July 25, 2003 – Erik Brann or Braunn was born Rick Davis on August 11th 1950 in Boston, Massachusetts. At 6 while being a resident in Boston, Massachusetts, Erik was accepted as a child into the prodigy program for violin at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. By age 7 he was performing in concerts as violinist. In his early teens he moved to guitar and California with his parents. Starting on the guitar in 1963 Erik studied with local L.A. legends Milt Norman and Duke Miller. The latter noted that every time he gave the precocious Braunn a lesson, Erik would come back with a song he had written around the lesson. Not one to interfere with a budding George Gershwin, Miller encouraged the habit. While in high school, Erik also studied acting from the now renown Robert Carelli and won several awards for Elizabethan Comedy, Shakespeare, and a First Place Award for his lead role in “Dino” at the USC Dramatic Acting Festival. This was followed by another first place in the Elizabethan Comedy “A Shoemakers Holiday” at UCLA.
He recorded an album with his first band “The Paper Fortress” at the age of fourteen before he joined Iron Butterfly’s second line up at the age of sixteen. He was the last of over forty guitarists to audition and was accepted on the spot.
In his tenure with Iron Butterfly they created a language for the title song of their album “In a Gadda da Vida”. Originally only one minute and fifty seconds long, the song was stretched to seventeen minutes plus, due to the lack of enough original material. The way the song turned out was greatly due to an African Mass, Missa Lubba, Braunn had been listening to, as well as the influences garnered during excursions to The Whiskey A-Go-Go, taking in the live sessions of the likes of “Cream” and “The Jimi Hendrix Experience”.
“In-A-Gadda-D-Vida” went on to become the only hit song to cover the entire side of an album, selling more than 30 million copies, outselling the Beatles and Elvis, going on to become the biggest selling record in the history of Atlantic records, firmly planted in the Top Ten of the Billboard Magazines charts for nearly three years, all this without a hit single.
The sales of “Vida” were so unheard of that Ahmet Ertegun, President of Atlantic Records, created the coveted Platinum Award, and it was Erik’s first album with the band. The song is considered significant in rock history because, together with music by Blue Cheer, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Steppenwolf, it marks the early transition from psychedelic music into heavy metal. Erik’s guitar line for that song became one of the Top Three Greatest Rock N’ Roll guitar licks of all time sharing company with The Beatles “DayTripper” and The Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (Billboard and Rolling Stone Magazines). Quickly becoming a staple of American radio soon after its release-with many stations disregarding FCC regulations prohibiting songs of this length to be played on the air-, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” became not just the anthem for hundred of thousands of America’s counterculture, it was heard blasting through the jungles of Vietnam, connecting many homesick GIs with the blossoming pop culture back home.
“Vida” was in the Top Ten of the Charts (Billboard Magazine and Cashbox) when the second album Brann recorded with Iron Butterfly, “Ball” was released. It leapfrogged “Vida” to the number one spot on the charts. Thus “Vida”(#3) and “Ball”(#1) were the only albums that made the Top Ten without a hit single, and made Iron Butterfly the only act to ever have two albums in the Top Five at the same time. Given the fact that this was done in the age of the vinyl album it is a feat unlikely to ever be duplicated.
The album’s mini-bio, written when he was 17, tells of an acting ambition he once had, clothing and food preference and the ease with which rock ‘n roll artists were able to arrange sexual encounters (usually with groupies). It reads: “Although music has always been his one great love, Erik studied drama and before joining the Butterfly, his acting ability had landed him the lead role in a local play. …Erik hopes to, one day, continue in the acting field. Right now, however, his only concern is the Iron Butterfly, turtleneck sweaters, bananas and the fairer sex.”
In 1970, Brann and former Iron Butterfly member Darryl DeLoach, formed Flintwhistle. This band performed live for about a year before breaking up. Between 1972 and 1973, Brann worked solely in the studio on various demos. In 1973, he recorded a couple demos with MCA Records which can be found on bootleg sites. Notable songs from these demos include early versions of “Hard Miseree”, “Am I Down”, and “Scorching Beauty”. In 1974, he reunited with Ron Bushy to form a new version of Iron Butterfly. The 1975 LP Scorching Beauty featured Brann on guitars and vocals, Bushy on drums, Philip Taylor Kramer on bass and Howard Reitzes on keyboards. The band released Sun and Steel in late 1975 with Bill DeMartines replacing Reitzes on keyboards. Neither album sold well, and the band disbanded shortly afterward (around summer 1977).
