Tonight: Silver Apples at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The Silver Apples' career has been defined by accidents, difficulties and deferrals. Formed when Simeon Coxe III of the Overland Electric Stage Band decided to bring an electronic oscillator to a show, causing the band's guitarists to quit in protest, leaving him and drummer Danny Taylor alone on stage, the Silver Apples were originally active from 1967 to 1969. During this time the band released two albums, The Silver Apples and Contact, and played mostly in New York and the Midwest. When their record label, Kapp - which Coxe claims never paid any royalties at all - was absorbed by MCA, Coxe and Taylor simply called it a day, canning their nearly-completed third album and going their separate ways. The band might never have performed again if German label TRC had not released an unlicensed CD version of both albums in 1994. So much interest was generated that MCA decided to release both albums on CD, and Coxe, who had mostly done visual art and graphic design in the '80s, went on tour, tapping mostly younger musicians (notably Xian Hawkins, who now performs as Sybarite) as sidemen, since Taylor couldn't be found.
Eventually Taylor turned up, with the original tapes of that third album, Garden, amazingly still in his possession. Picking up more or less where they left off, the reunited Silver Apples managed to release Garden and two other records of new material - all in a single year - before a car wreck broke Coxe's neck, nearly killing him and leaving with permanent partial paralysis in his legs and arms. Coxe eventually recovered well enough to perform again, but Taylor died of a heart attack in 2005; Coxe now performs as a solo artist. Coxe's music has persisted despite all this because he is a totally unique musician. He performs exclusively on a system of electronic oscillators, controlled with switches and handles. The Silver Apples' '60s records were hardly popular, but they were important because Coxe managed to corral the alien sounds produced by this machine into tuneful and exhilarating psychedelia, prefiguring a variety of experimental rock from later decades: Kraftwerk, Suicide, Einsturzende Neubauten, Spacemen 3. To be able to see Coxe today is not only a remarkable victory of art over circumstance, but an increasingly rare opportunity to experience a more or less direct connection to the spirit of the '60s, which gave rise to a massive explosion in the creative potential in pop music. Coxe performs 8 p.m. tonight at the MFAH in a mixed-media recreation of the "Mune Toon" concert, a 1969 celebration of the moon landing.