Silver Apples  

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Silver Apples were an American musical ensemble from New York, first active between 1967 and 1970, in the genre of electronic rock. It was composed of Simeon (born Simeon Oliver Coxe III, June 4, 1938 – September 8, 2020), who performed on a primitive synthesizer of his own devising; and, until his death in 2005, drummer Danny Taylor. The duo were among the first to employ electronic music techniques outside of academia, applying them to 1960s rock and pop styles.

As part of New York's underground music scene, the band released two albums—Silver Apples (1968) and Contact (1969)—to poor sales. They began recording a third album before a lawsuit by Pan Am, owing to the use of their logo in the artwork of Contact, forced the end of the group and its label Kapp in 1970. In the 1990s, German bootleg recordings of the band's albums raised their profile, and Simeon reformed the group with other musicians and released new music. In 1998, he reconnected with Taylor, and the two completed their original third LP The Garden (1998). After Taylor's death, Simeon continued releasing Silver Apples projects using samples of Taylor's drumming.

The band's pulsing rhythms and electronic melodies would predate several contemporary artists, including White Noise and Can, as well as later artists including Suicide, Stereolab, and Laika. AllMusic's Jason Ankeny called them "a surreal, almost unprecedented duo," while Portishead's Geoff Barrow stated that "for people like us, they are the perfect band [...] They should definitely be up there with the pioneers of electronic music."

Contents

History

The 1960s

The group formed out of a traditional rock band called The Overland Stage Electric Band, working regularly in the East Village. Simeon was the singer, but began to incorporate a 1940s vintage audio oscillator into the show, which alienated the other band members to the extent that the group was eventually reduced to the duo of Simeon and Taylor, at which point they renamed themselves The Silver Apples, after the William Butler Yeats poem "The Song of Wandering Aengus". The arsenal of oscillators eventually grew (according to their first LP liner notes) to include "nine audio oscillators piled on top of each other and eighty-six manual controls to control lead, rhythm and bass pulses with hands, feet and elbows". Simeon devised a system of telegraph keys and pedals to control tonality and chord changes, and reportedly never learned to play traditional piano-styled keyboards or synthesizers.

They were signed to Kapp Records and released their first record, Silver Apples, in 1968, and from that released a single, "Oscillations", a song that Simeon has cited as the first song he had written. On the debut album, seven of the nine songs had lyrics by Stanley Warren (not Warren Stanley as incorrectly credited on the re-release of the 1997 MCA CD), including the group's signature song "Oscillations". Warren, who subsequently became a published poet, met Simeon and Taylor at the Fifth Annual Avant Garde Arts Festival in 1967 in New York City, organized by Charlotte Moorman, who was famous as the "topless cellist". Soon after, Simeon became acquainted with Warren's early work, and set a poem, "MJ", to music as "Seagreen Serenades". Inspired by Simeon's interest, in the next few months Warren wrote the remaining six songs used on the Silver Apples album. Another song, "Gypsy Love", was used on the Silver Apples' second album, Contact. In recent performances, Simeon still plays some of his and Warren's works from the early days of Silver Apples.

The following year, they released their second LP, Contact, and toured the United States. The band had struck a deal with the airline Pan Am to shoot the front photo of the album's artwork in an airliner cockpit, in exchange for including the Pan Am logo. However, the backside of the record featured a photograph of a plane crash. This led to a lawsuit and the record was pulled from stores. A third album was recorded in 1970, but Kapp was folded into MCA Records, leaving the album unreleased, and the group defunct. Simeon elaborates on the other reasons for Silver Apples disbanding and the record label's demise online.

1990s revival

In 1994, the German label TRC released a bootleg CD of both records. In 1996 the British label Enraptured released a tribute album called "Electronic Evocations - A Tribute To The Silver Apples", featuring bands like Windy & Carl, Flowchart, The Third Eye Foundation, Alpha Stone, Amp, among others. The interest provoked by this release prompted Simeon to reform the Silver Apples in 1996. The first two records were re-released as official records from the master tapes, and Simeon began a tour of the United States with a new Silver Apples band featuring Xian Hawkins (alias Sybarite) and Michael Lerner. In the ensuing years the Silver Apples released two albums of new material featuring this line-up: Decatur and Beacon. Eventually, "after much searching", Danny Taylor was located, and a handful of reunion shows of the original lineup were performed. Taylor also had the tape of the unreleased third record, The Garden, in a box in his attic, and the record was finally released in 1998, featuring completed tracks from the original sessions plus tracks of Taylor's drumming from the time mixed with Simeon's new additions.

In 1998 their tour van was forced off the road by an unknown driver, breaking Simeon's neck. Plans for new recordings and further touring by the reunited duo were put on hold. As of 2004, Simeon was much recovered, but he was unable to play his instrument in the way he used to.

Following the accident, Silver Apples' activity diminished. Simeon spent his time making new music, recuperating, and boating on the Gulf of Mexico. Xian Hawkins released four albums of solo material under the name Sybarite. Danny Taylor died on March 10, 2005 in Kingston, New York.

2000s and 2010s concerts and festivals

In September 2007 Simeon went on tour for the first time in years, performing as a solo version of the Silver Apples. Silver Apples / Simeon performed at, among others, All Tomorrow's Parties (Minehead, UK, December 2007); Electric Picnic, Stradbally, Ireland (September 2008); All Tomorrow's Parties, Australia (January 2009), The Unit, Tokyo, (July 2009); Oscillations Music + Arts Festival, Belfast, Northern Ireland (September 2009); Austin Psych Fest 3, TX (April 2010); Albuquerque Experimental, Albuquerque, NM (October 2010), Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou (May 2011), London, England iTunes Festival (July 2011), RecBeat festival, in Recife, Brazil (February 2012) and Incubate, Netherlands (September, 2012), Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit, Asheville, NC (October, 2013), Audioscope 14 in Oxford, UK (November 2014). Stereo Glasgow, UK (November 2014)

In October 2011, Simeon performed as Silver-Qluster, a collaboration with Cluster frontman Hans-Joachim Roedelius, in ATP I'll Be Your Mirror Festival in Asbury Park, NJ. On the same festival the following day, Simeon was invited onstage by Portishead to perform "We Carry On", Portishead's homage to Silver Apples.

Simeon toured the UK, Europe and the US in mid to late 2016. 2016 also marked the release of the first new Silver Apples studio album, Clinging To A Dream, in 19 years.

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Silver Apples among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.

Simeon died on September 8, 2020 at the age of 82.

Discography

Studio albums
Extended plays
  • Gremlins (2008, Gifted Children Records)
Compilation albums
  • Silver Apples (1997, MCA)
  • Selections from the Early Sessions (2008, ChickenCoop Recordings)
Singles
  • "Oscillations"/"Misty Mountain" (1968, KAPP Records, 7")
  • "You & I"/"I Have Known Love" (1969, KAPP Records, 7")
  • "Fractal Flow"/"Lovefingers" (1996, Enraptured 45's, 7")
  • "Fractal Flow"/"Lovefingers" (1997, Whirlybird Records, CD)
  • "A Lake of Teardrops" (1998, Space Age Recordings, CD) (with Spectrum)
  • "I Don't Know" (2007, Gifted Children Records, 7") (split single with One Cut Kill)





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