Silver Apples

"You are about to have probably the most unusual musical experience of your life. The music will enter areas of your mind never before opened until now. At times it may be hard to understand, but if you let the music penetrate you'll dig it..."

So ran the MC's introduction to a Silver Apples performance in San Francisco in 1968. This enigmatic electronic duo armed only with percussion, vocals and an early synthesiser are credited with being the seminal influence any number of bands featured in past Terrascopes, from Spacemen 3 to Jessamine and beyond. And yet until now, not only our infamous sniffer dogs but those of almost every other self-respecting psychedelic rock magazine and fanzine worldwide have been completely unable to get a lead on the current whereabouts of either one of the pair, electronics whizz Simeon Coxe and percussionist/vocalist Danny Taylor. In the end a lucky series of coincidences led Simeon to our door however (Danny remains lost: any leads would be gratefully received, by Simeon as well as by ourselves), and an extensive grilling during the Summer months of 1996 resulted in the following story, published exclusively here for the first time. It's one of the most extraordinary features we've ever published - and I make no apologies for running it in one complete episode rather than spreading it out over several issues.

PT: Where were you raised and how did you first get into music?

Simeon: My musical career began in New Orleans when I was 8 years old living with my parents, Mary and Simeon Coxe, Jr. (I am the third) and brother Ricky who was two years younger than me. I took trumpet lessons all through elementary school and most of the way through high school, marching in the Mardi Gras parades and playing at football games, and even, for a while taking private lessons from a local jazz clarinetist who taught me the excitement of improvisation. He was a New Orleans Style Jazz Traditionalist, however, and he burst out laughing at me one day when I dared try some lines that didn't fit into that particular sound, and that day I lost interest in studying with him. I never went back.

When did you move to New York?

When I was 21 years old, having decided that I wanted to become a great artist. I'd won several art competitions when I was a child and was considered something of a prodigy (I could draw a train that looked like a train when I was 3 years old) and had taken art courses and studied privately all my growing years, parallel to the trumpet lessons. My first act of rebellious independence was when I decided to be an artist and ran off to Mexico for 3 months to discover myself, and marijuana. When I came back through New Orleans on my way to New York, I had sprouted a scraggly beard and was talking hip beat talk and my father made me stay at a motel rather than destroy my mother's image of me. He did, however, buy a small painting for $75 so that I would be able to buy a train ticket to New York.

So you went to New York specifically to be a painter rather than a musician?

Right, and when my neighbours there found out I was a painter they said I should go to the Cedar Street Tavern (Cedar Bar) near Washington Square because that was where all the painters went. I was there every night until they tore it down. I had many drunken conversations with Franz Kline, Bill DeKooning, Milton Resnik, and lots of drunk abstract expressionists. The Cedar Bar was also the hangout for poets and that's where I met Paul Blackburn, Joel Oppenheimer and LeRoy Jones (Amiri Baraka). There were also some avant garde musicians who hung out there. The poets and musicians never seemed to be drunk and appeared to be much brighter than the painters, and I hung out with them more. One was Harold Clayton, who was a very intense composer, who would try and get people to come up to his loft on the Bowery and listen to tapes of his music. Sometimes people would go. Harold and I became good friends. He would stand in my studio and wave his arms around and talk about the sensitivities required to be a great artist and how painful it all was. He was married to a jazz improvisational pianist named Sylvia who worked in modern dance studios, as did Harold. Harold and Sylvia would drag me to a little bar around Avenue B and 3rd Street where we would drink beer and listen to Sun Ra and his Arkestra play for hours. There was a stage for the musicians but they rarely used it. Guys would be standing on tables and behind the bar and even in the men's room during different pieces. I guess the only one who stayed on stage was Sun Ra himself. Everybody else in the band was all over the place. True surround sound. Sun Ra eventually would get heavily into electronics, but when I saw him it was keyboards, strings and horns.

Who was it that introduced you to electronic music?

simeon then
Harold introduced me to Hal Rodgers who was also a composer, and Hal liked my work so much he asked if he could have one of my paintings on extended loan so he could compose a piece of music around it. I don't think I ever heard the piece, although years later he did tell me he finished the score and would show it to me some time. Hal had an amazing mind. He was born in Jamaica, raised in New York, and attended Bronx Science High School which was for exceptional kids. He had dozens of symphony scores committed to memory. He was a big fan of 12 tone and atonal concepts, especially because of all the underlying mathematics involved. Never mind that the listener would not be conscious of the mathematical processes that led to the production of the music. That it was there, as a method, was what counted. The mathematics that I used later in the rolling bass lines and repeated phrasing with Silver Apples, and even today in my paintings, which are an aesthetic exploration of Chaos Theory, comes directly from this experience with Hal Rodgers.

So did Hal have any access to electronic equipment at this stage?

He had a WWII oscillator that he had found in an electronics junk shop on Canal Street. He had it hooked up to his stereo and would listen to tapes of different compositions and try and wiggle and swoop the dial around and accompany the music. He was never able to get anything satisfactory going and so mostly it just sat there. I would come over at least 3 times a week and we would drink beer, play chess and talk about art and sometimes I would turn on the oscillator and goof around with the radio or with tapes or even solo. Hal would say, "Work on your intonation!" or, "Try to play in tune for a change!", just like he would yell at his orchestra, and I would work at it until he'd stop yelling at me, which I always took to mean that I was improving but could have meant that he just gave up. I loved the thing. A few years later, that very same oscillator (or audio generator) was to become what we called the "Grandfather Oscillator" in Silver Apples.

When did you start composing music yourself?

Hal introduced me to his friend Larry Seigel who was a photographer and folk musician. He was a serious photographer and a friend of filmmaker Rudy Burkhardt. It was through this connection that I got to do the sound effects for the Burkhardt/Grooms collaboration movie called "Shoot the Moon". Burkhardt did the concept and the filming, Grooms did the sets, and I did the sound. I got $50 and was named in the credits. It was a blast. I had a portable tape recorder and would go around building sound sandwiches to try and fit whatever they needed. For instance, the explosion when the rocket crash-lands on the moon was made by putting the tape recorder inside a metal locker in a school, then beating on the locker from the outside in rapid succession with my fists, then playing the tape back on slow speed for the distorted "boom" effect. Larry Seigle was also a folk singer and he performed at various community centres and clubs. He was also a pretty good chess player and when I wasn't spending time at Hal Rodgers' playing chess and playing with the oscillator I was at Larry Seigel's playing chess and listening to him play folk music for his wife and kids. He would pick up his guitar and start making up a song as Steven was playing. It was fascinating to me how much fun it was to just make up music as you went along like that. Of course, Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman were doing it, but here was a simplified version of the process that I could observe from the beginning. And Larry also showed me how he would jot these things down so that he could remember them later and maybe perform them again sometime. He just notated lines of chord progressions with occasional notations about phrases and he would indicate what words went with what progressions, and that was as formal a notation as it got. That way, every time he did the song, it was somewhat improvised, and maintained that freshness and unpredictability that kept the feelings alive. After seeing how strictly notated Harold and Hal's music was, this was a real revelation to me. It came in very handy when, with Silver Apples, Danny and I would improvise for hours and I would be able to make notations that would make sense later for use when we would compose songs.

