Monday, January 7, 2019


With Forgotten Hits now featuring the music and times of 50 years ago, namely 1969, I had this happen today and it took me back to January, 1969. 

I was driving across town today and my MP3 player was set on shuffle and for the FIRST time ever, on came the LONG version of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida."  I played it all the way for the first time in decades.  MAN, me and my brothers ate that long version up so much in '68 and '69.  It led the way, IMO, for a change in music.  Did I miss ITS 50th anniversary box set somehow???  I played it five more times in the rest of the day.  7th Heaven!!! 

One big reason this album was so cool was the great STEREO it used.  Stereo may have been well known to FM followers in the bigger cities, but in Dodge City, Kansas, we Besch brothers were inducted into the stereo sound really for the first time in 1968.  LOTS of cool stuff was coming out in stereo (altho most 45s were still mono releases) and mono was starting to be sold cheap by the year's end.  Cutouts of recent Beatles and others would be as cheap as $1.87 when they were normally about $3.89 or so in DC.  But I digress. 

I had known of Iron Butterfly from earlier in 1968 when they appeared on American Bandstand on March 2nd.  The San Diego band's first LP, "Heavy," had just hit Billboard's LP charts and the single, "Unconscious Power"  would be passed over quickly.  Personally, I recorded the LP cut "You Can't Win," which they performed in lip-synch on the show, with our reel-to-reel machine.  As the year moved along, the new "heavy" sound was starting to infiltrate the LP charts more and more and even gained some prominence with AM singles hits as well.  Atlantic/Atco was leading the way in this area at the time.  Just as Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" (in its second incarnation on the charts in '68) and Vanilla Fudge's "You Keep Me Hangin' On" were reaching Top 6 status nationally that summer, the new Butterfly under three minute single edit of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" started its rise, but a month into its chart ventures, something blew us all over and the song got lost for a bit. A 7-minute single, "Hey Jude," hit the charts.  Nothing else seemed to matter much in some ways when this single hit us all like a mallet when we all pulled that first ever Apple 45 out of its sleeve proclaiming "The Beatles on Apple" and plopped it on the turntable. 

OK, so Cream had started the progressive Atco movement and the Beatles had a long song that everyone loved.  So, what makes "In-A-Gada-Da-Vida" so special? 

"In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" was a game changer in many ways.  It influenced music for decades to come.  Even the Beatles never recorded an 18 minute song that filled an entire album side and I am not sure such would have the magnitude of this one song -- IN THE U.S.  I don't think the Butterfly album or 45 ever had the appeal that it did here. 

Anyway, the album rose steadily for three months on Billboard's Top LP charts before finally reaching Top 10 status in the first week of October, 1968.  Within a month, it had fallen out of the Top 10, just as the 45 had peaked at a modest #30.  I must say that the 45 deserved better.  The edit of a 17 minute song to under 3 minutes was done beautifully.  I heard the 45 first, like many, since it was riding the charts and airwaves a month before the LP was released.  AM airplay was so-so, despite all the Atco/Atlantic recent success. 

Despite dropping from the Top 10 LP chart, it quickly jumped back into the Top 10 and, despite the Beatles' "White Album" jumping to the top and gaining a gold record instantly, the Iron Butterfly's second album was a solid Top 10 and after five months, had also gained gold record status, finally.  I count 44 Top 10 weeks for the LP in 1968-9 on the Cash Box LP charts from its first week in the Top 10 in '68.  There must have been more hits on this LP, right? 

Actually, NO.  Did anyone ever HEAR the other LP cuts?  Did anyone ever even PLAY the other side of the album?  This was unheard of!  That LONG version was suddenly STUCK on FM's and turntables for an entire year.  I picture millions of incense sticks burning and bongs flaring to this LP side that year of 68/9. 

Butterfly's NEW album, "Ball" (released in February, '69) would actually chart higher, reaching #1 on Cash Box and #3 in Billboard.  I have to say that, personally, "Soul Experience" from that LP was just that and listening to it with headphones in 1969, it was a masterpiece in itself.  However, the new LP was and still is totally overshadowed by the "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" LP, which ran thru the LP charts for 140 weeks in Billboard.  

