Wayne's "PSB Dreams"
"Do famous pop stars appear in your dreams?"
"Oh, actually, quite a lot."
– Neil's response to a fan's question in Issue #9 of the PSB Fan Club publication Literally
Like Neil, I dream quite often about pop stars. Nearly all of my favorite artists (as well as many who aren't my favorites) have appeared in my dreams at one time or another. And it's certainly not surprising that someone who's as big—some might say as "obsessive"—a Pet Shop Boys fan as I am would have a lot of dreams about them in particular. I have had quite a few, though perhaps not nearly as many as one might think under the circumstances (maintaining this website and all). In general, I'm averaging about two or three per year. Since, however, we remember only a fraction of our dreams, it's quite possible that I've had other PSB dreams that I simply don't recall.
At any rate, in the event you might find these dreams interesting, I'd like to share them with you.
My first PSB dream, circa 1995-96 – A visit and a shopping trip
Chris and Neil had come for a visit to Minneapolis, where my partner George and I were living at the time. And for some reason they had come to visit us. While the four of us were seated in our living room chatting, we asked them whether there was any place in the Twin Cities area that they would like to visit as "tourists," and they replied that they would like to see the Mall of America. (The Mall of America is located in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington and was, at the time, the largest shopping center in the United States—which, I believe, is now no longer the case. It was so popular that, for a short time in the mid-1990s, it was the second-largest tourist attraction in North America, surpassed only by Disney World in Orlando, Flordia.)
So the four of us got in our car and drove down to Bloomington. When we got to the Mall of America, Neil and Chris were immediately impressed by the sheer size of the place: four storeys and over a mile in circumference, with more than 500 stores and 50 restaurants, plus an amusement park in the center. As we began to stroll around the mall, however, Neil quickly became somewhat blasé about it and thereafter downright bored. Chris, on the other hand, became increasingly excited and enthused. Before long he had begun a full-fledged shopping spree, spending thousands of dollars on clothes, hats, dark glasses, electronic gadgetry, and CDs. Soon all four of us found ourselves burdened with shopping bags full of his purchases.
I'm afraid I don't remember anything more about it than that.
A PSB dream circa 1999-2000 – I'm in charge of a concert
I am in many ways a rather anxious person. As a result I frequently have anxiety dreams, most of which are set back in my college years. I'll have a term paper due but I forgot to write it until the last minute, or I'm about to take a final exam but neglected to study for it. One such anxiety dream, however, concerned the Pet Shop Boys.
I was in charge of an outdoor concert or some other such event at which they were scheduled to perform. But nothing was going right. Neil and Chris were late in arriving, and when they did arrive, none of their equipment was working properly. I was running around frantically, trying to find people who could fix the problems. Meanwhile, the weather was steadily getting worse and threatening a tremendous thunderstorm any minute.
I woke up absolutely exhausted.
A PSB dream circa 2005-2006 – A new song
I don't remember anything about this dream except that it involved a brand new PSB song that I had never heard before. And it was fantastic—not only one of the best of their career, but one of the best songs ever! I woke up with the melody of this wonderful song in my head! If I were a musician, I would have jumped up from bed, run to my piano, and gotten it all written down. But, alas, I'm not a musician, and I can't write music. I did my best to run the song over and over through my mind, hoping I would be able to remember it the next day. Then I fell back to sleep.
Unfortunately, when I awoke the next morning, I could remember having dreamed the song, but I couldn't remember the song itself. It was lost forever.
My PSB dream the night of September 26, 2008 – A new music video (with guests!)
I was watching a new PSB music video on television. It featured Neil singing while seated in a giant flying teacup that was maybe about three or four feet deep and about eight to ten feet in diameter. (Unfortunately, I don't remember a thing about the song itself except that it was uptempo and I liked it.) But the most interesting thing is who was in the teacup with him: none other than Vince and Andy from Erasure, appearing as non-performing guests in the video! They seemed rather disturbed by the experience, glancing around them in dismay as if they had no idea why they were there. And they were extremely eager to escape, but of course they couldn't because the teacup was mid-flight, high in the air with the English countryside passing below! Neil, meanwhile, just kept right on singing, completely oblivious to the Erasure guys' discomfort.
Chris didn't appear at all in the video until the very end, when the teacup landed on the ground. It was then revealed that Chris—wearing dark glasses, naturally, as well as shiny silver headgear that resembled an American football helmet minus the faceguard but with a short antenna on top—had been remotely piloting the teacup's flight using a control panel that appeared to be a cross between a synth keyboard and a recording studio's mixing board. Andy and Vince immediately hopped out of the teacup and scampered off to safety. Neil and Chris looked at each other and shrugged, apparently surprised that their guests should behave in such a manner.
And that's when I woke up.
My PSB dream the night of November 28, 2008 – Another visit and lukewarm beer
This dream came shortly after Thanksgiving—a fact that, as you will soon see, is pertinent. I dreamed that Chris and Neil were on vacation, touring around the United States in a sports-utility vehicle. They decided to drop in for an unexpected visit to our home. As we greeted them, I noticed their mode of transportation and commented that we had sold our own SUV in order to reduce our carbon footprint.¹ The Boys came in and took seats next to each other. Both were dressed very casually in jeans, sweatshirts, and sneakers. Neil's sweatshirt was dark and plain, without any writing or design on it, whereas Chris's was lighter in color and had some large college emblem on it. Chris was also wearing a cap, while Neil was hatless.
We sat across from them and began chatting. I suddenly remembered my manners and asked them if we could offer them anything to drink. They asked if we had any beer, and I said yes, several types. But, unfortunately, we'd had to take all the beer out of our refrigerator to make room for Thanksgiving dinner leftovers.² Chris said that was just fine since they prefer their beer room-temperature anyway. (Was he just being polite?) Neil picked a pale lager and Chris chose a dark stout. As soon as I gave them their glasses and they took their first sips—and as I winced at the thought of drinking lukewarm beer—I woke up.
¹I find it extremely curious that my "dream self" would say such a thing. We've never owned an SUV, and although we're pretty eco-friendly guys (we recycle religiously and our house is full of energy-efficient light bulbs), I personally don't give a rat's ass about my so-called "carbon footprint."
