Alternative rock band
Blind Melon rocketed to stardom in the realm of alternative rock with their self-titled debut album in 1992, which sold more than 3 million copies and reached triple platinum status. Before the untimely death of the group’s leader and singer/songwriter Shannon Hoon in October of 1995—and the ensuing demise of the band-Blind Melon consisted of Hoon, bassist Brad Smith, guitarist Rogers Stevens, drummer Glen Graham, and guitarist Christopher Thorn. Blind Melon was a promising, talented new band, appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman, Saturday Night Live, MTV, Canada’s MuchMusic, and in Woodstock ‘94. The band also performed in concert across the globe with megastars such as The Rolling Stones, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Lenny Kravitz, and Neil Young. When Hoon died from a tragic drug overdose in 1995, the band was clearly in the midst of perfecting and defining their unique sound, as well as claiming their fame in the realm of alternative rock.
Richard Shannon Hoon was born on September 26, 1967, in Lafayette, Indiana, the son of Richard, a construction worker, and Nel Hoon. Shannon was hyperactive as a child, but his parents did not want to “put him on drugs,” so they enrolled him in karate classes at the age of six. By the time he was nine years old, Hoon had earned a black belt. In 1990, at the age of 23, Hoon met Stevens in Los Angeles after taking a bus from Lafayette to California. Stevens and bassist Smith had moved to L.A. in 1989 from West Point, Mississippi, where they worked on the kill floor of a slaughter house, beheading, deshouldering, and gutting as many as 6,000 hogs a day. Stevens met Hoon through a mutual friend; Hoon played a couple of tunes for him, and Stevens was impressed with his voice. They decided, on the spot, to form a band together.
The group’s debut album was buoyed by the successful single “No Rain” and its accompanying video, which featured a girl in a bee costume and the band members frolicking in a field. The image that the single and video portrayed was that of upbeat, Grateful Dead-inspired alternative rock, yet the lyrics to “No Rain” revealed a deceptive morbidity with lines like “I don’t understand why I sleep all day/and I start to complain that there’s no rain.” It was this sort of ironic twist that underscored the band’s music and, in fact, the band’s path to acclaim. In sharp reversal to Blind Melon’s debut album, the band’s second release in 1995, Soup, was not hailed as a commercial success at all, and Hoon himself was a classic study in contrasts. Chris Heath wrote in Details magazine, “He was crazy and rude, and yet also unbearably sweet… There was an incredible spirit about him, wanton and careless, but also somehow innocent and invigorating.”
Members include Glen Graham (born December 5, c. 1967), drums; Shannon Hoon (born September 26, 1967, in Lafayette, IN, died October 20, 1995; son of Richard [a construction worker] and Nel Hoon; married, wife’s name Lisa Crouse; children: Nico Blue [son]), singer, songwriter; Brad Smith (born September 29, c. 1967), bass; Roger Stevens (born October 31, c. 1967), guitar; Christopher Thorn (born December 16, c. 1967), guitar.
Released Blind Melon, 1992, which sold more than 3 million copies and reached triple platinum status; released Soup, 1995, released Nico, 1996; appeared at Woodstock ’94, performed with The Rolling Stones, Soundgarden, PearlJam, Lenny Kravitz, and Neil Young; lead singer Hoon died from an accidental drug overdose, 1995; remaining band members decided to release Nico and a documentary home video entitled Letters from a Porcupine.
Addresses: Record company —Capitol Records, Inc, 1750 Vine Street, Hollywood, CA 90028 (213) 462-6252. Band address— 703 Pier Avenue, #B806, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.
After Soup was recorded in New Orleans and released in the summer of 1995, the band began touring to support the album. The night before October 20, Blind Melon played in Houston and according to Heath, they played poorly and Hoon was distraught over the general course of his career. Soup was not receiving much airplay, and reviewers were panning their live performance, although the band had been consistently filling stadiums while on tour. Soup was meant to be an eclectic mix of varied musical styles. Stevens told the Indianapolis Star’s Marc Allan, “I was, frankly, stunned when the reviews came out and said it was the worst record ever. I knew it wasn’t that bad.”
