In Defense of the Band: Blind Melon

In which I defend my desire to listen to singers, musicians, artists, bands and groups that are pretty generally regarded as fucking lame.

Unlike most folks out there, I didn’t come to Blind Melon via “No Rain.” I have vague recollections of the video when I was like 12, but I never knew who the band was, let alone the song. No, for some reason “Galaxie,” from the band’s most excellent album Soup, was the one that did it for me. Unfortunately, it didn’t do it for anybody else and the band got the “one-hit-wonder” tag for life. But maybe it was because Soup was the record I fell in love with and not their jammy sounding self-titled debut, that I’ve always had a soft spot for the band and always defended them to anyone who knocked them (which happens more than you’d think).

The “one-hit-wonder” tag was even more convenient when you consider the story behind that first album. The group was signed after only a handful of gigs and lead singer Shannon Hoon was childhood friends with Axl Rose, singing backup on their Use Your Illusion albums (and appearing ever so briefly in the “Don’t Cry” video). The iconic “No Rain” video, while propelling the band to the top of the charts, had the unfortunate effect of making the Bee-Girl more recognizable than the band. What kept Blind Melon in the rock press more than anything was Hoon’s drug-addled, erratic behaviour which culminated with him urinating on the crowd at a gig in Vancouver.

Soup though, was going to be different. The record, in my opinion, stands as their greatest artisitic achievement, and is one of the most overlooked records of the 90s. It was recorded in New Orleans, and smacked of the cities vibrant and diverse musical heritages. Each song was different enough to stand on it’s own, but together made a brilliant distallation of American music through a mid-90s filter. It could have been the group’s London Calling if anybody had cared.

For whatever reason, “Galaxie” was chosen as the lead single, probably because more than any other song on the album, it sounded like the rest of the alterna-rock fair populating the radio. But the song was a major departure from their previous work, and really didn’t sound like the rest of the album either. Soup entered the world with little fanfare, save a fantastic Intimate and Interactive special on Much Music. A second video for “Toes Across the Floor” was released but that saw even less airplay than “Galaxie.” The band went on tour, supporting an album nobody cared about. Hoon was clean and sobre, but relapsed and died of an overdose in October of 1995. In stark contrast to Kurt Cobain’s suicide a year and a half before, there was little press coverage.

Nico, a posthumous odd-and-sodds collection came out a few years later and is a favourite of many fans, but I could never connect with it’s cut and paste feel. And earlier this year, in the biggest WTF move, the rest of the band reformed with a new lead singer and put out a new record under the Blind Melon name. It’s grossly unimpressive, and a bit of an embarassment.

For me, Soup will always be my favourite, and I highly suggest everyone go to their local record shop’s discount bin and find out for themselves.

As a side note, Details Magazine’s 1996 music issue had a fantastic article about Shannon Hoon’s last days written by Chris Heath. If anyone knows where you can get this online, I’d love to have it.

    • Freddy
    • May 25th, 2009 9:55pm

    I fell in love with the Melons after hearing Dear Ol’ Dad on MTV in the early nineties. I’m a big fan, always have been. Soup didn’t get the recognition it deserved because it probably was a little too “out there” for too many ears.
    I loved it and while it may be a more accomplished album than their first effort, I still prefer the one with the be girl on it. Except for No Rain, a track I never really cared for and whose success and never ending air time never ceased to amaze me.
    Thanks for your article. Keep spinning those Melon records. They are well worth it.

    • melissa
    • July 13th, 2009 8:50pm

    I really loved Blind Melon too. You don’t like their self titled probably because it was the only main stream album they had. The lyrics on blind Melon are some of the best he had written. Soup was my least favorite because it brings to light Shannon Hoon’s obvious losing battle, most of those lyrics were written by drugs, not Shannon. I also find it interesting that you chose to capture shannon on your website with this particular picture. I believe it’s from Woodstock ’94 where Shannon gave the saddest performance I’ve seen. I mean truly sad as he was so f*@%ed up I’m not sure he even knew who or where he was. Not how I’d like to remember him.

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