Friday, February 18, 2011

Brisbanes Presidents Eleven uncovered

Presidents Eleven

By the Golden Boy Roger McDonald

Following in the footsteps of their slightly more successful forbears The Saints, President Eleven were originally a garage/punk band formed in the Brisbane suburb of Corinda. Although earlier versions had a floating membership going under names such as The Zones and IQ Zero, what can be described as Presidents Eleven Mark I formed in 1980 and consisted of:

Ian Whittred – vocals

Damon Faggioni – drums

Greg Baxter – bass guitar

Alex Plecht – guitar

Peter van Vuuren – guitar

At this stage the band’s repertoire consisted mainly of covers albeit played with a Dead Kennedys’ wall of sound, blitzkrieg attack. Renowned for their prodigious drug intake they made some demos of their few original songs including the classic “Got Me, Got You” before a summer’s worth of mushroom tripping, petty thievery, unwelcome attention from the Queensland Police Force and general debauchery saw the break up of their communal household and the band.

When the smoke (and their heads) had cleared, and with no preferred choice of career, Presidents Eleven Mark II assembled for roll call:

Ian Whittred – vocals

Damon Faggioni – bass guitar

Michael Faggioni – drums

Richard Best - guitar

This version of the band boasted a much more professional approach and a tough Detroit rock sound that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Citadel record label. Whilst Damon Faggioni made an extremely psychotic drummer in the Mark I version of the band, his musicianship and song writing ability came to the fore in this version of the group, aided and abetted by the more ‘musical’ talents of his older brother Michael on drums and Richard Best on guitar. This line up played almost all original material although they were well known for delivering truly face melting performances of The Damned’s “New Rose” and Radio Birdman’s “Hangin’ On”. The band gigged regularly, supporting international acts such as The Gun Club and recording original material such as “Your Sister Said”, “Rotten to the Bone”, “No More”, “It Could Be You” and a throwaway ditty called “Summer Vacation”. Seduced by the more obvious American Detroit rock sound of the times, Richard Best left to join Brisbane band Les Bon Bons in early 1984.

After trying a couple of different guitarists the band finally settled on Roger ‘Golden Boy’ McDonald as lead guitarist remembering him from The Resistors who had played alongside Presidents Eleven Mark I at their first official show at Bingo Pete’s in the Valley in 1981:

Ian Whittred – vocals, rhythm guitar

Damon Faggioni – bass guitar, vocals

Michael Faggioni – drums

Roger McDonald – guitar

This version of the band (Mark III) saw Damon Faggioni’s song writing talents begin to expand beyond the simple Detroit rock parameters of Mark II and start to take on a more European flavour as witnessed on the moody waltz time ballad “Hold On” and the multi layered arrangement of their rock masterpiece “Lovely Day”. However, in spite of such gems the gimmicky pop song “Summer Vacation” became something of favourite with 4ZZZ – themselves no stranger when it came to the promotion of gimmicky songs. The track was a highlight of the 4ZZZ cassette only release “Queensland in Quarantine”, giving the band their greatest success but at the expense of their hard rock credibility.

With Roger McDonald now on board as lead guitarist the band spent three weeks in Sydney recording their first single “Summer Vacation b/w “Don’t Follow Me” at Emerald City Studios and playing shows with the likes of The Happy Hate-Me-Nots and The Beasts of Bourbon. Although unhappy with the ‘safe’, radio friendly production job done by producer John Zahlika, the single went through three separate pressings, making it to #5 on Sydney’s Out on the Street’s Independent Charts and becoming the first song by a local band to make it to #1 on the 4ZZZ Hot One Hundred. This period saw the band playing on a weekly basis and supporting the likes of Public Image Ltd at Festival Hall. Although arguably the best rhythm section in town with only the Atkinson brothers from Ups and Downs able to lay a glove on them, the fiery relationship between the Faggioni brothers became untenable resulting in Michael leaving the group. The band took this opportunity to go on ‘winter vacation’ for 3 months and consider their options.

The departure of Michael Faggioni saw him eventually replaced by Justin Foley, ushering in the final version (Mark IV) of the band:

Ian Whittred – vocals, rhythm guitar

Damon Faggioni – bass guitar, vocals

Justin Foley – drums

Roger McDonald – guitar

Presidents Eleven Mark IV took up where Mark III had left off, garnering press coverage in Juke Magazine, The Courier Mail and the short lived Daily Sun. In January 1986 the group went into Brisbane’s Suite Sixteen recording studios at Milton and recorded six songs for a mini LP to be called “Hold On”. The band continued to play regularly, supporting The Flamin’ Groovies at Easts Leagues Club and even travelling to Townsville for a week to promote the imminent release of their new product. It was meant to rid the band of the unwelcome and unrepresentative albatross of “Summer Vacation” once and for all and also be the catalyst for a successful move to Sydney and a recording deal with either Waterfront Records or Citadel. Unfortunately problems with the pressing of the vinyl were not detected until after the release had been distributed to record outlets. The resulting confusion and frustration saw the release stall and sales dropped off before the first pressing had sold out. Although they continued to play regularly, disappointed, disillusioned and losing enthusiasm, the band limped on until they played their final show on New Year’s Eve 1986 at Morticia’s nightclub.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

BODYSNATCHERS Frantic/Mystery- 540 Record Reissue

BODYSNATCHERS Frantic/Mystery- 540 Records - 540 019- 7"

The volatile music streaming out of the underground scenes of Britain and the US in the late seventies presented a lot of possibilities to young burgeoning musicians. Along with the sonic assault anthems of The Sex Pistols and The Ramones, there were variants of these themes in the other worldly works of bands like Wire, The Fall and their ilk This was strange and intense noise that had never been created before, but did have some reference to previous purveyors of ‘art-rock’ like The Velvet Underground etc. It was as if a new language was being spoken made up from many other dialects. Brisbane band from the time,The Bodysnatchers, heard a kindred spirit. This is a re-issue of their one and only single on Savage Music.

