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On one of the last tours I did with the Hotrods I decided to keep a diary.

For those of you who think its all glamour, this is the warts-and- all-reality of a European jaunt in the midwinter of 1997.

It wasn't always like this of course. But for every band sampling the all too brief (usually!) delights of rock'n' roll success there are a thousand others out there with whom the following account probably strikes an all too familiar chord.

So read on, enjoy, and may your batteries never go flat...

Friday 3rd January

Awoken by the alarm at some obscene hour, e.g. 6am. Crawl out of bed and manage to avoid looking in the mirror. Feel dreadful.. As Barrie wisely says: if you have a hangover, at least you know youíll feel better as the day goes on. If you havenít, chances are thatís the best youíre going to feel all day! Maybe Iím just not made for early mornings. No, make that mornings, period. Keyo arrives; pick up Jess, our drummer for the tour whoís standing in for Steve, and drive to London. Keyo stops at Services for his normal breakfast of tuna sandwich and chocolate selection, mainly consisting of Turkish Delight. How does he do it?

Pick up Barrie at Blackheath and head for Dover. Miss ferry as usual. Once on board partake of breakfast: a pint of dodgy Carlsberg and surprisingly edible vegetable balti. Make a mental note to book Sealink next time instead of P&O. At least they sell Stella. Talking of which, we buy a band case of the aforementioned excellent beverage for consumption later that night, being woefully short of foreign currency. Well, make that any currency...

No sooner are we off the ferry and heading towards our favourite country, Belgium - who laughed at the back? - When, I hear a familiar "snap!" sound, closely followed by another. Turn around to see Bazza and Jess with happy smiles, clutching ice-cold cans of Stella (itís bloody cold, -5). Temptation is too much and decide to partake of one myself, after all Keyo is driving. Several cans later decide itís probably a good idea to find a hotel whilst weíre still vaguely coherent. Around Eindhoven area espy a hotel by the name of Van Der Valk and decide it must be worth a try. Bazza prises 20 guilders off me and disappears into a coffee shop as we wait at some traffic lights. Pull over and he appears a short time later with a slightly glazed look. Well, this is Holland...

Safely ensconced in said hotel we crack open another beer, Barrie gets out the rizlas and find Columbo on the telly. Well, at least itís in English! Share room with Keyo who has a cold as usual. Stick in the earplugs and drift...

Saturday 4th January - LUBECK - Riders Cafe

Bloody cold. Have huge breakfast and fill our pockets with yogurts, oranges, etc. for the long drive northwards. Not surprisingly it gets colder. Our van heater is much like our record company, i.e. woefully inefficient. In fact, the only vaguely warm place is in the driverís seat, as close to the wheel as possible, with a foot stuck in the heater vent. Thatís with gloves, long johns, thermal socks and a hat or two on. And afterthe engine has warmed up for an hour! Keyo and Jess draw the short straws for the more comfortable but far colder rear seats. Theyíre soon virtually unrecognizable under multiple layers of clothing, scarves and duvets. Their eyes are just visible, staring fixedly, if resignedly, ahead. Make a mental note of giving them a poke every so often to make sure they havenít frozen to the floor.

Arrive at Lubeck around dusk, and are overjoyed to find the gig is in an industrial estate with the roads almost impassable for snow and ice. Whoever coined the phrase "suffering for their art" had obviously attempted to play a show in the first week of January in sub-zero temperatures in Lubeck.

Nice club though, sort of a bikers hangout. During soundcheck spot a shady looking character attired like an extra from the Columbo episode from the previous night. It turns out heís Tom Sobilo, our agent, who will be joining us for the tour. A thoroughly nice chap as it turns out, except for a strange bit of facial hair nestling between his lower lip and his chin that he fondly thinks improves his looks. Heís mistaken of course! However, weird beards notwithstanding, he gets it together to take us for a meal at an excellent Greek restaurant. The problem is itís less than an hour to showtime! Knock back a few bevies and hit the stage about ten to a grand total of about 20 people. After an 800-mile drive! Still, those 20 made us feel very welcome and for the first time in two days I was nearly warm! Loading the gear out after, I jam the key in the lock, bending it to a mathematically interesting angle, but rendering it useless for its purpose in life. Bazza saves the day by heating it with his lighter and doing Uri Geller-type things to it. We must get a replacement first thing tomorrow. But of course, tomorrow is...