So did you get into playing folk music as well?

simeon now
Larry Seigle landed himself a summer job in a YM/YWHA camp in Falls Village, Connecticut called Camp Isabella Freedman. He was basically the camp minstrel. Everybody liked him, and being bright, he was elevated to the position of Entertainment Director the next summer and then they made him Program Director. He thought it would be a hoot to have me along so he showed me how to make pottery, how to weave baskets, how to enamel copper, to use the kiln, to keep a record of supplies, etc. and told the Director he had found somebody who would make a good assistant in the crafts program. So I now had this summer job at Camp Freedman, which I was able to parlay into pretty much a year-round thing because the camp functioned as a ski camp on weekends in the winter. I was soon working in the kitchen and dining room for that part of the season. I guess this was in 1963. Except for the chef and his assistant, who were from Harlem, all the kitchen help were local guys who were bluegrass musicians. In between meals, after all the dishwashing, etc. was done, they would break out the instruments and play bluegrass. I was soon playing spoons, washboards, whatever, along with them, and singing harmonies. This went on for a couple of years, and one day, one of the guys, named Dave, showed up with an electric Fender guitar and an amp. Well, this was shocking! but the guys were hooked. Soon they all had pick-ups for their instruments, were all plugged into that poor overloaded amplifier, and were now pickin' and grinnin' the Rolling Stones. Somebody strolling through the camp one afternoon heard us and remarked that we ought to audition at the civic centre because there was a big dance coming up and they needed a band. We thought that was a good idea, but you can't have a rock band without a drummer so we put an ad in the local paper. It was answered by Ronnie, a black kid from Canaan, who had never been with a band before but who could play like the best we had ever heard. After jamming with us one afternoon, he was in, and I called the Civic Centre and lined up the audition. We got the job, and now we had to have a name. That evening I came up with the name "The Random Concept". The Random Concept was: Ronnie on drums, Gary on bass, Dave on rhythm guitar, Jake on lead, and Simeon on tambourines and vocals. We later added an organ player named Bill, and we were a working rock and roll band. We worked somewhere in the Connecticut/Massachusetts area every weekend for a couple of years. This was 1965/66. It wasn't long before we had the reputation of being the best band around and our reputation spread beyond that as we started to hit the road more. We decided that maybe it was time to try our luck in New York- the scary Big Apple - so we contacted a booking agent named Max and drove down to the Albert Hotel on 10th Street and rented 3 rooms by the week. A five piece band, plus girlfriends, roadies and other hanger-ons made for a constant party on the 7th floor of the Albert Hotel. Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention were also staying there as were a group from the midwest called Ill Wind, a coffee house band called The Lovin' Spoonful, and Mike Bloomfield and his guys. It was an active hotel. They let groups rehearse in a room in the basement and we all got to know each other because of that - using each other's equipment and so forth.

How long did this go on for?

Until one night when the inevitable happened. Ronnie got a job offer from a fancy dressed soul band with horns and uniforms and everything, called the Commodores. He was in heaven, and tearfully quit The Random Concept. Gary tried to fill in on drums with the organ guy trying to play a bass line with his left hand, but it was over, and we all knew it. It was 1967. They all went back to Connecticut, but I got a job singing with a four piece band called The Overland Stage Electric Band which was "working regular" in coffee houses in the Village. I could stay at the Albert, and actually walk to work.

Was that a covers band, or what?

They didn't have any original material, and weren't interested in doing any of mine so I was basically just learning the words to songs by The Doors, whom they loved, and various soul groups, and we played clubs. I insisted on singing the songs the way they felt to me and not bothering to try and sound like Jim Morrison or whomever, and this didn't sit very well with them. But that wasn't what really pissed them off. What really pissed them off was the time I brought Hal Rodgers' WWII oscillator up on stage and plugged it into an amp they weren't using..

Who else was in The Overland Stage Electric Band?

It consisted of Phillip on bass, Ritchie on lead guitar, Ray on rhythm guitar, Simeon on vocals and a quiet and laid back guy named Danny Taylor on drums. Ritchie was the most threatened by the introduction of the oscillator, and hated all the reaction it was getting from the audiences. People were actually coming into these coffee houses to see us. One person who got word of something happening at the Café Wha? (the club we played in fairly regularly) was an insurance actuarial who had "dropped out" named Barry Bryant. He came several times and was bringing in friends to hear us - and then started talking to us in between sets and we got to know him. He was telling us that we ought to expand on the electronics thing and forget all that club stuff and Ritchie got so pissed he quit. The solution was to add to my arsenal. I got Harold to explain some of the basic principles of electronics to me and I was soldering all this stuff in and making wilder and crazier sounds with each outing. One time I still had my hand on the dial of the grandfather oscillator and I grabbed the house microphone to start a vocal line and house voltage went right through me. I was unable to open either hand to let go and the electricity was ripping through my body making me flail about on the stage like an epileptic. The guys in the band and the audience all thought it was something new I had come up with, and just went with it. If my thrashing about hadn't coincidentally somehow severed the connection I could very well have been the first snuff performance act in history. As it was, I just had to be taken to the hospital for a dislocated shoulder and for observation which didn't turn up any more damage.

And I imagine that the electronics gradually pissed everybody off until there was just you and Danny, right?!

Dan Taylor
I wired in more oscillators and sound alteration junk. Ray decided it was too much for him and he quit. Phillip stuck it out for another month or two, then he was gone. That left me and Danny. We decided to stick it out, do all original material and to call ourselves Silver Apples after a poem by Yeats. He wrote a poem in 1897 called "The Wandering Angus". Part of it goes:

I will find out where she has gone
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among the dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are gone
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

The silver part reminded us of the solder that held all the junk together, and the apples we felt linked us to New York. Also, Yeats relates silver to the moon and gold to the sun. We were night people and so thought the moon was much cooler. This was in 1967. Barry knew a guy who knew this poet named Stanley Warren who came off as kind of a geek, but who wrote amazingly nice stuff and he started writing poetry around our expression and we folded into each other like family.

So Silver Apples was like a totally different band, a totally different sound right from the beginning?

Yeah, we realised that carrying a melody line with all this junky equipment was going to be our most challenging task and Danny came up with the idea of having essentially two drum sets side by side so that he could tune the various drums to different chords and could play those that complimented whatever I was playing, and it might help us to be easier to take. We also now had many too many oscillators for me to handle with just two hands so we decided to wire a group of them together to switches on a piece of plywood that I could play with my feet. These would be the bass oscillators. The grandfather oscillator remained the big sound sweeper and the rest were wired into telegraph keys mounted in front of me on a table. Never having played a piano keyboard, this arrangement made much more sense. So that I could differentiate all the different telegraph keys, I put different colours on different ones so I could make out the relationships visually as we were playing. That meant that "Oscillations", our first Stanley Warren song, was not played in the key of "C" for instance, but in the Key of "BLUE". We were to discover later that the light shows and strobe lights in different houses would play hell with this concept.

How did the band manage to secure a recording deal, I mean you were so "avant garde" it must've been really difficult for you?

While Danny and I were working out ways to perform material with all our re-arranged equipment, Barry was trying to drum up interest in the recording industry. One by one he would have people come in to hear us rehearse. We never cut a real demo tape because we never had any money. So Barry just got the record companies to come to us. Most of them ran out to buy cotton for their ears. Some came back a few times. One who kept coming back was John Walsh at Kapp Records. This was a tiny little label whose main source of income was a classical/lounge piano player named Roger Williams. They had no rock groups. They only needed a 4 track machine with minimal equalization to record him so that's all they had to offer in their studio. It was beginning to look like, for Silver Apples, Kapp was going to be the only game in town, so, after months of Barry working out the details with the guys in the suits, we started recording. We moved all those banks of oscillators and tables of telegraph keys and the biggest drum set in the whole world into a recording studio just big enough to hold a piano.

Who was put in charge of production?

Our producer never showed up! I think he felt that his career as a record producer would be ruined if he were ever associated with us. On the day we were to begin recording he announced he was going in the hospital for tests because he thought he might be coming down with mononucleosis or something. None of us had ever produced a record before. We waited and waited but he just refused to come out of the hospital. He did say that if we wanted to go ahead and lay down some tracks he would listen to them and make comments. We figured this was better than nothing so we started. We knew not even the basics, and the engineers were not volunteering much. We would lay down a track and then come out and ask Don the engineer if it was all right, and he would just sit there with this blank smile on his face. If it wasn't pianos, they didn't know from it. We were on our own. We didn't know where to put the microphones or about separating the various elements with baffles or about overdubbing, or about anything. We just put in some microphones and started playing "Oscillations". The result was a total mess, and this producer was only saying so much, so step by step Danny and Barry and I learned the basics by quizzing everybody we knew who had ever been in a recording studio and by being real nice to the engineers assigned to us and getting them to volunteer information whenever they would. "Oscillations" went through so many reincarnations during that time that how we realized the final version is still just a blur. When I think of how good we might have sounded if we could only have had some help from that producer I get angry- because those records are all that survive, not the live performances we did later on tour when we finally got our act together.