²This, by contrast, is absolutely true-to-life. At the time I had this dream, our kitchen counter was stacked with various non-perishable items, including about a dozen cans and bottles of beer, that we had pulled out of the refrigerator to make room for leftovers. We'd also had a conversation about beer with our guests—George's brother and his family—over Thanksgiving dinner, so I guess beer was on my mind when I had this dream.
Probably my weirdest PSB dream to date, yet one in which the Boys were involved only peripherally. I dreamed that, in addition to maintaining this website, I was also—get this—Superman. That's right: Superman's secret identity wasn't Clark Kent, but rather Wayne Studer. Or was I actually Clark Kent in my dream? Was it he and not Wayne Studer who ran this website? It's not altogether clear to me. Whatever the case, my own brother,* who was privy to my "dual life," had just betrayed me by revealing to my arch-enemy, Lex Luthor, that Superman maintained this website. Luthor, gleeful at the prospect of revealing to the world that Superman was clandestinely a
high-profile, website-slingingPet Shop Boys fan, was taunting me with the knowledge that I couldn't do anything to stop him. But I was far less upset with Luthor—from whom, after all, I couldn't expect any better—than I was with my brother for his terrible act of betrayal. I then woke up, so I don't know what happened next in my little comic book dream drama.
*OK, since Clark Kent doesn't have a brother, then I probably was Wayne Studer in the dream—unless, of course, in this alternate reality Clark Kent did have a brother. Oh, my head hurts just thinking about it.
The Boys appeared only at the end of this one, which actually had very little to do with them. I dreamed I was watching a CNN TV news broadcast hosted by Anderson Cooper. He was reporting on a recent incident (a complete figment of my dream-imagination) in which singer-songwriter Don Henley—an artist whom I do like, although I wouldn't call myself a "fan"—had been seriously injured while taping a television appearance. He was performing mid-song when a violin-playing female member of his backup band suddenly stumbled and fell against some equipment, which collapsed atop her. Henley immediately stopped singing, dropped his guitar (which he does occasionally play, though he's better known as a drummer), and rushed over to try to help. Unfortunately, another large piece of equipment then fell on top of him, striking him in the head and knocking him unconscious. All of this had been captured on video, which was being shown on the CNN report.
Anderson Cooper went on to say that both Henley and the violinist had been rushed to the hospital, where it was announced that the woman had sustained only minor, non-life-threatening injuries. But Henley's injuries were much more serious. In fact, he was in a deep coma, and the doctors estimated the odds against his survival. In the event he did survive, he would almost certainly suffer the effects of severe, debilitating brain damage.
Cooper at that point began to interview other big-name musicians, getting their comments on this terrible incident. First he spoke briefly with Bruce Springsteen, who succinctly expressed both his dismay and his wishes for Henley's full recovery. Then, much to my surprise, Cooper turned to the Pet Shop Boys for their comments. In fact, I was so surprised that it instantly jolted me awake. I therefore have no idea what Neil and/or Chris may have said about this horrible "dream accident" befalling their fellow pop star.*
*I suspect this dream may have been inspired by the real-life fact that, earlier that same day (October 17, 2009), the official PSB website had posted the Boys' sympathetic comments about the death and funeral of former Boyzone singer Stephen Gately.
As with my aforementioned dream of September 26, 2008, this one guest-starred Erasure. I found myself watching a video again, but this time, instead of Erasure being silent "non-performers" in a Pet Shop Boys vid, the two bands were more or less on equal footing. In fact, it started out with Erasure, and PSB nowhere in sight. Andy and Vince were performing a new song while seated on some bleachers surrounded by a bunch of "ordinary people." Although Andy was, not surprisingly, singing lead, Vince was very surprisingly also singing along. And there was a third guy seated between them who was singing as well. No idea who he was—sort of a scruffy-looking chap who looked younger than them, with longish dark hair and a beard. (Come to think of it, he rather resembled Depeche Mode lead singer Dave Gahan, circa Violator.) Speaking of scruffy, everyone, including Vince and Andy, was dressed in a very "grubby" fashion, wearing jeans and plain t-shirts (all either white or gray) that were noticeably damp with sweat.
After the first verse and chorus, Vince clapped his hands, which sent out visible "distortion waves" (I don't know what else to call them) across the room to a stage directly opposite the bleachers. When the waves struck the stage, the Pet Shop Boys suddenly materialized, now performing the second verse of the song. And, as with Erasure, both of them were singing: Neil lead, Chris backup. (Unlike Vince, however, Chris was also playing a keyboard.) And they, too, had a third guy singing between them, this one resembling some generic teen-pop sensation somewhat reminiscent of Justin Timberlake. And they were also all rather grubby-looking: jeans with sweaty white or gray t-shirts. Not a typical "PSB look," let me tell you.
When they had finished with their verse and chorus, Neil clapped his hands, which again sent out distortion waves, this time back over to Erasure. At that point everybody—Erasure and their guest singer, PSB and their guest singer, and everyone in the bleachers and on the floor between the bleachers and the stage—began singing the chorus one final time. Only now everyone was moving in slow-motion with strange, exaggerated expressions on their faces. I think those facial expressions disturbed me somewhat because I then suddenly woke up. I don't remember a thing about the song except that it was bouncy, uptempo, and heavy on the vocals.
I dreamed I was attending a Pet Shop Boys convention being held at a hotel somewhere in—of all places—central Kansas, smack-dab in the center of what is widely considered "quintessential America." (Superman's boyhood hometown is, after all, fictional Smallville, Kansas. And Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz was a Kansas farmgirl.) Unfortunately, the convention wasn't very well attended, with only around thirty- or forty-some people. But no one seemed to mind. We were an enthusiastic group having a good time. The event organizers had decided on a theme of unusual headgear, so we all wore "funny hats" of one form or another. I had chosen a fireman's helmet. In fact, I had gone all-out, wearing full firefighter's regalia, complete with a long yellow rubber coat and galoshes.
We were at dinner when the guests of honor, Neil and Chris themselves, entered the room to rapturous applause. And we were all particularly delighted that they had chosen this occasion to reveal, for the first time ever, their "new look" for the next album and tour. They wore matching loud, floral-patterned, predominantly yellow Hawaiian shirts,* light khaki pants, and white sneakers. But what struck everyone the most was their hair. Both had closely trimmed hair (or wigs) in a more or less "flat-top" style, dyed platinum blond. In retrospect, I would describe them as looking like Scandinavian army drill sergeants on a California vacation. Oddly enough, though, they weren't wearing dark glasses, which would have been appropriate for their otherwise "touristy" look.
