It’s Danger Mouse’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

About Bill Cosby, rapper A$AP Rocky recently said, “He did so much positive things leading up to one thing, which he was convicted of being innocent for, by the way.” First off, it’s so many positive things, not so much. Secondly, it’s for which he was convicted of being innocent. Thirdly, one gets convicted of being innocent? No wonder our nation’s jails are overcrowded. Go on, $AP. “All you remember is the 56 woman and all that kind of shit.” Yes, all that kind of serial rapist shit. Nobody remembers he introduced the world to Fat Albert and Raven Symone. Just rape rape rape and more rape. Oh, sorry. I interrupted this genius again. Back to you A$$. “I’m not his lawyer, but I do know he’s innocent.” And even if he is guilty, “All we know is that he was accused, he allegedly raped however many woman he raped, which, you got, it’s so much issues in the world, you know I’m saying?” I know what you’re saying! There are so many issues in the world, so why spend any time on one of the issues in the world, that being the issue of crime?

I expected better from the guy who rapped “I be fuckin’ broads like I be fuckin’ bored / Turn a dyke bitch out have her fuckin’ boys, beast” and “I swear that bitch Rita Ora got a big mouth/ Next time I see her might curse the bitch out/ Kicked the bitch out once cause she bitched out/ Spit my kids out, jizzed up all in her mouth and made the bitch bounce.” It turns out he’s not as intelligent, articulate and thoughtful as those lyrics make him out to be.

The only time I ever bought the “clean” version over the “explicit” version of a song is when I got A$AP Rocky’s “F**kin’ Problems,” from which the dyke bitch lyric is taken. The beat is great, but the lyrics are so over-the-top misogynist, and that’s saying a lot for a genre in which far too many lyrics are extremely misogynist.

Rocky is a talented guy, albeit one with a vile attitude toward women. Usually I can separate the person from the art. I love the movie Chinatown, even though its director, Roman Polanski, pled guilty to statutory rape. I love the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” even though the producer of those records, Phil Spector, is presently serving time for second degree murder. I love Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” even though he’s Robin Thicke. I don’t know what I’ll do if Chris Brown ever releases a halfway decent song. Good things the odds of that ever happening are mighty slim.

I’m not defending these artists. Being a monster and being talented are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes I can listen to or watch the art and not think about the crimes allegedly committed. Is that wrong? If it is, that’s my f**kin’ problem.

CeeLo Green gave us the great “Fuck You” in 2010. In 2012, Green was accused by a woman of drugging and sexually assaulting her. CeeLo’s attorney said the sex was consensual, with the singer tweeting “If someone is passed out they’re not even WITH you consciously, so WITH Implies consent. People who have really been raped REMEMBER!!!” Fuck you.

I still listen to Green’s “Fuck You,” but I don’t set out to listen to his newer music. In part it’s because of his attitude. Even if he didn’t drug and or rape this woman, I read his tweets about rape and think “Does that make him crazy? Probably.” To be honest, I also don’t listen to his newer music because it sucks. Everything the man has done since “Fuck You” is pretty bad. Did you hear his song “Robin Williams” from last year? It’s shit. I’m not saying I’m glad he died, but the actor is lucky he never had to hear it.

So I’ll listen to “Fuck You” and I’ll listen to “Crazy,” the worldwide smash he had as one-half of Gnarls Barkley. The other half of the duo, Brian Burton, professionally known as Danger Mouse,” celebrates his 39th birthday today. Tunes du Jour kicks off its weekly dance party with Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” Will I be celebrating when CeeLo’s birthday comes around? Maybe by singing “Fuck You.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1963

The girl group sound was hugely popular on the US pop charts in the early 1960s. The Shirelles, The Crystals, The Chiffons, The Angels, Martha and the Vandellas, The Marvelettes, The Exciters, The Orlons, The Cookies, The Murmaids, The Dixie Cups, The Supremes, The Toys, The Shangri-Las, The Jaynetts and others filled the radio with tales of teenage romance, heartbreak and occasionally social commentary. Solo acts such as Lesley Gore and Darlene Love also exemplified the girl group sound.

