Gila – Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

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Originally based in Stuttgart Conny Veit’s Gila had already recorded a more rocking psychedelic first album with a different line-up when Veit was invited to Munich to record “Hosianna Mantra” for Florian Fricke’s Popol Vuh. Hanging around frequently at Amon Düül’s commune in Kronwinkel he met Daniel Fichelscher who played and recorded with Amon Düül II at that time. Veit was impressed with Fichelscher’s drumming and decided to revive Gila with Fichelscher on drums, Veit playing guitar and his then girlfriend Sabine Merbach singing. Florian Fricke contributed piano and some mellotron.

“Hosianna Mantra” was already finished when the four started recording “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” and what may have started as a new version of Gila already contained the nucleus for future Popol Vuh recordings. During that period another Popol Vuh record was released which featured Conny Veit and Daniel Fichelscher playing guitar and when Gila disbanded in 1974. Veit went on to tour France with Amon Düül II and Fichelscher began his long and fruitful work as Fricke’s sideman in Popol Vuh (which lasted until the early 90’s).

To cut it short: “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” can be seen as a transitional record. It is not the old Gila and it is not yet the new Popol Vuh… it sits in between as a document of change, a consequential one-off. So much for Krautrock-history, what about the music?

The songs are all credited to Conny Veit, but there’s a heavy Popol Vuh vibe on there. And I clearly remember when I listened to “Bury My Heart…” for the first time (as an mp3-download with no additional info at hand) my first thought was: “Sounds like Popol Vuh!” (And, of course, I found out googling seconds later that Fricke contributed to the record.)

But there are differences – even though mostly not so much within the music but the context it refers to: While Fricke’s records are often influenced by Christian iconography and various religious themes “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” is lending its title from Dee Brown’s book on the extinction of the Native Americans. Three songs also feature lyrics taken from the book’s text: “In A Sacred Manner”, “Sundance Chant” and “The Buffalo Are Coming”.

It’s easy to see why and how the Munich commune hippies identified with the story of the Native Americans – and it’s a bit pretentious, too: “I saw white soldiers who were attacking our camp” (“Black Kettle’s Ballad”). Long-haired and offbeat-dressed hippies must have felt like the last Native Americans when walking the streets of Munich while people in a not really denazified society spat or yelled at them: “Under Hitler it would not have been like that!” (There is an interesting book on the whole scene around Amon Düül and the social and political climate during that time called “Tanz der Lemminge. Amon Düül – eine Musikkommune in der Protestbewegung der 60er Jahre” by Ingeborg Schober, but it’s not translated in English, I’m afraid.)
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And look at the back of the record! Apart from the handsome but slightly bourgeois looking Fricke there’s three romantically styled outsiders/hippies: “Colours And Flowers / The Wind Was Blowing Through My Hair / Ah… / Think I’m Going To Take A Walk Outside” (“This Morning”) – but watch out for those “white soldiers” aka old nazis roaming the streets!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the record and I love that whole attitude but sometimes when I look at that pictures within the context of the times back then and the theme the record refers to I just have to laugh a bit. BUT then I think of Germany back then, the Baader-Meinhof-Group and all that jazz and it all makes perfect sense: “Here I Stand / On My Land / Dying People Around Me” (Black Kettle’s Ballad”).
That said Gila’s “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” could be seen as a political statement in the disguise of a folk-rooted-psychedelia-record. It’s not a call to arms, more a melancholy comment on the powers that be: Bury my heart at Stammheim, …

 

review by Holger Adam

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