One of the standard questions I’m asked during author interviews is: “How about naming a few of your favorite bands?” In no particular order, I shoot off a list of bands that have influenced my life and writing.
If I’m honest, I usually gloss over Blind MeLoN’s place on the list. It’s a long list, and they’re way up there. Like, top three. Sometimes a band comes along that etches themselves into your soul and words fall short.
In order to fully explain my love for Blind MeLoN, you’re going to figure out my age—something I HATE disclosing. Yeah, I admit it—I’m not down with this whole “aging gracefully” bullshit. Aging is aging…and it sucks. Unless you think of the alternative. With that off my chest, I’ll continue.
Shannon Hoon, the lead singer of Blind MeLoN, was my age. We were born a year apart, almost to the day. My birthday was yesterday, while his is tomorrow. No, I won’t disclose the year…y’all have Google…look it up.
When the band released their self-titled debut album, Blind MeLoN, in 1992, I was immediately drawn to the tune, “No Rain.” Not just me. It was a catchy number. But it wasn’t until a saw the video of the little “bee girl” jumping around the screen that I realized Blind MeLoN was something different. “No Rain” wasn’t some slick little tune devised by the labels image group. The song was the group. Who they were. What they were about.
Immediately, I got into my car and drove to the record store to pick up a copy of the CD. For those of you who grew up with iTunes and the Internet, this may seem a foreign concept. In those days, if you wanted to learn about a band you had to wait for an interview in Rolling Stone or tune in to Alternative Nation, a show that aired weeknights on MTV.
Okay, full disclosure—though I was married at the time, with a toddler, I was absolutely fascinated by Shannon Hoon, the lead singer. I’d feign disinterest when a Blind MeLoN video would air, as not to let my husband (who I’m still married to) know the extent of my fan-girl crush. Don’t judge. Shannon was hot and talented—an almost irresistible combination. But there was something else. Something deeper and darker, despite the smiling persona caught by the camera.
As the world would soon find out, Shannon was plagued by his own demons. All the signs were there. The first time I heard “Change” off the debut CD it nearly buckled my knees. I think we all personalize the music we love—make it our own—and to me, that song spoke of addiction.
Since I’m in a truth telling kind of mood, I’ll reveal a little more. While I’ve never been an addict myself, addiction has touched every corner of my life. That’s what happens when you’re the child of an addict.
In my case, I’m not talking about the “mommy likes to have a little too much wine with dinner” kind of addict. I’m talking hard-core drugs, folks. The kind that destroys lives and silences voices long before they should be silenced.
Maybe that’s another reason I’m drawn to a certain kind of music. The type that takes you to the edge, providing a window into the soul of the person who wrote it. You know the guy, the one that’s always smiling for cameras? Living to the fullest. A deep pain masked with carefree laughs.
In the early 90’s, as news began to emerge about Shannon’s antics, I suspected I was right about the addiction. Erratic behavior followed by profound sorrow over the actions that garnered the attention. For some fans, the conduct overshadowed the music. But not for me. The deeper the despair, the more overpowering the message hidden in the music.
In 1992, Shannon reportedly entered rehab. And again in 1994. But the excesses of the lifestyle fame afforded proved too much for him to resist.
A few months after the 1994 stint in rehab, Blind MeLoN played their biggest show ever—Woodstock 2. It was a shining moment. Watch the tapes on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. But there was also tragedy behind the triumph. According to the bands manager, Shannon admitted to relapsing before taking the stage that day. Maybe, like all of us, he was plagued with doubts and the drugs quieted the voices. Or maybe he just wanted to get fucked up to enhance the experience. Either way, the performance at Woodstock was the beginning of the end. The drug usage not only continued, but increased.
The band released a second album—Soup—that I can barely listen to. Not because the music isn’t good, but because the music is too good. Too raw. Too haunting. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion. You know how it’s going to end but you can’t turn away.
In 1995 Shannon’s little girl, Nico Blue, was born. And like the man you glimpsed behind the words to his songs, he made one final attempt at reclaiming his life. For her. Sadly, sobriety eluded Shannon and three months later on October 21, 1995, he was found dead in his bunk on the Blind MeLoN tour bus.
Shannon Hoon left behind a daughter he’d never know, a girl that loved him since high school, and a mother who never got over the loss. And the fans. The many, many fans.
Some will see Shannon’s life as a cautionary tale. While I can’t deny the tragedy, the world is better place for having had him in it. And the best part of him survived in his music and his daughter—of that I’m sure.
To Nico, I can only say, people might tell you throughout your life that addiction is a choice. And it is, to a certain extent. But it’s also something you’re born with— like eye color, intelligence, or even talent. You never know what’s going to set it off, but once unleashed, sometimes the demon is so strong, so insistent, it can’t be defeated. The important part is that your dad tried. And the evidence is there in so many of his songs.
While trying to remain true to the premise in my work, I’ve written a book in my Sixth Street Bands series dealing with the addiction of one of my characters. Things I’ve seen in real life accounted for much of what I’ve written in the story, but in terms of the character himself, Shannon’s journey was part of the inspiration. The caveat? Since writing is art, I got to choose the ending. And without giving too much away (that particular book won’t come out until 2017) the story ends the way I wish Shannon’s tale would have. That’s the transformative power of creative license…the choice was mine.
It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that I’m romanticizing addiction. I can assure you I’m not. It’s about empathizing with something that many of us will never understand. The self-loathing. The lack of control. The fact that somehow between the here and the there, everything good falls away. Dreams wither. And in Shannon’s own words: “when you stop dreaming it’s time to die.” That statement alone provides deep insight into just how well the man knew the path he was on and how powerless he was to change the course.
In order to do this blog justice, I re-watched an episode of Behind the Music featuring Blind MeLoN. Towards the end of the documentary, Roger Stevens, Shannon’s friend and guitarist for the band, said, “In the overall scheme of rock history, we are a footnote…”
There was more to the self-deprecating statement, but I’ll stop there.
To me, Blind MeLoN wasn’t a footnote. The band was a cornerstone, one of the essential bricks in the house of music that’s enhanced my life. And for a brief moment, a stitch in time, Shannon was here. He wrote his words on the face of today. And the painting lives on.
Author’s note: Blind MeLoN’s third album, Nico, was released after Shannon’s untimely death, an obvious dedication to Nico Blue Hoon, his daughter.
Below, please find videos for Blind MeLoN’s No Rain and Change as well as a bonus video of Nico @nicohoonmusic in 2015 singing a beautiful rendition of her dad’s song Change. The talent lives on.