In time-honoured Steinbeck-ian tradition, budding vocalist Shannon Hoon packed his belongings into his car in his native Indiana and headed for California when he was just 18. Seeking fun and adventure, Hoon gradually found his feet in LA and hooked up with a trio of fellow small-town exiles, Pennsylvania-born rhythm guitarist Christopher Thorn and Mississippi duo, lead guitarist Rogers Stevens and bassist Brad Smith. Having convinced fellow Mississippian, drummer Glen Graham, to head west and complete the line-up, the embryonic quintet adopted the Cheech & Chong-inspired moniker of Blind Melon and recorded a four-song demo during 1991 which eventually led to a prestigious deal with Capitol Records.
Listen to Blind Melon’s debut album right now.
Paired off with Neil Young’s long-time production guru David Briggs for their first Capitol session, Blind Melon recorded five songs for a mooted EP, The Sippin’ Time Sessions. Yielding the alluring ‘Soul One’ and robust early versions of several future favourites, including ‘Dear Ol’ Dad’, these sessions were productive in retrospect, but at the time the band felt the recordings were too a little too polished and the proposed EP remained in the vaults.
Following this aborted session, Capitol rented the group a communal home in Durham, North Carolina. Affectionately nicknamed the “Sleepyhouse”, this sprawling dwelling afforded Blind Melon rehearsal space while they found their groove and worked up the songs for their full-length debut LP.
Stoked by the positive vibe, the band subsequently headed for Seattle, where they set to work with in-demand producer Rick Parashar, previously responsible for Pearl Jam’s multi-million-selling debut, Ten. However, while it was recorded in grunge’s heartland, the record they crafted bore scant sonic relation to anything created by that movement’s leading lights Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.
Instead, Blind Melon proffered a highly eclectic fusion of hard rock, funk, vibe-y pop and good-time, Grateful Dead-esque stoner rock, with Shannon Hoon’s commanding vocals soaring on anthemic, festival-friendly offerings including ‘Soak The Sin’ and ‘Seed To A Tree’, and the whole band proving their mettle on tracks as diverse as the laidback, Mellow Gold-ish ‘Change’ and the grand-standing six-minute epic ‘Time’.
Released on 22 September 1992, Blind Melon was initially a slow burner on the charts, but it took off apace after the infectious, Brad Smith-penned ‘No Rain’ was released as a spin-off single in June ’93. Promoted by director Samuel Beyer’s memorable, MTV-friendly video featuring young actress Heather DeLoach clad in a “bee girl” costume akin to the one worn by Glen Graham’s sister Georgia on the album’s front cover, ‘No Rain’ duly climbed into the North American Top 20.
Propelling the band into the limelight, their signature hit sparked off a remarkable, dream-realising 12-month spell for Blind Melon, during which they toured with their childhood heroes Neil Young and The Rolling Stones. All the while, the album continued to sell strongly, eventually earning the band a well-deserved quadruple-platinum certificate after it peaked at No.3 on the Billboard 200.
Blind Melon can be bought here.