There was something else adding to the experience of this LP that had not previously been so big of a deal.  Sure, you could put the LP on at home or in the car, choose to listen to Chuck Buell and WLS play the AM hits on your AM radio, OR you could hope to hear the 17 minute classic on FM as it became the underground radio anthem long before "Stairway to Heaven" took over years later.   BUT, a new idea gave you that chance to have YOUR music in YOUR car ANYTIME you wanted it!  The 8-track tape had given us all a new option for car listening.  Yeah, tapes had been an experiment between 4-tracks, 8-tracks and cassettes, but the 8 track cartridge soon became the item of choice for the car.  If you wanted  to hear the lyrics clearly, buy the LP.  If you wanted to groove in the car with friends and know every part of the song (even with the changing tracks CLICK) with few lyrics and memorable parts you could almost skip to, if needed, you chose to buy THIS 8-track.  Before "Abraxas" was an 8-track everyone partied with in the car, Iron Butterfly had led the way. 

At the end of 1969, AM/FM choices had become more clear cut and Billboard's year end charts ranked Iron Butterfly as the #6 album selling artists (#4 vocal group) despite not being among the entire top 100 singles artists!  Not surprisingly, Iron Butterfly were the #1 8-track artists, with the Beatles only #20.  They were #3 in cassettes and #5 in the failing 4-track tape category.  Yet, Billboard's story on their year in review said very little about the band, only stating (BURIED IN THE 3RD PAGE OF TOPICS) that the LP had been near the top 10 all year.  Sorry, Kent, but 1969 SPOILER ALERT: The same issue ranked the album as #1 for entire year!  A little more respect, please?  No Grammy nomination in any category for this LP?  I guess it IS hard to find a category for such an LP, right? 

In June of '69, the short 45 was reissued thanks to LP sales still being around the Top 10.  The 45 reached #68 and two months after it had again left the charts after 17 weeks on the Hot 100, the LP, which had previously peaked at #5 in late '68, finally reached its Billboard Top LPs' peak at #4 IN ITS 58th WEEK on the chart!  It peaked a whole YEAR after it first charted!!!  This LP defied description.  The LP's first week of July 20, 1967, saw it debut with a bullet at #117, only bettered by the post-death compilation, "The Immortal Otis Redding."  Also in their first week then were Jose Feliciano's first LP, "Feliciano," and our own New Colony Six jumping on at #173 just ahead of Creedence Clearwater Revival's first album at #179. 

At #4 on August 9th, 1969, so much had changed -- except the appeal of this LP!  Woodstock was but a week away. CTA's first LP was struggling to keep sales moving, which would not be a problem soon.  Instead of Hendrix, Tiny Tim and Cream in the Top 10 like week one, we saw Blood, Sweat and Tears, the Hair soundtrack and Crosby, Stills and Nash as new competitors.  It just didn't matter.  The #1 LP in the first week of 1968 was Simon & Garfunkle's "Bookends" -- it was not on the chart on August 9th a year later.  Similar fates were happening.  "The White Album" that had taken the sails out of #5 "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" at Christmas 1968 was now #70! 

Yet, the song was what changed history most, IMO.  IF you are still reading, put the long version on and follow along ... and remember! 

Examining this song now after hearing it a million times 50 years ago brings new light.  From that amazing keyboardist Doug Ingle's opening organ chord progression with Ron Bushy's drum beat and Lee Dorman's bass backing and the LOUD Erik Braunn fuzz guitar, it becomes an instant classic when Ingle's other worldly vocal comes in.  If he began by singing "In the Garden of Life," who knows if we would have ever heard this amazing track.  That is what the song's title is supposed to mean, but when he COMMANDS "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, honey, don't you know that I'm lovin' you," you feel the flower power explode in your ears.  The stereo is just awesome.  You just have to crank it full volume.  Not a lot of lyrics to this one, but we all know every one easily and sing along proudly as if it's our anthem. 

Just after the two minute mark, the 45 version disappears into this mesmerizing work beginning with the keyboard solo that just blows one away, likely influenced some by the Doors.  Then, about 3:30 in, the guitar solo rocks us, sounding at times like the sounds that Tommy James would soon be making in HIS long version of "Crimson & Clover."  If Tommy wasn't channeling this song when he did his classic long version, I'd be amazed.  However, I have to believe that the middle of Crimson & Clover was edited IN to the 45, instead of the 45 edited OUT of the long version.  The edit is too abrupt to be natural, IMO.  I digress again.  The sounds of Cream can be felt in this passage as well. 