At any rate, as the two of them were quickly surrounded by conference attendees greeting them and asking questions, I simply stood off to the side and watched. That's when I awoke.
*It might be significant that in "real life" I had bought a new shirt just like this for myself about three weeks before I had this dream.
In my dream I received a package in mail that contained—much to my surprise and delight—an advance promo copy of the upcoming The Most Incredible Thing release, but on vinyl rather than CD. The gatefold cover, however, was different from the official release in that it was solid glossy black, without any title, artist info, or any other print. It was only by pulling out the records and examining the labels that I could identify what they actually were.
My surprise only increased when I found that, in addition to the vinyl discs, the package also contained a large two-sided poster. One side, understandably enough, promoted the ballet itself, featuring a photo of Neil and Chris surrounded by a montage of dancers and musicians. But the other side of the poster seemed completely unrelated: it promoted the impending re-release of Oregon Trail, an educational computer game with which I at one time had a long and productive association. Apparently—at least within the realm of dreams—the Boys' record company had acquired the rights to Oregon Trail and was now using this opportunity to promote it. Struck by this remarkable coincidence, I suddenly woke up.
Not much to this one. I dreamed the Pet Shop Boys had found a corporate sponsor for an upcoming tour: the U.S. hamburger/fast-food chain
And I, of all people, had been tapped to serve as the director of a television commercial in which Neil and Chris had agreed to appear as themselves eating Wendy's hamburgers. We were just getting ready to film the commercial when I was awakened by my alarm clock, dammit.*
*I imagine this dream was inspired by two events completely unrelated except by their relative concurrence: (1) the recent news that the Boys would be appearing as "special guests" on Take That's upcoming reunion tour, and (2) my recent assignment where I work to "direct" (if you can call it that) several brief video segments soon to be filmed for an internal educational project. As for why Wendy's, of all things, should be the corporate sponsor in my dream, I have no idea. I've got nothing for or against Wendy's—at least any more than I have for or against any other fast-food chain—but I don't believe I've eaten there in more than a decade. In fact, I've gone from eating fast food roughly once a week (back in my more heavy-set days) to no more than once every three or four months—and then only if I'm both desperately hungry and desperately short of time. It's really helped in my efforts to keep the weight off.
My PSB dream the night of September 30, 2011 – An unexpected biopic
George and I are at home watching TV. Being the household control-freak, I'm the one (as usual) manning the remote. I'm flipping channels, in search of something worth watching. Suddenly I catch the strains of PSB music, so I stop flipping and start watching. It quickly becomes apparent that we've stumbled upon a "biopic" about the Pet Shop Boys—a film biography of them with Chris and Neil portrayed by professional actors. I'm both delighted and horrified: delighted that there should be such a thing, but horrified that, not only was I previously unaware that it existed, but we had missed most of it. As I soon discovered, it was already more than three-quarters through! I was also dismayed that, while the actor portraying Chris was a reasonable physical facsimile, the actor playing Neil looked nothing like him! (He actually more closely resembled a young Davy Jones of the Monkees, only taller.)
At any rate, at this late point in the biopic, the Boys were being feted by Neil's hometown, honored for their contributions both to music and to local notoriety. They were handed a key to the city by the mayor, after which "Neil" gave a short speech of gratitute. He and "Chris" then launched into a performance—but not of one of their own songs, but rather a cover of the Steely Dan track "Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)." A terrific song, to be sure, but it struck me as a most unlikely choice. And it wasn't even given the "PSB synthpop treatment," but delivered instead in a style strongly reminiscent of the Steely Dan original. (In fact, it wouldn't have been out of place on Release.) It was during this song that I woke up.
My PSB dream the night of December 31, 2011 – Strange vignettes
I closed out the old year and brought in the new with an especially unusual dream—unusual in that it didn't follow any single plot but rather consisted of a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes. First I dreamed that an extremely wealthy woman was bankrolling a new film biography of the Pet Shop Boys (which in some ways echoes my previous PSB dream, doesn't it?). She wanted me to serve as a consultant on the project. Despite her wealth, however, she wasn't willing to pay me anything for my contribution. I debated with myself whether I should assist unpaid in this way, but finally decided to go for it.
The scene then shifted to my standing in a long line (reminiscent, come to think of it, of the "A Red Letter Day" video), waiting to enter a building. Why, I have no idea. Then, alongside us in the line, came Neil, dressed all in black, striding along on stilts that made him stand a good six or seven feet above the rest of us. He got about ten yards ahead of me when suddenly, off from the other side, came a blast fired from a water cannon. The water struck Neil hard and knocked him down off his stilts. Fortunately, he got up from the ground unharmed. He then ran back in the direction from which he came. There he met up with Chris (not on stilts), dressed all in white, walking up from behind. Again there was a blast from the water cannon, this time striking both of them. At this point, of course, they were soaking wet. Neil was understandably dismayed by this turn of events, but Chris just thought it was funny and started laughing about it.
Again the scene changed suddenly. Now I was in a recording studio, observing Chris and Neil at work on some new music. They were recording a slow, funereal ballad with very eerie, foreboding chord progressions. Chris turned to me and said that he personally loved the music they were working on, but he was worried that their fans wouldn't care for it—that it was "too bleak and somber" for them. I found myself struggling to find the right thing to say in reply. That's when I woke up.
My PSB dream the night of February 3, 2012 – A new Madonna single
A short, simple one in which the Boys themselves didn't appear. I dreamt of having learned online that
Madonna*had just released a new single titled "Pet Shop Boys." I was understandably delighted by this news and was very eager to hear it, but despite my best efforts, I couldn't. There were no links to it online, nothing on YouTube, and the radio wouldn't play it. (You know how time gets condensed in dreams.) By the same token, I couldn't find it on sale anywhere, either. I soon woke up, probably more from my growing frustration than anything else.
*Although she is indeed one of my favorite artists, Madonna's appearance at this specific time in my subconscious was probably triggered by the fact that she was scheduled to deliver a well-publicized performance that same weekend during the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show.
