "that's the one".

Doug: JP produced your first single ('By Your Love') and many of the reviews for it from what I can recall were not very favourable. Did you like the song or did you think that a different song could have been the A Side ('Falling For You', 'New Generation' or 'If I Was You' would have made a great single!) if you had the choice?

Tony: ‘1970’s Boy’ was originally the first choice for a 45 and it sounded just like we did on stage but over the next few weeks, we'd come up with this really cheesy song, ‘By Your Love‘, which did actually sound more like a pop record and when we played that to him, he got his Phil Spector hat on and decided that would be the single. At that point, no one really thought there'd be a Mod revival so we were really just another group and the obvious choice was to release a commercial song that would appeal to anyone and Hey Presto, you'd get in the chart as a pop group, not a mod group. Later on, JP invited both The Chords and the Purple Hearts to come and record with his label but in February 1979 he probably didn't even realise there was the stirrings of any sort of Mod movement. Even so, it didn't really bear much relation to the original Mods because all the early prime movers of the revival were really just Jam fans who'd read Paul Weller interviews and started discovering early Who stuff etc. Secret Affair were definitely the most authentic Mod band of the movement but they didn't really have anything in common with groups like us because we were never trying to be authentic, we were a group of kids who liked bands like the Jam, Generation X, Sham, The Buzzocks etc.

Doug: What happened to your the deal with WEA? You were scheduled to do a tour with The Chords but only one date was fulfilled (the battlefield called The Middlesbrough Rock Garden!), was that linked to the situation with WEA? Do you have any memories of that infamous show at all? I remember large skinheads trying to drag you off stage and the venue resembling a war zone with Mods getting their heads kicked in everywhere!).

Tony: Record companies are fickle and Jimmy had 5 groups signed to Warner Bros including us (The Angelic Upstarts, The Invaders, Kidz Next Door and Jimmy Edwards - Ed). They probably took a look at who might "make it", decided none of them would and sacked the lot! Dreams of stardom are quickly scuppered in the music biz. We were offered The Chords tour and thought it'd be great because they were one of the biggest bands of the revival and we were just starting to come through so it seemed like a good way of making progress. However, by then, the revival was a bit of a joke to the "Biz" and it attracted a lot of unwelcome attention. The Chords, in London, were a big band but anywhere else, they weren't and as you say, there were a few Mods at Middlesbrough and the rest of the audience had come to cause trouble. We did that one show, decided that the rest of the tour would be more of the same and went back to London. Being a support band on a tour can be a mixed blessing because you don't get the nice hotels and decent soundchecks, you end up travelling around the country in winter, sleeping in the back of a Transit van with no money for food or fags and if the audience aren't there to listen, just to cause agro, you think twice.

The day after Middlesbrough, we had our first headline gig at the Marquee in London and after the success of that we just thought let's stay here and keep doing what we're doing. It's funny, The March of the Mods tour in 1979 is now considered to be a bit legendary but don't forget, a lot of the venues around the country were empty and yet in London, the date at the Lyceum was sold out, probably about 1200 people there! Mod didn't seem to make much of an impact anywhere except London.

In one respect Tony is quite right that Mod was only making an impact in London but throughout the country there were bands forming and beginning to make an impression: The Killermeters (from Yorkshire), The Teenbeats (Hastings), Squire (Woking) and The Jolt (Lanarkshire - though some do not see them as a Mod band).

Doug: As a band that was quite prominent during the 'Mod Revival of 1979', were you frustrated that bands like Secret Affair, The Chords, Purple Hearts and even The Lambrettas were enjoying success whilst LTS weren't getting any real breaks?