Sunday 5th January - HAMBURG - Logo

And everything is shut. Only a short drive to Hamburg but itís snowing heavily and taken ages. Sit in the front with Tom, who doesnít remove his coat but actually puts another one on. It really is that cold. As we near Hamburg out come the maps. I remember Captain Sensibleís words to me: "Donít let Tom near a map!" (Tom had done Capís tour last year). Sure enough, he took us on a very nice, but ultimately unwarranted tour around, out of, back in and out through the city before chancing upon the hotel by sheer luck, even though heíd stayed there only months before. Make a mental note to "lose" his maps. Funny old hotel, a backpackers-type gaff, but warm, so what the hell. Find excellent ethnic-type restaurant; stuff ourselves silly and head for the gig. Great club! Turns out to be a great gig, too, lots of people and apparently an unheard of reaction for Hamburg, a town thatís got a reputation similar to London, i.e. every band plays there and the punters are spoilt for choice. But they love us and hey, we love them! Vaguely remember being bought vast amounts of beer and everyone being too pissed to drive the van, so we leave the gear in the club and blag some cabs back to the hotel. Decide itís still too early to sleep and so weave our way, merrily through the icy deserted streets. As every bar we find mysteriously seems to be just closing- well, it is 2am- we stagger back to the hotel and raid our bags for any lurking cans...

Monday 6th January - BRAUNSHWEIG - Brain Club

Canít pick up gear until 2 and kicked out of hotel at 11, so spend 3 hours walking the freezing streets and popping in to various welcoming bars. Sample my first Weissbier of the tour. It definitely wonít be my last, thatís for sure! Then a strange thing happens. After finding a music shop to replenish picks, sticks etc., we get refused entry. Well, Keyo and Jess manage to get in but the door is shut on me, Tom and Bazza. Thereís no one else in the shop. Bang on the door to no avail. Itís -7 degrees. Remember Basil Fawltyís immortal words. Wait outside for ages but weíre pointedly ignored. "Fuck Ďem" says Barrie, "letís find a bar". Good idea mate. Mineís a Weissbier!

Hazy but uneventful drive to Braunshweig. Get lost. Tiny club. Nice Chinese meal. An old friend of ours, Gabi, who runs the Dr Feelgood Info Service turns up. Swap stories, drink more beer and watch the support band who are pretty good. Bit of an Indie-type club and not really our sort of venue. Sadly not many people but we go down well and everyone enjoys themselves. This is one of the gigs Tom referred to in his pre-tour fax to me as supplying "high-class private accommodation" and not a hotel. Decide to press him further. After buttering us up with yet more beer we are led on a 25 mile drive towards the old DDR. Luckily, Keyo doesnít share our love of alcohol and is therefore delegated post-gig driver for the tour. Well, for every tour in fact. But I digress. Arrive at some unearthly hour at what, on the outside, looks like a very nice old farmhouse, but on the inside resembles nothing if not a scungy pit, and indeed weíre proudly informed that just months previously it had been uninhabited. We are shown to our room, the attic, with a motley collection of unsavory looking mattresses slung in uncomfortable proximity to each other. Oh, the glamour of it all! Make another mental note: this time to go through the remaining itinerary with Tom- who, strangely and rather worryingly seems to think we have no objections to these sort of sleeping arrangements- and strike out any more "private accommodations"! Retrieve my duvet from the van, stick in the old earplugs and dream happily of strangling tour managers !

Tuesday 7th January - WURZBURG - Cancelled

Awoken at various times of the night by various people stumbling over me en-route to the bog three flights down. Finally awoken for good by the sound of a cockerel crowing. Except that itís not - itís a particularly ridiculous alarm clock of Keyoís that makes a noise like one. Keyo seems extremely pleased that I appear to have been taken in by it. Foolish boy.

Make a mental note to lose his alarm clock...

As I feared, the rock Ďní roll johnnies who live in the house have got the fags all over the breakfast table and, to make matters worse, are labouring under the misapprehension that we actually like listening to The Cranberries at ten oíclock in the morning at a savagely loud volume. Sorry mate, but I donít like listening to them at any hour at any volume unless itís off. Politely request a change of music, which is replaced by the sounds of large and boisterous dogs bouncing up and around the breakfast table, craftily nicking bits of cheese off our plates.

