“Contact” by Silver Apples - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1969Album Chart of the Decade: 1960s

TJR says

Never since Köln’s Monks in ’66 has an album sounded so wonderfully wrong. Chiming with the aforementioned “Black Monk Time”, Simeon Coxe adds the banjo to his wonky toolset of pulsing oscillators. The term “thinking out of the box” was designed for groups such as these. The whole set is completely wonderful – even better than last year’s debut – and now comes with a more cohesive set of lyrics, almost as if offering a branch of hope for Kapp’s commercial aspirations. This, the second wig-out on the label from the pioneering electro-wizards, should have seen them enjoying some degree of success – they had a bit of a following and a U.S. tour was going well. In actuality, the album proved to be disastrous for the label and for the group, due to the cover and inner artwork, which generated a lawsuit from Pan Am Airlines. The cover features the Silver Apples in a plane cockpit with drug paraphernalia, and the inner artwork showed the band amongst plane wreckage playing banjos. The photo-message of the album was interpreted as two freaks somehow managing to pilot one of these passenger jets with all their dope, who end up crashing the thing, killing all the passengers, but somehow survive unharmed themselves, flippant and oblivious to the carnage. When Pan Am saw the finished album they sued for $100,000! This killed the group as Simeon explained to Sound on Sound in 2010:

“That was just a prank that kinda went astray. If I think about it now, it's really kind of dumb. We didn't mean any harm by it, but a lot of people were really pissed off about that. Pan Am wanted their logo on the airplane up front because they thought it would be free publicity for the airline. But on the back it was a picture of a European airplane crash and Pan Am of course felt like we were saying that their airplane had crashed. The whole thing was just misunderstood and misread by everybody. They sued us, big‑time. They sued Kapp Records, they sued us as a band, they sued us personally, they sued our management, they got some judge in New York to issue a cease‑and‑desist on us performing. All the records had to be taken off the shelves in all of the record stores. They put some sort of a lien on our equipment and they actually came to a club where we were playing and confiscated Danny's drums. Fortunately, my stuff wasn't there. That photograph led to the lawsuit that broke the band up. No record label would touch us from that point on. That was the end of Silver Apples.”

What a complete tragedy. For once, I can see where the corporate angst is justified. Plane crashes are a sensitive business. As a result of this tomfoolery, the repercussions for music fans were severe. The follow-up album, recorded in 1970, ended up being shelved for some 20 years. Drummer Danny Taylor took a job at a telephone company, while Simeon Coxe returned to his first love as a visual artist, funding himself by working as a graphic designer for an advertising agency. What a waste. Meanwhile, the majestic artistry of “Contact” lives on in perpetuity. In the end, such great work can never be truly suppressed.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [03:24] 8.8.png Silver Apples - You And I (Simeon Coxe III, Cecil Taylor) Trance Rock
A2 [04:18] 7.6.png Silver Apples - Water (Simeon Coxe III, Cecil Taylor) Electronica
A3 [02:32] 8.6.png Silver Apples - Ruby (Simeon Coxe III, Cecil Taylor, Joy May Creasy) Alternative Country
A4 [05:36] 7.8.png Silver Apples - Gypsy Love (Simeon Coxe III, Cecil Taylor, Stanley Warren) Trance Rock
A5 [06:26] 7.7.png Silver Apples - You’re Not Foolin’ Me (Simeon Coxe III, Cecil Taylor) New Wave
B1 [03:53] 9.4.png Silver Apples - I Have Known Love (Simeon Coxe III, Cecil Taylor, Eileen Lewellen) Psychedelia
B2 [05:11] 8.8.png Silver Apples - A Pox On You (Simeon Coxe III, Cecil Taylor) Trance Rock
B3 [03:34] 8.6.png Silver Apples - Confusion (Simeon Coxe III, Cecil Taylor) Alternative Country
B4 [05:57] 9.8.png Silver Apples - Fantasies (Simeon Coxe III, Cecil Taylor) Trance Rock

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