Iron Butterfly formed in San Diego, California, in 1966 but soon moved to Los Angeles where they were spotted at the Whiskey A-Go-Go and signed to Atlantic‘s subsidiary label, Atco.
The band blended hard rock with ornate, acid-friendly textures. Early in 1968, they issued the Heavy album which bulldozed its way into the lower regions of the US Top 100.
Later that summer, Weis and Penrod departed, superseded by Lee Dorman and teenage guitarist, Erik Braunn, and this line-up subsequently recorded In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.
Late one night, drummer Ron Bushy came home from his job as a pizza chef to find that singing keyboardist Doug Ingle had sunk a bellyful of red wine and composed a new song.
Too drunk to speak properly, Ingle slurred the title, which Bush wrote down phonetically. And so it was that “In the Garden of Eden” became “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”.
Originally a ballad, the new band developed the track on the road, eventually recording a lysergic leviathan of droning guitar, mystical organ and exploratory drum solo.
The result was a classic album which was a huge hit with the nascent FM radio format and hit the US Top Five, becoming the very first album to be certified platinum, for sales of over one million copies (in fact the album went on to sell over three million copies).
The edited title track – trimmed from the 17-minute album version – gave them additional success in the singles chart.
With the album still riding high in the charts, their 1969 Ball album bounced into the Top Three.
In 1970, Iron Butterfly introduced the twin-guitar assault of Mike Piera and Larry Reinhardt who featured on their Top 20 set Metamorphosis.
They split soon after, only to surface again in 1975 with two poor efforts, Scorching Beauty and Sun And Steel.
Erik Braunn died in 2003.
About eleven minutes into the album version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, organist Doug Ingle can clearly be heard playing a few bars of the Christmas song God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida was performed as a hymn in the classic episode of The Simpsons where Bart sells his soul to Milhouse.