My PSB dream the night of April 27, 2012 – Single, album, and commentary
The Pet Shop Boys had just released their new single in advance of their upcoming studio album, and I was fortunate enough to be interviewing them about it. The single was titled "Birthday Card," and it had a glossy gatefold sleeve that indeed resembled a birthday card—only instead of being brightly colored as one might expect, it was all done in shades of gray. The song itself was a melodic mid-tempo number, though with a bit of a "hard edge," so to speak. But what made it really interesting was its subject matter: the narrator had just received (sure enough) a birthday card from his lover. It turned out, however, to be a "Dear John" birthday card: sort of, "Happy birthday—and, oh, by the way, I'm dumping you." As I was discussing the song with the Boys, Neil noted that he had read somewhere that couples often break up during holidays, but instead of using Christmas or some other major holiday, he decided to apply the situation to a birthday.
My dream suddenly flash-forwarded to the release of the album, a copy of which I now held in my hands—yet I was still interviewing Chris and Neil. This "dream album" was titled Renaissance, and its packaging at first glance appeared to be solid green in color, but on closer examination actually revealed a subtle pattern that in certain light made it resemble a field of grass. I had already written about it on my website, and Neil was taking issue with my commentary. (Incidentally, Chris remained present but silent throughout my dream.) Neil didn't dislike what I said about the album, but rather how I said it. "Your writing style is too verbose and uses too many obscure words that hardly anybody understands," he said. Selecting an example from my text, he added, "Take this one: pusillanimous. Nobody knows what 'pusillanimous' means!"
I replied with some dismay, "Yes, you're right. Even I don't know what it means!"* Then I woke up.
*And that's correct: I didn't know what "pusillanimous" meant! (Just because I have a Ph.D. doesn't mean I've memorized the
#@&*ingdictionary!) So when I woke from my dream, I got out of bed, went downstairs to one of my bookshelves, pulled out my trusty Webster's Collegiate Edition, and looked up the word. It means "timid" or "lacking in courage." Now, here's the thing: why would my subconscious brain pick the word "pusillanimous," which is not a part of my active vocabulary and which I don't recall hearing or reading at any time recently, and give it such a significant role in a dream about the Pet Shop Boys? I mean, I've of course heard the word before, but certainly not anytime that I can recall within, say, the past year. And I must have even looked it up at some point in my life, but I had frankly forgotten its definition out of sheer disuse. I've read that everything you've ever seen and heard is locked in your brain somewhere, even if you seem to have forgotten it. So maybe my brain, "remembering" the meaning of the word, chose "pusillanimous" for a very specific reason. Who knows? Whatever the case, there's no getting around it: the human mind is a truly, truly strange place.
My PSB dream the night of June 23, 2012 – "Pad Shock Boys"
The setting for this dream was, curiously, my old elementary school in rural Virginia. The main school building had been converted into some sort of office-type facility for working adults, and I had an office there of my own—one of my former classrooms—where I was conducting research for a book about the career of the Pet Shop Boys. As I was combing through a stack of old music-industry and pop-culture magazines, I discovered a short article about how Chris and Neil, early in their career, had recorded a controversial one-off novelty single in the guise of the "Pad Shock Boys." But there was no mention in the article as to why it was "controversial." The article was accompanied by a photograph of the so-called "Pad Shock Boys"—indeed, apparently Neil and Chris themselves, though either heavily made-up or photo-doctored in such a way as to make them look like a thoroughly androgynous cross between department-store mannequins and drag queens, albeit with conventionally masculine clothing and short-cropped hair.
Naturally, I had to learn more. Fortunately, I knew that the Boys themselves just happened to be in the same building that day (remember, this is a dream, so it doesn't need to make logical sense), ensconsed in one of the other old classrooms, meeting fans and signing autographs. So I took a long walk down the hallway—which, by the way, was crowded with people, so many that I had difficulty making my way—to where they were. When I entered the room, they noticed me immediately and called out their greetings. Neil in particular sensed that I was there for a very specific reason and had something important to ask, so he motioned me over. I showed him the aforementioned magazine and pointed out the article about the "Pad Shock Boys." He expressed great surprise and took a few moments to peruse the text. Finally he shook his head and said, "There's not a word of truth to it."
He called Chris over and showed the article to him. Chris took a quick glance and quickly confirmed, "All rubbish." That's when I awoke.
My PSB dream the night of November 20, 2012 – PSB in an "EJ" store
My partner George and I were driving along a freeway near where we live when we noticed, to our surprise, that a new shopping center had sprung up near a busy interchange. We decided to check it out, so we took the exit, only to find ourselves in the midst of a major traffic jam. (Obviously a lot of other people had decided to visit this new shopping center as well.) We pulled off onto a side street and managed to find a parking space so that we could simply walk the rest of the way, only about a half-mile or so.
As we approached on foot, we noticed that one of the new stores was Elton John Sporting Goods. Yes, the Rocket Man had apparently chosen to branch out into the retail sporting goods business. Naturally, we had to go there first.
When we entered the store, which was decorated with huge photos of Elton's face* as well as equally large shots of men (yes, I noticed they were all men) engaged in assorted sporting activities—tennis, golf, baseball, basketball, and so on—we were immediately struck by the music playing over the audio system. It wasn't, as one would expect, an Elton John song. Rather, it was a PSB track: "God Willing." (I believe this was the first time a specific actual PSB song had ever made an appearance in one of my dreams.) We walked over to one of the counters, where I complimented the two cashiers there on the store's choice of background music. When I mentioned the artist, they looked at me quizzically. One of them asserted—in a manner that suggested not just confusion but more than a hint of disdain—"That's not the Pet Shop Boys!" Taken aback, I was about to correct him when I suddenly awoke.
*It occurs to me that this imagery—not to mention Elton's prominent role in this dream to begin with—may have been triggered by the fact that, only a few days before, I had seen a two-page photo spread in the December 2012 issue of Out magazine of EJ and his partner David Furnish in the art gallery of their London home, which indeed featured (among other things) a wall-sized photo of Elton's face.
My PSB dream the night of April 24, 2013 – Buying tickets for the Electric Tour
No doubt inspired by my anticipating being able soon to buy tickets for the Boys' local show on their Electric Tour, I dreamt I was standing in a long line waiting to do just that. As I was waiting, several fellow fans also in line recognized me from my website and started talking to me about (what else?) the Pet Shop Boys. This went on for some time. When I finally got to the head of the line, however, I was amazed to see none other than Boy George—looking precisely as he did during the commercial heyday of Culture Club circa "Karma Chameleon"—behind the glass. I asked him why he was selling tickets. He smiled sweetly and replied, "Because I'm a friend of Chris's and Neil's, and I wanted to help out."
