Gloriously indulgent orgy from Iron Butterfly

In the age of the single download, Jeff Harford rediscovers the album.

What a year in music 1968 was. The Beatles' White Album, Rolling Stones' Beggars Banquet, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, The Band's Music From Big Pink, Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Hold on.

Iron what?

Drummer Ron Bushy, the one remaining member of the Iron Butterfly line-up that delivered that landmark year's left-field hit album, must pinch himself from time to time as he tracks around the second-tier venues of Europe and the US.

Did we really match it with the big guns, he might well ask.

Match it they did, and then some. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida peaked at No 4 on the Billboard charts in 1968 and went on to outsell any other album the following year. The first album to be awarded platinum status by the Recording Industry Association of America, it has gone on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide.

Not bad for a record whose 17-minute title track occupies the entire second side of the platter, the other bearing five Doors-from the-crypt-style psychedelic pop numbers.

The track in question is a stoner jam that struck a chord with those who thrilled to psychedelic rock's accelerating slide into early heavy metal.

Borne along on a minor key riff that foreshadows the ominous tone that Geezer Butler would strike on Black Sabbath's self-titled 1970 debut, it devolves into a gloriously indulgent orgy of wah-wah guitar noodling and spidery keyboard runs. There's even a drum solo, tentative at first but gathering steam as Bushy allows the moment to consume him.

An apocryphal account of the session cites singer Doug Ingle's drug-induced slurring of the lyric "In the garden of Eden" as the source of the song's title. If that happened at all, it happened some time earlier, as Ingle is clearly well practised at delivering the line in its metamorphosed form. A more reliable story is that the album take was truly a sound check jam, fortuitously captured and kept.

 

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