Run us through the tracks on the album...

More Simeon
"Whirlybirds" was our second attempt. By now we were starting to feel more comfortable with our situation and we learned that we could use all of the 4 tracks to do, say, the bass line and the drums. Then we could have the engineer do a mix of those and dub them over to a single track on another 4 track machine. This gave us room to add the middle and top oscillators on the remaining 3 new tracks and Danny could even throw in a cymbal crash or something if he felt it would be good. Though tedious, this was giving us a little more freedom with our sound but it was locking us into whatever mix we did in the first dub. There were many times when, in order to make changes in that portion, we would have to scrap the whole thing and start over. The engineers rolled their eyes a lot, but they were being paid by the hour so what the hell. There was nothing we could do about the lack of equalization. It was basically no more elaborate than the bass and treble knob on any stereo. But with our new dubbing technique we were able to add the clinking and tinkling sounds to "Whirlybird" by putting a microphone close to a pane of glass on the floor and dropping pennies and tacks on it in the right places. Doing that was great fun.

"Dust" came next. Here we were playing with the thing where, when you tune two oscillators close enough together, you can get this "wom-wom" tremolo effect that you can feel in your rib cage. This song was very effective live because we could crank those amps up and place those oscillating waves into rib cages all the way back into the balconies. Eileen Lewellen ("Misty Mountain", "I Have Known Love") used to say that if you were lying down in the first few rows during "Dust", you would actually start to float. A lot of our audiences would lie down on the floor. The record company people kept having us mix the vocals so they were much more up front than they were when we did them live. This was because they were trying to minimize the electronics to make us more palatable to what they thought was going to be our (and their) bread and butter audience, America's teenybopper. They got us bookings in high school gymnasiums on the same bills with bands like the 1910 Fruitgum Company. They just never got it, but they were all we had.

"Dancing Gods" had this same element, but with Danny keeping that tom-tom beat going my job was to get the pulsating oscillators to approximate his rhythms and we tried to tickle rib cages and everything else that way. It was after a performance of "Dancing Gods" in Detroit that a black musician by the name of Taj Mahal told me that he now understood what "white soul" was. That was a tremendous compliment to us.

"Velvet Cave" was another of those songs that was different every time we did it, because in order to change chords I had to dial in new settings on all the oscillators on the fly. I had little markings in different colors on each dial so I knew approximately where I was going, but usually in the heat of battle I would miss a few of them and we would end up in a chord-with-no-name, and the vocal would just have to pick its way through it. I don't know how many takes we did on "Velvet Cave" in the recording studios at Kapp, but we finally chose one that had more or less an understandable progression to it. As a live performance, we never knew where it was going to go. I can remember looking over at Danny during "Velvet Cave" renditions and seeing him looking down and shaking his head with a big grin on his face. I never knew if it meant he was sympathetic to the predicament I had created for myself, or if he was just saying to himself, "It'll be funny to see Simeon get out of this one."

You weren't exactly known for rigidly sticking to chord progressions, then?!

We had done fine up to that point not changing chords in the normal way. We had either composed the material so it could be performed all the way through in the same chord ("Oscillations", "Whirly-bird"), or had set it up so that it really had no chords at all but consisted of randomly or subliminally arrived-at chord changes ("Dust", "Dancing Gods"), or like "Velvet Cave" which was done on the fly. But when Stanley Warren showed us his poem "Lovefingers", Danny and I both knew immediately that we had to figure out a way to perform the song with a real chord change, just like the real bands do. Barry Bryant, who was by this time much more than just our manager but our mentor as well, and an integral part of the whole process, got on the phone and started begging to friends. One of them, a great lady named Lil Picard who died recently, gave him $300 and we all immediately went down to the electronics junk store on Canal Street and got nine more oscillators and a bunch of wires and solder and went to work on our electronic machine, which we were starting to call "The Simeon" for lack of anything else to call it ( it wasn't my idea- it was Danny's). We wired 3 oscillators into the bass foot panel and the other 6 into a pack and hooked them up to the telegraph keys. Then we tuned the whole array so that with my hands and feet in one position on the instrument we were in one chord, and when I rotated slightly to my right, we went into another. Danny tuned some of his tom-toms and one of the bass drums to reflect this new capability, and "Lovefingers" was born. We recorded the song almost without rehearsal, it flowed out so naturally.

Next on the album was 'Seagreen Serenades'.

That was a natural outgrowth of our new chord-changing capability, but we wanted it to be a different experience from "Lovefingers" so I decided to add a recorder to it. Please understand, I am not one of those natural musicians who can just pick up most any instrument and pick out little melodies right away. I am always amazed when people do that. For me it is laboriously learned. I pace up and down, practicing for hours, the simplest passages. I had never played a recorder before but Hal Rodgers had one and used to play it along with tapes, and it looked fairly simple. Besides they were cheap compared to any other musical instrument I might have chosen to add to the mix. We laid down a basic track for "Seagreen Serenades" and I took home a dub, and practiced and practiced playing that recorder along with it. After a few days I felt ready and we went in and did the song. I never learned how to play anything else on that instrument. People in groups would come up to me backstage and ask me to jam with them on-stage on my recorder, and it would have been great if I could have done it, and great for Silver Apples image, but I always had to make lame and embarrassing excuses because I only knew one song , and I was too proud or vain to admit it.

So you were getting a reputation as something of a musical guru without actually being able to play that much?

Green Bikes
Right, that kind of thing happened a lot. People would assume that because I was a recorded musician and Danny was obviously such an accomplished drummer, that I too must be a keyboard wizard. Most people didn't know about the telegraph keys. One time I was in Manny's Music Store looking at banjos (we eventually purchased one), and I was recognized and there were people following me around and talking to me. It was all quite fun for me until Steve Winwood walked into the store. The people got all excited and went over and were talking to him, then they brought him over to me and introduced us as "the two best synthesizer players in the world!" and wouldn't it be great to have a jam session right here in the store! Well, everybody knows he's a great keyboard man, but I only knew telegraph keys. Today, I know I could have just said, "Hey guys, I only know how to punch telegraph keys." , but then, I was so desirous of respect from other "real" musicians than I just couldn't let on. Winwood allowed himself to be coaxed over to an instrument and started twiddling around and everybody was cheering me on, and the best I could do was to say I had been up jamming all night and was hung over and thought I was about to throw up and I got away by running out of the store with my hand over my mouth faking gagging, while I heard strands of Winwood's incredible keyboard work wafting out onto the sidewalk.

Next up was 'Program', which is centered around a radio dial?

Yeah. When Stanley showed us his poem about getting a random profound message from an accidental discovery on the radio it reminded me immediately of my experience at Harold Rodgers' house, playing the oscillator along with the radio. Stanley's line, "Dialing from left to right¼", dovetailed perfectly with how I used to dial the radio and dial the oscillator at the same time and see if there would ever be one of those random but heaven-sent moments when they synchronized. I always tried to keep the vocal lines simple because the rest of what we were doing was so unusual and I tried to get a balance. "Program"'s simple melody and predictable two chord structure work against the cacophony of the radios- we used two for the recording and sometimes used as many as three in performance, but usually two. It was always fun to do. When we were in a new city, we would ask the audience for the numbers of their favorite radio stations and I would mark them on the dials then during the performance I would always try to hit a few of those along with the foreign languages and the classical or folk music stations. Sometimes I would just keep the bass lines going with my feet and let the top oscillators drone along while I composed random, on-the-fly- symphonies with radios- Danny churning up the beat behind it all. "Program" was probably our most successful in-performance composition- different, but the same, every time.

Finally, 'Misty Mountain', which was the last song on the first album?

