Silver Apples are a psychedelic electronic music duo from New York City composed of Simeon Coxe III, who performs as Simeon, on a primitive synthesizer of his own devising (also named The Simeon), and until his death in 2005, drummer Danny Taylor. The group was active between 1967 and 1969, before reforming in the mid 1990s. They were one of the first groups to employ electronic music techniques extensively within a rock idiom, and their minimalistic style, with its pulsing, driving beat and frequently discordant modality, anticipated not only the experimental electronic music and krautrock of the 1970s, but also underground dance music and indie rock of the 1990s.
In the Sixties
The group grew 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 the 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'd ever 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 Third Annual Avant Garde Arts Festival in 1968 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 in the 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. A third album was recorded in 1970, but Kapp was folded into MCA Records, leaving the album unreleased, and the group defunct.
In 1994, the German label TRC released a bootleg CD of both records, and the intense interest provoked by this release prompted Simeon to reform the Silver Apples in 1996. Very quickly, 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 multi-instrumentalist Xian Hawkins. 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. In the ensuing years the Silver Apples released several albums of new material featuring the touring line-up of Simeon, Taylor and Hawkins: 'Decatur', 'Beacon', and 'A Lake of Teardrops'.
In 1999, their tour van was forced off the road by an unknown driver, breaking Simeon's neck. As of 2004, Simeon was much recovered, but he was unable to play his instrument in the way he used to. He never fully recovered his hand movements, so his keyboard work is much more simple and direct now.
Since the accident, Silver Apples' activity has diminished. Simeon spends his time making new music, recuperating, and boating on the Gulf of Mexico. Xian Hawkins has released three albums of solo material under the name Sybarite. Danny Taylor died on March 10, 2005 in Kingston, New York.
Recent 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 to much acclaim. 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); Albuquerque Experimental, Albuquerque, NM (October 2010).