A brilliant electronic rock
duo from the late '60s featuring Dan Taylor on drums
synth-master Simeon on "a homemade synthesizer consisting of 12 oscillators
and an assortment of sound filters
, telegraph keys
, radio parts
, lab gear
and a variety of second-hand electronic junk
" (from band's website
While many artists have tried and failed to combine the sonic potential of synthesizers and the primal power of the 4/4 rock beat, the Silver Apples' original albums from 1968 (self-titled) and 1969 (Contact) are a revelation to the ears. These albums demonstrate Simeon's ability to single-handedly generate a freakadelic orchestra of analog-synth sound that amazes even today. His homebrew synth rig (called the "Simeon," believe it or not) allowed Simeon to achieve feats that standard keyboards simply can't do, as the liner notes to the first album imply:
The Simeon (has) eighty-six manual controls, enabling Simeon to express his musical ideas. The lead and rhythm oscillators are played with the hands, elbows and knees and the bass oscillators are played with the feet.
And Simeon was talented enough to take full advantage of the flexibility offered by such a setup, while drummer Taylor backed him with a steely and intense discipline that most drummers would kill to possess. Even then, as the Rough Guide to Rock Music says, "despite all the strangeness, the songs were tight and usually melodic, if also so alien-sounding as to be completely uncommercial." As you might've guessed, the first two albums didn't sell very well. A third album (1970) went unreleased when their label, KAPP Records, went under. Shortly afterwards, the Apples promptly disappeared into musical oblivion for about 25 years.
But, surprisingly, the Silver Apples story does not end here. The duo's recordings were rediscovered in the mid-1990s thanks to a fortunate set of circumstances: a growing interest in obscure '60s psychedelia amongst music hipsters and a widely distributed bootleg CD from a German label that contained both of the original albums. Additional attention was generated when Lou Barlow & John Davis of the Folk Implosion sampled the Apples' A Pox on You and turned it into the Top 10 hit "Natural One".
The sudden surge of Silver Apples publicity brought Simeon out of retirement in 1997 and led MCA to officially reissue the first two albums on one CD.
Thus, the Silver Apples story began again with a new collaborator named Xian Hawkins, new CDs--Beacon in 1997, with indie legend Steve Albini as producer, and Decatur in 1998)--and new live tours, including music festivals like Terrastock II and the Meltdown festival in London.
After releasing "Decatur," 1998 became a crucial year for Simeon and the duo. Original Apples drummer Taylor discovered that Simeon had revived the Apples name, so he got in touch with Simeon and rejoined the band. The tapes for the lost third album were rediscovered in Taylor's basement and released as The Garden. A Beacon remix album was also released. Unfortunately, unexpected tragedy struck the band during this year. As Simeon and Taylor were driving home from a New York City gig, a van ran them off the road and Simeon suffered a broken neck as a result. However, even more remarkably, Simeon refused to give up. After a year-and-a-half of therapy, Simeon returned to performing with the Apples. As the band web site puts it:
Silver Apples rides again!
http://www.silverapples.com (band web site)
Rough Guide to Rock Music (thanks to http://www.amazon.com)
liner notes from first album (German bootleg CD)