Eileen Lewellen wrote the lyrics for that. This is the one song that, after we recorded it, we memorized every drone, every drum beat, every bass note and every word, and always did the song in performance exactly like the record. We felt that, with all the improvisation and looseness of the rest of the performance, we had to be able to demonstrate the skill and discipline necessary to do this. There were some bands that prided themselves on being able to reproduce every recorded song, and we certainly weren't one of those, but we demonstrated with "Misty Mountain" that we could if we wanted to. It was important to Danny and me, as practitioners of the craft, so to speak. Eileen was a fan of the band and of music in general. She carried around a whole notebook of poetry she had written since she was a child. Some of it was what you would expect from a very bright, sensitive, high school romantic, but there were some that transcended that. Eileen was only nineteen at the time, but some of her stuff was timeless. We felt our first album needed to have the contrast that her poetry would lend to it, and we selected "Misty Mountain". She was delighted, and sat in a corner with her eyes closed for two days while we were composing, then recording the song, and we gave her a dub of the master. Neither Eileen nor Stanley ever received a dime for their Silver Apples poetry. Kapp Records claimed, until they went out of business some years later, that our expenses always outweighed our income from record sales, even though the album rode the Billboard Magazine Top 100 list for ten weeks that summer, and record stores all over the country told us we were selling like hot cakes. Neither the poets, nor Barry, nor Danny, nor I ever got a penny. We lived off of our live performance receipts. I received $50 a week expense money, and when I had to stay in hotels, that was taken care of, even if Barry had to borrow it. Because of his dedication to Silver Apples, and I don't just mean Simeon and Danny, but the whole concept of Silver Apples and what we were trying to do, Barry ended up $30,000 in debt, and that's what led to the break-up of the band.

So the album was recorded - who designed the now famous packaging?

First LP - Front Cover
Kapp wanted to use their hot/hip promo staff to design something like what they were used to doing for Roger Williams, but we would have none of that. Barry was good friends with one of the most respected art dealers in New York, Virginia Dwan, heiress to the Xerox fortune. She was one of the foremost backers of the minimalist and later the earth art movements in the 60's and 70's. She was interested in us for some reason. She never expressed it to me, but I guessed she saw some relationship between minimalism in the visual arts and the reduction to basics we were trying to express. Maybe she just liked Barry, but at any rate, the most respected Virginia Dwan shot the photography of Danny and me sitting on the roof and practicing our songs that ended up being the pull-out poster in the first album. For the cover, Barry and I made several cut-out stencils of apples and spray painted them onto pieces of paper. After choosing one, we tried several different ways of putting lettering on the cover and nothing really got it, but we really liked the apples all by themselves, and somehow Barry managed to convince Kapp records that the cover should be just the apples and no titles or anything. I don't want to paint the picture that everybody at Kapp Records was a "suit" or hard to work with. Several of the people were in our camp and saw us as possibly a way to save the company (we had no idea at the time that it was in trouble) and one of the execs secretly had two pairs of apples, just like the ones on the cover but about the size of small grapes, cast in solid silver and hung on silver chains. He presented them to Danny and me at the debut party. I'm sure they cost a fortune. I treasured mine, and wore it all the time. It disappeared after a concert at Max's Kansas City. It must have fallen off and somebody made off with it, because even after crawling around on my hands and knees for a long time I couldn't still find it.

The album featured the lyrics on the reverse in the shape of apples?

First LP - Back Cover
Barry and I laboured together over the arrangement of the lyrics to make two apples and a leaf. The stem part was particularly difficult. We just couldn't figure out how to get the lyrics broken up enough to fill those short spaces, then in the next room Danny started up a dub of "Whirlybird" and when I heard all those "la la" 's I wrote them in and that was solved. Barry filled in the bottom portion while Danny and I listened to the tape and talked about how to finish the song. When we came back out, he had written in "INSTRUCTIONS: Play Twice Before Listening." and the cover was done.

When was the album actually released?

The album debuted on Barry's roof in May, 1968. It was quite a party. Danny and I had to perform but we really weren't into it. We had recorded an album and it was being released to the world, and all we wanted to do was party! For the debut party, Barry spray painted his whole penthouse silver. Floors, ceilings, walls, couches, chairs, lamps, bathrooms, everything. Barry has always had great digs. But this was a trip. People came off the elevator, went up another short length of stairway and entered a silver world. It stayed that way for years. I remember that when you sat down on the couches or chairs there was this stiff kind of scratchiness because of the silver paint in the fabric. I slept on them lots of times anyway. With all of us, it was a total commitment, and we thought it was perfectly natural that the whole apartment should be silver but lots of people thought it was the strangest thing they had ever seen.

One of our first performance jobs after the record was released was at Steve Paul's Underground in New York. This was a small club but it had the reputation of presenting the very best in the new groups so we were happy to play there. We were there for a week, and on the bill with us was Tiny Tim. I don't think his "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" hit had been released yet, he certainly hadn't done the late night shows yet, so nobody knew anything about him. It was one of the freakiest acts I have ever seen, but I learned a lot from Tiny Tim about how to deal with audience abuse. Ignore it! He would stand there hunched over an out-of-tune ukulele of all things and sing old Rudy Valey songs and such. And the audience would hoot and holler and throw wadded up napkins and God knows what else at him, but he just kept on going as though nothing was wrong. It was freaky, and he would piss every body off with that squeaky falsetto voice and blowing kisses and his whole self degradation thing and was practically asking for the abuse, but I always felt a little pain for him when it got started. The pain I felt was the same as you feel when an actor forgets his lines and just freezes, or a comedian screws up a delivery. It's like you try and share some of the embarrassment for them or something. Not often, but once in a while we had audiences get testy and I always thought back to Tiny Tim and how he completely ignored it and carried on with what he was doing.

Did the band play live much in support of the album?

We had to perform to survive! Once we had an album under our belts it was easy for Barry to approach booking agents for gigs and we started to travel. That presented a problem for the "Simeon" music machine that we hadn't anticipated though. How do you unhook all this gear, pack it up, truck it to the airport, get it on an airplane, fly it several hundred miles, unload it onto a truck, and get it all to the concert hall and reassemble the hundreds of components, many of which had to be soldered in? The thing was a mess of loose junk at this stage. We did a free concert in Central Park one afternoon and we had to get there early in the morning to start the assembly process to be ready by 3:00 in the afternoon. This would never work on a day to day basis on tour. We decided it had to be wired into basic sections that would never be broken down, and put into custom-made cases on wheels that could be plugged into each other to re-form the "Simeon" on stage. So instead of having to connect hundreds of components, I just had to connect dozens of components. A huge step in the right direction.

So with this early synthesiser set up, you were able to get out on the road?

We performed somewhere just about every weekend in 1968, usually out-of-town. We had the "synthesizer" boxed into its basic components, good cases for all the drums, our own PA system, and our first single, 'Oscillations', was number ten in the charts in Philadelphia. We were on a roll! One of the first places we played in was Cincinnati. Eileen accompanied us, so it was me, Danny, Barry and Eileen. In the beginning we didn't have a permanent "roadie". We asked the people at the different concert halls to provide help and they were always happy to oblige and that way we were able to stay very close to the equipment. Later we relaxed a bit on that score. The crowd was huge, packed against the walls. The house-band was a band called Jessie James, they were one of the best of the Southern boogie bands I had ever heard. They were great support but they could only carry a rowdy crowd so far. The people apparently expected more of the great beer-drinking-rock-and-roll they had had there every other Saturday night since the Neanderthal times, but we came in there with whirlybirds unzipping their minds and some of them were a bit pissed off. There were so many bad vibes coming from the audience that it rocked me a bit. This wasn't New York. Eileen felt it too, and after the concert we decided that we needed to walk through the streets of the city to absorb its energies and try to learn from the experience. At some point some drunk members of the audience spotted us and started yelling obscenities. Eileen and I just tucked our heads down and scurried along. I heard an engine start up and when I looked back there was a pick-up truck weaving down the street full of guys screaming about how we played shit-music and one of them was swinging a shovel in the air. Eileen and I took off and after a while we seemed to have lost them, but the effect on Eileen was profound. The look on her face was one of abject terror. I think it shattered her confidence in the bond that we had previously thought was an integral part of all human beings. How could people threaten the lives of other people over something like music? Why was Silver Apples so threatening? Didn't they see that all we wanted to do was share our discoveries with everyone? Everyone thinks that the lifestyle of the musician on the road is so enviable- the crowds, the bic lighters, the reviews, the adoration, the envy- and maybe that's the norm for most bands. I guess we weren't most bands. We were just starting to realise that.

