Iron Butterfly

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Iron Butterfly

Iron Butterfly, pioneers in progressive and hard rock; f. 1966, San Diego, Calif. Membership: Doug Ingle, voc, org. (b. Omaha, Nebr., Sept. 9, 1946); Ron Bushy, drm. (b. Washington, D.C., Sept. 23, 1941); Eric Brann, gtr. (b. Boston, Aug. 10, 1950); Lee Dorman, bs., voc. (b. St. Louis, Mo., Sept. 19, 1945). While they are mostly remembered for their monumental 17-minute song “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” Iron Butterfly made important inroads for future heavy metal bands and progressive rock bands. They also received the first platinum record awarded by the RIAA. Formed in 1966 by Doug Ingle, the son of a church organist, they moved to L.A. Ingle initially saw the band as a sidelight—he wanted to take his classical training and write movie scores. The band played frequently and was signed to Atco records. Their first album, Heavy, did fairly well and put them on the road with a Who’s Who of late 1960s rock: The Doors, Cream, The Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and The Who, among others. The Dead were busy introducing lengthy improvisations into a rock format, while The Who was experimenting with long- form songs like “Rael” and music that would eventually form the nucleus of Tommy. In that atmosphere, they started playing a song that Ingle had written before the tour. Originally a country-rock ballad, he introduced the tune to the band after a sleepless day and a half and a bottle of wine. Where he wrote the song as “In the Garden of Eden,” drummer Ron Bushy jotted down the lyrics as he heard them, phonetically. The song remained as he heard it: “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” The song started taking on a life of its own as the band continued to play it live until 1969 when the band broke up. Ingle created some semi-classical organ solos; Brann added searing, feedback guitar solos; and Bushy was even allowed to clock in with a two-minute drum solo. By the time they came to record it, it ran over 17 minutes long. Recorded in one take, it was a tough sell, but eventually Atlantic released it. The side-long song became a favorite at the burgeoning “underground” FM stations—its length allowed deejays the opportunity to use the bathroom or bolt a meal. The song caught on, and the album rose to #4 on the charts, selling over four million copies and earning the RIAA’s first platinum record. A Detroit AM deejay wanted to play the song and created a single-length edit, which Atco released. That version of the song went to #30. The album would spend over a year and a half in the Top Ten.

The follow-up, Ball, actually fared better in the charts, going to #3, but only went gold. A live album in 1970 went to #20, featuring another side- long version of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” this one live. After putting out the #16 Metamorphosis in 1970, the band burned out and called it a day. They reformed in 1975, and again in the mid-1990s, touring with other bands from the 1960s and 1970s as part of nostalgia package tours. In 1995, Rhino released an extended version of the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida album with outtakes and other previously unreleased material.


Heavy (1968); In A Gadda Da Vida (1968); Ball (1969); Iron Butterfly Live (1970); Metamorphosis (1970); Ball/Metamorphosis (1975); Scorching Beauty (1975); Sun and Steel (1976); In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1995); Rare Flight (1984).

—Hank Bordowitz