Recording "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" by Iron Butterfly

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by John B, May 6, 2003.

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  1. John B

    John B Once Blue Gort,<br>now just blue. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    In the fall of 1967, as psychedelic music began to bear financial fruit for record companies, the young Southern California rock group Iron Butterfly was unwittingly preparing to soar higher on the Billboard charts than any of their contemporaries. Following the recording of their first album, Heavy (1968), however, they were almost permanently grounded. The album was shelved for nearly a year while the band tried to separate from original manager David Winters. After several months of small gigs and legal harangues, the Butterfly suffered a severe amputation--original guitarist Danny Weis left with bassist Jerry Penrod to form the band Rhinoceros, and were soon followed by frontman/vocalist Darryl DeLoach (who went on to start Flintwhistle). Only organist/vocalist Doug Ingle and drummer Ron Bushy remained. Finding replacements Lee Dorman on bass and Erik Brann on guitar was only half the battle. Bushy remembers, "We had to put a group together and prove to Atlantic/Atco that it was worth their while to put the album out. That took a lot of hard work, probably three months of rehearsing. We pulled it off. They got us on a major tour with The Doors and the [Jefferson] Airplane."

    While on the road, they unveiled a new song, entitled "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." Ironically, the song's origins are far removed from the heavy metal beast it became. Written by Ingle, the son of a church organist, it was much shorter and quieter when conceived, and it was called "In the Garden of Eden." Lee Dorman says of the song's beginnings, "'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida' was like a country ballad when we first heard it, but by the time the band got done with it...well, you can see what happened."
    Ron Bushy actually lays claim to the name: "I was supporting the band by making pizza," he says. "I came home at three in the morning from working one night and Doug played me a song he was writing. He had polished off a whole gallon of Red Mountain wine as the evening wore on. He played this song on the keyboard for me and sang it. He was so drunk that it came out 'in-a-gadda-da-vida.' I thought it was real catchy so I just wrote it down phonetically. The next morning we woke up and looked at the writing, 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,' and decided to keep the title."

    As the group became more comfortable with the song and its concept, it expanded more and more in live performance. Dorman recalls, "We were about eight minutes into it. Then we got an opportunity to go on the road with the Jefferson Airplane, and by that time, 'Vida' was up to 10, 11, 12 minutes and moving along." When the tour got to New York, it was time to record.

    "I believe it was a commitment album that they had to have done for Atlantic by a certain date," engineer Bill Stahl remembers. "They asked where the Vanilla Fudge had done their album and they told them Ultra-Sonic [in Hempstead, Long Island]. I believe that's how it came about. I think it was done in three days."

    Stahl, the owner of Ultra-Sonic, had opened his facility in 1962, and owned one of the first 2-track machines. "I had a sel-sync so that I could do recording on one track and then adding on the second; that was not common in a studio at that time," he says. "Les Paul was the only other one who had it."

    The studio had gone through quite a few changes in the ensuing six years, but according to Stahl, it was still quite a pioneering facility: "We went to 8-track probably in 1965. We bought the first 8-track machine off the floor of the AES convention in New York, which was a Scully. The previous 8-tracks were Ampex 300s converted to 8-track, which I think CBS had. But this was the first 8-track machine designed as an 8-track machine. That machine was the first one that showed up the problems in the slitting process of the tape. In the curing process at the time, the 1-inch tape that they were making would curl, so it was very difficult to get spec on the outside tracks. We wound up having all the tape manufacturers sending us tape, coming out and recording things, trying to get the tape to work. So the machine was kind of ahead of the tape, but they obviously solved that problem pretty quickly."

    The studio's console was custom-built by Stahl and Herman Baer, an engineer from Bell Sound in Manhattan. "We used Fairchild preamps," Stahl says. "We just bought all the components and built it. We bought the meters, we bought the faders, we bought the patchbay. The compression and equalizers were built into the console. We started with Fairchilds, and then we built our own. It was kind of a work-in-progress."