Was this a one-off incident, or was the reaction generally negative?

Our concert playing procedure was pretty much based on feedback from the record distributors around the country. Barry stayed in constant touch with them. If one of them would say he was having trouble getting it to move in the stores, we would work with him to go to his city, do a radio interview, try and get on the local TV news and do a concert somewhere that he would help arrange. The cities where we did this were Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Toronto, Boston, Chicago, Allentown, Cleveland, Miami, Detroit, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle. In Los Angeles we couldn't get into any of the regular concert halls so we ran an extension cord from the rear of the record store on Sunset Strip and set up in the parking lot and started playing. Saturday night on the Strip is a huge hangout anyway and before long there were people climbing all over the parked automobiles, hanging out of windows and lining the rooftops, dancing, throwing frisbees and having a great time. We made a bigger impression doing that than we ever would have in a hall somewhere. This was the way Barry did things. We didn't know it at the time, but the crowd was so thick and spilling out onto the street that the cops had to come in and re-route traffic. From that point on, our record did just fine in Los Angeles. The concert in Minneapolis wasn't all that successful though. It was a sold out crowd all right, but one of our amps blew during "Oscillations" and we went through the rest of the concert with only half of the oscillators being heard. The music critic said in the paper the next day that the highly touted "Simeon" was nothing more than a rhythm machine. All he heard was the bass section, one bank of rhythm oscillators and Danny. Because of this in-concert breakdown (number 376 if we were counting) I was so pissed I poured a quart of beer all over the instrument during the last song. I think that was the only thing the critic liked.

Did you have much contact with other bands while you were out on the road?

In San Francisco, we were backstage at the Fillmore West talking with people when one guy asked us where we were staying. We mentioned the name of our hotel and he said, "Oh, my god, that'll never do. Wait here." And he scurried off. He came back with a huge guy with a burly mustache and flies buzzing around his head and he said, "Guys, I want you to meet Pigpen. He's with the Dead. They have a house."

Pigpen was great. He arranged to meet us at the house later, and we went to the hotel and checked out. The Grateful Dead had this great old Victorian looking thing right in the Haight-Ashbury section of the city and there were rooms everywhere and what seemed like half the hippy population of San Francisco hanging out. The kitchen was full of people making strange smelling teas and bowls of mush and babies crawling underneath everything. Pigpen showed us to a room on the second floor then he took us up to the third floor and said this was where the band went to get away from all that, and we were welcome to hang out there. There was a pool table in the middle of the room and we immediately launched into that action. Pigpen was a good pool player. None of the rest of the Dead did much of anything but sit around, practice licks on guitars, write songs and smoke dope. We did the same, occasionally joining Pigpen on the felt table. We were able to extend our stay in the area because of their generosity and we did several free concerts, took excursions to Seattle and L.A., and cruised the Haight.

Virgin Fugs
Once we were back in New York, Bill Graham at the Fillmore decided to put together a concert of people he liked but that just didn't fit into the usual Fillmore lineup of rock bands. The scene at Fillmore West in San Francisco was kind of set- it was the Airplane and the Dead and Quicksilver and so on. But he didn't have a real handle on what was going on in New York and I think it fascinated him. He scheduled a concert featuring Silver Apples, Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg, and a band called The Fugs which was a bunch of poets who could sort-of play instruments. We were scheduled to play last. Norman Mailer came out and read excerpts from his new book and Ginsberg did basically the same and then the Fugs started their stuff and I noticed after about an hour and a half that things were really dragging out. At this rate we would be past midnight before we got on and I went out to see what was happening. The bass player had apparently been taking huge quantities of acid and had, in his own tripped-out mind, assumed the identity of Paul McCartney. He had crawled under the piano, wedged himself in, in such a way, that nobody could get him out. And he was playing, note for note, the bass line for every Beatles song from "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on up. At this rate it would be Wednesday before we could get on stage. The rest of the band and the security people were hesitant to unplug him because some members of the audience were getting into it and singing along, and this was the best audience response The Fugs had experienced. They were also hesitant to just throw a head-lock hold on him and drag him away because they were afraid that he might be in such a fragile state that he could suffer permanent mental trauma if they weren't careful. Fortunately, somewhere around "Lovely Rita" he passed out, and was whisked off to Belleview in an ambulance, and they tell me, air-guitaring Beatles the whole way. We finally got on at about 1:00 am.

When did work on the second album, 'Contact', begin?

While we were in Los Angeles, we had access to the Decca recording studios at Universal City. In between parking lot gigs, we set up there and laid down tracks for new songs. They had a 24 track board and this was pure luxury. When Barry negotiated our contract he got Kapp to include a guarantee that we could produce a second album regardless of the outcome of the first. Stroke of genius in retrospect. Rumours were floating around in the business about the coming demise of Kapp Records and so, even though we didn't really have enough new material for another album, we decided we had better get stuff in the can as soon as possible to beat the coming bankruptcy. We laid down riffs and extended bass and drum tracks that we felt we could build on later. We were on the West Coast for a couple of months, and when we got back to New York we had Decca ship the master tapes to Apostolic Studios where we set about getting 'Contact' in the works. We recorded bits and pieces of the album during the latter part of 1968 and early 1969. All the people at Kapp Records that we knew were fast looking for new jobs, the old rats scampering off the sinking ship imagery, so we turned up the heat. I think the album reflects that- it's much rougher and rawer than the first. We had decided that we wanted a rawer sound anyway. We talked about getting a sound like as if the wires were sending razor blades into the speakers and mincing them. But we were rushed by the schedule and that added to it. The song 'Fantasies' is a good example of that. Danny and I always talked to each other on the headsets when we were jamming in the studios. We had the words to 'Fantasies' but no melody line. We did have an idea how we wanted to structure the song and where the words would be once we had a melody figured out so in the meantime I just talked the lyrics to Danny so he would know about where we were in the song and I cued him into chord changes, breaks, etc. Just to be breaking the monotony of talking, I tried to imitate W.C. Fields because we had seen one of his movies on the late movie recently and were shooting each other lines from the film. "It's not a fit night out for man nor beast!" and so forth. They had my mike over modulated but they didn't care because we weren't going to use it anyway- or so they thought. When we got down to the short hairs and had to press it or forget it there was nothing to use but that bit of a communication track, so they had to go with it. I think that song had more potential than any of the others but we never got to finish it. I squirm with embarrassment when I hear that song and that distorted voice and that stupid W.C.Fields stuff. If it were a good imitation it might be all right but it's lousy. Barry thought it was funny and lots of people say they like it but it makes me squirm.

How did the cover come about, with you guys sat in the cockpit of an airplane?

