Originally published in 1968, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is the best known album by Psychedelic Rock group Iron Butterfly. The first album to ever go platinum, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is one of those albums nearly every every aging hippie either has, or used to have. For most of these people though, it probably hasn't been played in decades. Heavy on the distortion guitar and the electric organ, this album would be right at home in an old van with large amounts of ceremonial substances.
The Tracks. Time in Parenthesis:
Most Anything You Want (3:44)
Flowers and Beads (3:05)
My Mirage (5:15)
Are You Happy (4:27)
Aside from the title track, this album is for the most part forgettable. The songs are fairly simple pop melodies, with basic lyrics and instrumentation. There are a few points of brilliance, however, but all in all, the first five songs are lackluster. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, on the other hand, is consistently considered one of the greatest rock songs ever.
The title track is, simply put, a classic. Its seventeen minutes are one of the high points in the Psychedelic Rock movement; very few songs from that genre have the fame (or infamy) that In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida has. Like the rest of the album, the lyrics are fairly simplistic and minimal, but people don't listen to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida for the lyrics, they listen to it for the instrumental portion.
The instrumental portion is about as close to a symphonic piece as one gets in rock and roll. It contains one of the longest drum solos in Rock and Roll, similar in length to Led Zeppelin's Moby Dick; its guitar work has some incredibly artistic uses of distortion, and its organ portions are in many ways the best on the album. It all adds up to an incredibly well done piece of work which is, unfortunately, altered by most commercial plays of the song.
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida was made in the days of AM Radio, and for some time, the limitations commercial AM radio placed on the song meant it wasn't able to be played. Informal rules and traditions limited the length of songs able to be played on AM stations, and because of this, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida was not able to be played on these stations. FM stations, which were run much more like todays typical college radio stations, did not have these limitations, and thus, were able to play the song. Thus, they saw a ratings jump due to the playing of this song. AM stations were hamstrung until a DJ out of Detroit was authorized by Atlantic Records to release a version with 14 minutes cut from the song. After this was done, AM stations were able to play the song, and capitalize on its success.
The song is still played today on classic rock stations, though is not a staple song on most stations' playlists. Its length still precludes it from being played too often; even FM radio has, for the most part, migrated to the short music sets which dominated AM radio. Thus, unless the station is running some special promotional gimmick, the shortened version is played.
In my opinion, this album is worth being added to anyone's record collection. Yes, the first five songs are mindless pop music, but the last song is simply brilliant. This is one of many cases where it's well worth it to buy the album, as most Greatest Hits compilations have the bastardized short version.
Mad Props go out to BBL for emailing me a couple excellent corrections on the history of the industry.