Saturday 6 March 2010

News, Views and Music Issue 55 (Intro)

March 6:

♫ Hello, hiya, howdy and watcher, it’s time for issue 55 of everybody’s favourite spice girls-baiting rotten music hating AAA-pulsating monkeynuts newsletter. Not much news to tell you this week except that we’re now approaching the 700 visitors mark, so thankyou to everyone whose dropped in for a visit and a quick look round our (non-photo) albums. We’ll be back a bit later than normal next issue but seeing as we’ve been a bit early posting the last two hopefully that shouldn’t matter too much. Anyway, till then happy reading!


CSNY News/Jefferson Airplane News: There were no less than two AAA-related answers on last week’s under-rated ‘Only Connect’ quiz (BBC3 Monday 8.30pm) which would have got me a whopping seven points if I’d been on the show (though, as normal, I can’t say I got many of the other rounds that week). For those who don’t know the show is about connections between four seemingly random people/places/objects and on the CSNY round contestants had to guess the fourth name in the sequence after being provided with (Bing) Crosby, (whisky) Stills, (Kate) Nash (the result, of course, was (Jimmy) Young). I’m pleased to see its the only round where I’ve ever guessed the answer from the beginning (or are ever likely to!) As if that wasn’t enough round four was all about ‘famous Graces’, naturally including Mrs Slick from the Jefferson Airplane. Full marks to host Victoria Coren for calling the latter group ‘that wonderful band...’ although perhaps not her ‘bird competition’ joke which changed CSNY into Crowsby, Starling, Natterjack and Yearling! Yeah, OK, so that’s not really very newsworthy but I have to fill this column up somehow!


ANNIVERSARIES: Our birthday boys this week (February 28th-March 6th) are Brian Jones (multi-instrumentalist with The Rolling Stones 1962-68) who would have been 68 on February 28th, Roger Daltrey (singer with The Who 1964-82 and various re-unions) who turns 66 on March 1st and David Gilmour (guitarist with Pink Floyd 1968-94) who turns 63 on March 6th. Anniversaries of events include: John and Paul write ‘From Me To You’ in the back of a tour bus after reading the quote in that week’s letter column of the NME (February 28th 1963); The Cavern Club closes its doors for the final time after raking up debts of £70,000 (February 28th 1966); The Beatles start filming for their first film ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ – amazingly the film will premiere in the summer of the same year (March 2nd 1964); Stephen Stills takes part in the fondly if hazily remembered ‘Havana Jam’ festival, an event held to strengthen American-Cuban relations (March 2nd 1979); John Lennon’s quote about The Beatles being bigger than Jesus first appears in print in the Evening Standard where it doesn’t even make a headline – it won’t be till American journalists get hold of the story a few months later that it becomes front page news (March 4th 1966); The Rolling Stones record their ‘Love You Live’ album at Toronto’s low capacity and intimate El Macombo Club – with Keith Richards’ latest drug bust hanging over the band (see last week’s column) there are fears that this will be the last record the bad will ever do (March 4th 1977); The Rolling Stones and The Hollies begin a tour together, creating a friendship that lasts throughout most of the 1960s (March 5th 1965 – and contrary to most books on the subject they are joint headliners, generally switching billing depending on the venue); The Rolling Stones also record their first live album – Got Live If You Want It – during a gig in Liverpool on March 6th 1965 and finally, The Beatles release their last ever single in the UK with ‘Let It Be’ on March 6th 1970, over a year after it’s recording.