Described in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry as “the quintessence of the ‘girl group’ aesthetic of the early 1960s,” the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” reached #2 in 1963. The record was produced by Phil Spector, who produced at least 15 top forty girl group songs between 1962 and 1964.

Lead vocals on “Be My Baby” were performed by Ronnie Spector. In fact, the other Ronettes aren’t even on the record. Backup singers included the girlfriend of Phil Spector’s promotion man. That man was Sonny Bono; his girlfriend was Cher. Sonny & Cher would have their first hit as a duo two years later.

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist spotlights the hits of 1963. Here are twenty of that year’s best, kicking off with the record New Music Express named the second best song of the 1960s (their #1 was The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”), the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1962

Some time in my teen years I feel in love with the girl group sound. My favorite was The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel.” The music and the vocals hooked me. The singer tells of how others don’t approve of the boy she loves as he’s a non-conformist, but he treats her well and that’s all that matters.

The story behind the record is as interesting as the record itself. The song was written by Gene Pitney, who had several hits of his own, including “Town Without Pity” and “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valence.” “He’s a Rebel” was slated to be the debut single for Vikki Carr, but when Spector heard Pitney’s demo he knew he wanted it for one of his acts, The Crystals.

He needed to record it quickly in order to challenge Carr’s version at the stores. The Crystals, however, were on the road in New York and unable to make the recording sessions in Los Angeles. No problem. Spector hired a local group called The Blossoms, led by Darlene Wright, to record the song. Wright was paid $3000 for the session. Spector released the record under the name The Crystals, as his label owned the name. The actual Crystals first learned of their new hit song when they heard it on the radio. It became their first #1 single, meaning The Crystals had to learn this song so they could perform it at their shows. The group’s lead singer, Barbara Alston, could not match Wright’s vocal performance, so fellow Crystal LaLa Brooks moved into the lead vocalist slot. Coincidentally, the week The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” was #1, Gene Pitney was #2 as a singer with “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” a song he didn’t write.

As “He’s a Rebel” was so successful, Spector needed to get a follow-up single out quickly. Again, he turned to The Blossoms to record “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” Wright, however, was angry that her name was not on “He’s a Rebel” and told Spector she would only do this song if she were singed to a recording agreement and was properly credited for her vocals on the track. Spector agreed, changing her name in the agreement to Darlene Love. He released “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” It was credited to The Crystals.

Spector used the money he made from “He’s a Rebel” to buy out his business partners in the Philles Records label. In addition to the financial settlement, Spector had to give his two ex-partners a share of the royalties of the next Philles single release, so Spector got the real Crystals into the studio and recorded “(Let’s Dance) The Screw,” a silly number clearly not intended to be a hit. A copy was sent to one of the ex-partners. No royalties were generated.

Tunes du Jour celebrates Throwback Thursday with twenty great hits from 1962, kicking off with “He’s a Rebel” by “The Crystals.”


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Winston + Turners

“River Deep – Mountain High” by Ike & Tina Turner

Winston + Turners
By 1966, the recording duo Ike & Tina Turner and the record producer Phil Spector could use a turnaround in their luck.

Ike & Tina Turner’s first hit song was 1960’s “A Fool in Love.” Two more top forty pop and four more r&b top ten hits followed over the next couple of years.

Phil Spector’s first hit as a producer was The Teddy Bears’ “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” a #1 pop single in 1958. Over the next seven years Phil Spector produced twenty-five top 40 pop hits, including such classics as The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “Unchained Melody,” The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” and “Da Doo Ron Ron,” and Curtis Lee’s “Pretty Little Angel Eyes.”

