When I was living in New York in the early 80’s, I played in a band called Elixir. There is a cd of Elixir music in the recordings section of this website.

What follows is a blog posting from a man named Michael Salmon who saw Elixir three times. He found me by googling Elixir, bringing him to Rainbowland Music.

His blog entry is a fun glimpse into the Elixir experience, a wonderful time in my musical journey. Enjoy:

January 29, 2017


Picture this. A place where once the clock struck 8 in the evening you would likely see hookers, junkies, drunks, run down living conditions, where if you parked your car you’d have a 50-50 chance of still having your car cassette player still intact 30 minutes later. For those who now see ridiculously high rents, boutique hotels, wealthy well dressed patrons enjoying themselves in wine bars, this was Manhattan on the East side below 14th Street in the early 80’s. You’d be afraid to go out alone, you wouldn’t even be that much confident being with a friend. Things have changed for the better, but a lot of soul is gone. The give and take of things like this is a scale that still tips in either direction for me, even all of these decades later.

In the summer of 1981, a friend and I went to Irving Plaza, then a fairly new music venue on Irving Place and 15th Street. The headliner was The Grandmothers, featuring former members of Frank Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention. The middle act was a band called the Swollen Monkeys, an almost jazzy new wave hybrid. My friend and I never heard of them or the opening act, Elix

Elixir 1980: Frankie deFranco, Walkiria, George Conrad, Doug Rice, Al Cooke

ir. We had to stand in line before we got in. Someone came walking towards all of us. He handed me and my friend a button, a caricature of what looked like a mad scientist testing a potion. I shrugged and pinned it to my shirt. We went inside and waited for the music.

The Grandmothers and Swollen Monkeys were fine, we stayed entertained. Elixir was something else entirely. Visually, the contrasts of the members appearance was interesting enough. The drummer, with barely any clothes on, was Frankie DeFranco. The keyboard player was a pretty brunette named Walkiria. Al Cooke was the bass player and Doug Rice was the guitarist. Save for a bit of welcome new wave attitude, they didn’t look much different from me.

It turns out, it was Doug who handed out the Elixir buttons. The singer was George Conrad, who wore a skin head wig. My friend and I were from almost suburbia (Mill Basin in Brooklyn), so George was unlike anyone we’ve ever seen. And then the band played.

Their songs were punky new wave, very catchy. George was a showman and the band was pretty tight. Before one song that I think was called “Something Stupid”, it looked like George was eating glass. One song did stand out for me, though. It was called “Northern Industrial”, a song about the rigors and almost hopelessness of working in a dead end factory job.. Near the end of the set, George took off his wig and he looked just as interesting, as he was somewhat bald on top. I had no idea how old he was. He must have been sweating under that wig. They left the stage. Without taking away anything from the Swollen Monkeys or The Grandmothers, Elixir was the best thing I heard that Saturday night in July 1981.

The second time  I saw them, with the same friend and another one, was a place called The Cavern. It was in SOHO, probably near the better known Mudd Club. The area was very industrial at the time, very dark and very inaccessible to mass transit. Doug gave my friend that didn’t go to Irving Plaza an Elixir button, and actually seemed pleased when he saw me and my other friend proudly wear our Elixir buttons. They went on late, it was another Saturday night and they ran through their set. It was even better than at Irving Plaza, though the stage was far smaller. They seemed very polished musically and George seemed to enjoy being the singer. I probably said to my friend who didn’t go to the Irving Plaza show “See, I told you they were good”. It took a few hours to get home, in the wee hours of the morning, to what was then called a double fare zone, when only tokens got you on the subway. The subway may have been only 50 cents at the time, but the train was full of forbidding people, drunks, homeless and people who seemed to know exactly how much (or little) money you had in your wallet. It was all worth it, of course.

St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan and the immediate surrounding area was a great area to buy music then. It was full of used record stores, when vinyl was king. It was a great thing to browse and find something you wanted and, best of all, didn’t know existed. I do not remember which store it was but I was looking through the singles rack and came across a picture sleeve 45 of Elixir. The A side was “Northern Industrial”, the B side was “Hold The Line”. I was so happy, I think I hid it between other prospective purchases lest someone else saw it and would try to wrestle it from me (that never happened, I think there is an unwritten, unspoken law among music lovers about such things). The front of the sleeve was their logo, the mad scientist, the back a picture of the group. I waffled that single, eventually buying 5 more direct from George Conrad by mail order (sending cash!). I do not have it anymore, but I remember cranking it up, committing the two songs to memory.

The third time I saw them was at Great Gildersleeves, I believe in September, probably in 1982. I remember the set being short, still great, but maybe about 6 songs. Gildersleeves was by the much more fondly remembered CBGB’S, and that neighborhood was pretty dire at the time.  After that, I remember a second picture sleeve single I saw in an advert of Elixir, in which, if memory serves, has a picture of George carrying a parasol.

Elixir, 1982: Frankie de Franco, Walkiria, Geroge Conrad, Tony de Genero, Doug Rice

Elixir, 1982: Frankie de Franco, Walkiria, Geroge Conrad, Tony de Genero, Doug Rice

I sensed there was trouble in Elixir. I never saw  them advertised again, even though I looked to obtain the Village Voice every week. I figured they broke up. I never heard about any of the individual  members doing anything (this was years before personal computers) and time passed. I’d still play “Northern Industrial”, but eventually purchased CD’s only. I guess I forgot about them.

These days, the major record companies are reissuing music on CD from the 60’s to the 80’s with liner notes, interviews with surviving members and bonus tracks, in an attempt to capture the market who never took to what is being played today. One day while buying one of the reissues, I thought of Elixir. Of course, there would be no re-issue campaign, but they were part of my younger years, so I wondered about them. So, I did what I could now do: Look them up on the internet. There was no hit for three pages, but then there was a site called Rainbowland Music. It mentioned Doug Rice (I have to admit, I forgot his last name until I looked at the site). I went on it. It turns out, Doug has been very busy when it came to music. He lives in California and is a composer of music which shows me that he was the creative  spark of Elixir. The music encompasses soundtrack work, as well as songs. It showed me Doug was very accomplished and seemed to be very happy with his life. I looked closer, and then I found, under “The Elixir Collection”, were MP3’s of 15 of the Elixir songs! I listened to all of them and found that I still knew all of the words to “Northern Industrial” and “Hold The Line”. If you could turn a computer up to 11, my neighborhood would be treated to an Elixirfest! I wrote Doug and he responded, telling me about the band members (he is closest to Al Cooke, but doesn’t keep up with George Conrad) and just generally about himself. Via e mail, Doug was the same friendly guy that handed me the Elixir button in 1981 (Doug, I lost it, I need another one!). I would encourage anyone reading this to go onto Rainbowland and check out Elixir and Doug’s many recordings. He brought back great memories of seeing the band and  exploring new music at the time. Thank you, Doug!