Tony: Not really because after the initial flurry with Warner Bros where we had been being groomed to be a pop group, once we were released from those shackles, we started to develop as a good little R and B band with a sort of punky attitude. Big record labels often don't want upstarts with ideas, they want a group that sounds like the last big thing. Sometimes it's more important to be good than famous and I don't regret a thing because I had my taste of all that with the Upstarts but it also allowed me to get on with my life and not become an embittered old sod who nearly got there but not quite. It allows me to play music now because I want to, not because I nearly had a hit in 1979. Consequently, we are still making new music which many bands of that era can't or won't. We obviously play our old singles because we want to but we don't then have to do the other 8 tracks off a crappy LP that was rushed out in 1979 to cash in on the revival. Hardly anyone from the revival made any impact on music and the ones that did, didn't do it by playing in revival bands, i.e. Tears for Fears who came out of a group called Graduate and my faves, The Alarm who were a mod band called Seventeen. In an ideal world, Amy Winehouse or whoever would be quoting the Merton Parkas as the reason she sounds like a 1960's singer but of course she doesn’t!

Doug: The band broke up in 1982 and immediately you joined the Angelic Upstarts. How different was that from LTS? Did you record a lot with them? And am I right in saying that you also were writing songs for the band? How long did you play with them for? 

(with The Upstarts in Detroit)

Tony: I was with the Upstarts for 3 glorious years, recorded 3 LP's, wrote a few songs and toured all over the world. It wasn't that different in reality apart from the fact I was just a band member, not a front man so I used to have a lot of freedom. After a gig, the singer gets besieged by people wanting to know about this and that but I was left alone which was lovely. I hate singing, much prefer just to pose around with a guitar, talking to people about ANYTHING other than politics, war and all manner of unpleasant things. They were such a great band although personally it wasn't always easy. They were super tough Geordies and I was a wimpy Mod from London but we had some fantastic times.

I was 21 when I first joined them and we went off to the USA for a 3 month tour about 3 months later which was amazing. Punk there was more a fashion than a big political thing and I was a pretty, skinny boy with bleached hair and LOUD clothes so I had a great time. I also discovered some cool bands who supported us, Husker Du, MDC, DOA and in Canada we did some gigs with Cook and Jones from the Pistols who had a band called The Professionals.

Everything I'd wanted from being in a band happened in those 3 years, big record labels, showbiz parties, tours of America, blah, blah, blah. By the time I left when I was 23, I'd fulfilled everything I could have dreamt of and I virtually gave up music and got on with my shit. I still think the Upstarts are one of the GENUINE bands to have come through. Songs we recorded like
Solidarity’ are massive now in Europe and I'm proud to have been a part of that.

Doug: 20 years after LTS broke you resurrected the band. How did that come about and from the outset were you interested in writing new material rather than just churning out the old LTS catalogue?

Tony: I didn't even have a guitar in about 1995, I'd given all that up and then suddenly I got into a new relationship with my wife now who'd never known me with a guitar in my hand. I thought it'd be an impressive thing to show her I used to be "famous" so I spoke to Mensi and he let me do some Upstarts gigs, one at a big Punk festival up north in front of 5000 people! After that I started to collect guitars because I'd got interested in them again. A couple of years later, a mate of mine was playing bass with Ian Page's band and he called me from Sweden and said the DJ was playing a LTS song. I was flabbergasted, didn't think anything like that was still going on. That was really what whet my appetite and I put together an LTS, did a couple of gigs and then started writing songs again. Eddie Piller offered to make a record with us and we were off again and haven't stopped since.

I couldn't have just played old songs, I'd rather not do it than churning out all that stuff just to please people. That's what I don't understand about covers bands, being a musician is a creative process so if you're gonna do it, DO IT PROPERLY! I respect and enjoy what I have done in the past but it's not all I've done in my life, you gotta move on. There's time for reflection when you're on your death bed!

Doug: How pleased were you when Captain Mod finally released the '1970's Boy' compilation? You followed that up with the Detour released 'Completely Perfect' that contained another 11 songs, is that all the archived material from the old days?

Tony: I was bloody surprised, I can tell you! They offered me a load of money for the rights to release that ‘1970's Boy’ record and then a while later, Detour offered me a load more to do that other one. I was amazed all that archive stuff was out there, I hadn't heard any of it for years. There is a couple of other tapes, one from a live gig which was Shorty's Last Stand at the Marquee, 2 days before my first Upstarts gig and the other is a live session we did for CBS. Neither of them are very good though but they do show where we were at during those times. 