    When Iron Butterfly floated in during the winter of 1968, a reluctant Shadow Morton (who produced Vanilla Fudge, the Shangri-Las and many others) was called in to helm the sessions. "I didn't want to cut them," he says. "I didn't want to cut anybody. It was another time when I was quitting the business. But because of the past, Ahmet [Ertegun] insisted, and he kept calling on it. And my line to Ahmet was, 'Look, the worst I'll do is I'll oversee all the sessions. I'll get someone else in there who can front, and I'll oversee their sessions, if they record at Ultra-Sonic in Hempstead.' He booked 'em and made all the arrangements and everything was done. What nobody knew at the time was that my office was right across the street from Ultra-Sonic, except that I was one floor above Ultra-Sonic, so I could look out my window and 'oversee the sessions.' But I loved the group. I didn't know that it was going to have any significance, to be honest with you." After the initial setup, Morton retired to the role of executive producer, basically leaving well enough alone.

    It was veteran engineer Don Casale, whose credits included two of Atlantic's top rock bands of the era, The Rascals and Vanilla Fudge, who actually recorded the date. He remembers that the credited producer, Jim Hilton, was rarely at the studio: "He comes up to me and says, 'You've been recommended to record the group. I want you to record them, but if you do anything I don't like, I'm gonna step in.' And I never saw him again."

    According to Casale, the band had recorded a few songs before attempting their "Lewis & Clark expedition of sound" as Ingle called their epic song. "At one point," Casale says, "I had a good half a reel of tape and [Ingle] said, 'You'd better get a new reel of tape.' I said, 'I've got plenty left.' He said, 'Trust me, you're gonna need a new reel of tape.'
    The bandmembers, including Ingle, recollect that they were barely, if at all, aware they were being recorded. According to Bushy, "the engineer just ran the tape and said, 'Why don't you run through something and we'll get the balance here on the stuff. Run it through one time.' I didn't want to think about it. When those red lights are on, a lot of times it will screw me up. I couldn't see them from where I was."

    As the band stormed through the song, Ingle started wondering what was going on: "We were like, 'Is this guy dense? How much time does he need?' So after we finished, he said 'come on in guys, I'd like you to hear this.' About two-and-a-half listens later we started getting goosebumps, like, 'This is really good.'" Luckily, Don Casale did know what he was doing, and he had captured the song on the first take. They immediately overdubbed the vocal and the guitar solo, and the song was completed.
    Jim Hilton eventually showed up, claiming he was stuck in traffic. When Hilton found out that the band wanted to take up a whole album side with just one 17-minute song, he protested strongly, Ingle recalls, saying the label would want at least five songs on each side. "We were like, 'We don't really give a **** about that. This is what we're about, and we want to use it.'" Ingle says. "'Well, I think your budget is about exhausted.' So I said, 'Well, Jim, we've already spent a good deal of the money we hardly have any left of, so what do you want to do, go out there and do five more songs? You're going to have to go back to New York and try to get more money.'" For once, financial constraints worked in the artists' favor, and Hilton had little choice but to deliver the unprecedented album side to Atlantic.

    The song was mixed at Gold Star in L.A. with Hilton and house engineer "Doc" McGhee. Bushy relates his recollection of the primitive effect used during the drum solo: "The way they got the sound was they wired the speakers out of phase and then panned back and forth. That's how they explained it to me."

    Predictably, there was initially considerable resistance to the unorthodox song at Atlantic Records. "We were on the road when Atlantic received it," recounts Dorman. "Somebody there was very disturbed about the fact that one song was one whole side. The word came back to us through management that couldn't we cut it down and give them some more songs, and we said absolutely not. Our manager convinced them," and the label gave in. This surely must stand as one of the most successful executive non-decisions in music history.

    Given the rising popularity and influence of FM radio in 1968, it's no surprise that "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," with its heavy guitar, opaque lyrics, haunting organ and memorable drum solo, became an "underground" sensation almost immediately after its release in June of that year. Here was a song that by its very existence was threatening to the status quo, helping to destroy the commercial notion that a popular song had to be three minutes and no longer. The fact that it also provided a nice working dinner break for DJs probably didn't hurt either.

