Buoyed by a bizarrely cute video featuring a pudgy girl in a bee costume, and propelled by the late-’60s, early ’70s nostalgia boom of the early ’90s (see also: Woodstock ‘94), the Shannon Hoon-fronted Blind Melon had a massive hit with “No Rain,” which eached #20 on the pop charts, #4 on the Top 40 charts and went all the way to #1 on the Modern Rock charts.
While the album was released in September 1992, it was initially a slow seller, and didn’t pick up steam until 1993, when “No Rain” began climbing the charts. The album went on to sell over 4 million copies in the US.
Like so many great pop songs before it, “No Rain” covered up its downbeat lyrics with a carefree melody and jammy interplay of psychedelic electric and acoustic guitars. Equal parts Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, and Jane’s Addiction, the song gave an anthem to the wannabe hippie teens of the early ’90s who spent summer afternoons raiding their parents' attic for mothballed bell-bottoms, peace sign necklaces and paisley shirts. They yearned for the Summer of Love, a time when everyone was into weed smoking, acid trips, free love, mud orgies, and societal change. They wanted that back.
Well, mostly just the free love and weed.
And the music. Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, the Allman Bros., the Stones, Zeppelin, Floyd, Lennon; anyone who had a key member of the group die or go nuts before their time added just the right amount of mystery and intrigue to the idea that the ’60s were somehow better than the ’90s.
Hoon could have been the man to lead the charge. Right?
Unfortunately, he lived up to this ideal all too well. In 1995, at the age of 28, he overdosed on cocaine before a gig in New Orleans. Many pointed out at the time that Hoon narrowly missed membership into the “27 Club”—a group of musicians like Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Brian Jones who had died at age 27. It should be mentioned, however morbidly, that Hoon missing admission into the club is somehow appropriate, as Blind Melon never quite reached the heights of the club’s finest members.
But that’s not to say they were one-hit wonders either. Seemingly forgotten is the band’s first single, “Tones of Home” which was actually a minor hit, reaching #20 on the Modern Rock charts. After the success of “No Rain,” “Home” was re-released and managed to peak at #10. “Home” was far more in the vein of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction; funk-rock with only a hint of the psychedelic classic rock influences featured on “No Rain,” suggesting that the band wasn’t the flower children throwback critics initially labeled them as.
Two more singles followed and more or less proved this thesis: “I Wonder” melded Zeppelin-esque riffs and desperate vocals with more psychedelic instrumental passages, while “Change” (released a full two years after the album hit stores) was a bluesy, deep-fried folk song featuring ringing acoustic guitars and mandolins that reached back to the Northeast Mississippi roots of guitarist Roger Stevens. To be sure, the band wore their influences on their sleeve, but not as obviously as some of their peers around the same time. Despite the strong quality of both songs, they may have strayed too far from the folky sonics of “No Rain” as neither follow-up single managed to chart.
Were Blind Melon a one-hit wonder? Depends on who you ask. Most people would probably say yes, unaware of their other works (or the existance of a follow-up album before Hoon’s death, 1995’s Soup), but for music fans there is a lot to uncover with this band. Too many bands I will cover in the future will have one, one and a half or two great, good or just plain listenable songs on the albums, while the rest will be crap.
To answer the question in my earlier post, if you bought this album for $18 at Sam Goody, it was money well spent. Dust it off and throw it on the old CD player if you get a chance, you might be surprised. That Eagle-Eye Cherry CD, on the other hand…
Download: Blind Melon - No Rain
Download: Blind Melon - Tones of Home
Download: Blind Melon - I Wonder
Download: Blind Melon - Change
Buy Blind Melon stuff here. Visit the reformed Blind Melon's Myspace.