A little over two decades ago, Blind Melon were one of rock’s most promising new acts. Their laidback, jammy single “No Rain” was an MTV hit thanks to a whimsical cameo by a nine-year-old girl in a bee costume, and they secured a slot at Woodstock ’94 and tours with Neil Young, the Rolling Stones and Hoon’s pals, Guns N’ Roses. Their story was cut short, however, a few months after they released their second album, 1995’s Soup, when frontman Shannon Hoon died of a cocaine overdose.
Now Hoon’s friend, photographer Danny Clinch – who’s shot concert films for Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters – is seeking funds via Kickstarter to complete a documentary about the singer, built from the frontman’s own home-video archive.
Blind Melon were the first group to bring Clinch on the road as a tour photographer after he met them in 1992, and they suggested he make the film when they realized there are more than 200 hours of footage that Hoon shot between 1990 and his death. Clinch is co-directing the film as part of a collective calling itself “Ladies and Gentleman,” one of the singer’s favorite phrases.
“He was really an endearing character,” Clinch tells Rolling Stone. “He could just become your best friend straight away. His energy was great. He was really creative and super friendly. He definitely liked to have a good time and he enjoyed the rock & roll lifestyle for sure.”
To demonstrate Hoon’s energy, Clinch has shared two clips with Rolling Stone of the singer enjoying himself at all times. The first shows the Blind Melon singer at his most creative while playing guitar.
The second shows the singer beaming about the band’s potential fame and joking about how he’ll someday sell the footage. It also shows him and the band signing a contract and filming their “No Rain” video.
As the directing collective and the band sifted through the footage, Blind Melon bassist Brad Smith suggested they make the film “through Shannon’s eyes.” Clinch tells Rolling Stone he is editing the film with a few title cards for context and a few jumps in chronology, but was struck by how all-encompassing Hoon’s footage is.
“In moments of despair, he was filming; in his moments of celebration, he was filming,” the photographer says. “He filmed himself cutting his hair, destroying a hotel room, shaving his eyebrows, current events on television. He would set up his camera in, like, the big shower of a hotel room because the acoustics were really good and rehearse a new song. He was just filming all the time.”
One of the lighter moments Clinch discovered was video of Hoon – au naturel – delivering a pizza to Guns N’ Roses mid-performance. “You could tell from his little, mischievous grin, ‘I’m going to go out and deliver this pizza to 50,000 people with no clothes on,” Clinch says. “He was not afraid of anything, and he had no inhibition whatsoever. He delivered the pizza and then sat down and played the bongos, I guess. It was funny.” (Hoon was actually close with the band; he sang backup vocals on Guns N’ Roses’ “The Garden” and “Don’t Cry” and appeared in the latter song’s video.)
Clinch hopes the film, once it’s made, will get people to look at Hoon and Blind Melon’s legacy differently. The group – which recorded as Unified Theory after Hoon’s death and put out a Blind Melon LP, For My Friends, with new singer Travis Warren in 2008 – is sometimes thought of as a grunge-era one-hit wonder despite the fact that “Tones of Home” and Soup’s “Galaxie” were hits, and Clinch says the designation is unfair.
“I don’t think they were making grunge,” he says. “It was more in line with southern rock. The band members came from Mississippi and Pennsylvania, and Shannon was from Indiana, so their influences were a little different than those of the Seattle scene. ‘No Rain’ is a great song and did great things for them, but I don’t think it’s a representation of who they were musically and they didn’t get the due they deserved.
“I was with the band when Rolling Stone gave Soup one-and-a-half stars and you hate to let one critic ruin your day and your vibe, but when Rolling Stone gives your record one-and-a-half stars, you’re pretty bummed,” he continues. “I’m hoping that this film is going to kick up some dust and get people to re-examine the music.”