    One of the pivotal factors in the song's success did, however, entail a bit of crass commercialism. Ingle recalls that "It didn't break on a national and international scale until a DJ out of Detroit had just gotten a new venue on AM radio where he would be permitted to play the heavy metal groups. This was a first. The only way he would be permitted to play the Butterfly was if he had an edited version. So he took it upon himself to do an edited version, submitted it to Atlantic, and they approved. Then they made up a bunch of 45s. We didn't even know it. It was strictly a business decision to make more money."

    Compromised or not, the album soon became the largest seller in the entire Atlantic catalog, selling over 3 million copies, no doubt causing a great deal of confusion among the jazz aficionados who comprised the executive staff of the growing record company. Of course, waiting around the corner at Atlantic was the heaviest group of them all, Led Zeppelin, who took the hard rock throne in 1969.

    Thirty years after its release, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" still enjoys occasional airplay, and it provokes enough interest that Rhino Records released a deluxe edition of the disc, including the various versions of the song: live, studio and even the radio edit. The band continues to tour with the nucleus of Ingle, Bushy and Dorman all aboard, though it has been years since they recorded a new album.

    Ingle remains philosophical and good-humored about the whole thing: "My whole success has been an accident. I just kind of fell into rock. What I really wanted was to go to L.A. to write themes for motion pictures. It was as much of an accident as the recording of 'Vida,' not to mention the naming of 'Vida.'"

    Indirectly, however, Ingle got his wish, as Iron Butterfly music has been used in several films, including The Savage Seven, Manhunter and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part II. The music has also been used in various television shows, such as Home Improvement and The Simpsons, further proof that the band has made a lasting impact on popular culture.

    by Russell H. Tice
     
  2. mudbone

    mudbone Gort Annaologist

    Location:
    Canada, O!
    John, thanks for posting. You know how much I enjoy these stories.

    mud-
     
  3. Bob Lovely

    Bob Lovely Super Gort Staff

    Hi John,

    This feels like deja vu, like you posted this before or am I nuts?

    Bob:D
     
  4. John B

    John B Once Blue Gort,<br>now just blue. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    To answer the first part of the question: I double checked and no, this is the first time.

    To answer the second part: yes - beyond any hint of a shadow of doubt. :)
     
  5. John B

    John B Once Blue Gort,<br>now just blue. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    You're welcome Dave, I really enjoy them too.
     
  6. Bob Lovely

    Bob Lovely Super Gort Staff

    John,

    Thanks for the clarification and confirmation! Somehow, I feel a sense of affirmation....

    Carry on!

    Bob:D
     
  7. Gardo

    Gardo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
    Another great story, John. So the whole track was basically live-in-the-studio? Amazing.

    I love the song (and I even like side one of the album, especially "Flowers and Beads"), but this one is also a real memory-lane item for me: I vividly recall all the guys in elementary school slapping their desks in a drumming contest as they reproduced the solo from IAGDV. BUMPbumpbumpbumpbumpbump BADADADABUMPbumpbumpbumpbumpbump. And so forth.
     
  8. Sckott

    Sckott Hand Tighten Only.

    Location:
    Sagamore Beach, Ma
    The story in abridged format is actually in the Rhino remaster with the ani-motion front cover. This version of the story is much more in depth. ;)

    I like the rest of this album too. "Anything You Want", and "Are You Happy". Metamorphosis and HEAVY were also very good.

    With Vanilla Fudge, they remain heavy rock mainstays that faired well together with The Cream and Led Zeppelin. It changed how Atlantic did Rock, forever. :)
     
  9. CardinalFang

    CardinalFang New Member

    Location:
    ....
  10. Dave

    Dave Esoteric Audio Research Specialistâ„¢

    Location:
    Greater Vancouver
    Now if I could only find out what is the best available sound of this album. Is it the MFSL, is it the first run CD? No vinyl please.

    Gret thread BTW John.;)
     
  11. JohnT

    JohnT Forum Resident

    Location:
    PA
    Great story! I was 14, growing up a couple miles away. Could'a went to the sessions....
     
  12. John B

    John B Once Blue Gort,<br>now just blue. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
  13. Dan C

    Dan C Forum Fotographer

    Location:
    The West
    It was actually called "In the Garden Of Eden" originally?:eek: :eek:

    Anyone recall an episode of The Simpsons where Bart sneaks this song with it's original title into the hymnal one Sunday morning? :D (The episode "Bart Sells His Soul")

    Dan C
     
  14. John B

    John B Once Blue Gort,<br>now just blue. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    Very funny scene! :laugh:
     
  15. Sckott

    Sckott Hand Tighten Only.

