Article - The Hamilton Spectator - Shining light on Hard Sun

VeddernarianVeddernarian Posts: 1,734
edited January 2008 in The Porch
Shining light on Hard Sun
Carli Whitwell
Special to The Hamilton Spectator

26 January 2008
The Hamilton Spectator
Final
D17

When the 2008 Oscar nominations were announced this week, more than a few Eddie Vedder fans were left scratching their heads.

Their idol had given them a great new song on the soundtrack of the Sean Penn-directed movie Into The Wild, which stars Emile Hirsch as restless adventurer Christopher McCandless.

The song was called Hard Sun, a spectacular piece of indie rock that exquisitely captured the central character's quest for enlightenment.

But the Academy ignored it.

There was a reason for that. Vedder, the famous Pearl Jam front man who sang the movie version of Hard Sun, didn't write it.

As a matter of fact, the track was composed by a relatively obscure songwriter from Dundas. His name is Gordon Peterson.

And he wrote it some 20 years ago, about a decade before publication of Jon Krakauer's 1997 nonfiction book on which Into The Wild was based.

Originally, Hard Sun was recorded as the first single off the 1989 album Big Harvest. Peterson wrote, sang and played many of the instruments on it, but it was released under the pen name Indio.

It was the only album Peterson made before turning his back on the music business and disappearing into anonymity.

So what happened to him?

Good question. It's the stuff of underground rock 'n' roll legend -- even a couple of fan websites are devoted to it. The most hardcore is called geocities.com/saveforthememory.

Oddly enough, Peterson made a surprise appearance on the fansite a few months before the release of Vedder's Hard Sun cover. It was almost as if Peterson knew the song's release would put him back in the spotlight.

"Someone pointed this site out to me, and I thought I owed some explanation," read a note posted on the website, which appeared to be written by Peterson. "The short answer is I did not, at the time, have whatever type of personality it required to endure the dark valleys that occur all too often in the business.

"It overwhelmed me, and that was that. I am very much alive, healthy and well. I continue to write and record, and someday I plan to release my work to date, but really have no time frame or finality to it. Thank you to all for your wonderful thoughts and well wishes. Gordon."

A new song, supposedly recorded by Peterson, has also been posted on the site. It's hard to tell if it's the real thing, however, since the vocals have been intentionally distorted.

So, if Peterson is indeed alive, well and still making music, where is he?

His mother probably knows. She still lives in the two-storey suburban home where Peterson grew up. But she declined to be interviewed for the article.

Her neighbours speculate her son is living in Toronto.

It seems plausible.

That's where Peterson started his career.

And, in the mid-'90s, Larry Klein -- who produced Peterson's only album -- stopped in the city when he was on tour.

Peterson came to see his gig, Klein said. He hasn't heard from him since.

Maybe Peterson was destined for a life of anonymity. Otherwise why would he choose to record his album under the name Indio -- a city in the California desert?

But Peterson's former manager disagrees. Gordon had star quality, said Tom Treumuth, best known for managing the band Honeymoon Suite. Treumuth was fresh out of college , in partnership with friend Gary Furniss, when he first met the tall and lanky Peterson in Toronto.

"He had a certain something that set him apart when he walked into the room," Treumuth said. "That magic quality that artists have."

Peterson had a low and gravelly voice and penned the most interesting lyrics, added Treumuth. So, it became his mission to get "this unique personality" a record deal.

Soon, the hard work of Treumuth and Furniss, paid off.

Peterson scored a deal with A&M Records to record an album with producer Larry Klein -- Joni Mitchell's husband at the time.

Klein, reached at his home in California, remembers when he first heard Peterson's music.

"He had a very interesting and beautiful surrealism to his lyrics and also a blunt simplicity to the music, so the combination of the two really worked well with his voice."

Klein knew immediately he wanted to produce it.