Hoon was snorting large amounts of cocaine while on tour in Houston, fell asleep on a bunk in the tour bus, and died of an overdose by the time the band reached New Orleans. Dawn Marecki wrote in the William Patterson College Beacon, “Shannon’s death placed the band in a difficult position, never fully reaching their potential. It… leaves band members wondering, despite themselves, ‘What if?’”
Band members dealt with Shannon’s death by supporting each other, working through their initial anger and grief together, and deciding to release a tribute album in Hoon’s memory, an album that would include most of the band’s unreleased material, outtakes, rarities, interviews, and previously unreleased photos. Band members decided to call the final album Nico, after Hoon and LisaCrouse’s baby daughter, Nico Blue Hoon, who was only 13 weeks old when he died. The enhanced Nico CD also featured concert footage and several full-length videos. The band decided to donate a portion of the proceeds of Nico to MAP (Musician’s Assistance Program), an organization which helps musicians and others in the music industry recover from drug and alcohol addiction. Along with Nico, the band released a documentary home video entitled Letters from a Porcupine, which offers an overview of the band’s personal and musical progression, as well as footage from numerous club performances, recording sessions, and road trips.
Don Aquilante of the New York Post wrote, “What makes the last chapter in the songbook of Blind Melon so sad is that today’s release, Nico, is so good that you want more, but there isn’t any more there.” Nico included the Steppenwolf cover “The Pusher,” the ironically titled “Life Ain’t So Shitty,” and the eerily truncated “Letters from a Porcupine.” The latter was a song that Hoon wrote and wanted to share, so he called Chris Thorn and played the song into his answering machine. Paralleling the end of Blind Melon, Hoon was cut off by the machine in mid-song as he sang his heart out; the song from the answering machine tape was included in Nico.
After Hoon’s death, the band decided they still wanted to play together, as Stevens claimed that a bond had formed among the remaining four members. They intend to reform with a new singer and a new name and have received over 2, 000 demo tapes from musicians hoping to fill the tremendous vacuum Hoon left behind.
Blind Melon, Capitol Records, 1992.
Soup, Capitol Records, 1995.
Nico, Capitol Records, 1996.
Details, July 1996.
E! Online, November 12, 1996.
The Indianapolis Star, November 12, 1996.
MTV Online, November 15, 1996.
New York Post, November 12, 1996.
William Patterson College Beacon, November 18, 1996.
—B. Kimberly Taylor
Members: Shannon Hoon, vocals (born Lafayette, Indiana, 26 September 1967; died New Orleans, Louisiana, 21 October 1995); Roger Stevens, guitar (born West Point, Mississippi, 31 October 1970); Christopher Thorn, guitar (born Dover, Pennsylvania, 16 December 1968); Brad Smith, bass (born West Point, Mississippi, 29 September 1968); Glen Graham, drums (born Columbus, Mississippi, 5 December 1968).
Best-selling album since 1990: Blind Melon (1992)
Hit songs since 1990: "No Rain"
By the early 1990s, music videos were a well-established means of creating excitement over and awareness of a group's music. Few bands from that era were as defined by their music videos as Blind Melon of Los Angeles. Though the group's career was cut short by the drug overdose death of vocalist Shannon Hoon in 1995, their time in the spotlight was defined by the hippieish, classic-rock-inspired sound of their signature song and video "No Rain."
Formed in Los Angeles in 1989, Blind Melon looked backward for inspiration for their music. Whereas popular grunge-rock bands such as Nirvana and Soundgarden drew inspiration from the aggressive, harsh punk and post-punk movements of the decade before, and the heavy metal bands of the era focused on trashy, pop-inspired sounds, flashy clothes, and make-up, Blind Melon looked to the earthy southern rock and folk of the 1970s for their motivation.