Erik Brann went on to study with Joe Pass, Howard Roberts, Jimmy Wyble, and Ted Green. Always reaching for new heights, Braunn sought out Dr. John Schneider for additional technical training on Classical Guitar, concluding twenty years of self-teaching wasn’t enough. All along the way he continued in the same fashion, using his studies to supplement his songwriting. While a member of Iron Butterfly, several top artists took the young Erik under their wing, so to speak. Mike Bloomfield showed up at many of the early gigs to give Erik moral support and encouragement. Freddie King had an ongoing pact with friend and roadie, Portland Jim, to always have a guitar handy when Braunn was in Freddie’s immediate arena. Jimi Hendrix hired Erik to play guitar on a session he produced that included Keith Emerson (just over from England), Harvey Brooks (bass player on many of Dylan’s recordings and Bloomfields ‘Electric Flag’) and Mitch Mitchell on drums (Hendrix’ long time cadre with ‘The Experience’). Sadly, these tapes have apparently disappeared. Hendrix commented after a jam at New York’s, The Scene, run by Steve Paul, that Braunn would someday grow to be one of the finest guitarists in music. Erik’s opinion was that one day there would be an over-abundance of fine guitarist, and what he really wanted to do was be one of music’s best songwriters.
Years later he painfully admitted to being neither the finest guitarist, nor the finest songwriter. However, if you were fortunate to spend time with Erik and be privy to one of his elongated story sessions, you know differently.
For the last twenty years of his life Erik underwent and survived three Iron Butterfly restorations with the unfortunate complete refusal of its members to record any new material. Erik reformed the band for Atlantic Record 40th Anniversary at Madison Square Garden in 1988, and acting as manager, spoke with Phil Carson, manager of the band “Yes”, VP of Atlantic Europe. They discussed getting “The Butterfly” a recording contract and opening a world tour for “Yes”. It was a return favor as “Yes” had opened at one time for “Iron Butterfly”. Carson came back with a seven-figure deal, a tour, and proposed management of the band.
This was not to be. That was the last time all of the original members were together. Erik did not waste his time crying about lost opportunities, but amassed a catalogue of at least three hundred songs and recorded several albums that went unreleased – so far.
Also at this point in his life Erik found himself stricken with a debilitating physical ailment to which the Doctor’s knew little about, nor a cure. Despite his illness Erik’s perfect World of Dreams would include a release of the new album he has spent a year and a half recording, and play a tour promoting it. In that light Erik quoted, “Our most glorious experiences are a kind of regret. Our regret is so sublime that we mistake it for triumph. It is the painful, plaintively sad surprise of our genius remembering our past and contemplating what is possible”.
Erik Brann was inducted in Rock and Roll Paradise on July 25, 2003, having passed from cardiac arrest at age 52.
“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was released as a 45 in the US and other territories. The 17-minute original version was edited down to 2:53. This version contains the intro, two complete verses, the repeat of the main theme very near the end, a short break, and the closing segment. Nothing at all is left of any of the solos.
In the Netherlands (and perhaps other territories, too), a different, longer 4-minute, 14-second edit was released first on a 45 with catalogue number 2019 021 and later on an EP with catalogue number 2091 213. This edit features only one verse, a large portion of the drum solo, the final verse, and the closing segment.
Another edit, supplied to some radio stations, runs at 5:04. It includes the first verse, about 20 seconds each of the organ and guitar solos, part of the drum solo segueing into the drum/bass solo, the final verse, and the closing of the song.
A European compilation album on the EVA label (EMI, Virgin, BMG, Ariola) entitled Pop Classics 2, features a 10:26 edit of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”. The original soundtrack CD of the movie Manhunter features an 8:20 edit of the song. In these edits, mostly the guitar solos were edited out.