So yeah, I couldn’t think of a better title because once again I procrastinated and waited until the night before to write this particular update. Hopefully this one won’t be littered with as many typo’s as the last couple I wrote.
Anyway, the topic of today’s discussion is the innovative (electronica?) group Silver Apples. Making their recording debut in 1968, Silver Apples was born out of a local New York house band called The Overland Stage Electric Band. This particular group consisted of lead singer “Simeon” and former Hendrix drummer “Danny Taylor” along with three other guitarists. One fateful night in the middle of a gig Simeon decided to plug in an oscillator on stage and go to town sweeping the room with the reckless tones it emanated. Apparently this amused Simeon enough to continue the rouse in subsequent sets, gradually adding more and more toys to his repertoire. The other members of the band weren’t necessarily as amused and one by one they quit the band until only Simeon and Taylor remained, thus giving birth to the Silver Apples.
At this point Simeon had pieced together his numerous oscillators with other random bits of electronic garage junk and built an elaborate contraption he christened with his own moniker. This particular gizmo was played not only with Simeon’s hands, but with elbows, knees, and whatever other available limbs and appendages were available to manipulate the various dials, switches and levers. Keep in mind that the Moog and other practical synthesizers wouldn’t become popularized until two or three years later. This paired with Taylor’s ridiculously intricate drum setup must have made their live performances just as much about the spectacle as it was about the weird out of this world sounds they were creating with this strange space-age gear.
So just what the hell did these guys sound like anyway? Well, I’m not quite sure in hindsight how possible it is to grasp just how far out of left field these guys came from. My age limits me to using other popular music of the era to compare and estimate just how innovative this sound was at the time. I’ve listened to both the self titled debut as well as the follow-up Contact, and I have to say, even to this day, these guys stand out as something quite different, yet you can clearly hear the impact they have had over the years.
Now I’m not going to say that this is an easily accessible sound and I’ll admit that most casual listeners will probably be turned off rather quickly. But Alternakids aren’t exactly casual listeners now are we? With a careful ear and a couple listens, once you figure out just what’s going on in a lot of these songs you’ll begin to see the far reaching range of their influence. I’ll start right off the bat by saying they definitely belong at the top of the list when it comes to the forefathers of electronic music. I mean Kraftwerk didn’t show up on the scene for another two years after the first Silver Apples album had already been released. Not only were they innovative with some of the first “synth” sounds, but obviously their stage shows were unprecedented. I only wish I could find some live footage to see for myself what their shows must have been like. I mean I can only imagine listening to tracks such as Program, where it’s obvious that the majority of the song is based around randomly tuning a radio dial to whatever disparate broadcasts might be coming in at the time (Speaking of influential, anybody been to a Radiohead show lately?). I also tend to get a kick out of the blatantly improvised Fantasies.
Silver Apples – Program Silver Apples – Fantasies
For further proof here’s some examples of where Silver Apples‘ sound has had influence over the artists of today:
Silver Apples – Lovefingers Atmosphere – Flesh
As you can see there’s some heads out there who are obviously hip to these guys and it’s not hard to see what Producto was going for with this track.
El-P – Deep Space 9mm
Silver Apples – Water
Need more evidence that people are still emulating the Silver Apples’ groove?
Broadcast – Pendulum
And just for reference, here’s what other early electronic/industrial artists sounded like around the time.
Kraftwerk – Europe Endless