And Now For Something Completely Obscure

Electronic pop duo Silver Apples released their first album in ’68.  I believe that makes them the first ever electronic pop band, predating Can, Kraftwerk, et al.  If any of you bastards know of someone prior to these guys, please clue me in.  They sold very few albums, but one somehow ended up in my house in the mid 70’s.  Ignorant that they predated Kraftwerk, I pretty much dismissed them because I didn’t like the songs very much.  They typically set up good initial ideas but, in my opnion, are let down by the singing and trippy lyrics, which creep me out for some reason.   But the electronic sounds are innovative and excellent.  Those sounds come from “The Simeon,” a primitive, homemade synth built by singer Simeon Coxe, an Alabaman.  He was just stringing together old WWII oscillators and claims that at the time  he’d never heard of Moogs or other synthesizers in develpoment.

Silver Apples’ legacy is hard to pin down.  Some 90’s experimental bands have cited them as an influence, but what about the electronic innovators of the 70’s?  You never heard a word about these guys back then, so did they influence Krautrock, Eno, Devo, prog rockers, or just work in a vacuum?  Who knows, but I can’t help but love their oddball creativity.  Very much in the tradition of American cranks innovating alone in the basement or garage.  But overall they show that first usually isn’t best.

Here is their full story, which is very interesting.  If you want to hear more, below is the entire first album and one song, “You and I”, from their second and final album, which was withdrawn soon after release.  The opening of “You and I” is suspiciously like “Station To Station,” but  I have no idea if Bowie was familiar with it.  The whole second album, which I haven’t heard,  is also on YouTube.

5 Replies to “And Now For Something Completely Obscure”

  1. Fascinating schtuff!

    The bit with the Pan Am partnership is hilarious but I’m struggling to see the drug paraphernalia in the cockpit.

  2. Great post!

    The vocal track from “You And I” sounds kinda like it was lifted from an unrelated song and superimposed on the electronic background to me, but maybe that’s how it’s supposed to sound.

    I think the drug paraphernalia is in the lower left section of the photo.

  3. Well, there it was all along.

    By the way, the article’s claim that the duo collapsed “on the brink of stardom” is pretty ludicrous. There’s no way those guys would have made much headway commercially back then. They were just too out there and ahead of their time. Few people would have tolerated songs based on dissonant blips and beeps. Some people could handle Jimmy Page’s theremin and Hendrix’s feedback, but those were in a familiar blues-based structure (and anyway, Atlantic had to release a single version of “Whole Lotta Love” without the theremin break so radio stations would play it). I imagine they would have had to relocate to the UK, where they may have developed a solid cult following.

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