50 years ago

By Tom MacIntosh

The 1960s USA were a tumultuous time of civil rights marches, women’s liberation, anti-war movements against the raging conflict in Vietnam, ‘flower power’ and the ‘summer of love’ in 1967 was when hippies (hair grown to the hips) denounced consumerism, protested the capitalistic system, and turned to “mary jane” (pot) and acid (LSD) trips in search of meaning through music, painting and poetry, which gave birth to psychedelic fashion, art, music, and psychedelic rock became the latest creed.

Here at Guitars Exchange we would like to pay tribute to one of the groups whose small contribution made a big impact on the scene, we’re talking about Iron Butterfly and their legendary album In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, released June 14, 1968. They were among a coterie of psychedelic rock bands such as The Doors, Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Electric Prunes, Blue Cheer, and Steppenwolf, to mention some of the Californians.

The original lineup was led by Doug Ingle/vocals, organ, Ron Bushy/drums, percussion, Erik Brann/guitar, vocals, and Lee Dorman/bass, vocals.

The album opens with Most Anything That You Want, a ‘paint-by-numbers’ psychedelic rock/pop entry drenched in Ingle’s organ and baritone voice over flower-power vocal harmonies professing “I just wanna make you happy. You will instantly recognise the Doors feel on Brann’s guitar solo mixed with the organ work, and that remains fairly constant for the entire album. It was the 60s, and the technology was just beginning to meet the needs of rockers on the scene, and the trippy lyrics also reflected the times. On track 2, Flowers and Beads, Ingle sings “Girl, I just know I love ya now/Flowers and beads are one thing/But havin’ a girl is something/That’s if you got a girl who loves you, which today sounds pretty juvenile and innocent, but defines the hippy summer-of-love vibes to a tee. My Mirage carries this mood to a heavier psychedelic level, with a slick rhythm section that moves the hypnotic keyboards and shines with a Brann solo on a Mosrite guitar that interacts nicely with the mix. The 4th track Termination is a fuzzy rock guitar offering, with several Vox Super Beatle amps, and a Mosrite Fuzzrite fuzz pedal that pump out that evil, ominous psyche sound.


Side two is where the band cuts the epic 17+ minute piece that cemented their name in rock history, and still stands as one of the greatest psychedelic songs of all time, the title hit, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.  It was edited down to almost 3 minutes for U.S audiences, and made the Hot 100 charts in 1969. They were not the first outfit to put one song on an entire side, Bob Dylan did it with Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands (side B on Blonde on Blonde), The Seeds cut a 14-minute Up In Her Room, and the Rolling Stones laid down an 11-minute blues rocker Goin’ Home from their album Aftermath.  But In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida was a breakthrough in various other ways; it’s been credited with marking the early transition from psychedelic rock into heavy metal, it went Gold almost instantly, and later was the first album to go Platinum on the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) list with over 30 million copies sold. The song was originally called In The Garden of Eden, but Ingle was so drunk on Red Mountain wine while singing, that he slurred the words badly and the garbled, gibberish title remained. The song may be best described as a ‘trip’ into the euphoric yet foreboding realms of the dark side, the drum work by Bushy is brilliant, with a solo that is remarkably consistent with its groove (over 5 minutes); a classic psychedelic rock performance burned into music history.


The song has been covered by such names as, Michael Viner’s Incredible Bongo Band, power metal band Blind Guardian, thrash metal group Slayer, Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper, and the single Children of Paradise/Gadda-Da-Vida, by Boney M..

The album was a milestone in rock history, opening doors to future generations of rockers and serves as the perfect snapshot of the 60s; the years that changed America and the music world at large.