Built around the whiny falsetto of the Indiana-born singer Shannon Hoon and the Allman Brothers–inspired guitar playing of Roger Stevens and Christopher Thorn, the group caught the attention of Capitol Records thanks to a four-track demo recording dubbed The Goodfoot Workshop, recorded in 1989, just one week after the band had formed. Lacking sufficient material to record a full-length album, Blind Melon set to work on a mini-album with veteran producer David Briggs (Neil Young), but the results were scrapped when the band feared the songs were too polished.
It was through music videos that Blind Melon reached a mass audience. While the group pondered their next move, Hoon rekindled a relationship with fellow Indiana native and Guns N' Roses singer Axl Rose, who invited the long-haired Blind Melon singer to lend backing vocals to a number of tracks on the Guns N' Roses 1991 double album, Use Your Illusion. Hoon sang on and appeared in the video for the hit song "Don't Cry."
With buzz from the Guns N' Roses cameo, but still without an album, the group appeared on the 1992 MTV 120 Minutes Tour in the spring alongside several more established acts, helping to build anticipation for their self-titled debut, which was released in September of that year.
A Landmark Video
Produced by Rick Parashar (Pearl Jam), songs such as "Soak the Sin" explore hard-charging Led Zeppelin–style rock, while the tracks "Change" and "Tones of Home" mix elements of wistful acoustic folk with Hoon's mostly upbeat, nature-inspired lyrics about growing up and searching for meaning in life. With the excitement from the Guns N' Roses cameo and the MTV tour diminished, and their songs not garnering attention on radio or on MTV, the group took to the road. In addition to opening for Guns N' Roses, Blind Melon shot a video for the simple acoustic ballad "No Rain" with director Samuel Bayer, best known for his pioneering direction of videos by Nirvana.
Bayer brought to life the cover image from the group's album: a photo of drummer Graham's sister in a bumblebee costume. The imagery of the video came to define the band. Floated on a sprightly acoustic guitar figure and Hoon's high, cracked vocals, "No Rain" is a simple song about trying to find sanity in an insane world. "All I can say is that my life is pretty plain / I like watching the puddles gather rain / All I can do is just pour some tea for two / And speak my point of view, but it's not sane, it's not sane," Hoon sings. The video, in which the group performed in a vast green field while a chubby, bespectacled girl danced around them in a bee costume, became a smash hit, helping the album sell more than 3 million copies. Despite critical indifference, the group found itself opening for such superstar acts as the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, Lenny Kravitz, and Neil Young.
A pair of Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Best Rock Performance followed, but the group was unable to celebrate its success because of Hoon's increasing drug use, which forced the cancellation of their 1994 headlining tour. They performed a strong set at Woodstock '94 and opened several dates for the Rolling Stones before entering the studio with producer Andy Wallace (Nirvana) in the fall to begin work on their second album. Hoon was arrested for a drunken brawl with an off-duty police officer during the sessions and later entered into a rehab facility upon the album's completion. Hoon's girlfriend gave birth to a daughter one month before the September release of Soup (1995).
The album is much darker than the group's debut, with a harsher, more aggressive sound and lyrics about drug dependency, thoughts of suicide, and soul weariness. The exception is "New Life," in which Hoon practically pleads for the answer to the question, "When I look into the eyes of our own baby / Will it bring new life into me?"
Though Soup was an artistic success, helping to dispel Blind Melon's reputation as a lightweight one-hit wonder, audiences and critics did not respond to the sound and sales foundered. Against the advice of his rehabilitation doctors, Hoon joined the band for a promotional tour, dismissing a drug counselor less than two months into the outing. Several days later, the twenty-eight-year-old Hoon was found dead of a cocaine overdose on the band's tour bus in New Orleans.
An album of unfinished tracks, demos, rarities, and unreleased material, Nico (named after Hoon's daughter), was released in November 1996, accompanied by a home video, Letters from a Porcupine. The remaining members attempted to recruit a new lead singer, but eventually called it quits and split to pursue several side projects.
Though Blind Melon brought a playful, bright edge to the mostly dim, pessimistic rock scene of the early 1990s with "No Rain," the group was torn apart by those same dark forces that felled many of their grunge peers.
Blind Melon (1992, Capitol); Soup (1995, Capitol); Nico (1996, Capitol).