Contact - Front Cover
The story about the cover for 'Contact' is funny. Barry and Danny and I were riding in a cab back from the airport talking about what we might call the second album. I had been thinking about the way people used to spin the props on old airplanes and yell "Contact" and how that meant the action was about to start, and about how the word "Contact" also had the connotation of reaching out to people and establishing communication. After bouncing it around in the cab, "Contact" it was. Barry started working with the Kapp people about a cover and they referred us to their advertising agency. These people had some "in" with Pan American Airlines and thought they could get us inside one of their airliners for a portrait type shot and we thought that could be a goof if we played it right. Pan Am arranged for the air controllers in the tower at Kennedy International direct all Pan Am incoming flights to a portion of the tarmac designated by the photographer, facing the sunset. The pilots all thought this was totally bizarre. This meant that all the passengers had to disembark onto the concrete and walk to the terminal while we boarded with the photographer and all of Pan Am's promo people. The sunset outside the windshield on the cover of that album is not air brushed in - it is the real thing. We only had a few minutes on each aircraft because they had to get the clean-up crews and the refuelling operation started for the next leg of the flight so we would set up, shoot for 10 minutes, then move on to the next airplane that was taxiing into the sunset and set up again. Danny and I had snuck a bunch of dope and dope paraphernalia aboard and scattered it about for each shoot. We just did it for a goof. All the rock and roll bands of the time were doing little (and not so little) dope songs and dope promotions and we thought it was silly. We smoked the occasional joint and did the occasional tab but that wasn't basis for a message or some big deal like it was with so many of the others. We did it on "Contact" for a giggle. Barry was in on it and was snickering and snorting in the background during all this to the point of distraction. The Pan Am representative was totally unaware of what we were doing and was pasting Pan Am logos in all the cockpits so as to be sure and get a plug for the airline on the record cover. Once we had the proofs, we had a good laugh, and Barry thought up the idea of taking it one step further. He had somebody at Time Magazine pull a photograph from their archives that was of a terrible airplane crash in Sweden. Lots of people were killed. He had me and Danny sit on a fence for a black and white shot, that he then had the ad agency's production department double-expose so it looked like we were playing banjos in a wreck. So the photo message of the album became: here these two freaks somehow manage to pilot one of these passenger jets with all their dope and they end up crashing the thing, somehow surviving intact, killing all the passengers, and could care less about the whole thing. When Pan Am saw the finished album they sued us for $100,000.00.


It was all just pissing against the gale. Kapp was broke and on the verge of bankruptcy and we couldn't even pay the poets for our first record, or pay back Virginia, or even pay ourselves anything. We always paid our roadies, but we certainly didn't have anything for Pan Am. We just kind of laid low for a while and the whole thing blew itself out in some lawyer's office somewhere.

You also did a thing around this time to tie in with the Apollo moon-shot, I believe?

I think it was early Spring in 1969 when New York's Mayor John Lindsay declared a free day in the park for all New Yorkers to watch the Apollo 11 astronauts land on the moon. He arranged for huge television screens to be mounted in Central Park so everyone could watch the moon landing and a bandstand to be constructed so there could be music leading up to the historic event. He declared Silver Apples to be "the New York sound" and commissioned us to write a piece for the event and perform it plus all of our other songs just before touchdown on the moon. We decided that it was an important enough event that we would stick our heads out of our hiding place to do it I wrote a piece called 'Mune Toon' and Danny and I rehearsed it for days. The rocket launch went off without a hitch but as the spaceship began its approach to the surface of the moon, it began to rain cats and dogs in New York City. I had distinct memories of the shocking experience at the Café Wha? which Danny witnessed, but we felt this was a significant enough event that we had to go through with it. We were at least under the cover of a band shell, more than I can say for the thousands of people under parkas or umbrellas or newspapers all around the park, but there was a noticeable amount of water trickling onto the stage floor and under my bass switches. We decided to forego the build-up portion of our concert - explaining it to the crowd, who applauded our concern for our safety - but when Neil Armstrong began his descent to the moon's surface Danny and I struck up the band, caught up in the emotion of it all, and performed 'Mune Toon'. I was receiving electrical shocks every time I touched the instrument but there was nothing that seemed like it was life-threatening so we kept going. I knew that to touch the microphone was zap city, that was my mistake at the Café Wha?, but there was definitely a connection being made between the bass platform and the top oscillators. I just kept my hands on the oscillators because I found that when I let go and then tried to re-touch them, that was when I got zapped. So all during 'Mune Toon' there was this tingling, sexy, frightening, scary thing coursing through my body and I was singing my heart out and Armstrong was stepping onto the moon and human beings were entering a new era and thousands of people were crying with happiness and soaking wet and singing and hugging each other. Well, just when he thought the most political-mileage-moment was upon him Mayor Lindsay grabbed the microphone to say something profound and I swear I saw his ears light up. He was baptized into the world of electronic music. His hair looked like the bride of Frankenstein. Rolling Stone magazine did a piece on the event and called me the "¼leading exponent of hippy technology." I have always liked that, but have never figured out how to use it at parties.

After that were contacted by an "underground" theatre producer and director named John Vacarro. He had a reputation for putting on the most outrageous theatrical experiences in New York. He said that he was producing a new musical called "Cockstrong" and wanted Silver Apples to create the music for it. The star of the show was to be one of New York's most famous transvestites named Jackie Curtis. Unlike most of the other glamour queens on the scene, Jackie wore rags and hand-me-downs as a fashion statement, and was a tall and intriguing spectacle. The rest of the cast was an assortment of actors and exhibitionists of one sort or another who, for the most part, were dedicated to John Vacarro and his "Theatre of the Ridiculous". "Cockstrong" was a musical farce about sex and penis-envy, but oddly enough, there was no nudity, or even partial nudity, even though the so-called "straight theatre" was already heavily into it (Hair, A Chorus Line, etc.). We were given the script and started to work composing music for the various numbers. After several rehearsals it became evident that Silver Apples' style of free-form and organically structured music would need to be tamed down a little bit so the actors would know what to do and when to do it at the same times every performance. This is what Vacarro and the writer and every body wanted. They weren't quite ready for our ideas about order arriving spontaneously out of chaos so we gave in. Vacarro supplied me with a little 24 key electric organ, meant as a child's toy, and said I could freak out all I wanted with the electronics as long as each number was based on melodies played on the toy box. I didn't care. I was having fun, but not being a keyboard player I had to keep it simple. There was one dance number called "The Kama Sutra" where we were allowed to improvise for about 10 minutes while the players, in their clothes, tried to accomplish all the sexual positions, both couples and groups. One night the audience seemed to be very into it and Danny and I decided (with our signals across stage) to keep it going a while longer. I didn't realize how physically demanding it was for the actors and after a while they started screaming for mercy. I thought they were just acting and kept going. Soon there was open rebellion on the stage and the actors, while still in their contorted Kama Sutra positions were shaking their fists at me and giving the "cut" sign with their fingers across the throat. They were really glaring at me and the audience was roaring with delight. I finally gave in, and Jackie Curtis went into her final number, "Cockstrong", during which this enormous, erect, papier-mâché penis slowly expanded out over the stage pointing at the audience. It was about 30 feet long. It had a garden hose concealed in the middle and at the end of the number the water was turned on and it sprayed out all over the audience. They were totally drenched and loving it. After a couple of performances, word got around and people started showing up in raincoats, parkas and huge sheets of plastic.

With Kapp fading fast, I imagine the second album received little or no publicity when it came out?

Rose Bikes
Right, the second album got no publicity or distribution support whatsoever. Kapp was history, and the distribution network was in a shambles. There was no point in arranging for promotional tours because most of the record stores around the country never even received copies. We went out to some of the places where the crowds had been most enthusiastic, just to be earning a living, but the concentration now was on finding another record label. Barry couldn't get anything nailed down but there were enough nibbles that he thought we should cut some new material that he could use as bait. The most prestigious recording studio in New York at that time was a place called The Record Plant. They agreed to let us come in for a specific period of time and run up a bill, trusting that another label was right around the corner and would pick up the tab. We booked every night from midnight 'til four AM, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience had it booked from four AM 'til eight. This went on for several weeks. Many times Hendrix would come in early and we would overlap. We would talk mostly equipment talk. He was a gadget freak. He could never remember my name so he just called me Mr. Apple and I called him Mr. Experience. We used several of his gadgets in those sessions, and he plugged into ours for some of his. Both bands' equipment was just left in the studio day after day, pushed to the side for the day-time bookings and so it was all out in the open all the time. Everything was very loose and easy-going. We cut some good tracks, but no record label ever came through, and they eventually cut us off. We were in the middle of our first and only cover of someone else's material: 'Mustang Sally', and we really wanted to finish it. The Record Plant agreed that if we came up with $1000.00 cash, they would let us finish the song so Barry did what he had been doing most of this episode. He got on the phone and called friends and believers. There was an artist friend of the band named Terry Fugate-Wilcox who was independently well off. After some deal cutting, Terry met us at The Record Plant with a $1000.00 bill. I had never seen one before. He said he always kept some in his safe in his loft in case of emergencies. I was amazed. We finished 'Mustang Sally' and packed up our gear and left. That was the last time any of us ever saw those tapes. There was easily enough material for a third album but somehow Kapp had managed to poison our reputation, and maybe the Pan Am thing didn't help, but nobody picked us up and those tapes sat there until The Record Plant went out of business around 1990. They made a deal with a tape and film storage facility in New Jersey to store the material for two years, then do with it as they pleased. None of us were informed of these transactions. I recently tracked the tapes to that warehouse and they told me that the tapes were all disposed of but they couldn't find any record of the method of disposal. We're still working on it in the hopes that they were sold to another warehouse as a bulk item and not taken to the dump.