And for week two (March 7th-13th) its birthday celebrations for Micky Dolenz (drummer and actor with The Monkees 1966-70) who turns 65 on March 8th. Anniversaries of events include: the first time British stars fill up the whole of the UK top 10 (including AAA members The Searchers at no 5 with ‘Needles and Pins’ and The Rolling Stones at no 6 with ‘Not Fade Away’) (March 7th 1964); The Beatles appear on the radio for the first time singing ‘Dream Baby’ on ‘Teenagers Turn’ a full seven months before their first single release (March 8th 1962); The legendary Fillmore East venue - or ‘Fillmore Esat’ as they famously mis-spelled it on their advertising banner – opens in San Francisco and will become home to the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane among others (March 8th 1968); Pigpen aka Ron McKernan, organist and founder of The Grateful Dead, dies of liver failure on March 8th 1973; The Beatles release their last ever EP after breaking every EP record in the book over the past four years (‘Yesterday’, which never was a single in the UK, is released on March 10th 1966); The Blue Jays – Moody Blues members Justin Hayward and John Lodge – perform their first gig at the Albert Hall (March 10th 1975); Paul Simon gets a gold record for his best-selling solo single ’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’ (March 11th 1976); Paul and Linda McCartney tie the knot at Marleybone Registry Office (March 12th 1969); John Lennon gets evicted from Los Angeles’ Troubadour Club after heckling the Smothers Brothers, an act that makes him question the wisdom of continuing his ‘lost weekend’ (March 12th 1974) and finally, Stephen Stills’ biggest solo hit ‘Love The One You’re With’ reaches its peak in the UK charts (March 13th 1971).     

News, Views and Music Issue 55 (Top Five): The Worst AAA Albums

And now for our latest top five. Following on from last week’s glimpse of the world’s worst music, we’ve chosen to remind ourselves that even our beloved AAA groups are human (although the jury’s still out for the human league!) and study the five worst AAA-related albums to date. Now as ever opinions are always going to be divided over an artist’s best work, but as we’ve decided to give you our examples of the greatest music ever made we thought it only fair to tell you which music you should avoid – and remember, like everything to do with music, its only a personal opinion and not everyone’s going to agree (we bet somebody out there somewhere still likes the Spice Girls!) Now, it goes without saying that even the worst of these albums are miles better than the horrors we told you about last week but by AAA standards it’s fair to say each of these albums are a disappointment. There are lots of candidates for the worst AAA album of course – all together the AAA crowd must have released just under half a million albums, more if you include spin-off solo LPs – and there are lots more dodgy albums than we’ve included in our list. But perhaps the most startling thing about the list is that, actually, none of these albums are that bad on their own (its just that, compared to the heights we know these groups are capable of, these lows are very low indeed...)  

5) The Monkees “JustUs” (1996). We’d waited 27 years for all four Monkees to get back together. And say what you like about the three-way ‘Pool It!’ in 1986, it might not have been the best Monkees album but it at least showed the seeds of how good the Monkees could have sounded when their ‘garage sound’ was updated (three good tracks out of 12 isn’t much but I’ve heard far worse odds than that, see below). And the band’s concert performances that year were pretty good, forget what the critics said (I still can’t believe the Daily Mail attended the same Birmingham show I did that year with their talk of ‘monkee business earning pensions’ – did they send their deaf music columnist to review it or something?!) And this Mike Nesmith-produced album, with the band playing their own instruments for the first time since the early sessions for ‘Pisces Aquarius’ in 1967, seemed to tie in nicely with the late grunge period feel. Best of all every single song was to be written by the band – something that had never happened before. Ever. But oh what a disappointment – Nesmith only gets one ‘new’ song (along with a terrible re-recording of ‘Circle Sky’) and it’s diabolical; Peter Tork only gets two and they’re also diabolical. Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones, never the most prolific of writers, carve up the album between them and they’re...disinterested. What this album adds up to is 12 slices of noisy uninspired pop (even the ballads) from a band who – according to the stories that leaked out in the press later – hated each other by the end of the sessions every bit as much as they did in the late 60s. Such a shame, such a missed opportunity that doesn’t seem likely to come round again (not that this album ever seemed likely to happen either at the time...) Worst moment: That ‘Circle Sky’ re-recording; the original is a cleverly poised word association rocker about media lies and repeating yourself. This ‘new’ version is a leaden, lumpy nonsense song that sounds like its being sung by Brian Blessed on acid (although its nowhere near as exciting as that sounds). Redeeming feature: the fact that it happened at all, although Micky’s ‘Regional Girl’ is a passable pop song (albeit one that doesn’t sound like The Monkees one iota) and Peter’s ‘I Believe You’ might be a song built all on one note but at least it’s a nice note.   