So I asked for four tickets for my partner George and me as well as two good friends with whom we're planning to attend the show. As Boy George took my credit card and was getting the tickets ready, I followed with, "By the way, is there any chance that we'll be able to go backstage after the show and meet up with Neil and Chris again?"
Mr. O'Dowd smiled once more—this time a bit mischievously—and replied, "Well, you'll have to ask them that." Then I woke up.
My PSB dream(s) the night of August 19, 2013 – Adventures with the neighbors
This proved to be an unusually long, complicated, episodic dream. In fact, it's doubly unusual in that it's more accurate to refer to it in the plural, "dreams," since I woke up briefly in the middle of it and then resumed it upon falling back to sleep—something that I very rarely do.
At any rate, I dreamt that Neil and Chris were neighbors of ours, sharing a townhouse in the same complex where we live. I would notice them leaving their house to go to work (which was making music) around the same time I would head out in the morning. I also noticed, however, that somebody kept leaving large bones—the kind you get from the butcher shop to give to dogs as a special treat—next to their car. When I mentioned this to them one day, they said that they had never noticed any such bones next to their car. And, to be sure, they never were there in the mornings when we left for our respective jobs. So I decided to get up extra-early to see if I could find out what was going on with those mysterious bones. Sure enough, I saw a bone next to their car. And as I watched, a large black dog came along, grabbed the bone, and ran off with it. That's when I woke up—but only momentarily.
I quickly fell back to sleep and resumed my dream, with the scene having shifted to me telling the Boys about what I had witnessed with the dog. I then mentioned that I had read somewhere that there was a hidden bonus track on the original vinyl copies of
Fleetwood Mac'sclassic album Tusk (total dream-fiction, by the way; there's no such hidden bonus track in real life), which also happens to be one of my favorite albums. Although I used to own that album on vinyl myself, I had gotten rid of it soon after buying a copy on CD. (This is true.) So I told Chris and Neil that I was planning on driving several miles to a brand new open-air flea-market that had a terrific vinyl record vendor to see if I could find another copy. (More dream-fiction; there is a new record store in a mall near where I live, but it's hardly a flea-market.) Neither Neil nor my partner George were interested, but Chris enthusiastically said he'd like to come along.
So we drove off in my car. Unfortunately, just after we got there, the skies opened up with a huge downpour. Being an open-air flea-market, most of the vendors, including the vinyl salesman, started shutting down on account of the heavy rain. Frustrated, Chris and I got back into my car empty-handed and headed for home. Along the way, however, we heard a remarkable new track on the car radio. It was a mashup of the vocals of the
Beach Boys'"When I Grow Up to Be a Man" with the backing instrumental track of Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky," augmented with a throbbing, synthesized techno-dance beat. (I have no idea whether such a thing would actually work in real life, but it certainly did in my dream.) Chris and I agreed that it was fantastic, and we were both eager to hear it again.
By then we had reached our housing complex, but we were immediately dismayed to see that all of the parking spaces had been defaced with graffiti on various subjects, turning them into offensive parodies of handicap parking spots. Among the subjects rudely addressed with this parking-graffiti were handicapped people themselves and, curiously (but understandably given the music we had just listened to), Brian Wilson. Outraged, I woke up again—this time ending the dream for good.
My PSB dream the night of March 9, 2014 – A frustrating photoshoot
There really wasn't much to this dream, though I find myself wondering what it means. In it, I had apparently been invited to a photo session in which publicity shots of the Boys were being taken. I stood off to one side as the photographer spoke to Neil and Chris briefly, after which he decided to take individual pictures of them before photoing them together. So Chris joined me off to the side while Neil sat for his photos. But, inexplicably, Neil kept making odd, funny, and generally rather inappropriate "faces" for the camera. Chris thought this was hilarious and laughed uproariously, as did I—at least at first.
But it kept going on and on like this for several minutes, and the photographer was starting to get frustrated and annoyed with Neil's persistent refusal to provide a "good" shot. I soon found myself feeling sorry for the photographer, although Chris just kept laughing about it. I awoke without the photographer ever getting an acceptable picture.
My PSB dream the night of March 21, 2014 – On tour with the Boys
The details of this one are extremely sketchy in my mind. (I fell back asleep quickly after waking from it, which is never good for remembering dreams.) But I do recall that George and I had been invited to become temporary members of the "PSB entourage," accompanying them for several dates on tour. I remember us traveling with them, talking to them, and watching them perform. Needless to say, I was in seventh heaven.
But the only incident in the dream that remains clear in my memory came toward the end, when we were backstage with Neil and Chris, watching from the wings a performance by what happened to be (in the dream) their opening act: none other than one of my other favorite recording artists, the Moody Blues. As we watched, Neil leaned over at one point and said to me, "You know, they're better than I'd thought they'd be."
To which Chris quickly added, "Yeah, but I still don't much care for them."*
*Of course, keep in mind this is actually just my subconsciousness talking. I have no idea what the Pet Shop Boys really think of the Moody Blues, though Neil reportedly used to occasionally do parodies of their music back in his pre-PSB days.
My PSB dream the night of June 13, 2014 – Cactus shopping and more
I dreamed that Neil and Chris had accompanied me on one of my frequent forays to a gardening nursery in search of new cactuses for my collection. I found four really nice ones, so we took them to a large truck I had rented for the purpose. We apparently had some other errands we needed to run, so I wondered what we should do with the cactuses: simply leave them in the truck, or take them home first. But my home was quite far away in this dream, well out of the way of our remaining errands. So Chris suggested that we drop them off at his parents' home, which happened to be nearby. (Remember, this is a dream, so it doesn't need to make sense.) That we did, where I indeed met Chris's parents. (Since I don't know what they look like in "real life," a pair of generic elderly people assumed their roles in my dream.)
At that point, Chris's parents, Neil, the cactuses, and even our supposed errands seemed suddenly to "vanish," leaving me talking to Chris about touring. Chris was sitting up on a bed, while I sat in a chair several feet away. I asked him what the best and worst parts of touring were. He thought a moment and then said, "Well, they're one and the same thing: hotels. Some hotels are fabulous, while others are real hell-holes."
