iron(ic) butterflies

by Art Chantry ( )

the very first record i ever bought was ‘in-a-gadda-da-vita’, the Lp by the iron butterfly. (the second was the beatles’ ‘revolver’).

back when i was a larvae, i thought the iron butterfly was the heaviest coolest band of all time. they were certainly one of the heaviest early bands that pushed toward the term ‘heavy metal’ (a phrase that first emerged in steppenwolf’s ‘born to be wild’ single about the same time). but, there many other bands that pre-date the butterfly as precursors of ‘heavy metal.’ most rock historians tend to start with a mention of the band ‘blue cheer’. but, i have found examples that pre-date them and could be considered early ‘hard rock/heavy metal starting points as well. go listen to (tacoma’s finest) the sonics’ cover version of “louie, louie”. sort of makes you wonder, donnit? and then you have the entire link wray catalog. with louder amplification, link wray may have been the first heavy metal headbanger. dunno, really.


but the iron butterfly was for me the very beginning of all things heavy and loud. i blame them for the toll on my hearing over the decades (significant loss). listening to in-a-gadda-da-vita cranked up to eleven is what started my epic journey into deafness and hangovers. i was so in love with this band that when led zeppelin released their first record, i thought hey were just an iron butterfly rip-off, even copping a lame imitation of their cool name – iron butterfly/led zeppelin. well, i WAS fourteen at the time, ya know…

this cover is the first iron butterfly LP, appropriately titled ‘HEAVY”. the illustration is by armando busich. i think this actually has my vote as one of the SILLIEST record covers of all time. even when i was a little kid fanboy of this band, this cover embarrassed me. i would hide it in the back of my collection (basically behind the beatles’ ‘revolver’) just so my friends wouldn’t see it. if you look closely at the drawing on the cover (note, BIG STONE EAR combined with “GENUINE IRON BUTTERFLY and KOZMOS), even the DRAWINGS of the band members make them look embarrassed to be in it. pretty funny stuff.

but, listen to the (lamely named) “iron butterfly theme” on this album sometime. try to tell me it ain’t heavy, dude. when i was a little kid, i would actually CRY for that giant dying metal butterfly. but, i never could stand mothra.


AC:first concert i ever went to was jimi hendrix. i’m very proud of that one….a friend of mine who lived in a small town eastern washington heard iron butterfly play at their school prom. it was a couple years after their heyday, of course. a giant downhill slide….i saw jimi at sick’s stadium. i was like the second to last show before he died. and TRUST me, it was not a great show. he really hated being there and let everybody know it in spades. he did a prefunctory short set, insulted everybody, and split. it was in a downpour, too….

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