Fast forward to late 1965. Ike & Tina Turner’s last top 40 pop hit was “Poor Fool,” which peaked at #38 in early 1962. It went top ten on the r&b chart, as did its follow-up, “Tra La La La,” but successive singles failed to do as well.

Despite scoring four top ten singles on Spector’s Philles Records, The Righteous Brothers sued the producer/record company head to get off the label, saying their contract was unenforceable. It was announced in early 1966 that the duo signed with another label. Their first single for that label, Verve, was a #1 hit – “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration.” Spector lost his star attraction, and the other acts in his stable had lost luster. The Ronettes’ most recent top 40 hit was 1964’s “Walking in the Rain.” The Crystals’ most recent top 40 hit was 1963’s “Then He Kissed Me.”

In 1965 the Ike & Tina Turner Revue performed The Galaxy in Los Angeles. In the audience was Phil Spector. He loved their act and booked them to appear on The Big TNT Show, a televised concert for which he was the associate producer and musical director. Also appearing on the program were The Byrds, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Donovan, Joan Baez, Petula Clark, and Roger Miller.

Spector was taken by Tina’s performance. “I said, God, if I could make a number-one record with her she could go on Ed Sullivan, she could go to Las Vegas; she could break the color barrier.” At the time, Ike & Tina were singed to Loma Records, a division of Warner Brothers Records. None of their releases hit the pop charts. Spector negotiated a release from their Loma contract. Spector wanted Tina, not Ike, so he paid Loma $20,000 to buy out the duo’s contract, on the condition that Ike stay away from the studio while Tina recorded. Ike accepted this offer, with the stipulation that the resulting record still be credited to Ike & Tina Turner.

To come up with a suitable song, Spector turned to the husband and wife songwriting team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who, with Spector, wrote “Be My Baby” and “Da Doo Ron Ron” and also wrote “Leader of the Pack” (with Shadow Morton) and “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.” CORRECTION: former husband and wife songwriting team – Barry and Greenfield divorced in December 1965, just a few weeks before Spector asked them to write a song for Tina.

Though freshly-divorced, they both came to the table, each with a different unfinished song. The combination of the three songs resulted in “River Deep – Mountain High,” with the melody of the verses coming from Greenwich, the melody of the chorus coming from Spector, and most of the lyrics coming from Barry.

The first of five recording sessions for the single was in February 1966. Hanging out in the control room were a couple of folks you may have heard of – Mick Jagger and Brian Wilson. To achieve his vision Spector used 21 background vocalists and 21 musicians, including Glen Campbell, Leon Russell and Hal Blaine. The completed record cost around $22,000 to make. Said Bob Krasnow, the head of Loma Records, “In those days, you could make five albums for twenty thousand dollars. And this was just a single – one side of a single.”

After years with Ike Turner, Tina must have been relieved to be able to go into the studio without Ike and with Phil Spector, a man who treated women with respect – scratch that thought. In her autobiography, I, Tina, she recounts a recording session with Spector. “That intro – ‘When I was a little girl…’ – I must have sung that five hundred thousand times, and I don’t know if I ever got it just the way he wanted it. I would sing it, and he would say, ‘That’s very close, very close. We’ll try it again.’ I don’t remember him saying, ‘Got it.’ Pretty soon, I was drenched with sweat. I had to take off my shirt and stand there in my bra to sing, that’s how hard I was working on that song.”

A River Deep – Mountain High album, with a cover photo taken by a broke Hollywood actor named Dennis Hopper, wouldn’t be released until 1969. However, the “River Deep – Mountain High” single came out in the United States on May 14, 1966. It entered the Hot 100 at #98. A week later it was #94. One week after that #93. The next week it rose to #88.

And that was it. The record that was to be the triumphant return of Ike & Tina Turner and Phi Spector stayed on the chart for only four weeks. Looking back, Tina concluded “It was too black for the pop stations, and too pop for the black stations.” Ike agreed.

