To casual observers of the sixties, West Coast band Iron Butterfly were a one-hit wonder with their single In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Scratch beneath the surface and you find that their similarly titled album from 1968 was the first certified platinum disc and one of the decade’s biggest sellers, with over two and a half million copies. The title track took up the whole of side two, a rarity in those days, and the band’s acid-drenched sounds fused with something heavier made them a massive influence on both sides of the Atlantic to music which followed later. So they weren’t exactly your average band in town on Monday night and expectations were high.
Two of their founding members, Lee Dorman (bass and vocals) and Ron Bushy (drums), are still with the band, augmented by Charlie Marinkovich (lead guitar and vocals) and Martin Gerschwitz (keyboards). Appropriately they started their set with Iron Butterfly Theme and moved straight into Unconscious Power, both songs featuring the trademark heavy bass riffs, piercing guitar sound,
pulsating keyboards and pounding drums so loved by their fans. There followed In The Time Of Our Lives, dedicated to a long lost friend and Stone Believer, an epitaph to the sixties chemical culture, both in a similar vein to the previous songs. The lighter Flowers and Beads followed before their heavier tribute to the motorcycling fraternity Easy Rider. Fans were then treated to an extended bluesy number, Butterfly Blue which allowed each member to show their considerable musical skills to great effect.
The finale, which must be almost obligatory, was In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, the album version. The song was played to perfection, with guitar, bass and organ riffs that propelled the song to the point where the instruments stopped, which allowed Ron Bushy to play his well-crafted drum solo. This wasn’t an overtly flashy solo, but for a reason- it added to the atmosphere of the song and was an integral part of it. Then the instruments returned, Charlie Marinkovich went for a walkabout in the audience while playing, and returned to the stage in time for the climax of the song, delivered with power, precision and panache.
The appreciative audience witnessed a show of superb musicianship by a group of historical importance whose talents have certainly not dimmed with age. For anyone not yet acquainted with this fantastic group do try to catch them on their current tour. If not, try their first couple of albums Heavy and In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida for a start, as well as their superb live album. For fans of the genre, or for anyone looking for something different from the mainstream, Iron Butterfly are still five star performers and I would thoroughly recommend their music. It would be a shame to miss out on a band who deservedly hold such cult status.