4)The Moody Blues “Keys Of The Kingdom” (1991). This album does have its saving graces, sort of: you get to hear Justin Hayward whistling his way through a chorus of ‘Is This Heaven?’ while drummer Graeme Edge tap dances chaotically behind him and the album’s single ‘Say It With Love’ is a fairly convincing attempt to sum up the group’s history and philosophy in three minutes. But play this album back to back with even the weakest of the band’s classic albums (and even their late 70s reunions) and you realise that listening to a drummer tap dance and a funky but largely one-note single highlights aren’t even in the same universe as past glories. And as for the rest of the album, all we seem to get are The Moodies reduced to their clichéd templates: Justin and John Lodge each get a syrupy ballad (‘Bless The Wings’ is a candidate for the Moodies’ worst single and ‘Lean On Me’ isn’t far behind), Justin attempts a rocker and then gives up partway through and worst of all Ray Thomas is almost absent from the whole record, with his much awaited collaboration with Justin on ‘Never Blame The Rainbows For The Rain’ a candidate for the worst individual Moodies track of all (and his solo ‘Celtic Sonant’ probably is the worst individual Moodies track of all). So far so uninspired, but add in an insipid production spread across several sessions and four different groups of producers (including the usually reliable Tony Visconti on a really off day) and you end up with the most impersonal, least Moodies-ish album of all. I’d got used to not hearing mellotrons by1991 but surely the band could have used something other than that darned synth noise on every track? Worst moment: The best Moodies moments are weird, off-the-wall and ambitious, the sort of things less confident bands would never dare to attempt. Sadly Celtic Sonant is why: weird, off-the-wall, ambitious and hopelessly unlistenable. Even ‘Bless The Wings’ sounds kind of OK next to this. Redeeming feature: ‘Say It With Love’, as mentioned, is a sweet little single and ‘Say What You Mean’ is quite a cute rocker (although the reprise with the Vincent Price-ish voice gets a bit weird and a bit too close to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ for my taste). 

3) The Beach Boys “Still Crusin’” (1989). Most fans reckon that follow-up ‘Summer In Paradise’ is the Beach Boys’ absolute nadir, but bad as that album is this one is even worse. Let’s just take a look at the things working against this album: 1) Brian Wilson is at his poorliest, having been pulled back from the brink once and then left to slip under the prodding gaze of manager/psychologist Eugene Landy who takes a co-credit for every single one of Brian’s songs in this period. 2) Dennis Wilson has died, leaving the whole Wilson-Love/Jardine fight for control in disarray, with Carl hardly present in favour of Mike and Al at their most irritating. 3) This ridiculously short album concludes with two Beach Boys classics – no, not re-recorded versions of classics but the original 60s releases note-for-note. Established fans already had these songs millions of times over while the few new fans who came the Beach Boys’ way via film soundtracks simply laughed at how old and bored the band sounded on their newer material by comparison. And at least ‘Paradise’ had a stunning cover and a more active role by ‘sixth Beach Boy’ Bruce Johnstone – here its just Brian Wilson at his unhappiest and Mike Love at his strongest, which is not a pretty combination. Worst moment: It’s a toss up between hearing an out-of-control Brian reducing his creative genius to writing a clichéd song about driving in his car and that sinking feeling you get when you hear the first notes of million seller ‘Kokomo’ and think ‘did this song really click with American fans enough to make #1?!’ Redeeming feature: ‘Somewhere In Japan’, co-written by Love, Jardine and the Mamas and Papas’ John Phillips, isn’t exactly a hidden treasure but it is head and shoulders above everything else here.

