Psychedelic Skeletons in the Closet–Iron Butterfly
Psychedelic Skeletons in the Closet–Iron Butterfly
Surely known psychedelians Iron Butterfly have no psychedelic skeletons in its closet. If we were true to this column we’d unearth maybe a couple of cha cha cha numbers in Doug Ingle’s foot locker. But consider that their 17-minute-and-five-second opus “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (which if you believe the myths, was either a drunk mispronouncing “in the garden of Eden” or else it was very bad Latin for “play as long as you like, I’ve got to take a monstrous dump”) took all of one album side and stayed on most of turned-on, dropped-out lepidopterists’ turntables from July 1968 until someone pried it off with their bare hands and hurled it out the window, few may have afforded a chance to hear (cue five minute drum roll) THE OTHER SIDE OF IN-A-GADDA-DA-VIDA!
The Butterfly was one of rock’s first paisley-swathed corporate shills.
Barring side six of the Clash’s Sandanista! and sides two, three and four of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, few sides of vinyl were left as undisturbed as side one of Butterfly’s hippie meisterwork. For those of you whose copy still resides at your parents’ house or else wound up in an older brother’s record collection, we decided to take out our own dog-eared copy to find out just what we’ve been missing all these years!
1. “Most Anything You Want”: According to the liner notes, Doug Ingle was “the group’s leader and spokesman,” as well as its “most serious member.” After all, being the author of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” like being the inventor of napalm, is a responsibility one does not take lightly. Doug wrote this opening ditty in which he assures his girl (and us lucky listeners) that “I just want to make you ha-ha-happy, that’s all I’m trying to do.” He does this by dutifully leaving out all the love-man grunts and “awlrights” he shouts during the album’s title track. To the girl, at least, his intentions would seem as pure as the driven Cowsills. For now. This is the same innocuous sound that Iron Butterfly would utilize for its unforgettable Ban roll-on deodorant radio commercial. Yep, the Butterfly was one of rock’s first paisley-swathed corporate shills. But what else would you expect from the only band that was told to fuck off by the organizers of Woodstock because it asked for too much money.
Doug sees “a mirage on the wall” and surmises that “it’s not really there at all.” Of course not, ya idjit! That’s why it’s called a mirage!
2. “Flowers and Beads”: Sample this next pearl of wisdom, also from dandy Doug: “Flowers and beads are one thing, but havin’ you, girl–THAT’S something!” The statement is a bold one for 1968-Äfuck daffodils and plastic costume jewelry, what does a guy have to do to get a little nookie around here? Whether the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints” was the inspiration for this tune is unclear, but with all the harpsichord sounds, you kind of expect Shirley Jones and David Cassidy to start going “ba ba ba ba ba” in the background any minute.
3. “My Mirage”: Doug sees “a mirage on the wall” and surmises that “it’s not really there at all.” Of course not, ya idjit! That’s why it’s called a mirage! Doug’s solution to this very serious problem is that he will draw his mirage on that very same wall for all the beautiful people who come to his home to enjoy. But what if Doug’s mirage turns out to be a dark tunnel? And what if, just like in a Roadrunner cartoon, as soon as he finishes rendering it, an oncoming train rushes out, killing all those beautiful people instantly? Bummer, man!
4. “Termination”: “Spinning in circles, miracles happen/As laurel-lined shores bleed me to my doom/This is termination, the outcome of your life.” Since neither guitarist Erik Keith Braunn nor bassist Lee Dorman is the group’s designated spokesman, their songs are not really expected to make all that much sense. According to the liner notes, Braunn’s only concern in 1968 was “the Iron Butterfly, turtleneck sweaters, bananas and the fairer sex,” leading one to believe he left the group in 1971 when his concern for bananas became too overpowering. Dorman, on the other hand, is said to be the humorist of the group. Yet the only funny thing about this tune is how much it sounds like “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”
5. “Are You Happy”: “Took a pretty girl on a date last night/And let me tell you now she was groo-vay!” Yet when Doug kisses her, his mind drifts back to an old love, the one he couldn’t make “ha-ha-happy.” So he pops the question “Are You Happy” over and over, in the same manner that most vaudevillians ask, “Is everybody happy?” Apparently, he gets tired of waiting around for an answer, and, after the instrumental break, he begins demanding that she tell him now that she’s happy. Nothing like the power of suggestion to work wonders on your mirth cells. Doug probably just wants to make sure you’re in the perfect frame of mind for his “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” just a flip side away. As gardens of Eden go, this one is about as idyllic as Dante’s Inferno. And the worst part of it is, you can’t seem to get the Beelzebub away from that confounded drum kit!