Graham Reid | | 1 min read
People over a certain and sensible age know not to mention Iron Butterfly in musically intelligent company because they know they will attract derision. Just the word "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" is enough to set some folks fall about laughing.
For those not in on the joke, the Butterfly's marathon song In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (think about saying "In the Garden of Eden" when you are slurry and stoned) was a fairly indulgent beast: 19 minutes on their live album, a mere 17 in the classic studio version.
But gee, it was the late Sixties and Grateful Dead among others were setting the standard for songs which lasted all weekend. And when it came to sales, the mighty Butterfly wiped the floor of the Fillmore clocking up over 25 million in sales of their second album which included that studio version.
Iron Butterfly came from San Diego, included organ player Doug Ingle whose deep vocals were also a hallmark of the band, and had a 17-year old guitar player (Erik Brann) whose sound was utterly distinctive and piercing.
The Butterfly were dogged by bad luck -- line-up changes, didn't make the flight to Woodstock, got a bit stuck in the hippie milieu (Flowers and Beads was one of their songs) -- and yet . . .
In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida is an absolute stoner classic (or tedious nonsense, depending on where you stand) and the band's sound epitomised much of what the hippie era was about: free-flowing, tripped out, seriously good and tight guitar solos, dark at the core . . .
This three CD set of their first two albums (the second being the one with the studio version) and a live document (which, yes, includes the full 19 minute rather faster version of the same) sums up a band which did what was required (delivered pop-rock and some out-of-it music) but then outstayed it's welcome. I beieve they are, sadly, still around today.
But these three discs are rather interesting. On just the evidence of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida who would have picked the Butterfly guys as proto-feminists (Possession), be something of acid philosophers (Unconscious Power) and actually have garageband pop aspirations (Gentle As It May Seem, the slightlydelic and delightful So-Lo)?
And wow, you get both versions of In-A-Gadda -Da-Vida.
Maaan, make that scene, as they used to say!