Simon Coxe, Synth Pioneer of Silver Apples Dead at 82
Sad news comes in from the world of electro-rock as synth pioneer and founding member of the groundbreaking outfit Silver Apples died yesterday after a battle with lung condition pulmonary fibrosis. He was 82.
Coxe was born in Knoxville, TN but eventually moved to New York City. He became a part of the underground music scene there in the late 60’s playing in a band called Overland Stage Electric Band. After introducing a Forties oscillator into the band all of his band mates left except one, Danny Taylor. The two would go on to form Silver Apples.
Silver Apples released only two albums during their initial run but they left a lasting mark on synthesized music due to Coxe’s innovative spirit. To create the band’s sound, he built an electronic rig called “the Simeon” which featured a combination of oscillators; telegraph switches, manual controllers and an array of effects pedal.
“I had heard the word synthesizer, but I had no idea what it was,” Coxe said in an interview he gave the media last year. “We were dirt poor and used what we had, which was often discarded World War II gear.”
Silver Apples unusual sound confounded record labels but they eventually got a deal with Kapp Records. They released their self-titled debut on the label in 1968. They soon amassed a cult following among fans and other musicians including Jimi Hendrix.
In fact, when they recorded their second album, Contact, they were in the same studio as Hendrix and the guitarist invited them to jam the Star Spangled Banner with him before his Woodstock performance.
Silver Apples gained notoriety when shooting the cover photo for Contact. They reached out to Pan Am Airlines to allow them to do the cover photo shoot in the cockpit of one of their planes. The airline agreed on the condition that their logo was visible in the photo. But when they saw the final version of the cover they were not pleased to find that it featured subtle evidence of drug paraphernalia.
Although some fans may have admired the band’s moxie, ultimately it led to their demise. New York City Marshals showed up to one of the band’s Max’s Kansas City shows and stormed the stage and stole their equipment.
But an even harder pill to swallow, the record company yanked “Contact” from record store shelves and shelved the third album they were working on. The music industry basically blacklisted the band leaving Coxe to move to Alabama where he drove an ice cream truck for some time and worked for several decades at WKRG TV in Mobile.
Although Coxe stayed underground for a while, he was a major influence on many bands. He revived the group with a new lineup and released two albums, “Beacon and Decatur” (1998) and their lost third album “The Garden”.
Coxe also reunited with Taylor for a string of shows but then broke his neck in a car crash. By the time he recovered, Taylor had died of a heart attack. Coxe continued to perform using Taylor’s drum samples and released the Silver Apples final album, “Clinging to a Dream” in 2016.