One of the sessions that's part of The Record Plant tapes, besides the album, is a three-hour live broadcast on WBAI radio. WBAI is a very progressive, underground type FM station in New York (they were the first to play Bob Dylan) and they wired directly into The Record Plant's 24 track board and gave us an unprecedented three hours of live broadcast. My recollection of the details is a bit sketchy. I do remember that it was a freaky free-form thing with several people dropping in. One was Ultra Violet who could be heard during one song trying to do her damnedest to electrocute herself by giving a live microphone a really sloppy wet blow job. At 50,000 watts, this was going out for the enlightenment and appreciation of music lovers all over New York City. What are friends for.

So there's at least a complete unreleased third album out there somewhere, but nobody knows where. As we discussed earlier, it would obviously be really exciting if that could be found. Apart from Hendrix though, and hanging out with the Dead, what other musicians of the period do you remember associating with?

One time when we were the regular band at Max's Kansas City, we went down to a coffee house in Greenwich Village to hear another two-man group that we had never heard of before, but some of our friends said were famous in England. They were Tyrannosaurus Rex, and they were touring in their acoustic mode with the singer-guitarist and a percussion guy. Afterwards we approached them to chat. The guitarist guy, whose performance basically was to sit on a pillow with his eyes closed and softly strum and sing, seemed uninterested in socializing with us, but the percussion guy (I don't remember their names, I'm terrible about that kind of thing sometimes) was friendly and curious. In their act he played tambourines, bells, little gongs, triangles and rattles and was more active than his partner. They had never heard of us, but we had never heard of them so, egos be damned, it all didn't matter. We invited them to ride a cab with us back up to Max's and see what we were all about, explaining that were kind of their opposites. Guitar declined, but percussion came along, and after a couple of hours he was really wound up. I think some people had been buying him drinks, but he got up on stage with us during some point in the second set, which was strictly frowned upon usually but because he had been our guest nobody did anything. He grabbed a microphone right in the middle of "Program" and started preaching about the Goddamned Establishment and the Goddamned Yanks in Vietnam then he picked up my banjo and started pulling on the strings like you would pull turnips and it was feeding back like crazy and he was screeching and yelling and finally Danny and I gave each other the high sign and we walked off the stage. He had completely taken over, and people were streaming out the door with their fingers in their ears. Once, too, we were on the bill in Chicago with Blue Cheer. Blue Cheer was not only the name of a dishwashing detergent but of a particular type of acid going around at the time. They had the reputation of being the loudest rock and roll band in the world. They had stacks of Marshall amps that lined the whole back of the stage. When we walked into the hall and saw that, we were quite impressed. After all, that was the point, I'm sure. We were to go on after them so we set up our gear off to one side, minuscule by comparison, ran through a sound check then went to the dressing room. Everybody shared the same dressing room. The Blue Cheer guys were snorting speed like crazy getting ready to go on and when they were ready they broke out the cotton balls and started stuffing their ears with great wads of the stuff, using pencils to pack it in. Danny and Barry and I gave each other the silent signal that meant, this is gonna be good, lets go watch, so we crawled under the curtains and hid behind the stacks of Marshalls. They lit into their first number which sounded like a tornado had hit the building and Danny crawled over to where he could see the drummer. He started laughing and waved me over. I crawled over and stuck my head around the corner of a stack and we could see him in profile. It was easy to read his lips, even though it was impossible to hear him over the roar. You couldn't even hear the PA system for that matter. He was screaming at the top of his lungs "Turn it the fuck down you stupid shitheads! I told I was quittin' if you did this again! I quit! You stupid fuckheads! You hear me? I quit!!!" This went on, non-stop through the whole set, which was this hour-long version of their hit, 'Summertime Blues', plus all the other riffs they knew. The house PA system was this gigantic surround-sound affair and you absolutely could not hear even a trace of it. We looked over at Barry and he was laughing and waving us over his way, so we crawled over and he pointed to the audience. Out of several thousand people that had previously occupied the hall, there were only about 15 totally spaced out people lying on the floor in the very back- and everybody else had gone out onto the sidewalk! The band played on, the drummer screamed his head off, and nobody but those 15 heard anything but the roaring tornado inside the building. When their set was over, everybody came back inside. This was one of the times when our equipment misbehaved badly. At one point I actually had a soldering iron out while Danny did an extended solo and I hooked some of it back together. I swear my machine was pissed at me for leaving it out there during the tornado.

I get the impression that 'The Simeon' was prone to going wrong at inopportune moments.

Bummed Simeon
The machine had a personality, just like a beloved old car. Same kind of cranky personality that would get miffed at the slightest perceived indignity or slight. Usually when it was pissed it would just refuse to stay in tune, but sometimes, like in Chicago, it would refuse to cooperate altogether. I know for a fact, having played outdoors many times, that if a cloud passed over, it would go out of tune. Sometimes its annoyance at something or another, usually trivial in the big scope of things, would manifest itself in a loud hum. Einstein himself could have been our roadie and that hum would defy all tracing. Then the next day, when it apparently felt better about the world, the hum would be gone. I always carried a little knapsack-type bag full of short wires with alligator clips on either end. When something would go out or the hum would start, I could usually alligator-clip us into the next song and beyond, sometimes clipping up during a song. Had to be careful though because a clip could just as easily take something out as restore it. Poor Danny went through hell coping with me through all this. He always seemed to know immediately when I was in trouble and was able to anticipate what I was going to have to do to get going and was right on top of it. I never called the damn thing "the Simeon" incidentally. That was what other people called it. To me, I was Simeon. That¼ thing¼ was not Simeon. It was lots of things with lots of characteristics, some lovable, some worthy of a 45 calibre bullet, but it was not Simeon. I had enough identity work going on without that complication.

Was it this kind of frustration which led to the break up of the band, or what?

All of these jobs that we played around the country were just a maintenance measure- a stop-gap effort- to tide us over until the next big break would come and get us out of debt and ease the pressure. The Record Plant tapes were never picked up by another label and that spelled our doom. Danny and I never broke up as a musical entity. We figured our job was to produce the music and we poured ourselves into that part of the operation with all our hearts and souls. Barry was the one who got the nasty phone calls from lawyers. Barry was the one who had to go into offices and take the abuse of collectors and lower himself to begging and pleading for more time so that we could keep going, even if just for a few more days at a time. You can't imagine how desperate we were. We even devised a technique in grocery stores where one would cover for the other while he ate food off the shelves, usually stuffing our faces with crackers or pastries just to fill ourselves up. Many times it was the only meal of the day. But when that elusive label never materialized, Barry knew it was over, and he went to a lawyer and asked him to draw up papers that would dissolve Silver Apples as a partnership and protect him as best as possible from future law suits. The lawyer's advice was that Barry should sue us for our share of the debts and he should confiscate our equipment and hold it against payment of the debts. Luckily for us at the time (we thought), Barry was paying Dory Weiner to do our books. She was the girlfriend of a sculptor friend of ours named Forrest Meyers. Everybody called him Frosty. Anyway, Dory was our bookkeeper, and when she got wind of Barry's lawyer telling him to confiscate our equipment, she told us, and said we had better get it out of Max's and hide it in Frosty's studio where Barry couldn't confiscate it. They said we would be able to practice there and everything so it sounded like the right thing to do until we could figure out the real right thing to do. As it turned out, this little plan was just a ruse, because Barry couldn't pay Dorie what he owed her, so she and Frosty had cooked up this little plan to confiscate our equipment to hold it for ransom for payment from Barry. It was easy. We even carried the stuff, cases and case of it up Park Avenue and up to his studio thinking we were in safe haven. Once it was all sitting there in their boudoir, they locked us out. We were really screwed now, because at this point Barry could care less about redeeming the equipment for us. If he were going to redeem it, it would be for him. After a while they softened. They were really mad at Barry and not at us. They realized that we were not guilty of anything, but were victims ourselves, and they allowed us to come over and at least practice so we could stay performance-ready if we ever had to be again, but he wouldn't let us turn on the amps because of his neighbors so it was pretty useless. We basically just waited to see what Barry was going to do. Danny and I never played together again.