2) Paul McCartney “Chaos and Creation In The BackYard” (2001). This album bizarrely restored faith in McCartney in the eyes of the press but I have not the foggiest idea why – its the laziest, most boring bunch of undescriptive nothingness that McCartney has yet put together. Now, we mentioned in our review for ‘Venus And Mars’ (see review no 64) that every McCartney has one cringe-inducing song that gets it so wrong you wonder how on earth the rest of the album manages to be so wonderful. Well, this is a whole album’s worth of mistakes that all sound the same on first hearing and then all sort terrible when you get to know them better. The song English Tea must also rank as a strong contender for the most awful song of Paul’s career – its chorus line ‘how twee, how me’ sum up the album perfectly. When we heard that follow-up ‘Memory Almost Full’ was made up of outtakes from this album (!) we ran for the hills – but as bad as that album is (especially the dire single ‘Dance Tonight’) at least that set is rescued by a couple of touched of McCartney magic. This is the one solo McCartney album that doesn’t have one good song. Worst moment: English Tea. My God how I hate that song! Redeeming feature: A lovely front cover featuring a young Paul in the back yard of the McCartney family home, shortly before Hamburg, Epstein and the fame that’s followed him ever since, as snapped by brother Mike. Sometimes you really can’t judge a book by it’s cover!   

1) Hollies “Staying Power” (2005). From the opening ‘wo-o-o-o-ah’ you know something is up. The sort of banal cliché the Hollies did so well avoiding for over 40 years is suddenly all over this album, with new vocalist Peter Howarth over-egging everything and treating the album like a bad karoke night. My hopes were high for this album – sure only Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott were left from the original group but The Hollies had been through more changes than most during their 40 year odyssey and usually managed to come up trumps somehow. And this was the first Hollies album since way back in 1983 and the Graham Nash reunion album ‘What Comes Around’ – given all the pretty darn good single-only releases in the interim surely we could expect something amazing now that The Hollies had a full album to themselves? I was never that big a fan of Carl Wayne when he took over the vocal spot but even his tracks (heard on the Hollies box set ‘Long Road Home’) have a certain power and poise about them. Not to mention the fact that in 40 years of trying the Hollies had never actually put out a bad album before? (some are weaker than others, of course, but none of them are actually bad). Well, the trouble is this album just sounds nothing like The Hollies – there’s nothing to connect it to the mid-90s line-up (with Allan Clarke and the under-rated Alan Coates) never mind the mid-60s line-up. And its not just vocalist Peter Howarth’s fault either: Tony Hicks’ strong songwriting, which he continued right up until the late 90s, has been passed over for a series of anonymous songwriting teams; the human pathos and social understanding that has been a longstanding Hollies theme has been passed over for a series of tired analogies about love that have been hundreds of times before, Bobby Elliott’s groundbreaking drumming seems to have been uploaded from a computer and worst of all those glorious soaring Hollies harmonies are hardly present at all. I’m all for groups trying to update their sound (it’s what gave us Paul McCartney’s ‘Fireman’ albums and the best of Ray Davies and Brian Wilson’s solo work after all), but this is throwing out the baby, the bath water and everything in the bathroom including the sink out the door just to sound ‘modern’ (and anonymous). The word is The Hollies are busy at work on another, more traditional sounding album so let’s not write them off just yet and hope that they’ve learnt their lesson from this rather odd piece of work. Worst moment: the single, ‘So Damn Beautiful’ – everything goes double for ending the unsurpassable run of wonderful singles The Hollies have had in their career. Even the cringeworthy ‘Sorry Suzanne’, the band’s only weak original single, wasn’t this bad! Redeeming feature: Err, there really isn’t one. Even the cover manages to cover Tony Hicks’ profile – the only recognisable one among the band these days its been that long since the last album cover with their faces on it – with a blinding flash of sunlight.  

So that’s it for another issue: from the sublime to the ridiculous, we cover everything here at the AAA! Till the next issue, keep rocking, keep reading and we’ll see you soon!

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock