Thursday, December 08, 2005

My Mirage

The odd thing is that there's an Iron Butterfly's Greatest Hits disc out there. How many Iron Butterfly hits can you name? One. You don't often hear very many Iron Butterfly "rock blocks" or even "two-fers" on classic rock radio, and that's because the only Iron Butterfly song that ever gets played on the radio is -- you know. So the creation of a greatest hits disc seems a little unrealistic. But what really smarts is the fact that of the 21 tracks on there, "Lonely Boy" (off of the record called, simply, Ball) didn't make the cut. This song is like Olduvai Gorge and Lucy for a certain branch of rock and roll DNA. Listen to the weird affected palpitating man-flutter of the vocals. It's as if singer Doug Ingle is trying to sing through a whirring fan, emitting little chopped-up bits of the phrase. The stop-action sound is like the vocal equivalent of a strobe effect. There's that, which reminds me most of all of Aaron Neville or Otis Redding. It's acid-damaged blue-eyed soul. But then there's the fake-gruff, tuck-your-chin-into-your-neck-curl-the-lips-and-sing-from-your-gums technique. Draw a line from "Lonely Boy" to Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and from there extrapolate to Creed's Scott Stapp and a million other moaning and groaning head shakers. "In the Time of Our Lives," also off of Ball, did make it onto the greatest hits collection.

Iron Butterfly evidently hung out in the same L.A. scene as Love and Buffalo Springfield. You get the feeling that Kahlil Gibran, Charles Manson and J.S. Bach were equally influential on the sound. Other things to love about Iron Butterfly: the bone-headed stoner oxymoron; and the fact that they have a song called "Iron Butterfly Theme" - way more bands need theme songs. And then there’s the conspiracy theories about the vanishing of their bass player.
In 1999 Maxim magazine ran a really long story about the 1995 disappearance and suspicious death of Philip Taylor Kramer, who played bass in a mid-70s incarnation of IB. There are some fantastic paranoid conspiracy theories involving travel at light speed, aliens, nuclear missiles and the Defense Department.

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