One minute, you’re eating a bologna sandwich in Kingston, New York; the next, you’re the toast of TriBeCa. During a lunch break six months ago, Danny Taylor turned on the radio in his truck and heard himself singing. So he did what any Bell Atlantic repairman miles from the office would: Climbed the nearest phone pole and called the station to find out what the hell was going on.
Thirty years earlier, Taylor had been the drummer for Silver Apples, a duo whose pulsing electronic psychedelia attracted a cult following. His partner, known only as Simeon, had played a home-made synthesizer with Morse-code telegraph keys. There were many high points in their three years together – gigs with Frank Zappa and the Fugs, an endorsement from Mayor John Lindsay (he declared the Apples “the New York sound”), and two fascinating, if low-selling, albums. But their second album cover, which featured the wreckage of an airplane, attracted a lawsuit from Pan Am. “There it was in stores,” says Simeon, “with the Pan Am logo all over this plane crash. They went bananas.” Then, just as Silver Apples were finishing up a third LP, their label went bankrupt, unable to pay the $38,000 the recording studio demanded to release the tapes. By 1970, says Simeon, “we couldn’t make a record; we couldn’t show our faces to play live. So we broke up.”
Taylor lost his drum set and moved upstate. Simeon (his last name is Coxe, for the record), kicked around the South, painting, tending bar, and editing video. He eventually returned to New York in the early nineties, where he was astonished to find that the forces of cultural recycling had given rise to Silver Apples tribute albums, bootlegs, covers, and scads of uncredited samples on electronica records.
In 1996, emboldened by his underground vogue, Simeon found a new drummer and began playing shows, and drawing crowds, as Silver Apples. Almost immediately, a major label reissued the two Apples albums (long out of print, they’d been fetching upwards of $100). Simeon got to work on securing royalties from those who’d sampled him, and collaborating with musicians like Spacemen 3’s Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember. Still, a crucial element was missing: “Danny remains lost,” said an article on the Apples in the psychedelia fanzine Ptolemaic Terrascope. “Any leads would be gratefully received by Simeon.” Similar appeals were made during radio interviews and live performances, to no avail.
Until Danny heard his “I Have Known Love” played on WFMU, and phoned the station. The D.J. knew the whole story. “He said, ‘Simeon’s trying to get in touch with you. Can I give him your number?’ ” Taylor recalls. Soon Simeon was on his way to Kingston. “It was a total mind-blower,” says the 50-year-old drummer. “After 30 years, we started playing, and it was like we’d been playing all along.”
“Our music fell on deaf ears among the so-called hippie generation,” says Simeon, 55. “I guess it’s just taken the world this long to catch up to what Danny and I were hearing back then.” Indeed, the British avant-music bible The Wire recently named Contact, the Apples’ second album, one of the “100 Albums That Set the World on Fire While No One Was Listening.” The Apples, wrote the magazine’s editors, created “blueprints for Suicide, Kraftwerk, Can, Neu!, Eno, and the New York ‘No Wave’ artists.”
The reunited Silver Apples play their first hometown gig in 28 years at the Cooler on October 2. And they’re finally releasing their long-lost third album – Taylor discovered dubs of the final mixes in his attic – this month. This time, though, they’re taking a lesson from the do-it-yourself indie-rock crowd: “We’re releasing it ourselves,” laughs Simeon. “I’m a little gun-shy about the record industry.”