Tones of Home: Blind Melon at 30

The ill-fated band’s indelible debut makes its mark

Blind Melon (Image: Last.fm)

There will always be something innately tragic associated with Blind Melon’s eponymous debut.

Signed to Capitol Records, who released the album on September 22, 1992, it marked a brief span in the career of their ill-fated lead singer, Shannon Hoon. A victim of his own fame and freewheeling lifestyle, his legacy is primarily that of a tragic figure who failed to reach his fuller potential due to his failure to keep his vices at bay.

A recent documentary, All I Can Say, offers an intimate view of Hoon’s life and career in the form of an unexpurgated home movie, detailing the rise and fall of a young man on the precipice of massive success, who was sadly unable to overcome the combined effects of fame and his own failures. 

Blind Melon Blind Melon, Capitol Records 1992

Given the fate that was to follow, it’s hard to view Blind Melon through the prism of promise and ability. That’s not to say it doesn’t deserve its kudos. It clearly does. The combination of a new southern sensibility, an indie ethos and psychedelic suggestion, along with Hoon’s charismatic presence, confirmed it was destined to be an album for the ages. It also yielded the band’s first and, sadly, only hit in “No Rain,” which, along with the tracks “Tones of Home,” “Change,” “Drive” and “Seed to a Tree” established an indelible and identifiable template that helped the band distinguish themselves from any other outfit at the time. They garnered the attention of both fans and critics who pronounced them ones to watch within the ever-shifting landscape of the new wave of alt-rock insurgents gaining fame as the ‘90s overcame the malaise of the ‘80s and carved out a new direction flush with inspiration and imagination.

Ironically, when the band left Los Angeles, where they had originally convened, and decamped to Chapel Hill North Carolina in the company of producer Rick Parahar, the man behind the boards for Pearl Jam’s Ten, the decision was made to use archival equipment to obtain a more intimate and immediate feel. In many ways it was a reaction to their earlier attempts to release a pair of EPs — one comprising their initial demos for Capitol, dubbed The Goodfoot Workshop, and a second that found producer David Briggs overseeing the sessions and titled The Sippin’ Time Sessions. Neither was deemed appropriate, which made the upcoming album all hte more consequential.

 

VIDEO: Blind Melon “No Rain”

Happily then, the band made the most of their new environs, thanks to a communal situation that allowed them to fully mesh themselves in their collective confines. Not so surprisingly, one of the songs, “Sleepyhouse,” recalls the time the band spent at that house of the same name in Chapel Hill.

The original band would release a second album, Soup in 1995, but following Hoon’s overdose on the band’s bus in October of that year, Blind Melon faltered in its efforts to find a frontman to replace Hoon. They eventually disbanded in 1999, but reformed in 2006, releasing one more album after, For My Friends, in 2008.

Rumor has it another album is in the works, but like other outfits that tried to carry on after the loss of a lead singer — Queen and Van Halen come to mind — it’s inevitable that Blind Melon will forever linger in the shadow of a man who remains even now, an iconic original. 

 

 

 

 

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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