Formed in early 1978 and lead by Rod McLeod on guitar, drum machine and vocals (with his brother Gavin McLeod on bass and school friend John Hunter on drums) the band were a short lived studio based outfit. Rod and Gavin were card carrying members of two other local punk outfits The Young Identities and Just Urbain. When the opportunity arose for a cheap and nasty recording session, the 3 piece decided to fill in the last remaining time slot by cramming in 2 short sharp songs that didn’t quite fit in with the sounds arising from the rest of the Brisbane music scene. Drawing on the likes of the Gang of Four, A side ‘Frantic’ was a re-write of a Just Urbain song while its flipside ‘Mystery’ is a sped up/hacked up cover of the Velvets ‘Venus in Furs’. The record has a jarring sound with the vocals more whispered than yelped, while the vintage drum machine drone adds an additional spectral quality. Above and beyond that, it still has the trademark bass heavy, non production values much loved by the rest of the Savage Music family. Released as a 300 limited edition with photo copied cover in 1979, its sound stands as the odd, stumbling step-kid of the label and the band was never to be seen or heard of again. Frantic mystery indeed!

YOUNG IDENTITIES - Positive Thinking- 540 Records Reissue

YOUNG IDENTITIES - Positive Thinking- 540 Records - 540 018- 7"

When you were a kid, did you ever have that crazed urge to put your hand into an open fire or maybe ride your bike into the path of an oncoming bus? Well, it was with a similar mindless obsession that a gang of adolescent misfits from Brisbane Australia formed a punk band in 1978 called The Young Identities.

Teenage rebellion has had many forms over the last five decades, but the ‘punk explosion’ of the mid seventies was clearly a case of blatant mold breaking. It was In that time of unbridled mayhem the brothers McLeod (Clayton,Gavin and Rod) along with cohorts Dave Robinson and Paul Murray needed some sort of outlet from the mind-numbing tedium of their suburban existence. Typical of teens at the time (when time was typically too much of what you had) listening to outsider music was a major part of their lives. The Dolls and The Stooges were godheads, but reproducing that kind of noise seemed above their meage and limited talents. Cue The Saints, The Ramones and The Leftovers. Suddenly there was more to amuse these freaks than under-aged drinking and tearing around on dragsters!

The band quickly congealed like a pimple. Being far too young to get gigs at the local pubs and clubs run by quasi mafia figures and stoner hippies, they perform their raucous routine for their peers at parties and practice rooms. It’s soon decided that if this much fun is so cheap and easy, why not make a record! To make this unlikely dream possible The Young Identities (along with fellow reprobates Just Urbain and The Bodysnatchers) form Savage Music, their own haphazard independent label and book the cheapest recording studios in town. For around $300, all three bands slam down the tunes that would feature on the first 3 Savage Music releases. The Young Identities limited edition 45 boasts 3 tracks and a hand printed cover. It hits the shops in early 1979 but hardly anyone in sleepy old Brisbane really cared much for what a bunch of spotty brats from the backwaters had to say and sales of the record reflected this apathy.

Today, after over 30 years, the first Young Identities EP is a much sort after collectors item and has become associated with what is lovingly described as ‘Snot Rock’. Loud, unruly and without pretense. The ages of the band members at the time range from 13 to 17. They were too young to vote and too na├»ve to care. But they sure could make a wild teenage racket!

So, like some bizarre neglected virgin at the mouth of some mythical volcano, here is their first tortured offering!

JUST URBAIN - Burning - 540 Records Reissue

JUST URBAIN - Burning - 540 Records - 540 017 - 7"

One of the greatest bands ever to come from the early Australian punk scene which is why they made the number 36 spot on Johan Kugelberg's top 100 DIY 45's.A bunch of guys, all to varying degrees somewhat disengaged from mainstream culture & wanting something different. A bunch of guys living in a then non connected world but willing to make the effort to do something beyond go to the footie or go to the pub, like buy the NME, hang out at the local import shop come together through mutual musical interests & form a band. It took some monthsand some membership movement but on an unremembered date in '78 JUST URBAIN (& The Young Identities) 'arrived'. Yeah I think I saw that movie also! Anyway we did gigs, had fun in the practice room & for various reasons were involved with the 2nd Leftovers recording as well as the issue of their EP. So what do you know we take it to the next level in '79--Just Urbain, Young Identities & The Bodysnatchers go into a recording studio & spend an afternoon & a few hundred dollars recording 3 singles & behold not only do we have some singles but our own label is born. Fantastic stuff although it didn't really improve our standing in the local scene. Not that we cared. I wouldn't say we had a lot of attitude but we had enough. You had to make the effort to find us as we weren't looking for you."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The End Interview from X-CHANGE Fanzine 1981

The End Interview from X-CHANGE Fanzine issue 4
written by Ian Gray interviewing Brett Myers, Colin Barwick and Jonathon Leikliter. Long before the move to Sydney and Died Pretty

Brisbane early 80's Fanzine x-change

I came across this great pile of old Brisbane zines from my ex-promoter friend Dave Darling recently and thought it might be cool to put it up a few articles on my blog.
X-change was a hand numbered black and white photocopied brisbane punk zine(I use that term lightly because it doesn't really discriminate to punk rock's modern bounderies ). It's very DIY and punk rock in approach and writing but some of the bands are more arty/new wave/etc. It has a lot of local content with reviews of interesting intersate/overseas releases. X-change is the brainchild of Ian Gray. Ian feel free to get in contact if you have any problems with me sharing this.