My first exposure to Silver Apples was through Howie B. Howie came to Orlando on holiday around 1994 and wandered into my record shop. We hit it off, and he joined me for a few drinks that evening. At one point, Howie asked, “Have you heard of Silver Apples?” I said no and, shocked, Howie stood up and enthusiastically commanded, “Well, you’ve got to hear Silver Apples!”
Silver Apples keep popping in and out of consciousness. They were so weird, so ahead of their time, it’s easy to doubt they ever existed. Silver Apples reemerged last March when the excellent YouTube channel Bandsplaining spotlighted the band in this video:
That video has well over a million plays, an extreme case of unexpected virality for Silver Apples. Outside of getting name-checked by the likes of Stereolab and Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, this might be their most significant moment of exposure. There’s a lot of fresh groovin’ to “Oscillations” going on.
I bring up Silver Apples as Simeon Coxe, the last remaining member of the original duo, passed away this week. The Guardian has a glowing obituary which features this historical note on the Simeon’s sizable innovation:
In the late 60s, Coxe introduced a 1940s audio oscillator into his group, the Overland Stage Electric Band. “Besides the drummer Danny [Taylor] who later joined me, no one in the band was amused,” he said in 2012. The change in direction prompted the departure of his band members until only he and Taylor remained. They changed the band’s name to Silver Apples and established their pioneering, proto-synthesiser setup: nine audio oscillators and 96 manual controllers – pieced together in part from discarded second world war equipment, Coxe once said – fondly known as “the Simeon”.
Simeon had a loose Orlando connection, collaborating with local art-punks Obliterati and playing the city regularly. About three years ago, I saw him perform with his longtime companion and musical partner Lydia Winn LeVert. He was in his late-70s then (he was 82 when he died this week), and it was remarkable how experimental and ambitious his performance was. But it wasn’t a throwback — Simeon accompanied Lydia with electronics and samples from his laptop. Apparently, some of the samples were the drums of his late bandmate, Danny Taylor.
I was lucky to have a short conversation with Simeon afterward. He was fun to talk to. I remember thinking, “I wouldn’t mind doing what he’s doing when I’m in my ’70s.” And I’d like to believe, if not for his passing, he’d be back and enthusiastically continuing his sonic experiments into his ’80s and beyond.