After the single’s failure, Spector became a semi-recluse. It would be three years before another Phil Spector’s production was on the Hot 100.

In the United Kingdom, however, it was a different story. “River Deep – Mountain High” peaked at #3 there. George Harrison called it “a perfect record from start to finish – you couldn’t improve on it.” Harrison would later have Spector co-produce his All Things Must Pass album, which included the classic “My Sweet Lord.”

In praising Tina, Mick Jagger said “’River Deep-Mountain High’ was an excellent record because she had the voice to get out in front of Phil Spector’s so-called wall of sound.” The Rolling Stones invited Ike & Tina to open for them on their tour that began in the autumn of 1966.

In 1999, “River Deep – Mountain High” was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine put it at #33 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Tina Turner turns 75 today. Here are twenty career highlights, kicking off with the classic “River Deep – Mountain High.”

Read more about Tina Turner here.

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Ringo + Ronnie 2014-08-10 12.19

The Ronettes – “Be My Baby”

Ringo + Ronnie 2014-08-10 12.19

Ronnie Spector turns 71 years old today. Along with her sister Estelle and cousin Nedra, Ronnie, then Veronica “Ronnie” Bennett, formed The Ronettes, one of the classic girl groups of the sixties.

The trio was signed to Colpix Records, but none of their singles performed well. Then they met Phil Spector, who signed them to his label, Philles.

The first track Spector recorded with the trio was “Why Don’t They Let Us Fall in Love?,” which, though the girls liked it, Spector held from release.

With Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Phil Spector wrote “Be My Baby,” with the intention of having Ronnie Bennett, the woman he wanted to be his baby, record it.

The resulting record had a classic Spector wall of sound production and Phil recorded more than 40 takes. It took Ronnie three days to get the lead vocal down.

The other Ronettes don’t sing on “Be My Baby.” Background vocals were provided by Darlene Love, Nino Tempo, Sonny Bono, who did promotion for Phil Spector, and Bono’s girlfriend, Cher.

In 1963, The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” rose to #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Since that time it has made many lists of the greatest recordings. Among its biggest fans is Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, who named it is favorite single of all-time, saying “This is a special one for me. What a great sound, the Wall of Sound. Boy, first heard this on the car radio and I had to pull off the road, I couldn’t believe it. The choruses blew me away; the strings are the melody of love. It has the promise to make the world better.”

Ronnie Bennett married Phil Spector in 1968. They divorced in 1974.

Today’s playlist consists of twenty tracks embodying the classic girl groups sound, with an emphasis on The Ronettes.

Ringo + Carole King 002

The Twelfth Best Album Of All-Time, Subject To Change

Ringo + Carole King 002

I’m creating a list of my top 100 albums of all-time. I’ve been working on it for a couple of years. I need to get it right. I’ve whittled the list down to 112 nominees, which I listen to repeatedly, moving albums around as I assess their impact on my ears and emotions. Presently sitting at #12, between The Beatles’ Rubber Soul and the Phil Spector Christmas album, is Carole King’s Tapestry.

Released in 1971, Tapestry was a huge success, staying at #1 on the album charts for 15 weeks and remaining on Billboard’s album chart for 300 weeks, the longest run of any album by a female solo act. The album won King the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, its track “It’s Too Late” was named Record of the Year, its song “You’ve Got a Friend” won Song of the Year (as well as a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male for James Taylor for his cover version), and its title track won King the Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female award.

The album includes new songs written or co-written by King, including “I Feel the Earth Move” and “So Far Away,” as well as covers of songs she wrote or co-wrote that had already been hits for other acts, such as “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” a smash for Aretha Franklin, and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” which The Shirelles took to #1 ten years earlier.

