In the Garden of Eden, Baby

In a gadda da vida, honey
Don’t you know that I’m lovin’ you
In a gadda da vida, baby
Don’t you know that I’ll always be true…

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly, it came out in 1968. I was six. I’d like to postulate that as a precocious, headbanging child, I walked around my house flinging my mane of long curly hair forward and back in time with the music, much like how my kids, five and two years old, made drums out of beach buckets and sang along to the KKK Took My Baby Away by the Ramones. But my household wasn’t like that. I recited sing-song nursery rhymes and sported a crew cut.

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, do you know this song? I asked Susan that tonight; she does. That surprised me. She’s six years younger than me, wasn’t a teenage stoner, doesn’t even like heavy metal. Maybe this is one of those songs that permeates culture so deeply it touches everybody. You’ll have to let me know in the comments.

A clean, rapid, climbing scale on an organ. A clear, deep base lays out a simple melody. A fuzzbox guitar picks up the melody, pushes it into a higher octave. The organ, now raspy fills in the blank spaces. Seventeen seconds in, a wall of sound, a rocking buzz. A deep, resonant voice brings in the lyrics.  

Oh, won’t you come with me-he-he?
And I’ll take your hand-and-and.

This song is an effing masterpiece.

I’m always late to the game. I started carrying a smartphone only three years ago. And while I’ve listened to music on Sophie’s phone, primarily in the car, hundreds of times, I’ve never downloaded a song to my own phone. Until now. Part of the issue is I’m cheap. I’ve bought all the music I like, already, on CD. The thought of buying it again so I can get it on my iPhone drives me nuts. So in the car, I play CDs. At home, I use Alexa or a computer.

Like all libraries around the United States right now, the one where I work is repeatedly reminding thousands of patrons that they don’t need to come into the library to be library users. E-Books, e-Audio books, downloadable magazines, and YouTube videos stream many (most?) of our services right into their home. One of the products we license and then offer to our patrons for free is called Freegal. It’s a commercial-free music streaming platform. And each week, users are permitted to download five songs to keep permanently. Guess what I downloaded last week.

I joined the burn-out crowd in ninth grade. A friend smuggled a jelly jar full of gin into a school dance, a night that introduced me to several new people. Two months later I was hanging with a completely different crowd. This is when I first heard In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. When I think back, I’m sure I only heard it a handful of times during high school. And maybe a handful more in college. And maybe two or three times as an adult. How can I be so sure? The song is seventeen minutes long. They don’t play it on the radio, and I never bought the album. And frankly, it just isn’t the sort of song any of my friends would own.

Some folklore surrounds the song. From Wikipedia:  According to drummer Ron Bushy, organist-vocalist Doug Ingle wrote the song one evening while drinking an entire gallon of wine. When the inebriated Ingle played the song for Bushy, who wrote down the lyrics for him, he was slurring so badly that what was supposed to be “in the Garden of Eden” was interpreted by Bushy as “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”. More folklore, Iron Butterfly, along with Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and maybe one or two other late sixties bands invented the sound we now recognize as heavy metal.

I don’t want to sound hyperbolic, but this is the comparison that comes to mind. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, fourth movement—the Ode to Joy. Instantly recognizable from the first measure, building and reimagining a theme throughout the piece. Both, equally addictive. The song has flaws, which make it human: There’s a three-minute drum solo six and a half minutes in. Not much of a discernable rhythm, just Bushy banging on the drums—toms and bass drums mostly. In all honesty, it sounds like something I might come up with if I drank too much wine and had the house to myself. It doesn’t sound overly skilled, but for some reason, I want to listen again and again. Also, the lyrics are absolutely horrible. The vocals go out of tune now and then. But still, I find it magical.

Susan says artists, at times, channel the divine. They achieve something so unbelievable, it can only be a god speaking through the mortal. Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the Beatles’ A Day in the Life, Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. For me, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is another example. It’s funny, some of you will click the link and listen. Most of you will think “God, what noise!” But possibly someone will hear what I hear—that moment in history when everything was still perfect and unspoiled, in the Garden of Eden.

34 thoughts on “In the Garden of Eden, Baby

  1. I knew the song. Although I always thought the song was called In the Garden of Eden. I was surprised when I saw what the title actually was. I’m not sure when I first heard it, but I do know it was before The Simpsons had their fun with it because I got the joke.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 Such a classic scene. When I watch things like that, I always wonder why I still don’t watch the Simpsons. We’re actually (as a family) binging Futurama right now, and I saw online that they riff on the song on that show too, Thanks for commenting. even as I was writing, I was thinking, ‘no one’s going to read this $&%t.

      Liked by 1 person

        • With Alexa, we have a $3.99 monthly Amazon music fee. I feel like that’s enough to spend on music. I cringe at how much we pay in tv subscriptions. This free music system is fun, but the selection is a little slim. Also, it includes LOTS of sketchy covers (and not the real artist) of songs that I want to download.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I think we have Google Play Music and that is $9.99 a month. That is a lot, but the kids love it. Trying to find our Google Play sometimes (because someone took it to their room) is the hassle.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s great folklore about the lyrics and I’ll buy it, sounds absolutely plausible. Yes, I’ve heard it a handful of times like you (jelly jar of gin is good), and can still hear it in my head. Must have been WZZO out of Allentown or one of the Philadelphia hard rock stations. One of those stations also played “Fade to Black” in 1985 I think, and that’s when I first heard Metallica: yes, on the radio. If it’s a god and the divine, it’s Dionysus on this one.


