In 1995, aged 14, I went to my local music store and purchased an album called ‘Soup‘ – it was something like £12.99 on audio cassette; which to me at the time was a lot of money.
I made the purchase based on two things; reading an interview with a charismatic and lovable, bona fide hippy in one of the rock music magazines of the time, and hearing an acoustic version of a song called ‘Galaxie‘ on a BBC Radio 1 session. The hippy in the interview was Shannon Hoon, and the song on the radio – ‘Galaxie‘ – was, and remains, one of the most breathtaking performances of a song I’ve ever heard.
The album was extraordinary. It was in its own world, seemingly oblivious to everything going on around it. Lyrically fascinating, musically brilliant, and – via its frontman – always compelling, ‘Soup’ is/was a proper ‘album’; a sequence of songs that worked their magic together as a collection. I was obsessed with it for a few weeks, listening to nothing else; Shannon Hoon died while I was still exploring that album – of a heroin overdose, aged 27. To this day I lament that I never got the chance to see him perform live.
That album, ‘Soup‘, remains one of my four or five all-time favorites. That BBC session version of ‘Galaxie‘ was actually a much better version of the song than the version that opens the actual album; but the album, in any case, remains a work of genius on every level. It should by now be one of those albums that’s a standard in any proper music lover’s collection (or at least in other rock music aficionado’s stash); but it probably isn’t.
But Blind Melon have to be one of the most under-appreciated bands of all time. They only released two albums – ‘Blind Melon‘ and ‘Soup‘ – and yet those two albums contain more scope, more genius, more variety and more soul than most bands’ entire catalogue.
They only had one hit single, and most people have probably never heard of them. No one ever mentions the tragedy of lost possibilities that was Shannon Hoon’s death when they talk about the ’27’ club. Neither album ever shows up in those magazine or web polls of great records or great bands. Even when people talk about the era – unarguably an era of incredibly good artists and albums – they seldom if ever mention Blind Melon or Shannon Hoon.
On the one hand, it bugs me; those guys deserve a lot more credit and notice. On the other hand, it makes them feel even more special; like a magical little spot in the woods or the hills that only you and a few other people know about. As opposed to a popular beach with everyone’s shit all over it.
Okay, so they were a bit nuts. And, yes, Shannon Hoon once urinated on his audience at a Blind Melon gig. And yes, he walked around barefoot like a proper, card-carrying hippy. And yes, he often cut up fruit and handed it out to his audiences (and yes, there’s something slightly unsettling about that). And yes, he wrote a song called ‘Skinned‘, which appears to be written from the perspective of a cannibalistic serial killer. All of which just proves his rock n’ roll credibility. True rock n’ roll is supposed to be weird, edgy and maladjusted – not like the tedious breed of dull-as-dishwater, platinum-selling bands that otherwise clog up all the sales figures and screen time.
If you want true big-hearted, slightly drugged-up, always eclectic artistry and proper musicianship (they can actually play their instruments, dammit!), then take a trip down Blind Melon lane. From the sunny, feel-good numbers like ‘Blister in the Sun‘ and ‘Tones of Home‘, to the darker, moodier creations like ‘Toes Across the Floor‘, the weird and surreal adventures like ‘Lemonade‘, or the downright beautiful ‘New Life‘, you won’t look back. It might just change your life…