Big Harvest took two months to record. It involved several high-profile artists including Hamiltonian Bill Dillon and David Rhodes (Peter Gabriel) on guitars. Klein played bass. Brenda Russell, also of Hamilton, sang background vocals, as did Joni Mitchell.

Some of the songs were produced right in Klein and Mitchell's home -- that's why Joni is featured on the album, explained Klein. "If I was working on something in the studio she would quite often just come in to see what was going on, and if she heard something musically that she found appealing she would hang out and listen and perhaps get involved."

Klein remembers Peterson being quite comfortable singing with the Canadian icon.

"I think he considered it an honour to have her singing on his record."

It was a great experience that Peterson appeared to enjoy, said Klein.

Until the record came out.

Though the single Hard Sun got a fair amount of airplay in Canada and the U.S., said Klein, for whatever reason, the record didn't sell.

Peterson was dropped from his label and left the business.

Treumuth said he has heard all sorts of stories about what happened to his former friend.

"Rumours are he got fed up with the record industry, became anti-establishment and said, 'Forget it -- I'm going back to what I used to do.'"

So how did the single Hard Sun become the lead track of Into the Wild almost 20 years later?

Klein said Sean Penn, who directed the movie, could have gotten the song from a friend of Peterson's -- Erin Dignam, a writer, actor and director who has worked with Penn's now-estranged wife Robin Wright Penn.

Though the track, as sung by Eddie Vedder, couldn't be nominated for an Oscar since it wasn't written for the movie, it has been a hit.

And Peterson is finally being acknowledged for his talent, said Treumuth.

"That's the power of great music -- it never dies. The fact that Eddie Vedder -- one of the best and most popular singers in the world -- covered Hard Sun is a huge honour and speaks volumes to the quality of Peterson's work."

News
Up here so high I start to shake, Up here so high the sky I scrape, I've no fear but for falling down, So look out below I am falling now, Oh please understand I just need, my friend, a way a way a way home.
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Comments

  • PureandEasyPureandEasy Posts: 5,322
    It's kind of freaky that the person who originally wrote and recorded Hard Sun begged out of the business into obscurity. I just find it ironic that this song is being used for a film about a young man who basically wanted to fall out of the societal norms and do his own thing.

    thanks for sharing that, it's interesting to know.
    GIVE BLOOD
  • Two BirdsTwo Birds Posts: 256
    Good article thanks for sharing. What is someone from CA doing reading the Hamilton Spectator? Things that make you say uhmmmmmmm?????
    Peace,
    ________________________
    Too many shows but never enough!
    These guys are the fruit of the earth...
  • memememe Posts: 4,692
    It's kind of freaky that the person who originally wrote and recorded Hard Sun begged out of the business into obscurity. I just find it ironic that this song is being used for a film about a young man who basically wanted to fall out of the societal norms and do his own thing.

    Song covered now by a guy who had a strong temptation to do all of that...
    ... and the will to show I will always be better than before.
  • HollisBrownHollisBrown Posts: 3,551
    Well this should clear up all the controversy as to why it wasn't nominated. Looks like the academy did their homework. As for those that bitched, back to the library.
    TRANSPLANTS SAVE LIVES
    www.UNOS.org
    Donate Organs and Save a Life

    TRANSPLANTS SAVE LIVES.
    I know. I had one on 4/20/11
  • PureandEasyPureandEasy Posts: 5,322
    Veddernarian is our resident "article finder"

    a regular PJ librarian he is :D
    GIVE BLOOD
  • memememe Posts: 4,692
    Well this should clear up all the controversy as to why it wasn't nominated. Looks like the academy did their homework. As for those that bitched, back to the library.