    • Dionysus is a good choice. Too bad there isn’t a Greek god of whiskey. Other than a couple of songs, I didn’t get into heavy metal until about 2010 when I started instructing spin classes. Now I’m a pretty big fan, but the metal needs to be HEAVY. I was much more a punk/new wave guy in the 70s – 90s.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Listening now! I think the song came to my awareness after an episode of Home Improvement ages ago, but I never listened in its entirety until now. At the drum solo part – how often do you get music nowadays where they just go off like that? Maybe I’ll check the Beethoven one too!

    That’s a cool service your library offers. I used to have an iPod jammed full of songs I’d downloaded, and had to frequently remove and rotate them because there were too many for the storage space. That all changed with the smartphone and Spotify though. I prefer streaming now because it doesn’t use storage, but there is an option to download songs or playlists to your device if wanted, for those times when you won’t have cell service. For £10/mo it’s so worth it I use it every day. My favourite thing is how well the song suggestions are tailored to your taste, “spot on” I’d say.

    The only dumb thing about the app is the customer service is crap to nonexistent if you have an issue. Also my account got hacked once and someone was using it to listen to some new age classical music; they had made their own playlists and everything. I had to log it off all devices and make my password annoyingly long so no one would try to hack it again. So far so good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry for my novel. Just wanted to add I think you can use Amazon Prime music in the same way, although their library doesn’t seem to be as extensive from my experience.


      • Also, your Beethoven suggestion (which I recognized immediately after it started playing!) I turned put on Moldau by Smetana. I’m not greatly into classical music but oh my that one is just Divine, prob my favourite. Love it so much.

        Liked by 1 person

    • My daughter uses spotify – she gets a student rate of $4 per month. I mostly listen to music in the car and I don’t have unlimited data, so downloaded music is key. I also have trouble with storage. I use a gps mapping system where you need to download maps of areas without cell connection. They’re gobbling up all my free space. I get a message every morning that my cell hasn’t been backed up in a year.


  4. I don’t love the song, but remember it vividly as one unmistakable strip of sound (musical wallpaper) from my middle school years. Kids overdosing on drugs. Vietnam casualties. Anger and upheaval. It defines the late 60s for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was born in 68. I know this song, and all the other bands you mentioned. Of course, I love music, most music. I’m not a big fan of twangy country or divas like Mariah or whoever the popular diva of today is.

    My OMG!! Album is Yes “Tales From Topographic Oceans” , double album with 4 songs. Perfect for groovin on a long drive through pretty country.
    Or laying on your bed alone in the dark when you’re 14 or 15🤣🤣🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was in high school in 1968 when this song came out. I loved it then; it was part of the new “progressive rock” on FM radio. High school was awful, and I regularly shut out the world and listened to all the new music that seemed so alive after the bland Fifties and early Sixties.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This song was featured at our wedding. “Our” song is Wonder a Wonderful World, but our Reggae band said they got this request for a wedding once and they’ve made it a wedding standard. We now consider it our “other song”. I just recently had a disagreement with my 15yo son (who knows everything, you know?) that the title is NOT Garden of Eden!!


    • Dang, I wish this was my “our song” (which happens to be Sweet Potato by Cracker). You could just show your lid the album cover, that ought to end the conversation. I just requested that my 15 yo learn the song on guitar so he’ll incorporate that riff 0in with the 25 other heavy metal riffs he’s playing all the time. Is this Mary Fox? If not, sorry, but I think she’s got a fifteen yo son too.


      • Hi Jeff, Yes, Mary Fox (dunno why my whole name didn’t come through)
        More to the point, Jeff Cann should have been at my wedding!! (do you ever think about who you are still in touch with from your wedding and all the people you SHOULD have invited?)

        So glad to hear E is playing guitar – that’s awesome. My son plays a mouse…that’s about it. Oh, occasionally a joy stick. And yep, my boy is 1 month younger than yours. : ) xoxoxoxoxo

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well yeah, with a reggae band playing inagadda…, I definitely should have been there. Probably when I got married,, I had the largest circle of friends in my life. Since then I quit drinking to get drunk and many dropped off. And then I quit drinking altogether and most of my other relationships evaporated (I blame myself for this one). My wedding would probably have about 10 guests now. A lot of people from high school and college are now in that category I’d call comfortably selfish. They are too conservative and too superior for me to feel comfortable with them any more. At some point the world will reopen and we’ll visit Maine again (family there). I’ll be sure to look you up.


    • In my typical insecure fashion, I note the part of the story you referenced is the part I didn’t write 🙂 I know nothing about your musical taste, which leads me to believe music isn’t all that important to you, but here I am projecting again. I’d be interested in hearing your opinion. In truth, I downloaded it as a lark and didn’t really expect I’d listen to it all the way through but then I wound up loving it. Of course, forty years of listening primarily to punk rock probably lowers my standards significantly. So far no one has told me that it is the work of a muse, so possibly, I’m off base here. But really, it really grabs me.


  8. And now I have that song in my head all weekend. Thanks, Jeff! 😉 I was a teenager in middle school when it came out. I can remember going to a sleepover at a friend’s house and playing that song over and over and over, the way 12-or 13-year-olds do.


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