Iron Butterfly (In the Garden of Eden!)
This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.
Revolution through peace love and music. That in a way was Iron Butterfly. Their name alone summed up what they sounded like and with a string of true psychedelic hits and one major blockbuster in their track “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” in 1968 they were assured infamy but not fortune. This one track alone has dominated much of the intervening years with its heavy weight bass riff and hippy trippy melody and lyrics. It has influenced many of the heavy rock and metal bands over the years in its use of heavily distorted bass and lead guitar it is also the very first track to have a drum solo recorded into it. Not only this but it was ground-breaking in that the track ran continuously for a single side of an LP (long player 12 inch record for those too young to remember LP’s, as of course we all are!)
Who were this strange outfit of misfits? Well they came from the unfashionable city of San Diego in California, then as now not renowned for its rock outfits. The four original members were Doug Ingle – Keyboards and vocals, Ron Bushy – Drums with Lee Dorman – Bass and their teenage heartthrob guitarist Erik Brann. This is the lineup that recorded this seminal album and track. The album sold over three million copies by the end of 1970, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in December 1968. It ultimately sold over 20 million copies, went platinum, and stayed on the Billboard magazine charts for over a year.
This one track alone changed much of the hard rock music of the following decade in its hard driving riff based theme, classical church sounding swirling organ, and hippy lyrics. Bands such as Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple owed much of their drive and skill to this groups experimentations in riff driven rock instead of chordal movements as had been the norm in virtually all rock music up to this point.
The riff itself is a simple modal idea with a semi-chromatic ending tail that makes up a strange double sided uneven theme:
This riff permeates the whole 17 minutes of the track, even in the drum solo. The piece is in a simple ternary form with an intro on solo organ and various connecting subsections thus:
Riff/Head with song over the top
Bridge organ solo
Riff/Head with song
The organ work of Doug Ingle is along with the riff one of the outstanding elements in this track. He had learnt church organ as a child and as the link from the drum solo to the riff song section it stands as one of the most psychedelic pieces of soloing in rock history, comparable to the late Ray Manzarek’s work with the Doors, if not better. The song is most definitely of its time with the fake made up words of the title sounding very much like they are intentionally singing in a pseudo Indian language about reaching the garden of Eden. The melody is strongly linked to the riff and is pure psychedelia of the first rank. The drum solo is the least successful section of this work and in comparison to many of the drummers of his time Bushy was never one of the best. He shows his Jazz and world music roots and is too unadventurous for the track, but as this was the first drum solo to ever be recorded in music history it certainly was something very new for the time it was recorded and probably had to be slightly tame for the sound equipment to capture everything. It is one of the most famous of rock drum solos, because of its surreal tribal sound. Bushy went as far as removing the bottom heads of his tom-toms to give them less of a resonant tone, and during the recording process, the drum tracks were subjected to flanging, producing a slow, swirling sound.
The song is considered significant in rock history because, together with the music of Jimi Hendrix and Steppenwolf, it marks the period when psychedelic music began to form heavy rock. In 2009, it was named the 24th greatest hard rock song of all time.
A commonly related story says that the song’s title was originally “In the Garden of Eden“, but at one point in the course of rehearsing and recording, singer Doug Ingle got drunk and slurred the words, creating the vaguely Indian sounding title that stuck. However, the liner notes on ‘the best of’ CD compilation state that drummer Ron Bushy was listening to the track through headphones, and could not clearly distinguish what Ingle said when he asked him for the song’s title. An alternative explanation given in the liner notes of the 1995 re-release of the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida album, is that Ingle was drunk, high, or both, when he first told Bushy the title, and Bushy wrote it down. Bushy then showed Ingle what he had written, and the slurred title stuck.
The first six minutes of the song are dominated by a memorable, “endless, droning modal riff“, a guitar and bass ostinato. It is used as the basis for extended organ and guitar solos, then silenced to make way for a drum solo. It is followed by an ethereal polyphonic organ solo to the accompaniment of drums (beginning around 9:20 into the piece). There are then instrumental breaks in cut time and a reprise of the original theme and vocals to round off the track.
As a ground breaking rock album this is certainly towards the top in the fact it was the first album to have a whole side dedicated to just one track, the first ever drum solo recorded commercially and the first album track to use a bass driven riff to push the music through in a monotonous style hypnotic effect. Unique in every way this album is well worth searching out.
You can see the group performing this track at the following Youtube address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIVe-rZBcm4 this is not of the best quality so be warned.
The album contained five other tracks, some of which were of their time while others picked up on the heavier side of the groups’ style that they were to develop in their own unique style over the years and through their various line-ups. The group still tours today with a couple of the original members in the line-up and of course “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is always at the fore of their shows with its hard throbbing bass and psychedelic organ.
If you listen to this and feel that you have heard it somewhere before why not try the Simpsons who on a Sunday in church have to sing it as a Hymn entitled “In The Garden of Eden” with a rather freaky organ introduction and riffed ostinato, all vaguely resembling a certain Iron Butterfly track! Rather hilarious really.
Love and Peace Man and don’t forget it is now the 21st century so put the kaftans away along with the beads and the bongs.