    Location:
    Sagamore Beach, Ma
    From eBay:

    "Yup, this is the one --- digga digga doont doont......dunt dunt! Original pressing on Atco Stereo SD 33-250...."
     
  16. Ed Bishop

    Ed Bishop Incredibly, I'm still here

    Johnny B. Gort does it again! Excellent story, John; you're becoming the DaveB of rock'n'roll anecdotes. Keep 'em comin'.

    The original Atco US pressing has the tri-color label; most average pressings you find have the yellow label(blehh). Although a mono pressing has been listed in some guides, I've yet to find one, although a WLP mono DJ pressing might be out there. Whether it's a fold-down or not, can't say, but either, if they exist, would be very rare.

    The 45 charted twice, in the summer of '68 and spring of '69, as other Atco 45's of the era("Sunshine Of Your Love," "You Keep Me Hangin' On")seemed to do. That a proper stereo edit of the title hit exists, like "White Room," suggests it was a fold-down.

    The album debuted in Billboard's Top Lp charts for July 20, 1968, at #117; first hit the national top ten(at #10)with the 10/5 chart; yet did not hit its peak position(#4)until the 8/9/69 chart; by then, its followup, BALL, had already hit that peak months earlier and was far down the chart while the other would hang on for 140 consecutive weeks before leaving the chart in March 1971.

    And I dig the entire album, too. Grew up with it, I know it's not a great album, but it is a highly enjoyable one, like the first VANILLA FUDGE was.
    Great time capsule, and the use of portions during the climactic finish of Michael Mann's MANHUNTER must be experienced to be appreciated; mesmerizing, great use of rock and cinema together.

    Curious PS: In Joel Whitburn's Top Lp's book, title is translated as "In The Garden Of Life"

    ED:cool:
     
  17. stereoptic

    stereoptic Anaglyphic GORT Staff

    Location:
    NY
     
  18. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    If "Woulda Cudda Shudda", oops, I mean "In A Gadda Da Vida" was recorded on an eight-track machine, my name is Uncle Wiggly.

    :rolleyes:
     
  19. BradOlson

    BradOlson Country/Christian Music Maven

    Very funny, Steve.
     
  20. Dave B

    Dave B Senior Member

    Location:
    Nokomis, FL
    I remember buying this album and driving my parents nuts by playing it on thier Hi-Fi console in our living room. The big ten inch paper woofers had a lot more oomph than my little Wards Airline speakers.
    I actually think this song has one of the few drum solos that work on record. Too bad it spawned a million more!
    I like the next album Ball almost as much as this one.
     
  21. Dan C

    Dan C Forum Fotographer

    Location:
    The West
    The use of the song in "Manhunter" was indeed brilliant. One of the coolest marriages of song and visuals in any movie I can think of.

    Dan C
     
  22. Dan C

    Dan C Forum Fotographer

    Location:
    The West
    Ultra-Sonic

    Just remembered where I saw Ultra-Sonic mentioned before.
    Billy Joel's great album "Turnstiles" was recorded there and at Caribou Recorders in Colorado (I drove up there once, sort of a pilgrimage:D. Much of the studio burned years ago and was never rebuilt.).

    Anyone know if Ultra-Sonic is still around?

    Dan C
     
  23. sgraham

    sgraham New Member

    Location:
    Michigan
    Would that be WKNR (see recent thread)?

    (BTW I hated the single edits of both In A Gadda Davida and You Keep Me Hanging ON (Vanilla Fudge), not to mention Sunshine of your Love.)
     
  24. Ed Bishop

    Ed Bishop Incredibly, I'm still here

    :laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

    No: your name is soon to be 'Daddy Steve':)

    Seriously....four-track, right? Not only that, but the hiss level of the title track had Gold Star all over it(nice that the Lp has the credit!)

    ED:cool:
     
  25. John B

    John B Once Blue Gort,<br>now just blue. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    Please elaborate sir - don't leave us in suspenders.
     
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