Songs Everyone Should Know
“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”, Iron Butterfly (1968)
I was talking to my friend Gary the other day and I said, “What the hell is ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ anyway? What does that mean?”
He said it means, “In the garden of Eden”. I don’t know whether I knew that and forgot, or never knew that. Getting old I guess. Anyway...thanks Gary! It makes a great idea for a blog too.
I checked out what Gary said, and found that a common story line is that originally it was called “In the Garden of Eden”, or “In the Garden of Venus”, but while they were rehearsing it under the influence of LSD the singer Doug Ingle slurred the words and it became “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”.
To me, Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”, and this song defined the hippy generation. Ok. Well if I can pick a few more let’s throw in Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco” and “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, “I’d Love to Change the World”, by Ten Years After, “Somebody to Love” by Jefferson Airplane, and maybe a little Strawberry Alarm Clock with “Incense and Peppermint”. (Tell me what I left out people! Comments are always welcome!)
Released on the cleverly titled “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” album, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” took up the whole second side of the album. It runs some 17 minutes plus. Wow man!
The song originally only made it to number 30 on the U.S. charts. It has been used a multitude of times since then. It has become a recognizable classic of an era.
Some say, and correctly so I think, that it was significant for the time period, as it was when heavy metal came into full force with songs by Jimmi Hendrix (Purple Haze, Voodoo Child), the Blue Cheer (Summertime Blues, Out of Focus) , and even Carlos Santana (Jingo, Soul Sacrifice) experimenting with a similar sound. There was a distorted minor chord drone there that threatened us with its ‘psychodelia’. In “In-A-Gadda” The jacked organs and drums also add to the surrealism of the song. Mind altering man! Was it the drugs that made it sound that way? Or was it that they were trying to sound like the expeience they were having on the drugs? Jimmi would have us believe the later I think.
In-A-Gadda has lyrics like, “Oh, won't you come with me and take my hand? Oh, won't you come with me and walk this land?” which hints of the chauvinism that still abounded at the time and yet is infused with the strange hippy grandiosity that was prevalent in many of the ‘hippy songs”. They speak to broader social concerns. I am walking the land, why? To free it of tyranny and bring my message of peace? Right...