    No one here bitched about hard sun, nor society. The bitching was about guaranteed.
    ... and the will to show I will always be better than before.
  • HollisBrownHollisBrown Posts: 3,551
    meme wrote:
    No one here bitched about hard sun, nor society. The bitching was about guaranteed.
    Not being nominated for Best Soundtrack.
    TRANSPLANTS SAVE LIVES
    www.UNOS.org
    Donate Organs and Save a Life

    TRANSPLANTS SAVE LIVES.
    I know. I had one on 4/20/11
  • smarcheesmarchee Windsor, OntarioPosts: 14,536
    I got to tour the Hamilton Spectator's building when I was 8 :o
    1998 ~ Barrie
    2003 ~ Toronto
    2005 ~ London, Toronto
    2006 ~ Toronto
    2008 ~ Hartford, Mansfied I,
    2009 ~ Toronto, Chicago I, Chicago II
    2010 ~ Cleveland, Buffalo
    2011 ~ Toronto I, Toronto II, Ottawa, Hamilton
    2013 - London, Pittsburgh, Buffalo
    2014 - Detroit
  • jmacdjmacd Posts: 145
    Two Birds wrote:
    Good article thanks for sharing. What is someone from CA doing reading the Hamilton Spectator? Things that make you say uhmmmmmmm?????

    sure does!!!
    toronto '92 X 2, toronto '93, hamilton '05, toronto 1 '06, toronto '09, buffalo '10, london '13, buffalo '13
  • Dr. DelightDr. Delight Posts: 11,201
    This article makes it sound like Hard Sun was the only song on the soundtrack up for nomination.

    Also, just read the booklet from the ITW vinyl. I didnt know "Society" was written FOR this film.
    And so you see, I have come to doubt
    All that I once held as true
    I stand alone without beliefs
    The only truth I know is you.
  • VeddernarianVeddernarian Posts: 1,734
    I have several news services associated with my work. I have a filter which searches for Pearl Jam and/or Eddie Vedder. Anywhere in the world, associated publications to the services have a story with the search criteria, and I get an e-mail. So for me it is pretty easy. I get a lot of foreign language articles which I don't post unless there is an international tour.

    The harder thing to do is to search around so I don't start a thread that someone else has already started.

    By the way, I've been to Hamilton. I was driving from Montreal to Toronto and I buckled over in pain as I had to take a dump. Got off the main road, went into Hamilton and found it to be an awesome and beautiful city. And the facilities worked quite well, I might add.
    Up here so high I start to shake, Up here so high the sky I scrape, I've no fear but for falling down, So look out below I am falling now, Oh please understand I just need, my friend, a way a way a way home.
  • vedderfan10vedderfan10 Posts: 2,497
    By the way, I've been to Hamilton. Got off the main road, went into Hamilton and found it to be an awesome and beautiful city.

    Are you talking about Hamilton, ONTARIO? Been there a couple of times and apart from this really amazing record store downtown somewhere, it's never struck me as "beautiful"....

    Anyway - Yay gordon peterson! My radio station used to play his song all the time!! I cried the first time I heard Ed sing it -- the flood of emotions associated with that song came bubbling to the surface and I wept.
    be philanthropic
  • PJSEMPREPJSEMPRE Posts: 687
    Great article!
    Thank you for posting it.
    Let's say knowledge is a tree, yeah.
    It's growing up just like me.
  • whats all this?!? vedder didnt write hard sun?!? why hasnt anyone known this until this article was published?!? WOW! and you cant win for best song if you didnt WRITE the best song?!? whos the quiz wizard that came up with that one?!? why wasnt PJ's "love reign" nominated for best song?!? its sweet!
    "Senza speme vivemo in disio"

    http://seanbriceart.com/
  • gozzo5058gozzo5058 Posts: 611
    Thanks for posting...a good read, but doesn't explain why 'guaranteed" wasn't nominated as it was eligible for and won a golden globe...???
    s

    Montreal/98, Toronto/00'03'05'06x2, Brad Toronto/02, Buffalo/03, Kitchener/05, London/05, Hamilton/05, Late Show Taping/06, Cleveland/06, Pittsburgh/06, Bridge School Benefit Concert/06, Hartford/08, Mansfield 1/08, EV Montreal/08x2, EV Toronto/08x2...
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