Now at about 6:30 in, it gets nice and quiet and you wonder if this is "Susie Q" by CCR being copied or vice-versa.  The CCR song is another long one at 8+ minutes, but split in half on the 45.  The two songs first charted only two weeks apart on the Hot 100, so who was first with this tapping symbol?  Both were California bands, so maybe one heard the other live?  No doubt that our own FH'er Harvey Kubernick knows the story and can tell us.  Whatever the case, this jumps into the pounding drum solo that is spectacular in stereo and was the start of so many bands adding drum solos to their live acts.  What is likely different, is that this one is so VERY entertaining throughout.  YES, bands do nice drum solos, but are they always INTERESTING like this long classic?  Later in '69, the Beatles' Abbey Road would do the best SHORT clone job of this drum solo that could be.  It's great, but no doubt it was inspired by the Butterfly classic.  Both certainly got pounded by us on our dashboards of our cars as if we could duplicate the originals.  I would think that the Cryan' Shames' drum break in "Greenburg Glickstein" was influenced by this song, as well. 

Back to the track, we eventually find the drums going back and forth with great ambience and phase shifting in our headphones as the keyboard rejoins in a church-like atmosphere that might have made my mom say, "I love this part."  In reality, the drum solo that we think is the whole song is basically three minutes of pure glory.  Then, as the peaceful church sounds descend, suddenly things get quite weird as the guitar screams out at 11 minutes in.  But soon after this 20 second lunacy, a nice veiled version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" can be heard in the organ solo which ascends back into the main song again as it powers to new heights.  Now a transition into the drum solo for a few seconds and then what I think is the music of "Streets of Cairo" if I am correct.  How bizarre, but cool.  It has this wavery effect that Tommy James again used in "Crimson & Clover" to fuller effect.  Then another crazy guitar solo that is superb stereo leading into the FINAL finale' of this 17 minutes of chaos.  The ending part of the 45 edit comes back as well as the closing lyrics, of which there had been NO lyrics for the past 13 minutes!  The beginning keyboard part returns to appropriately close the song. 

OK, so maybe my thoughts above were not coherent, but can you blame me?  This song just begs you play it again and again, AND WE DID!  Well, at least thru 1968 and 1969.  140 weeks!  That's almost three years on the Top LPs charts!  Did we wear all the copies out?  On the first LP chart of January, 1970, the LP still stood proudly at #11.  As that year ended, one can certainly hear the influence on Bloodrock's new single, "D.O.A." too, I think.  The first week of January, 1971, the LP had finally slipped to #152, but was up from 156 the week before! 

On March 20, 1971, the legend ended (for now) when the LP last charted (up two spaces from the previous week!) at #168.  Janis and Jimi had died and Jim Morrison would soon join them.  The Beatles had broken up in this chart run and "Jesus Christ, Superstar" had replaced "Hair" as a top LP.  Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper were new forces in the psychedelic era of the '70's, and yet THIS album was still clinging.  It's just too odd to be true, but it helped close the '60's era, even if it hung on much longer than the legends we love and remember more often.  Take another listen!  WLSClark Besch 

Actually if you put the LP cut on at the start of today's piece, it probably could have played as the soundtrack to the time it has taken to read this far!  (Not quite "Wizard Of Oz" / "Dark Side Of The Moon" worthy, perhaps, but there is no denying your passion!) 

Clark is correct ... despite never reaching #1 ... and having been released some five months before 1969 even began ... Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" LP would go on to rank as Billboard's #1 Album of 1969.  (We were gonna tell you that eleven months from now in our own year-end recap of '69!  lol) 

Sure, I listened to it ... but not to the extent others obviously did.  For me, it was interesting the first couple of times ... but I have never been one for extended drum solos, which then seemed to dominate EVERY concert we went to back in the '70's.  I soon found myself bored with the concept.  (If I'm going to invest seventeen minutes into something today, it'll more likely be "Alice's Restaurant" than "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"!!!) 

But I get it ... and music certainly had taken a major turn by this point.  It was a very different time.  (Brother Mark listened to it intensely as well.  And I cannot help but wonder if, when listening to it in the car on an 8-track player, if it switched channels three times during the course of this one single song?!?!) 

Different strokes for different folks ... but I believe Clark's piece will strike a passion in many of our readers so I am happy to run it. 

Rather than run another 17 minutes here, I will post the single edit which, I have always believed, never really did the song justice.  It seems like there is so much more they could have done to capture a better flavor of what the song was all about.  It's OK ... but the whole "pop hook" that could have made this a hit is missing.  (Ultimately, it peaked at #30 when it was first released as a single in August of '68 ... then climbed to #68 in May of '69 when it was released again.  In all, it spent a total of 17 weeks on Billboard's Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart between its two runs.)
So here it is again ... probably not enough time for an extended bathroom break ... but this is the way many of us first heard this tune.  (kk)