Fall into a happy little reverie, fondly remembering words like "Holiday Inn" and "room service". Wave away a joint thrust under my nose and suggest departure.

Discover van battery is dead as a dodo and cadge a jump-start. Load up gear in club, stock up on bottled water in vain attempt to assuage imminent hangovers, push van to get it going again, buy replacement key (at last!) and head for Wurzburg. Tonightís gig has been cancelled, but the promoter has promised to put us up and feed us.

Bloody cold; -10 degrees. Drive around the town for about three hours as usual - havenít managed to lose Tomís maps yet - and finally find promoterís house. He looks something like Fifties throwback Mark Lamarr, and he and his girlfriendís flat is painted in loud Fifties colours and stocked entirely with reproduction Fifties stuff. Most bizarre! His record collection is also exclusively Fifties - well, a few Sixties and Seventies things like us thrown in - itís a good job the gig was pulled, heíd probably have hated us ! ! But theyíre lovely people and make us very welcome. However, after last nightís exceptionally close sleeping arrangements we decide the flat is a trifle small for all of us, so Jess and I elect to get a hotel room in town. Olaf - for that is his name - offers to drive us into town, an offer we gladly accept given that our van is going nowhere until we get a new battery. I must say Wurzburg looks beautiful at night - castles lit up high on a hill, etc. - Iíve vague memories of a razzy time here when I was with UFO in 1986. Check into nice little pension-type hotel, catch a last Weissbier in the bar down the road, put the earplugs in and drift into oblivion...


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Wednesday 8th January - FRANKFURT - Maxim

Tom got lost this morning on his way to a garage with Bazza to find a new battery, so they meet at our hotel about 3 hours late. Quite extraordinary! Decide to have a wander around the old town to shake off "van lag". Even more bloody freezing, -10 degrees! After ten minutes we realize weíve lost Tom and Barrie. Wander back to find a coffee shop staffed by toothless octogenarians and leave note on van giving directions, Jess eats about a dozen pieces of cake and seems happily resigned to another long wait. Heís not wrong, of course! Around 3 Oíclock we espy B & T. Finally set off for Frankfurt, about 80 miles. Quite a novelty not having to push van; etc, to get going. Appalling driving conditions, fog, ice and snow. Tom forgets directions to his own flat and purely by chance ends up at the gig. Itís a disco! But, we are earnestly assured, it will be great. Letís hope so - we need a bit of morale boosting! Tom is promoting this one so anything could happen; he might have advertised it at the wrong venue! Good soundcheck, excellent support band with over the top female singer doing New York Dolls-type stuff. Tom takes us to dinner. As heís paying he tries to palm us off in some smoky, scungy stand-up job. I rebel, and after half an hour of tramping the streets we eventually find something half-decent. Tom spends the rest of the night giving me baleful looks as he had to dig a little deeper into his pocket - at least until he got a few Schnapps down his neck at the club. And the gig is great! Packed out solid, great punters, great show (we needed this one!) and a good old piss-up after. Just how it should be.

No hotel, so Jess and Bazza crash out at Tomís, and Keyo and I end up at his friend Alexís flat, about 20 miles away. Itís just one room, and a trifle cramped for the three of us and his little dog Felix; try to cadge the best sleeping area, jam in the old earplugs and zzzzz Ďs

Thursday 9th January - DAY OFF

Train to Frankfurt and hang around ages at Tomís for the others who appear to have some difficulty in getting up. Photographer arrives at one to take us for a photo session. Everyone looks like death warmed up. At about 3pm we end up at this bridge over the Rhine absolutely frozen with appalling hangovers. Try to look like a group, but probably look more like a group of Russian refugees, especially Keyo who refuses point-blank to remove something that looks like a dead animal perched on top of his head.

Last night the throttle cable snapped in our van, which is still parked outside the gig collecting an interesting array of parking tickets. For some reason we all decide to wait in the station while Bob/Tom phones ADAC (the German AA). Thatís the last we see of him for what seems like several hours. The fascination of exploring the station and looking at evocative sounding destinations like Dresden and Leipzig soon wears thin, however, and we repair to the station bar and spend an amusing half hour or so listening to some girls from Manchester or somewhere complaining about not having mushrooms in their omelette or something to the waiter who clearly does not give a shit.

