A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
So there I was, jumping up and down on a king-sized bed in an expensive hotel in Miami Beach, drinking rum straight from the bottle. And right beside me, jumping up and down, playing the air-guitar and blasting out his famous song In A Gadda Da Vida, was Doug Ingle:
Ina gadda da vida, honey
Don't you know that I'm lovin' you
Ina gadda da vida, baby
Don't you know that I'll always be true
Not to be outdone, I pranced on the king-sized bed like Mick Jagger and shouted:
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten --
Wait! Wait! my new best bud Doug Ingle said That’s great, man. Did you write that?
I thought he was kidding, so I said, swaying only slightly Oh yeah, that’s a little ditty I wrote in 1926 when I was poet laureate of Ireland and director of the Abbey Theater.
And my bleary-eyed friend said Cool. Could you write something for the band?
Yeah, Doug said, gesturing at the young men passed out in various configurations around the room. Our band. Stark Naked and the Car Thieves.
Now you have to understand that I knew Doug had made millions off his song In A Gadda Da Vida before he left Iron Butterfly, and now with his new band, he was hoping to have another huge hit. I, on the other hand, was an unemployed, barely-published poet who was known to have a small drinking problem. So I did a quick calculation of the difference between his life and mine, and suddenly stone-cold sober said Sure, I could write you something…. So, how does this work?
Doug waved his hand Easy-peasy. In the morning go back to Dallas and wait by your phone. My agent will call you.
Then we went back to drinking rum, bouncing on the bed, and playing air guitar. Easy-peasy, indeed.
About 10am, my girlfriend came by the hotel room. She worked as an assistant producer for a record company, and the previous evening she’d introduced me to Doug. Being a sensible girl, she’d left just as the craziness was getting started.
She scooped me off the floor, gave me a clean shirt, and poured me onto an airplane. Back in Dallas, I somehow made it to my apartment, ran to the bathroom, and threw up for a couple of hours.
Then I remembered the telephone sitting on my desk. It was the 1970s, so it was a rotary phone the size of my head — which was throbbing. I sat in front of the phone and waited for Doug’s agent to call. I was going to be a rock and roll god! I was ready to start today. Or maybe tomorrow when I stopped seeing double.
I waited for the phone to ring. And waited. And waited.
Forty two years later, I’m still waiting.
Iron Butterfly: In A Gadda Da Vida
Original full version. Running time: 17 minutes.
Song composed by Doug Ingle, lead singer and organist
The video track was recorded on May 27,1968, at Ultrasonic Studios in Hempstead, Long Island, New York.
Text and compilation copyright 2020 Michael Simms