Monday, August 14, 2006

Album: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968), from Iron Butterfly

I picked up the CD version of this rock classic at a flee market on Saturday, for four bucks. You’ve probably heard the title song on the radio, but you may not be aware that the original is 17 minutes long and occupied the entire B side of the album. (Side A has 5 very forgettable, hippie rock ditties.)

I guess I didn’t get enough of psychedelic rock, way back then. This phase of Rock and Roll occurred when I was in grammar-school and junior-high, and I didn’t have money for records, record players, or going to concerts. My parents forbid us to watch Elvis or the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show: do you honestly think they’d let me get involved in something like this? So now, when we are adults, we relive the youth we regretted missing!

Iron Butterfly’s official website says:
“The Los Angeles music climate of the late sixties and seventies was characterized by the heavy sounds and sentiments that reflected the revolutionary attitudes of the generation. Bursting onto that scene was a new group whose sound not only epitomized the hard attitudes of the youth with its heavy drumming and bass lines, but also embraced more delicate aspirations through its intricate guitar and keyboard overlays.”
These guys came from a very creative time in Rock and Roll. Many of the top rock musicians at the time had serious classical music training. New bands became popular in the first year of their existence or with their first recording. Classic rock albums were being released every month. Iron Butterfly was no exception. Their first album, Heavy, came out in 1967 and was on the record charts for a year. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida became the first Platinum record ever, in the music business. The album after it went Gold, and the two albums after that broke the Top 20.

Mythology surrounds In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. The song, which was written by Iron Butterfly founder Doug Ingle, was meant to be, “In the Garden of Eden,” but, depending on what source you read, it came out the way it did from either alcohol slurred speech, LSD, or because the vocalist couldn’t hear the words properly through the faulty headset he was wearing. The three minute drum solo, performed by Ron Bushy, became one of the most influential and imitated forms in rock drumming. The song is credited with starting the genre of Acid Rock. Some describe the band as Heavy Metal, which in my opinion is incorrect, but Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer, and Steppenwolf did form the basis upon which the first Heavy Metal was based. The direct influence of Iron Butterfly can be heard in Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Traffic, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, Blue Cheer, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Group 1850, and David Bowie.

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida has been quoted, covered, sampled and alluded to in everyday conversations, songs, movies, and television. It is in an episode of The Simpsons, in 1995, called, Bart Sells His Soul where Bart replaces the hymn books in church with the sheet music for "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." The entire church starts into a 17-minute version of "In the Garden of Eden" (by "I. Ron Butterfly").


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