Finally decide to send a search party for Bob/Tom. It turns out heís been waiting outside the van for hours and has turned a worrying shade of blue. Phone ADAC again and find a bar across the road. Barrie falls in love with scantily clad barmaid and professes to wish to grow old and die here. Eventually a cheerful ADAC man turns up and fixes the van at about 8 oíclock. Itís been a long cold day. Find a nice Yugoslavian restaurant and thaw out over a few foaming glasses of Weissbier. Back to Alexís.

Friday 10th January - OBERHAUSEN - Star Club

Didnít sleep too well. Alex rose at 6am to take his dog across to a friend's the other side of town so he wouldnít be on his own while he was at work all day. Thereís dedication! Am quietly impressed. Take the train to Frankfurt. Fascinating morning spent at the laundry. Tom couldnít figure out the machines even though heís been coming here for years. Barrie spends the journey to Oberhausen winding Tom up. Tomís had enough and doesnít answer to his name anymore. "Hey Bob", says Barrie. "Yes?" says Tom. So from now on heís known as Bob.

Late arrival at the gig - itís huge! Very friendly promoter who takes us for a slap-up Chinese meal and checks us in to the best hotel so far. Great gig-not exactly full, but enthusiastic punters make it all worthwhile.

Saturday 11th January - BERLIN - Franz Club

Long drive to my favourite German City. Beautiful day, bright sunshine but still way too cold to melt the snow. Bob/Tom excels himself by not getting us lost! Itís a great gig in an old church-type place in the old East Berlin sector, below a hearing institute. How apt! Great hotel, "for artists, actors & musicians", full of paint effects and iron chandeliers, very relaxing. The gig is sold out; over 250 people with more turned away! Great buzz inside. Meet some geezer called Nikki Sudden who used to be in some dodgy old Punk group and is now having some sort of solo career over here. He has this carefully cultivated wasted air about him but probably goes home to a cup of Bovril. He wants to get up and jam with us; well why not? His entrance is slightly marred, however, when he picks up one of Keyoís guitars and discovers it has only five strings on it. His cool blown, he attempts to join us for vocals on "Gloria", except that he appears to be singing in another key and at about half speed. Still, the girlies at the front seem to like him, so he escapes with a swift boot up the jacksie from yours truly.

Much partying after, and discover Nikkiís real name is Albert or Alfred or something, which pleases us all immensely.

Sunday 12th January - NUREMBURG - Hirsch

Rise early with the intention of a few hours exploration but feel slightly crap, so go back to bed, Jess and Keyo head for the tube and the Brandenburg gate, after we arrange to leave hotel by 12.00. Gabi joined us last night for a few days and she and Bazza go to collect the van and visit a Harley shop and donít get back till 2pm. Jess and Keyo ever so slightly pissed off as they made it to one station before a fire ahead curtailed their trip. Horrendous drive at high speeds over dodgy East German roads to make up for lost time, but sometimes wonder if weíre going to make it there alive. Itís about 300 miles and we arrive very late. Kick the support band out of the best dressing room, a quick bite to eat and straight on stage. Not our best gig, weíre all pretty frazzled and after Berlin, the venue seems pretty bleak. Itís too big for us really- The Temptations were here last week! But those who were here - which to be honest turned out to be mostly the support band! - Had a good time and we joined them all for a nice little drink afterwards. Hey ho!