I agreed, and then related a story (which happens to be true in real life) of how, years ago with a previous employer, I needed to travel on business to New York City, to the heart of Manhattan, but had to do so on a tight budget. So I found a cheap hotel that accommodated my limited funds—which proved an utter disaster, an extremely unpleasant experience. Chris laughed and nodded his head, chuckling, "Been there, done that—I know exactly what you mean."
Neil then reappeared as suddenly as he had vanished, dressed in a luxurious white bathrobe and scrubbing his hair with a towel; obviously he had just taken a shower. He had overheard part of what I had said about my awful hotel experience and asked, "Are you talking about a place in Manhattan?" I said yes, and he rejoined, "I think I know that place." Then he glanced around for a moment and then asked, "Have either of you seen my glasses? I've misplaced them." Chris and I looked around a bit, and I found Neil's spectacles sitting atop a short stack of books on a table in one corner of the room. Handing Neil his glasses, I awoke.
My PSB dream the night of August 20, 2014 – Trying to educate a college roomie
This was (at least for me) an unsually simple and straightforward dream, one in which the Pet Shop Boys themselves didn't appear. But they were certainly at the heart of its plot. It was also extremely anachronistic.
I was back in my sophomore year in college (we're talking roughly 40 years earlier, before there even was such a thing as "Pet Shop Boys"!), where I was trying to persuade my roommate at the time (a guy I haven't seen or even spoken to in more than 30 years) to listen to their music. "I don't like the Pet Shop Boys!" he kept insisting.
"But you've only heard their early songs," I continued. "You should listen to their more recent material!" And I tried to hand him a small iPad-like handheld device (another anachronism) on which various recent PSB tracks were queued up.
"I don't want to hear them!" he maintained, refusing to take the device. Then he stormed out of our dorm room—and I woke up.
My PSB dream the night of December 12, 2014 – Hosting a "PSB game show"
I was the host of a television game show in which I asked contestants questions strictly about the Pet Shop Boys and nothing else. Although I honestly can't remember any of the specific questions, I do recall that many of them required guessing the top response in surveys conducted among PSB fans—a plot point surely inspired both by my weekly PSB polls and by actual game shows like Family Feud that similarly feature survey-based queries.
At one point in the proceedings, a member of the studio audience came up to inform me that one of the contestants was cheating with the help of someone out in the parking lot. Accompanied by a couple guards, I went out to the parking lot and, sure enough, there was a guy out there with an elaborate electronic setup who was somehow relaying correct answers to the guilty contestant.
After the miscreants were whisked away, we had to select a new contestant from the audience. As it turned out, my primary care physician (yes, my real-life doctor) was picked to join in the game. But at that point the scene suddenly shifted—you know how dreams are—and I found myself in my doctor's office, talking to him about the pros and cons of eating certain foods. (I distinctly remember raisins being one of the foods we discussed: a great source of fiber and antioxidants, but terrible for your teeth.) The dream continued for a while after that, but there was no further "PSB involvement."
My PSB dream the night of July 2, 2015 – Touring with Elton + a Doctor Who movie
In this dream I was a member of the "Pet Shop Boys entourage" for a major world tour in which the Boys shared a double-bill with Elton John. My job on the tour was to serve a sort of Chris Heath-like role as both "official chronicler" and "press liaison." In this capacity, I found myself conducting an interview, following one such concert, with two members of the audience. One was a staid young woman—highly reminiscent of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, only much younger—who said that she enjoyed the PSB performance but intensely disliked Elton (whom she considered "tacky" and "exhibitionistic") and that her opinion of the Boys was "inescapably diminished" by their decision to tour with him. The other person to whom I spoke was a rather flamboyant young man—obviously and stereotypically gay—who also enjoyed the concert but noted that he was even more "thrilled" with the news (purely a figment of my dream-imagination) that Neil and Chris would soon be starring in an upcoming feature film version of Doctor Who.
The scene suddenly shifted (as dreams are prone to do) to my watching this new PSB-Doctor Who movie, with Neil in the role of the Doctor himself and Chris as his current traveling companion. Unfortunately, I was shocked and dismayed at how bad it all was. In particular, I was appalled that the Boys had adopted a curiously stylized manner of performance, always moving in slow motion with exaggerated gestures, suggestive of mimes or robotic ballet-dancers. (I don't know how else to describe it.) Neil was dressed in much the same way as the Tom Baker Doctor—big floppy hat, long coat, long scarf—while a shirtless Chris wore dark glasses, a baseball cap, and very baggy, bright yellow pants held up by wide suspenders (or "braces" as they're called in Britain). I turned to my partner George, who was watching it with me, to say, "This is awful!" I then awoke.
My PSB dream the night of July 11, 2015 – A new PSB-Bowie collaboration
I was watching a TV show in which David Bowie was debuting his latest single: a new collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys titled "Post-Modern Release." Neither Neil nor Chris were performing with him—in fact, they didn't appear in the dream at all—but Bowie was accompanied by a support band that included former Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook. (Yes, my dreams do sometimes include quirky little details like that!) It was a strange song with fast-paced, hard-rocking verses but slow, atmospheric, even somewhat creepy choruses that always ended with Bowie's seemingly anguished cries of "Release! Release!" I was quite impressed with this new song, enjoying its unusual, somewhat experimental quality.
After Bowie's performance had concluded, I immediately found myself thumbing through a magazine where I happened upon an interview with none other than Morrissey, where he expressed a rather disparaging tone about the new Bowie/PSB collaboration. (I know that it doesn't make logical sense for me to have a magazine on hand that contains commentary on a song that had premiered only moments before. Hey, it's a dream!) I distinctly remember one statement in particular by Morrissey because it was the very last thing in the dream before I woke up: "I don't see what's so post-modern about the Pet Shop Boys. Every album they do is a complete reversal from the previous one, but they never make any money doing it any more. If that's post-modern, then I'm just as post-modern as they are!"
My PSB dream the night of October 25, 2015 – Special concert seating, a question for Chris, and a fossa (!)
In this dream, George and I, along with a large entourage of friends and family, had been granted a special seating section of our own for a Pet Shop Boys concert. We—but not the rest of our entourage—had also been given permission to wander around backstage before the show. While doing so, we happened upon Chris, who was just standing there looking bored as he waited to go onstage. I said, "Hi" and he replied in kind, after which I asked, "Would you mind if I asked you a question about songwriting?" He said that he didn't, so I then asked, "Do you and Neil ever write songs while traveling—that is, while you're actually in transit on the road between one show and the next?"
