Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gerry Hannah (Subhumans): Songs From Underground (tape, 1985)

While serving sentenced to a ten-year prison sentence for his role in the various politically-motivated bombings of the group that became known as the Squamish Five (more HERE), former Subhumans bassist/song-writer, Gerry Hannah did not just learn to whittle. Rather, Hannah kept trying to fight the "Holy American Empire" but without the 550 kg of dynamite. 

As for the sound of this still-radical 12 song cassette recorded behind bars, it's acoustic-folk with a bit of that seventies consciousness-raising coffee-house vibe (especially when that flute chimes in!) It works outstandingly on the more finger-pointin' Dylanesque "Livin' With the Lies" but moves a bit into singer-song-writer-John-Denver territory on tracks like "Summertime". In-between those two places there a lot of stoic dignity and an audible refusal to knuckle under even in brutal circumstances.

In the Glen Sandford short film, Useless which followed Gerry Hannah after leaving prison, Hannah still seems bitter and angry. However, in Bloodied But Unbowed (more HERE and HERE)  film-make Susann Tabata caught Hannah in a different place. In the more recent film he explains that political violence can be a tool of your enemies and so he cannot support it. While he many not yet be the Canadian Gandhi (my countrymen admire Gandhi but often only seem to remember the civil part of civil disobedience) there's clearly been a change in his understanding of the world. Of course, I could just be projecting my own long-standing distrust of political violence onto the man.

So what do you make of Hannah's underground songs? And while were asking questions, what do you make of politically-motivated violence? Let us know your views on either of the above (or anything else for that matter) in the COMMENTS section (where you'll find the Songs From Underground link).

Alternative Tentacles


  1. .



    (Don't be silent)

  2. Wrong Subhumans but still ok! Let em eat c4ke!

  3. Digging the Canadian tip these days! Are you planning on posting the Terminal City Ricochet soundtrack ?
    For the record, I like the Subhumans' verion of Fuck You better, but I think D.O.A.'s version of Behind the Smile has a little more kick.

    No luck on the scan, but I'll keep looking.

  4. Political violence is a base expression of hypocrisy. How can fighting a supposedly oppressive power with violence make a person any better? I never understood the problem behind the Squamish Five. They did the bombings, so why did everyone complain when they got caught? If you are holding yourself up as a better human for opposing the system, then stand up and take credit. Since they did not, I can only suggest they knew what they did was wrong. Hell, I learned as a small child do not do anything if you cannot accept the consequences. Rightly or wrongly, you blew something up, got caught and now suck it up. It reminds of the utterly moronic concept of "propaganda by the deed", except rather than admit your responsibility, to rally others, they feigned innocence undercutting their own cause.

  5. I've been a devout follower of this blog for quite a while but this is the first time I've left a comment. Thank you so much for posting this. I've been trying to find a copy of this ever since I heard "Living With The Lies" on the Terminal City Richochet soundtrack back when I was in 10th grade. It took 14 years but thanks to you I finally got it.


  6. Thanks for posting this tape. "Sure Looks That Way" gives me chills.

    That nonviolence is the only right way to overcome a state which maintains the current exploitation of its people _with_ violence is an ideology that serves that state better than it serves the people. Seriously, are there no conditions under which the people should violence against the state? To put it another way, what are the conditions under which the people should acquiesce?

  7. living with the lies is one of the best songs in our country's musical history, in my opinion. gerry hannah's legacy as an artist didn't end with the subhumans. thanks very much for posting this gem.

    i won't get into the nonviolence debate, other than to say my usual piece: no social or political movement can accomplish the bulk of its goals without a wide array of tools, and sometimes violence (against people or objects or symbols) can be a useful and managed tool.

  8. Random
    There is no wrong Subhumans, just two great punk bands.

    The TCR OST is still in print! (you can grab it form AT.
    Good to hear someone come down on the Subhumans side, even if I'm neutral.

    I hear what you;re saying though over the years the members seem to have taken responsibility for their actions to varying degrees.

    Yeah I looked for this based on that song too. OPNe of the highlights of a strong soundtrack for a weak film.

    "are there no conditions under which the people should violence against the state?"
    Well I'm not gonna be the one to settle that question. I will say that in a democracy we have more effective tools than violence.

    Amen to the unherladed greatness of LWtL.
    It's true one can be against violence without becoming passive.

  9. Mr. Crass
    Yup and yup.

    Enjoy muchly.

  10. Any chance for a reupload? I cant find this anywhere! Thanks!

  11. Ditto! Or if you could contact me - I've interviewed Gerry on a number of occasions, kinda count him as a friend, but I don't have a copy of these songs (I had the cassette once, back in the day, but it's long gone)... ammacinn at the mail that is hot will work...

  12. Reupload please! I'd love to listen to these songs.

    By the way, what convertido says makes no sense and is totally uninformed. They never feigned innocence but instead defended their actions and recognized their mistakes.

    There are a lot of intense and interesting debates around the use of political violence but choosing to be on the side of the oppressing system (so called democracy or not) and its twisted values sounds like the worst option. My opinion...

    Take care!


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