Monday 13th January - INGOLSTADT - Neue Welt

Lovely Christmassy drive through deepest Bavaria today. Take it in turns to travel in the luxury of Gabiís car, leaving Bazza and Tom in the van. Every time we pass the van Tom/Bob is holding a map about 2 inches from his face. Strange man. Impossible to get lost in Ingolstadt- thereís only one main street. Itís a beautiful old town and with all the snow looks like a soppy Christmas postcard. Nice old hotel opposite a lovely old cathedral (the bells! the bells!) and the gig is supposed to be a "semi-unplugged" affair in a small blues club. The owner looks slightly alarmed at the amount of gear we have -, which is bugger all really -, and when Jess hits his snare drum, he goes beserk. Oh gawd! Promise to play as quiet as possible, which of course isnít very quiet at all, but we do our best. Two sets tonight which we dislike - itís like having the plug pulled just as weíre getting warmed up. A slightly older audience than usual tonight who seem somewhat bemused at our antics. During the break the guvínor appears to have a nervous breakdown. Sorry matey, but weíre a bleediní rock band ainít we! Heís not a happy bunny. He bounces around the dressing room issuing dire warnings, but as we donít understand a word he says, we just nod our heads wisely and drink more beer. The second set is, of course, louder. Catch sight of the guvínor with his hands over his head at the back. Bazza joins the audience at their tables and serenades them in his inimitable fashion, and suddenly they come alive. Ends up being a pretty good gig. Even the promoter buys us another beer!

Tuesday 14th January - INGOLSTADT - Day Off

Bells rang all night- quite nice for the first few times but started to wear thin around 4am. Tom didnít get it together to find us another hotel so weíre here for another day- itís very nice, just bloody expensive, and weíre paying! Unbelievably cold. Venture outside sporadically to replenish supplies etc, find a nice Chinese restaurant in the evening, a few beers and an early night.

Wednesday 15th January - KAUFBEUREN - Misfits

Bob/Tom excels himself by leaving in the van with Barrie without leaving directions for the rest of us travelling in Gabiís car. Amazingly, meet up at Dachau Concentration Camp. Much contemplation- nothing would prepare anyone for the atmosphere this place has.

A very silent drive onwards to Kaufbeuren. Lose Bob and Bazza. Arrive at gig to find it shut. Park up and walk through the little town and kill an hour in a coffee haus. No sign of B&T back at the gig but itís now open. Load gear up narrow flight of steps to tiny little room thatís freezing cold. Dodgy characters running it who donít seem quite at home. PA arrives with one mic and no monitors. Still no B&T. Politely request some form of monitoring but the PA bloke looks at me as if Iím speaking some sort of strange language, which I suppose I am, and buggers off home leaving us to it. After what seems like hours B&T arrive, and from their speech - something like "shhh wsshh bssh shhnk", I deduce theyíve been happily whiling away the hours in some warm and welcoming hostelry, which, as it turns out, was the station bar. Thought theyíd probably exhausted that particular line of pleasure in Frankfurt! Bazza takes one look at the- ahem, PA and walks out. Find him in the restaurant next door, staring unhappily at a menu consisting entirely of pasta. Poor old Baz - no monitors and he hates Italian food! A few more beers and heís back to his old self however. The show must go on! And it does, although itís one weíd probably best forget about. And to cap off a perfect evening, itís "private accommodation" again. Except it isnít- thereís a bunch of unspeakable mattresses in the dressing room. Request Bob to get on the blower and find us a hotel. Of course, the only one with any rooms available is also the most expensive. Bye bye gig money!

 


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Thursday 16th January - MARKDORF - Theaterstadt

Bob and Bazza take the van again, so Jess, Keyo and myself shoot off with Gabi. Her tapes consist almost exclusively of Dr Feelgood, with a smattering of Nine Below Zero and us thrown in for good measure. She promises to put us on her home pages on the Internet, which is very nice of her. Amuses us by saying she collects "0ís", which after careful questioning turns out to be owls! Bob leaves us with vague directions saying the gig is at the bottom of a hill. We jokingly say, "itís probably at the top of it", which as it turns out, it is, of course! Itís a fantastic theatre inside an old farm building; full of ornate plaster pillars, cherubs, angels and wonderful glass topped tables with little lights inside. If this was in England theyíd be smashed to oblivion by now. Very nice accommodation in the guesthouse next door, wonderful people and a great gig. God knows where the punters came from, but they did, and after boundless hospitality, we stagger happily off to the land of nod.

 

Friday 17th January - LEONBERG - Beat Baracke

Well, talk about from the sublime to the, er-not so sublime. En route on the long drive, Tom tells us theyíre deducting hotel money from our fee - which happens to be 70% of however many people come through the door - otherwise itís more of the famous scungy mattress syndrome. Do other bands really put up with this?

On first appearances things donít bode too well as the gig is a very hardcore Punk type of place but, surprisingly itís one of the best gigs and is packed out with punters who go nuts. Even get two encores! ! Dead chuffed. And I havenít seen Mohicans like this lot had in nearly 20 years!