I understand there was at least one more gig under the Silver Apples name though?

I got a job under an assumed name as a DJ in a disco joint and managed to pay Dorie enough that she and Frosty released the "Simeon" to me and I scurried off to my hotel with it. Floor to ceiling it occupied almost the whole room. Danny never did get his drums back. He was out of money, out of a group, and out of drums. He split, and I didn't see him again for about a year. Eileen got a job designing large needlepoint images and was paid well but spent endless hours rendering these huge tapestries. She agreed to finance our daily expenses while I tried to get something going again musically. I tried numerous configurations from 2 to up to five piece bands featuring the ever growing music machine but nothing seemed to click. One time a four piece group that we actually called Silver Apples played a performance of all new material at the Village Gate, a jazz hall, but it really wasn't the same. Danny came to that performance, came backstage, we had a good time socializing, but that was the last time any band ever performed under the name of Silver Apples. It was Summer, 1970.

So that was finally the end of the Silver Apples, then. What became of you afterwards?

Blue Biles
In September, 1970, I sold all my amps, packed the 'Simeon' onto a delivery truck and sent it to my parents home in Mobile, Alabama. I then bought a small sailboat and Eileen and I packed it full of as much food and wine as it would hold and we sailed out of New York harbor and into the Atlantic Ocean, seeing if we could make it to Florida before winter set in. We got to Mobile in time for Christmas with my family and they loved Eileen. I got to know my youngest brother Dave, who was born when I was 15 and so I had pretty much flown from the nest before he became a person. Ricky had died as the result of a deep sea diving accident. I got a job driving an ice cream truck, ringing a bell and driving around selling ice cream. Eileen took up Transcendental Meditation. I worked as a film editor in a TV station, as a news reporter and as an advertising designer and illustrator, and when I finally got my head cleared of all the extremes of Silver Apples, I plunged back into my art, poetry, conceptual expressions and painting. I have had five one-man-shows of the paintings in the last four years, in Lubbock, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Detroit, Michigan, Kansas City, Kansas and Trenton, New Jersey- and after the initial reaction of "What the hell is that?" that I have gotten with everything I have ever undertaken in my life it seems, I have actually started to sell a few. The paintings are based on a study of how there is a natural order within randomness.

The so-called 'Chaos Theory' which has risen to prominence in recent years?

This was long before anything had been published on Chaos theory. I didn't even know the scientific community was working on it. I just was seeing what I was looking at - that stars in the sky and raindrops in a puddle make the same overall visual expression. One day around 1973, I bought a crate of lemons from a grocery store. I took it to a park and cleared the sand out of a sandbox. I climbed a ladder with a Polaroid camera and began a long series of dumping hundreds of lemons into the sandbox and photographing the results. After several hours of this I had attracted something of a crowd, mostly kids, but soon the Mobile Police Department wanted to know what I was doing. How do you explain a search for the secrets of life itself to someone who cracks people over the head because they are the wrong color or because they don't like the way you dress? I couldn't compromise, and they hauled me off to jail. The judge said that if I put all the sand back into the sandbox and never came into the park again I could go, so I promised. Next day I was back, but this time I had the kids organized as lookouts and as a team we managed to elude the police and discover secrets of the universe at the same time. Later, after I had moved to Maryland, I hung the Polaroids, hundreds of them, in my studio for a year before I began to paint again. I categorized the different groupings, arranged them according to first one criterion then another until at last I had five basic definitions of order within chaos. I know I didn't force this, because I was generally resisting it all the time, thinking that this was all too basic, all too obvious, and if it were the case, then surely somebody had done all this exploration, even centuries before. But the visual answers I found with my lemons reflected the musical discoveries I had made with Silver Apples, and what I had observed for years in the living world around me- that seemingly random structures, audio or visual, eventually assume recognizable orders and become beautiful within their own definitions. I have devoted all my creative energies to that exploration, whether they be poetry and songs or paintings. Lately I have been painting bicycles. The bicycles, like all the other repeating images I have been doing over the years, from lemons at first to tools of every description, dolls, guns, sunflowers or bats, are a metaphor for the order, which I am trying to define, that exists within chaos. This explains the familiarity that we all feel when we see raindrops falling into a pond. There is nothing foreign about the patterns they make because they are the same patterns that leaves make when they fall from a tree or that daisies make when they grow in a field or that the stars made trillions of light years ago when they exploded across the universe. It is such a simple and fundamental truth. These patterns are a portrait of life itself. I found this truth by dumping lemons in a sandbox in Mobile, Alabama. I only hope I have the capacity for carrying the whole thing to a reasonable understanding. I say "reasonable understanding" because I don't think a conclusion is possible given the scope of it all. Even if you don't know what all this math is that's going on behind the structure of each Silver Apples song or each bicycle painting today, they still have, to me, that familiar, unthreatening, comfortable identity that raindrops and daisies have.

Finally, how did you suddenly become aware that the Silver Apples name has become common currency amongst the hip cogniscenti just recently?

Simeon Peering
For the last ten years I have been so immersed in my painting that I gave Silver Apples no thought. In the spring of this year I had been invited to exhibit a piece in Gene Pool's Crest Hardware Show. This is a pretty big deal among the more adventuresome and experimental artists of New York City, it being almost a thumbing of the nose at the Art Establishment in a fun way. Over a hundred artists are invited every year and the idea is for each to create a piece having to do with hardware, and the show is held in this gigantic hardware store in Brooklyn. Well, the opening was this fairly crazy affair in the parking lot that had live music and one of the bands was an all girl band called "Ultra Vulva" who had a grunge sound. At one point I asked the lead singer, whom I thought I recognized from our days at Max's, if she ever heard of Silver Apples. She said "No" and walked away, but a guy standing in earshot came up and said "I've heard of Silver Apples!" That chance encounter was to change everything. His name was Christian Hawkins, he collected our stuff and he was in a group called "Mobius Strip" which consisted of two guys who played systhesizers and drums. This sounded very familiar! He told me of all the activity around the world that amounted to something of a revival of interest in Silver Apples over the last several years that I was completely unaware of. I was astounded. He told me of several record stores in New York that would be carrying what was actually a fair amount of cover material, bootleg stuff, and some outright imitations. I went to these stores, was recognized, signed autographs, made new friends, was turned onto other activity I had no idea was going on and was generally spinning around in amazement for several days there.

Having heard Enraputured Records' Silver Apples tribute EP 'Electronic Evocations' (subsequently extended and reissued on CD last September), Simeon wrote a letter of thanks to Dominic at Enraptured in London, who in turn kindly pointed him immediately towards the Terrascope. Our thanks then to Dom for giving us this opportunity to run this feature - but most of all to Simeon himself, who over the past few months of sending letters and text to and fro has proved to be a gentleman of rare wit, integrity and understanding.

Written, directed and produced by Phil. © Simeon Coxe / Ptolemaic Terrascope, 1996/7

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