This Sounds Like Rock and/or Roll: 55 Years of Iron Butterfly’s ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’

a black-and-white photo of the rock band Iron Butterfly from 1969. Left to right are Erik Brann, Ron Bushy, Lee Dorman and Doug Ingle. They are all white men with long hair fashionable at the time. Bushy has a mustache and goatee; Dorman a mustache; the other two are clean-shaven.
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Iron Butterfly in 1969. (left to right): Erik Brann, Ron Bushy, Lee Dorman and Doug Ingle.

Rock band Iron Butterfly released its second album, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, and the legendary single off it that also bears that title, on June 14, 1968.

It makes sense that the album was named after the epic song, which, at around 17 minutes long, occupied the record’s entire Side B (though the single that was released ran at a more radio-friendly length, just under 3 minutes).

Introductory title from a video featuring a 1968 performance of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" by Iron Butterfuly. The image is in black and white, with the song title spelled out in white lettering across a background of swirling psychedelic imagery.


With its famous, almost “churchy’-sounding organ intro; its equally renowned two-and-a-half-minute drum solo courtesy of Ron Bushy; its mix of groovy psychedelia, acid rock and early heavy metal; and fairly simple (and few) lyrics by singer Doug Ingle that are basically about the Bible’s Adam professing his love for Eve, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is one of those epic rock tunes, like The Doors‘ “The End,” that has elements of both self-indulgence and profundity.

And that is why the song has endured as an enjoyable work of art, and been used as both a punchline in something like The Simpsons, and as a dramatic punctuation for scenes in thrillers like Manhunter (1986), where the song’s somewhat eerie, dreamy and almost hypnotic sound — especially in the longer versions, where you can really get lost in its drone — has fit the mood perfectly.

a scene from the 1995 "Bart Sells His Soul" episode of "The SImpsons." It shows an elderly woman playing an organ in church after being tricked by Bart Simpson into playing the 17-minute-long rock track "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." The woman looks exhausted at trying to keep up, and a caption at the bottom reads: "Seventeen Minutes Later."

A poor church organist is tricked into playing the long version of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” in a 1995 Simpsons episode. (

That sort of vibe does punctuate other of the band’s work, which is also worth a listen. But of course it’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” that is their memorable masterwork.

Oh, won’t you come with us, and take our hand, as we check out some notable performances of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” and uses of the song in other popular culture, over the nearly six decades since it was released?

A video track of Iron Butterfly performing “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” around the time of its release:

This performance by Iron Butterfly on Hugh Hefner‘s Playboy After Dark in August 1968 is a real scene, man.

The video features a condensed version of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” as well as the instrumental “Iron Butterfly Theme,” off the band’s debut album, Heavy, released in January ’68.

A 2012 performance of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” that was one of the last featuring original founding band members:

“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” made a classic and hilarious appearance to kick off the 1995 “Bart Sells His Soul” episode of The Simpsons.

Bart replaces his church’s slated list of hymns with the Iron Butterfly tune (called “In the Garden of Eden” to make it seem more church-y). It’s the 17-minute original version, so the other churchgoers and, especially, the poor organist, get quite a workout before a horrified Rev. Lovejoy realizes that this actually sounds like “rock and/or roll.”

Speaking of art that can combine self-indulgence and profundity, Michael Mann‘s music video-style climax to his 1986 thriller Manhunter, an adaptation of Thomas Harris‘ novel Red Dragon, uses “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” in a manner as effectively over-the-top as the song can get at times.

In 1991’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” both elicits a laugh and then some horror when it plays on the television as Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) invites a potential victim on a very bad trip while listening to the psychedelic epic.