"I wouldn't say we never do," Chris replied, "but we don't do it very often. The road doesn't lend itself to writing songs."
"You mean you never think of new melodies on the road?"
"No," he chuckled, "I didn't say that. I think of new music all the time. But if I can't write it down or record it on the spot, or if Neil doesn't put words to it right away, it usually gets lost. I probably forget more music than we ever manage to record."
With that, somebody came up to us and said it was nearly time for the show to begin and that George and I had to return to our seats. So we said our good-byes to Chris, wished him well for the show, and headed back to our seating section. As we did, I noticed that many of the people seated near us had dogs with them, all on leashes. Then a man came walking down the aisle to take a seat across from us. At first I thought he also had a dog, but then I noticed that it wasn't a dog at all. I heard a woman seated behind me exclaim aloud, "What a strange looking dog! What breed is that?"
I turned around and told her, "It's not a dog. It's a fossa—a species of carnivore related to civets, native to Madagascar." (A sidenote – Yes, I happen to be familiar with fossas. They resemble large cats more than they do dogs; in fact, a minority of taxonomists would like to classify them as members of the cat family.)
As soon as I said that, the lights in the auditorium all dimmed to a red hue, casting everyone and everything in a brilliant crimson glow. One of the Boys' backup singers appeared onstage, but she immediately glanced in our direction and cried out, "What a lovely fossa!" She hopped down from the stage and ran down to where we sat, bending down over the fossa and admiring it. Chris then also appeared onstage behind his keyboards, and music began to fill the auditorium. The singer started to rap to the music, but she was improvising lines about "The lovely red fossa." I had the impression that Neil was just about to appear as well to begin singing, but I suddenly awoke before he actually did so.
My PSB dream the night of November 27, 2015 – A secret identity and getting sacked
In my dream I was a working colleague of Neil's at some sort of publishing company—almost certainly inspired by the fact that, pre-fame, Neil did indeed once work for such a firm. But in this dream Neil is continuing to work there even after having achieved fame as a Pet Shop Boy, only somehow managing to do so as a "secret identity." That is, no one but I knew that "Neil Tennant, publishing house employee" and "Neil Tennant, pop star" were one and the same.
At any rate, we were having an office staff meeting during which we were examining a recent publication. Our manager, a rather imperious middle-aged woman, suddenly charged Neil with "dereliction of duty" for having let a serious typographical error slip past his editorial eye and make it into print. She then told him, "Despite the fact that I'm your mother, I'm going to have to let you go!"
Neil calmly replied, "You're not my mother," which I knew to be the truth.
"True," she said, "but I think of all of my employees as my children. Nevertheless, you're now fired!"
The scene suddenly shifted to the parking lot outside of the office, where I was sitting on the pavement across from a dejected Neil. We had been joined by Chris, who sat next to Neil, commiserating. Neil told us, "The Human Resources Department says that, despite my age, I have highly marketable skills, and I shouldn't have much trouble finding a new job." But the way he said it was so down-hearted that it sounded as though he didn't really believe it.
"Don't worry," I said, trying to console him. "You still have your music to fall back on." I then pulled out of my briefcase a copy of the "West End Girls" sheet music, with "Words and Music by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe" displayed in large, bold text across the top. At that point I woke up.
My PSB dream the night of March 18, 2016 – A Very experience
The Boys themselves didn't appear in my first "PSB dream" of 2016, nor, as far as I can recall, were they even mentioned. But my favorite PSB album, Very, was front and center. I dreamt I was back in Minneapolis (where I lived for nearly two decades), applying for some sort of job at a major hotel downtown. As part of the interview process, I was handed a long list of rock/pop music albums and asked to assign a letter-grade to each one. I don't remember what other albums were on the list or the grades I assigned to them, but when I got to Very, I gave it a grade of A+. I then handed the list back to my interviewer, who glanced at it and said, "Oh, grades of A+ aren't allowed." With that he crossed out the plus sign, leaving Very with a grade of A. He then handed me a copy of Very on CD—yes, in its classic "orange Lego" jewel case—and told me that I needed to examine it under an ultra-violet lamp nearby. I did so and found that, in ultra-violet light, the jewel case revealed large disfiguring splotches. Looking over my shoulder, my interviewer noted, "That's not good—that album doesn't deserve such a high grade!"
I quickly came to its defense: "But you're not judging the album itself! You're only judging the packaging—and only this particular package! Some other copy might not have those ugly splotches on it!"
He brushed my comments aside and told me I could leave, but that I should check back in about an hour or so for his decision on my employment prospects. Not at all hopeful about it, I walked out into the hotel lobby, where I found a television crew setting up. I asked someone what was going on, and he told me that they were preparing to videotape a special episode of RuPaul's Drag Race there. I exited from the hotel and walked nextdoor, where I found my good friend Ron—making a surprise guest-appearance in my dream—tending bar. (He's not, by the way, a bartender in real life, nor does he live in Minneapolis.) Knowing that he's a fellow fan of RuPaul's show, I told him about the videotaping going on nextdoor. I then asked him for a drink (I don't recall what) but found to my shock that I didn't have any cash on me. I still had that copy of Very, however, so I handed it to him as payment. He looked at it with some confusion and then handed it back to me, saying, "Now, what am I supposed to do with that?" I then awoke.
My PSB dream the night of May 13, 2016 – An album cover photo shoot
In one of my strangest, most complicated PSB dreams ever—and that's saying something—the Boys had asked me to pose for a photo shoot for the cover of their next album. When I expressed reservations, saying that I felt it wasn't appropriate that I should appear on the cover of one of their albums, Neil explained, "No, it's not that we want 'Wayne Studer' on the cover, but you happen to look perfect for the part!" It was then that I realized that I didn't look like me. I'm not sure who I did look like, but it was someone about 20 years younger, with neither my salt-and-pepper hair nor my beard. Instead I was a clean-shaven forty-ish man with light brown, somewhat wavy hair. But it was still "me" inside this different body.
The next thing you know, there I am in a studio getting ready to have my photo taken for the cover. The set looked very much like my own real-life office at work. I was dressed in a dark gray, disheveled, badly wrinkled business suit, my necktie loosened and one shirt-tail pulled out in the front. It looked as though I had just been in a fight. Neil went on to explain further. "There's a song on the album called 'Hardly Innocent,' and I wanted that to be the title of the album as well—"
Chris, standing nearby, interrupted. "But I reminded him that it's not a single word, and it had to be a single word—"
"—so," Neil resumed, "Chris suggested that we title the album Innocent? with a question mark. And that's what it is: Innocent?"