Other King compositions you may know are “Up on the Roof,” a hit for The Drifters, “One Fine Day,” a hit for The Chiffons, “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” a hit for The Monkees, “Go Away Little Girl” a hit for Steve Lawrence and later Donny Osmond, “I’m Into Something Good,” a hit for Herman’s Hermits, “It’s Going to Take Some Time,” a hit for The Carpenters, and “The Loco-motion,” a song which holds the distinction of going top ten in three different decades – in the sixties for Little Eva (King’s babysitter), in the seventies for Grand Funk and in the eighties for Kylie Minogue. In the forty years between 1959 and 1999 King made the Billboard Hot 100 118 times as a songwriter.

Tunes du Jour honors the classic work of Carole King, who turns 72 today.

crystals 003

He’s A Rebel

crystals 003

Some time in my teen years I feel in love with the girl group sound. My favorite was The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel.” The music and the vocals hooked me. The singer tells of how others don’t approve of the boy she loves as he’s a non-conformist, but he treats her well and that’s all that matters.

The story behind the record is as interesting as the record itself. The song was written by Gene Pitney, who had several hits of his own, including “Town Without Pity” and “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valence.” “He’s a Rebel” was slated to be the debut single for Vikki Carr, but when Spector heard Pitney’s demo he knew he wanted it for one of his acts, The Crystals.

He needed to record it quickly in order to challenge Carr’s version at the stores. The Crystals, however, were on the road in New York and unable to make the recording sessions in Los Angeles. No problem. Spector hired a local group called The Blossoms, led by Darlene Wright, to record the song. Wright was paid $3000 for the session. Spector released the record under the name The Crystals, as his label owned the name. The actual Crystals first learned of their new hit song when they heard it on the radio. It became their first #1 single, meaning The Crystals had to learn this song so they could perform it at their shows. The group’s lead singer, Barbara Alston, could not match Wright’s vocal performance, so fellow Crystal LaLa Brooks moved into the lead vocalist slot. Coincidentally, the week The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” was #1, Gene Pitney was #2 as a singer with “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” a song he didn’t write.

As “He’s a Rebel” was so successful, Spector needed to get a follow-up single out quickly. Again, he turned to The Blossoms to record “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” Wright, however, was angry that her name was not on “He’s a Rebel” and told Spector she would only do this song if she were singed to a recording agreement and was properly credited for her vocals on the track. Spector agreed, changing her name in the agreement to Darlene Love. He released “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” It was credited to The Crystals.

Spector used the money he made from “He’s a Rebel” to buy out his business partners in the Philles Records label. In addition to the financial settlement, Spector had to give his two ex-partners a share of the royalties of the next Philles single release, so Spector got the real Crystals into the studio and recorded “(Let’s Dance) The Screw,” a silly number clearly not intended to be a hit. A copy was sent to one of the ex-partners. No royalties were generated.

Today is Phil Spector’s 74th birthday. He’s spending it in jail, convicted in 2009 for the 2003 murder of Lana Clarkson. What happened to Clarkson is horrible and unforgivable. That this is how many people know of Spector these days is tragic. This playlist recalls the years that Spector was known as one of the greatest producers in the history of rock and roll. Besides the tracks presented below, Spector also worked with John Lennon, producing with him, among others, a little ditty called “Imagine;” with George Harrison, producing, among others, a song you may have heard called “My Sweet Lord;” and with The Beatles, producing an album named Let It Be.

An Atheist Jew’s Guide To Christmas Music, Part 1

Raised Jewish, I celebrated Hanukkah. For several years, my family also celebrated Christmas. We didn’t go to midnight mass, we didn’t drink egg nog, we didn’t throw a special type of log in the fireplace. (By the way, I have no idea what makes a Yule log yuley). We put tinsel and candy canes on a large potted plant my mother had in the den and bought each other small but practical gifts. For example, when I was 11 for Christmas my parents got me a salt shaker. The Christmas celebrations stopped after I innocently told Grandpa Mordechai about them. My parents were so angry with me they took away my salt shaker.

