Here are some facts for you:
- Iron Butterfly In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida was the first album ever to be awarded platinum status.
- Offstage the bassist Lee Dorman was the deepest thinker of the group.
- To date In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida has sold just under 900 million units in the USA – every adult in Arizona owns at least one copy, apparently.
- President Clinton once jammed along to the title track with Tony Blair late one night at Camp David.
- The title comes from Doug Ingle allegedly being so stoned off his tits that he couldn’t say ‘In the Garden on Eden’.
- This LP is inadvertently responsible for my favourite ever Simpsons moment.
I bought an original copy of this back in 1997 for not very much money* and, well, had pretty mixed views on the sucka. I found In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida like a 1968 mirror twin to Rush 2112, one full side of ass-gripping brilliance and just some other stuff. Side One, apart from the last track on it ‘Are You Happy’ is even if listened to in a good mood, awful – all portentous nonsense and crap about flowers and beads. Yuk!
BUT flip this beauty to Side Two and the 17-minute title track and we emerge fully into a brave new world of ass-gripping brilliance. I.Ron Butterfly bring the heaviness! The skittering organ intro aside, that riff is just wonderful, its not so much played as hewn from the living rock. I picture ancient pagan standing stones at night, shrouded in a fug of suspiciously sweet-smelling smoke … naked dancing chicks** gyrating wildly and those lava lamp-style projections sliding in and out of focus everywhere.
The tone and playing are just great here, Mr Ingle’s organ*^ and Erik Brann’s guitar are so heavy (in the 60’s sense of the word) it’s wonderful. Then we’re off into drum and organ solo territory for the next 50 minutes or so, you know what though? it works a treat, especially Ron Bushy’s slightly tribal drumming. I’m a big fan of songs that you can listen to and leave on whilst you go for a, umm, comfort stop half way through, then make a coffee, call your parents, maybe pop out and buy some more milk and then return to without missing anything essential.
‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ is so immense it must have its own gravitational pull, normal rules just don’t apply – you simply have to accept it for what it is, on its own terms, without any reference to anything else that there ever was/has been/will be. I know the daft, overly serious sleevenotes and the drippy first side of the LP are just products of their time too.
I have a bit of a confession for you all though. I am genuinely a bit scared that following it you will all unfollow me and reject my company for ever more, airbrushing me out of your photos and pretending you have never heard of me. Well … I was having a listen on Spotify last night at live versions of ‘..Gadda..’ when I … no, I can’t go on. Sorry. (Overnight pause) No I owe it to future generations to tell this tale, so that they may learn from my mistakes and that there be some merit in my downfall.
I discovered that Boney M had covered it, albeit shortening the title to ‘Gadda-Da-Vida’ and the song to 5:05. So, God help me, I thought I’d have a little listen – maybe I’d mention it in the blog post and poke fun at them. I have to report it’s a work of pure unalloyed genius – throw me off the Mighty Bus Of Rock, cancel my subscription to Viking Hedonist: Monthly, remove all my Iron Maiden tattoos via laser treatment and shave off my long, flowing mane by all means, but Boney M’s version is better than the original, the original that I love. Yes, I just said that; no, I haven’t been drinking and yes, I mean it. Just listen to the vocoder, people! It brings out all the previously hidden inherent robo-camp undertones in the song. I love this unreservedly and it is much easier to dance to than the original, funnier too^.
I dance rather like the chap on the right. Time for bed, maybe I’ll feel better in the morning.