The Hidden Meaning Of Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

"Wait a minute, this sounds like rock and/or roll," says Reverend Lovejoy on the episode of The Simpsons where Bart switches out the hymnals with copies of "In the Garden of Eden" by I. Ron Butterfly. Of course, the joke on the churchgoers (and the poor organist who passes out at the end of the 17-minute hippie anthem) is that it's actually the sheet music to the 1968 bad trip of a hit song "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" by Iron Butterfly.

But the biblical reference is actually on the mark. Public Radio International spoke with WNYC radio host John Schaefer about how the song became a hit completely by accident. He said that lead singer Doug Ingle "was drunk or high or both, and slurred the words 'in the garden of Eden,'" just like Bart's joke.

The epic song that Ultimate Guitar posits as a contender for the first heavy metal song ever was written as a love song from Adam to Eve, but in this version it seems Adam was the one who dipped a bit too much into the forbidden fruit. The mystery behind the slurred lyrics gave the song the right kind of controversy it needed to stand out in the world of 1960s psychedelic rock.

The lyric that was never meant to be

Fans of that overwrought genre (and The Simpsons) can thank their lucky stars (and drugs, obviously) for the bit of serendipity that put the hidden meaning in Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." Had the band members not been spaced out on who-knows-what, we wouldn't get cracked up by Homer reminding Marge, "Remember when we used to make out to this hymn?" And that old hippie you work with would have to insert a different band name when he pulls out the classic, "That time I saw..." when disparaging younger generations about not understanding music because they don't listen to it on big, scratchy, unwieldy pieces of vinyl.

According to Schaefer, "What you're hearing, in fact, wasn't supposed to be recorded — this was a soundcheck. The producer hadn't arrived and the band was just kind of vamping in the studio, but the engineer was rolling tape." In the end, the band liked the messed up line and kept it in the recording they sent off to radio stations.

Speculation as to the true meaning of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" raged for decades, but now the debate can be put to rest. But other mysteries abound: Iron Butterfly's hit isn't music history's only case of strange lyrics that don't mean what you think they mean.