I then noticed a woman loitering around in the background, puffing on a cigarette. I immediately recognized her as none other than Joni Mitchell. And I also realized at that time that there was music playing in the background; it was Joni's song "Car on a Hill." She remained silent and distant, off to the side, for the entire remainder of the dream. What she was doing there—aside from her song playing as background music—I have no idea.
The art director for the photo shoot (at least that's who I assumed it was) appeared with a small brush and began applying some faintly brownish tint first to the front of my shirt and then to my hands. "Now go easy on that!" Neil quickly instructed him. "It's got to be subtle!" He turned to me to explain. "They're supposed to be blood stains, but we don't want it to be obvious. They should be so subtle that most people wouldn't even notice them at first, and would conclude it's blood only after closer examination and hearing the song that the photo is based on."
I was then posed for the picture. It was to be a full-body shot with me glaring angrily at the camera, with my arms down at my sides and my fists clenched, my feet planted firmly on the floor nearly a yard apart—looking, as I said, as if I'd just been in a fight and were ready for more. But we never actually took the photo because at that point the alarm went off. (Yes, we had set our alarm for Saturday morning because we had a lot to do and wanted to get an early start on the day.)
My PSB dream the night of October 1, 2016 – A decision to play hooky
In my dream, it was the evening of the Pet Shop Boys' local date on their Super tour. But instead of going to the concert, for which I had tickets, I was driving to the airport for a flight to Edinburgh, Scotland, to attend a business conference for which I had been scheduled at work beyond my control. ("Why Edinburgh?" you might wonder. It's undoubtedly because my real-life employer has a branch office there, and it's not unusual for me to work remotely with some of my Scottish colleagues.) Needless to say, I was rather upset about this turn of events, being forced to ditch the concert for work purposes. But, as I approached the airport, I had a daring change of heart and decided to skip the flight and business conference. I turned my car around and headed for the concert venue instead, despite the serious consequences it would almost certainly mean for me at work. I also realized that my partner George wouldn't be attending the concert with me, as we had planned before my business trip had been scheduled. But I decided to risk those domestic consequences as well. (I'm sorry to say that my dream-self seemed to be a jerk.)
Once at the concert venue, I got into a long line of fellow attendees waiting to enter the auditorium. Nearby was another long line, this of people queued up to buy tickets to another upcoming show: a George Michael concert, slated for some months ahead. I noticed one of my neighbors, Adrienne, in that other line, so I called over to her and asked if she would be willing to pick up two tickets to that show for me, too, and I would reimburse her the following day. She agreed.
The scene suddenly shifted (you know how dreams are) to the interior of the auditorium. I was surprised to see that it had been set up for a performance in the round: the Boys would be on a stage surrounded on all sides by the audience. As I searched for my seat, I noticed there were a number of glass display cases down near the stage. It was still quite some time before the show was scheduled to begin, so I walked down toward the stage and started examining the contents of the display cases. I was delighted to see there a brand new autobiography by Neil, which would apparently be going on sale soon. (He was pictured on the cover wearing a tuxedo and a broad grin.) I also saw a PSB-themed lunchbox, which I considered purchasing as memorabilia despite my not having any practical use for it. At that point I was approached by my friends J.D. and Ken, who were also attending the show. They asked me where George was—and I suddenly woke up.
My PSB dream the night of March 29, 2017 – A mystery song referring to PSB
I was driving in my car, listening to the radio, when my attention was drawn to a line in the song currently playing—sung by a deep-voiced male, sounding very much like Brad Roberts of the Crash Test Dummies—which went:
Neil Tennant is my cousin
Do you like the Pet Shop Boys?
I started to listen carefully, but I didn't hear any further references to PSB. I knew, however, that I would have to add it to my website's list of tracks that mention the Pet Shop Boys by name. Unfortunately, no one revealed the title of the song or its performer afterward (something that occurs much too often on the radio in real life). Still, I figured I could look it up online when I got home.
The scene quickly shifted to my home computer, where I found myself frustrated, unable to learn anything more about this mystery song. Neither Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, nor any other online tool was proving of any use. But then my brother (who happens to live more than a thousand miles away) suddenly appeared with a large leather-bound book, reminiscent of our old family bible. He said to me, "Don't worry—I'm sure we can find it in here." He then opened the book—scattering a good deal of dust in the process—and began thumbing through it. After a few moments, however, he proclaimed, "That's odd—the pages that would tell us about that song are missing!" He then handed the book to me and, sure enough, I saw that several pages were torn out. I then awoke.
I know that some of you are wondering this, so I'll just come right out and say it: No, I've never had an erotic dream about the Pet Shop Boys, either individually or together.
Frankly, they're not my type. And if you're wondering what "my type" is, I offer my partner George as evidence—or, if you're counting just the world of popular music, there's always Babydaddy (Scott Hoffman) from Scissor Sisters. Woof!—even if, technically, I'm old enough to be his daddy.
Speaking of George, I'd like to share a little bonus: a PSB-related dream that he had the night of April 14, 2010. As I've noted elsewhere, George is also a fan, though not nearly to the extent that I am. His "PSB dreams" are far rarer than my own. At any rate, here's his dream—
We were flying to England on a passenger jet filled with fellow Pet Shop Boys fans, a number of whom were inundating me with questions about Neil, Chris, and their music. At first I was reveling in all the attention. But after it went on and on, with no apparent let-up, George could see that I was beginning to tire of it.
The scene then suddenly shifted to the entire entourage being on a tour bus in London. We were supposed to be on a "PSB tour," but the whole day went by with numerous stops, none of which had anything whatsoever to do with the Boys. George and I, along with everyone else on the bus, became understandably quite frustrated at this.
The scene then shifted again, this time to George and me alone inside a darkened Anglican church. No idea how we got there. It was just the two of us inside, but outside there were throngs of people (our fellow PSB fans again?—George isn't sure) clamoring to get in. George lit a candle so that we could see a little better in the dark, but I quickly insisted that he extinguish it. "They'll see us!" I chided. I obviously didn't want anyone to know we were there.
So George put out the candle, at which point he woke up.
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