Doug: What inspires you to write? Do you feel that you have become a better songwriter when you compare what you did back in the late 70's with what you are writing now?

Tony: I just write songs, no mystery about it. Some people play golf or go into the loft and muck about with a Hornby Railway but I sit down and write things, dunno why. What is funny though is that I can go months without writing anything and then if we have to make a record I can knock them out in no time. In the last year, I wrote 15 songs for Garry Bushell’s LP, 12 for the ‘Giffer’ LP and then another 12 for the new LP. I take much more care when writing now though because I find it easier and I want them to be as good as possible. I wrote the required amount for the new LP and then just stopped and haven't written anything now for about 2 months although I do have a couple of titles for our next lot of recording. 

In the old days, I'd come up with a verse or chorus and then when I had 2 verses and one chorus, I'd just sling in a guitar solo but songwriting is a craft and the more you do, the better you get so now I think of intros and middle bits and outros and when I'm writing, I literally don’t sleep, ideas are buzzing around all the time and wherever I go, I'm looking for things to say in my next song.

My lyrics have definitely got better. They always used to be the loner against the world but now they are more sort of social observations.
‘Marvin Gay’ (from the new album) is about same sex parenting, ‘Going to a Jihad’ is about getting blown up by a nutter while you're off to work, ‘Holiday in Dignitas’ is about wanting to have the injection to die, etc.

However, it's not all doom and gloom, on the new LP there is a song called ‘6 + 6’ , which came about when I was talking to a friend on the phone and got pulled by the old bill. He let me off but said, "I could give you 6 points for that" and I suddenly thought hmmm, get stopped twice and you'd lose your licence. ‘Kick Out the Shams’, is about groups who reform and don't put any effort into it, i.e. they just wanna escape the drudgery of their lives, make a few quid and f*** the audience over! 

Doug: If Tony of 2010 could go back in time and meet Tony Perfect (his stage name back then) of the 1980's, what words of advice might you have for him knowing what you know now about yourself and the journey you are on?

Tony: I'd tell him to relax, you might not get to where you think you want to be but you'll get to a good place because that's where I'm at now. When I was young, I used to be on a mission and when a new band came along, I'd feel physically ill that they were "there" and we weren't. I now know there is a whole other life out there and it's all for the taking.

Doug: You seem to do quite a bit of live work in Europe, how are you received outside the UK?

Tony: We went out to Europe a couple of years ago for peanuts and had a great time and went down a storm so we've just built it up like you would with any business, start small, work hard and kick ass.

We're best known in Germany and Italy but have also played in France, Spain, Holland and Belgium. The audiences are great because you aren't a "this" band or a "that" band, you are just a band and they want entertaining. Saying that, we are probably considered a punk band in most places but you wouldn't get a kicking if you turned up in a Harrington or boots and braces. They just get on with things which is very refreshing and it has given us a whole new lease of life.

From doing some gigs last year, we met the guy who owns our record label and he offered us a deal and it works fine. We record in England and send him the tapes and if we want a specific sleeve design, we are allowed to do it. Nothing is taboo and so we can really write about what we want without having to think if it's acceptable or not! If we tried to release a song like ‘Kick Out the Shams’ in the UK the label would be saying "oh, can't do that, you'll offend other bands or alienate the audience. On the new LP, we have a lyric sheet inside so the Europeans can learn the words properly because at the moment, they sing along but don't really know what to sing unless there's an "OI" or a "HEY" in there. It's great for us that we have been accepted in this way and the main surprise to me is Berlin. I always thought it was a really arty-farty type of place but we are getting BIG there now and each time we play, the venues get bigger and bigger, it's a hoot. First time we went to Europe, there were all these skins and punks at the front and I thought we were going to get a kicking but as soon as we started playing, they were all jumping around and singing along. When people put a video of us on You Tube from herein the UK, you see the crowd standing around with their arms crossed but the Euro one's are wild, people jumping around and stuff.  

