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.

1 comment:

Alex Plegt said...

Hi thanks for that great article - my name is Alex Plegt (not Plecht) I was in the first lineup. We recorded a 5 song demo in 1981 which had the following songs

Ephedrine Hydrochloride
Got Me Got You
Down in The Park
Brand New Cadillac

I am still active in music and play in two band based in Canberra, Space Party and The Get Downs