Though I no longer celebrate Christmas, I still have a major jones for Christmas music. I own many more Christmas records than any atheist Jew probably should. We’re talking in the hundreds.

I eschew Christmas classics performed by well-known middle-of-the-road acts such as Celine Dion, Michael Bublé, Kenny G (sell-out Jew), Neil Diamond (sell-out Jew) or Barbra Streisand (sell-out Jew). Frank Sinatra shows up only in a duet with Cyndi Lauper and Bing Crosby shows up only in his duet with David Bowie.

Including the Crosby/Bowie version, I have 15 renditions of “The Little Drummer Boy” in my iPod, by a diverse list of artists including Johnny Cash, The Temptations, Joan Jett, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop and RuPaul.

I have ten versions of “Winter Wonderland,” and that’s not counting the cross-dressing parody “Walkin’ Round in Women’s Underwear,” not performed by RuPaul.

I have “Christmas in Hollis,” “Christmas in Harlem,” “Christmas in Washington,” “Christmastime in the LBC,” “Christmas in the City,” “Christmas in Heaven,” “Christmastime in Hell” and “Christmas at the Zoo.”

I have Christmas songs by most of my favorite artists of all-time, including The Beatles, Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, R.E.M., Elvis Presley, The White Stripes, Kanye West, Ike and Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, and Radiohead.

Some Christmas songs aren’t Christmas songs at all. “Frosty the Snowman,” “Let It Snow Let it Snow Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” don’t mention the baby Jesus or Santa Claus or presents or a bullied reindeer with a skin ailment.

Some of the Christmas songs I have are a bit odd. “I Found the Brains of Santa Claus,” a smooth jazz version of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” C3PO and R2D2 singing “Sleigh Ride.” I have Liberace reciting “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” though his version doesn’t hold a candle to Aretha Franklin’s version, in which the Queen of Soul took a few liberties with the words: “A bundle of gifts he had and what did I get? / As I squealed, opening the package, the same old shit!” Her lyrics are downright Disneyesque compared to Snoop Dogg’s reading of the famous poem. If you’re interested, Google the lyrics because I’m not going to print them here.

I have John Denver singing “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas).” Verse one opens with a couplet for the arithmetically-challenged: “Just last year when I was only seven / Now I’m almost eight you can see.” Santa needs to bring John some flashcards. The next two lines create a holiday image that is less Norman Rockwell and more John Waters: “You came home at quarter past eleven / And fell down underneath the Christmas tree.” Someone needs to get him to a 12-step group. He can attend a meeting with the title character of Fishbone’s “Slick Nick, You Devil You,” who came down the chimney with a keg of brew and spilled Jack Daniels all over the drapes.

I have Sarah Silverman singing “Give the Jew Girl Toys,” in which she taunts Santa by singing “You have a list / Well, Schindler did to / Liam Neeson played him / Tim Allen played you.”

Then there’s the classic “Fairtytale of New York” by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, which evokes the holiday spirit with the line “You scumbag, you maggot / You cheap lousy faggot,” something yelled at me every year by those Salvation Army Santas.

Better still is “Macarena Christmas.” I LOVE “Macarena” and I’m betting you do to though you probably won’t admit it. “Macarena Christmas” celebrates the birth of our lord and savior Baby Macarena by taking the chorus from the hit single and uncleverly inserting it repeatedly into a medley of Christmas songs, so it goes “Joy to the world, the Lord has come / Da le a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena, Que tu cuerpo es pa darle alegria y cosa Buena / Da le a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena / Eeeeeh, Macarena – ay / Jingle bells jingle bells jingle all the way.” Sound effects of what sounds like an infant with the hiccups are thrown in. It makes no sense, y me gusta mucho.

My favorite holiday album and one of the greatest all-time albums period is Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You, featuring tracks he produced for The Ronettes, The Crystals, Darlene Love and Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans. Every cut on it is classic and can be enjoyed by the whole family, except Grandpa Mordechai.