“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly

If all you’ve ever heard is the single edit of this song, it sounds like a classic: one of the earliest pioneers of Heavy Metal, with one of the great Rock guitar riffs of the Sixties, and a lyric that, say what you will about it, is just enigmatic enough in its stupidity to provide some amusement. The reason many people hate this song doesn’t really become clear until you listen to the full-length, seventeen-minute album version of the song.

Now, it’s entirely possible to make seventeen consecutive minutes of music consistently engaging (I’ve seen plenty of Classical composers and Jazz musicians sustain the listeners’ interest for almost twice that long), but the members of Iron Butterfly are far too self-indulgent and sloppy to pull it off. The full-length track goes well enough for the first few minutes, but then they proceed to repeat the aforementioned great riff over and over until you never want to hear it again, let their drummer indulge himself with almost three minutes of uninspired drum solo, and make a bunch of unpleasant noises that make it seem like they discovered Industrial Music twenty years early, but hadn’t figured out how to actually make it listenable yet.

Some might try to make comparisons between this and the Grateful Dead, but the Dead’s extended jam sessions (at least on a good day) were far more sophisticated and varied than this. Remember, the Dead had a Jazz man (Phil Lesh) as their bassist, and their jams owed as much to Miles Davis as they did to earlier Psychedelic Rock. These guys, on the other hand, sound like they wrote and recorded a great three minute single and then just amused themselves in the studio for fifteen more minutes, and no-one had the good sense to tell them to leave that part off the album.

Verdict: Good for the single version, but pretty bad on the whole for the album version.

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