Doug: Tell us a little bit about the guys in the band

Tony: The lads in the band are Jim Piddington, the drummer and John Woodward on bass (both Jim and John were members of The Gonads) . We have tried adding other guitar players or keyboard players over the years but a trio works for us as we travel everywhere by car. This line up has been together for 2 years and in that time we've never had a single argument because we're all in it for the same reason, to enjoy ourselves! At Christmas we did 3500 miles through Germany down to Italy and back up to Berlin, 7 gigs in 8 days and not once was there a ruck or harsh words exchanged.

My ideal line up would be us 3 and Bob Manton of the Purple Hearts on vocals, he's the best. We'd be invincible with him but we just have to be mega as he's busy elsewhere. Jim and John are both about 7 or 8 years younger than me but anything I throw at them, they can do. Sometimes we play really fast and they just get on with it. I couldn't ask for more than these guys and they're great musicians too.

Doug: With more than 30 years experience in the business, what three pieces of advice would you give to a band just starting out now?

Tony: First, I'd say what Jimmy Pursey said to me, "don't get flash". Musicians can be a funny bunch especially if they get a bit of cash and success. Mix that in with being young, drink and drugs and you can see why. Second, I'd say, enjoy yourself because no matter what happens, there is a tomorrow and you don't want people thinking you're an arsehole because you acted like one. Finally, if you wanna be rich, don't do this, go and work in a bank or something. Being in a band is the best orgasm you ever had if you know how to handle it. If you don't, it's like the worst acid trip ever.

Doug: Bringing things right up to date: Tell us a little bit about the new album, and what your hopes are for LTS in the coming years?

Tony: We're just gonna keep on keeping on. We've got 2 tours of Germany lined up and one in Italy to promote our new LP plus we're playing some big gigs in the UK with the likes of Sham 69, Secret Affair and Bad Manners plus our own shows dotted around here and there. The new LP is out on June 30th and it's called ‘Kick Out the Shams....Mother******s‘. It's on a label called Time for Action who are based in Germany but is available all over Europe and through our website. The LP is 16 songs, 15 new originals plus the single ‘Police Oppression’ , which is an old Upstarts song. We covered that as a thank you to people who are still listening to us and also it's my little show of gratitude to Mensi, Mond and Decca for tolerating me during my years of being in the Upstarts. We're just gonna keep on going for either as long as we're enjoying it or until the last person has left!

Trying to define the music of Long Tall Shorty today is quite difficult as the band manage to blend all their influences into one happy sound. The Mod beat is still there, but so is the punk edge. On their last couple of albums they have thrown up a real 1970's CBGB's sound (they even cover a couple of classic Heartbreakers tracks on their 'Sound of Giffer City' album ('Born to Lose' and 'One Track Mind'). 

More LTS Music
    "Win Or Lose" (Single) Ramkup, 1981
    "On The Streets Again" (Single) Diamond Records 1984
    "Shine On Me" (Single) Acid Jazz 2001
    A Bird in the Hand (Album) Acid Jazz, 2002*
    Completely Perfect (Album) Detour, 2002
    No Good Women (Single) Biff Bang Pow, 2005
Women and Trouble (Album)
Biff Bang Pow, 2005   
 The Sounds Of Giffer City (Album) Time For Action Records 2009*
    Kick Out The Shams (Album) – Time For Action Records, June 2010*

*Incomplete Albums

Find out more about the band and get their music from The Long Tall Shorty Website.
Also if you get the chance to see them live here are the dates:

10 July - The Invasion - Yorkshire Scooter Alliance - Newton On Derwent York

17 July - The Shed Weekender - with Sham 69

23 July - Beatz und Kekse - Wuppertal - Germany

24 July - Schokoladen - Berlin - Germany

8 August 2010 - Fordham Music Festival -

19 August 2010 - Hafenklang - Hamburg

20 August 2010 - ZwΓΆlfzehn - Stuttgart

21 August 2010 - Subway To Peter - Chemnitz

28 August - The Ice Rink - Isle Of Wight Scooter Rally - with Bad Manners

25 September - Dickins - Rotherham

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