Silver Apples—

Released 1969 on Kapp
The Seth Man, January 2023ce
Silver Apples would continue piloting their avant-garde airwaves in this way for two years until a figurative crash landing brought it all to an abrupt end.

It was all too terribly appropriate that Silver Apples, comprised of Simeon Coxe (electronics) and Danny Taylor (drums) were photographed for the front cover of their second album, CONTACT, in the cockpit of a Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) jet, parked on a runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport prior to setting the controls for the heart of the sun. Spotted strewn over the flight panel were the following subcultural artefacts placed there by Coxe and Taylor: a pair of silver apples on a necklace, a Yippie button, a prescription bottle, one beaded necklace, and a metal tin or matchbox. The result of the advertising agency for Kapp Records’ cross-referencing campaign (who not only counted Silver Apples but Pan Am as clients), the band would get free access to aircraft for a photo shoot where Pan Am’s logo could be prominently displayed, and Pan Am simultaneously be seen linked to the avant-garde duo and therefore, unlimited hip credibility would naturally follow.

Things could have proceeded far differently for Silver Apples if the back cover had depicted anything other than a photographic image of the aftermath of a disastrous Swedish airliner crash -- complete with the two Silver Apples superimposed hanging out amid the smoldering wreckage. Once Pan Am was alerted to this detail upon the album’s release, they immediately begun lawsuit proceedings against Kapp Records (to the tune of $100,000 -- nearly eight times the amount in present day US Dollars) as well as Simeon and Taylor, individually. A judge ordered an injunction to have all copies of CONTACT removed from retail outlets but the final death knell arrived one evening late in the winter of 1969/1970 when New York City marshals showed up at the second floor of Max’s Kansas City and took legal custody of Danny Taylor’s drum set.1 (Just prior to this legal maneuver, people alerted Coxe and quickly arranged for his electronic array, known as ‘The Simeon,’ to be surreptitiously whisked out from the building to safety.)

Prior to all this, when Silver Apples were recording CONTACT, rumours were already swirling around the offices at Kapp that the label itself was in financial trouble. The eventual bankruptcy of the label loomed and the resultant album reflects the obvious pressure felt by the group. In an effort to finish it before all went bust, as the album proceeds one can feel the pressure building with each track until by album’s end, the finish of the song can practically be heard flaking off, with discernible vocal cues from Coxe to Taylor over the proceedings. CONTACT is fragmentary and raw, an unnerving display of an album and a career cut too short and too soon. But Silver Apples persevered and managed to put together nine tracks, with Coxe even delving into his Appalachian background in order to produce a pair of bluegrass tunes featuring prominent banjo as a last-minute interpolation.

The album starts with a jet take-off FX and into the unshakeable edginess of “You And I.” The two-fingered electronic rhythm combined with banks of oscillators plus The Taylor Drums merge into a rigidly-conforming jumpiness. (Weirdly, Kapp issued this as the A-side to Silver Apples’ second single when in retrospect, “I Have Known Love” might have had a better chance at chart action. Then again, placing “Confusion” as the B-side reveals there was scant care put into its programming.) The tone of Coxe’s electronic panel, ‘The Simeon,’ is far more assaultive than previously, with Taylor’s drumming running scattershot during the chorus. The slow tempo of “Water” enters with an undercurrent of tightly regimented snare and hi-hat providing the rhythmic patterning for The Simeon to seesaw between shifting plateaus that shift upwards only to level off at twice the speed downward. Another aggressive, fuzz electronic tone growls gravelly in undertow. By song’s end, Coxe is handclapping along with stilted vocalising, as though sketching out the parameters of an unfinished coda until it all lurches to a close.

Far afield of Silver Apples’ electronics paces, an Appalachian rave up with driving paces called “Ruby” enters. A cover off the eponymously-named 1968 album by The New Lost City Ramblers With Cousin Emmy whose full title was “Ruby, Are You Mad At Your Man?”, it was itself a cover of the 1946 10” shellac by Cousin Emmy And Her Kinfolks (“Ruby” / “The Broken Hearted One You Left Alone.”) Coxe accompanies his backing electronics on double-tracked banjo but despite this, it maintains a linear pulsation not unfamiliar to Silver Apples’ repertoire of sound, while fuzzed out electronics accompany thoughtfully. It shouldn’t work the way Aunt Minnie jamming with Morton Subotnick wouldn’t work. But it does.

“Gypsy Love” opens with the solemn pronouncement, “Somewhere out there in the yellow grainus...lurks...a lady...” while continuous soaring, twittering oscillations pulse consistently throughout. Momentarily, they veer off course as if operating as an unspoken chorus behind the vocals and Taylor’s double-timing on hi-hat and bass drum. Coxe is manipulating his complex of electric junk to veer, squawk, and throw itself into conniption fits while Coxe directs the track on vocals that repeat phrases like “Pain hurts!” over and over, coursing from barking out to whispering. Whether it’s an inaccurate guide vocal or an unfinished freak out, by song’s end, a multitude of layered oscillators continue to pile up until everything shudders to an abrupt and perplexing halt.

The sound quality dips dramatically with “You’re Not Foolin’ Me,” a six-and-a-half-minute exercise in exhaustive wah-wah abuse set against drum fills galore. Several rhythm lines of electronic impulses throb against the searing wah-wah and Coxe’s harsh and hasty vocal delivery. This is Silver Apples at their most unwieldy, sounding like they’re traversing an unpassable height between two mountain peaks while carting all their equipment lashed to several uncooperative yaks. All the while, the wah-wah-ing rarely lets up while the Taylor Drums forge ahead without a hint of soloing.

With all the linear drive of early Suicide, “I Have Known Love” starts up side two and is one of the high points of the album. Against his sung lines, Coxe’s application of The Simeon as a sonic dredging device is reminiscent of Cale’s organ during the final chapter of “Sister Ray.” Namely, by plowing through the sonic screen relentlessly with overdriven fuzz/distortion. “I have danced / between the stars,” sings Coxe of love, existence, and everything else. Even the naively rendered vocal harmonies cannot detract from the power of this 1969 portrait of cosmic consciousness. The venomous “A Pox On You” features some of the most errant electronics of the album as they careen sideways, lurch forward and backwards while doodlebug scrawling zig-zags against metronomic drumming and high-pitched, filament-shattering pulsations. The second and final banjo-led outlier on the album, “Confusion,” shows Silver Apples reduced to the sonic parameters of The Holy Modal Rounders or a one-man band. Suddenly, an explosion followed by the sound of a tape spooling crazily then jamming concludes the piece. The six-minute “Fantasies” ends the album with Coxe’s W.C. Fieldsian directives to his co-pilot to swerve and switch through the tunnel vision of Silver Apples’ last stand. Despite the jokes, the spoken cues and overall raggedness, it’s a fascinating portrait in producing under the gun, under the wire, and above the call of duty unlike no other.

  1. Silver Apples’ first performed publicly in 1968 for an audience of 30,000 in New York’s Central Park. Followed by further shows around New York at The Café Au Go Go and Steve Paul’s Underground, their vision and sound caught the attention of Max’s Kansas City owner, Mickey Ruskin, who promptly hired Silver Apples as house band for the second-floor room upstairs at Max’s. Located less than ten short blocks downtown from Silver Apples’ own Park Avenue South base of operations, they would perform at Max’s regularly throughout their short-lived career. As noted above, it would be the setting of their final performance in the sixties.