Saturday 18th January - HAGEN - Cancelled

Drive to Frankfurt. Gabi back to work so all back in the van again. Bloody freezing. The cokes we put in the van from the first gig havenít unfrozen; even the water we keep to refill the windscreen washers has frozen solid, and thatís keeping it on top of the heater vents! Dreadful driving conditions, rain is finally melting the snow and the autobahn is like a skating rink. Back at Tomís flat, conditions are a little bit tight for 5 of us so decide to book myself into the Ibis Hotel nearby. Crack a beer, write up tour diary and meet back at Tomís at 7.30pm to go to dinner. Walk to Chinese restaurant where the food is indifferent, the service desultory in the extreme, and the waitress says "fuck you" as we leave. Charming!

 

Sunday 19th January - WETZLAR - Franzis

Baked beans for breakfast. Iíve been saving them for a treat! Weíve all got our fingers crossed in case theyíre frozen too, but, joy of joys, out they plop, every bean separate! Itís amazing how much little things we take for granted at home: it can mean so much on tour in a different country! Short drive today through rain and fog again to this lovely old town. Great new hote l- a nice bit of luxury - and chill out for the afternoon. Idly flicking through the TV channels discover a 24-hour porno channel which sure beats the German equivalent of Pebble Mill At One! Tear Bob/Tom away from it and send him packing to sort out the tour accounts.

Lovely friendly people at the gig, fantastic Turkish meal and another good gig. Could have done with a few more people though- Sunday in this neck of the woods is not a popular evening to venture out...

Monday 20th January - MUNSTER - The Pilgrims

Tiny Irish bar, barely a PA system and no monitors. Much despondency. Trouble with these sort of gigs is we canít be ourselves! Thereís not even room for the drumkit on stage and Jess ends up playing on the floor at the side. Canít help noticing that all the posters on the walls depict grinning beardoís with excessive beerguts holding accordions and suchlike. We done got those wrong venue blues! Attempt at soundcheck at embarrassingly low volume- the owner canít understand why we need monitors! A leprechaun with a bleediní tin whistle would be hard pressed to find room to move on this stage. And we have to play two sets - which means we have to bung in some old ríníb songs, which I really donít think are us anymore- and the sound is so appalling that we even manage to fuck up "Hog For You". And thatís bad!! Needless to say, for us itís a pretty crappy gig. If you were there and are reading this - sorry!

Sleep upstairs in fairly- how can I be polite? - basic accommodation, once we have finally managed to get through to certain parties that grown men do not like sleeping in a double bad together....

Tuesday 21st January - DUSSELDORF - Zakk

After a cold shower - not by choice I hasten to add! - we have a silent breakfast downstairs with no heat or light, and are resolutely ignored by the owner who obviously hates us. Load up gear at double speed and get out as quickly as possible. Never again!

Arrive in Dusseldorf - itís sunny! - and check into a lovely old hotel full of character. My room is chock full of antiques and family heirlooms and even has a separate living room. What a contrast to yesterday!

Head down to the club for soundcheck. Great venue, great sound, dressing room fridge chock full of beer. Excellent! Finally see our Internet site in the Cybercafe upstairs - cheers Gabi! The place quickly starts filling up with punters and itís soon packed out - thereís a real buzz, great for our last night. Out front to catch the support act and bump into Campino from Die Toten Hosen, who says heís waited ten years to see us! Blimey, better buy the bloke a beer then! Fantastic gig and audience and a right old razz up in the dressing room after. Huge amounts of beer consumed with the Toten Hosen boys (I prefer their version of "Do Anything" to ours!) and swear undying friendship etc. Jess apparently says heíll follow us back to the hotel in Gabiís car but rapidly lose him. Wait up a while at hotel but by 4am thereís still no sign of him. Assume heís hideously lost and crash out!

Wednesday 22nd January

Jess spends the first few hours of today attempting to make us feel very guilty. He apparently found his way back just in time to get up, and is looking slightly the worse for wear. Much like the rest of us, in fact! Say goodbye to Bob/Tom who, all things considered, put us together a good tour with proper routing for a change! And come September, hopefully, weíll be back

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