Music

'All I Can Say' Examines the Final Years of Blind Melon's Shannon Hoon

Photo: Poster of All I Can Say

When the Blind Melon vocalist Shannon Hoon died in 1995, he left behind a tape archive that captured him in his most intimate moments. Directors Danny Clinch, Taryn Gould, and Colleen Hennessy discuss the beauty and tragedy of the musician's life.

All I Can Say
Danny Clinch, Taryn Gould, and Colleen Hennessy

Oscilloscope Laboratories

26 June 2020

All I Can Say is a documentary that chronicles five years in the life of late Blind Melon vocalist Shannon Hoon. It is not, however, a rock documentary. It doesn't follow the rise and fall of an American rock band as it enjoys massive fame, adulation, and then the cold realities of a fickle public. Instead, the film reveals the musician's struggles with anger, addiction, and the fame that visited him swiftly in the early 1990s. The story is told entirely through Hoon's eyes and in his voice.

Hoon filmed himself obsessively in the run up to Blind Melon's meteoric success all the way until hours before his death in October 1995. The film is framed with an image of the musician in a hotel room, talking about his plans for the day. Within hours of that footage being shot, Hoon would be found dead on Blind Melon's tour bus.

According to Danny Clinch, he and co-director Colleen Hennessy had bonded over a shared love of Blind Melon and had entertained making would have been a more conventional film about the band. They laid the groundwork for that picture and at one point were granted access to the late singer's tape archive via his longtime partner, Lisa (Crouse) Sinha, and their daughter, Nico. "We were blown away by the content," recalls Clinch. As he and Hennessy marveled at the hours of film available to them, they connected with Taryn Gould, who drive the project in a different direction. "We realized how complete a document Shannon had left us," Clinch says.

Hennessy notes that the contents on the tape ranged from the hilarious to the tragic. Though Hoon's personal life may have been in disarray at moments his archiving skills proved meticulous: The tapes were numbered and dated, providing a relatively easy roadmap for the filmmakers. "There were certain plot points we knew were coming, being familiar with the band's career but, over the course of watching the footage, different themes started to emerge and we realized how complete his archive was," she says.

Hoon captured details great and small: Brushing his teeth, teasing his father about going to jail for a DUI, opening for Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, and playing Woodstock '94 in makeup and a dress. The footage is captivating and serves as a reminder of how quickly the band rose and fell: Its eponymous debut arrived in 1992 and soared to the upper reaches of the Billboard charts with the single "No Rain", which was issued in the summer of 1993.

For nearly a year "No Rain" was omnipresent on FM radio, MTV, and college dorms. It helped that the video featured an unlikely star: The Bee Girl. Played by Heather DeLoach, the character, replete with oversized glasses and a bee costume, proved a memorable visual hook. As inspiring and memorable as the video was for some, it may have ultimately undermined the musical brilliance of Blind Melon: Hoon's Jon Anderson-esque vocals, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young-style dynamics within the tune itself and a lyric about dancing within loneliness.

Reading the lyrics now, some 25 years after Hoon's passing at age 28, one gets a sense not only of his brilliance as a writer ("Soup", the titular track from the group's 1995 sophomore release delves deeper into the singer's psyche and also suggests that he was a far more astute observer/wordsmith than given credit for in his lifetime) but the pain that informed his life and art. "The film is really a portrait of a person but also of a time," says Gould.

Film still courtesy of 42 West

Included in All I Can Say are glimpses of watershed moments, such as the LA riots, the deaths of cultural figures such as Charles Bukowski, and acknowledgments of the group's own success and its fallout. From there, Gould adds, a larger significance to the tapes began to reveal itself. "It was the first generation that had that type of technology in their hands," she notes. "We got a real view of one person's relationship with that technology and we started to extrapolate to how far that relationship has come. Today, our daily lives are dominated by filming ourselves, archiving ourselves. I feel like there was some immediacy and insight into our relationship with that technology. There's a timestamp of the footage that serves as kind of a countdown, you know how much time Shannon has left."

Working with the archaic technology of videotape also provides the film an added dimension of drama: The degradation of the source material reveals itself throughout, giving the viewer a chilling reminder of time's passage. "There were repeating patterns that emerged and one of them that emerged was this glitching out with the tapes", says Hennessy. "At one point, Shannon says that he's watching back through the tapes and they've started breaking up, losing the image. Watching the disintegration was a powerful reminder of what happened to Shannon and what happens to all of us."

The story could not have been told without addressing Hoon's battles with addiction. In one scene, the singer acknowledges that he's scored heroin. What follows is a series of images of a man in isolation, drifting from his ambitions and those closest to him. It proves one of the most understatedly cautionary moments of the picture. "Being on the road, being in a band aren't all they're cracked up to be", says Clinch. "Neither are drugs. Doing drugs can be a really lonely and paranoid time. It can be hard to get out of. I think what's important to us is that people recognize that. We hope that people can make better decisions for themselves."

The filmmakers have also partnered with MusicCares to help raise funds and awareness for those in need of assistance in combating addiction. Clinch adds that in-person screenings of the film brought them face-to-face with others whose lives have been impacted by addiction. "People were not only talking about the band and their music but mental health and addiction," he notes.

Film still courtesy of 42 West

With Hoon gone, there are lingering questions about his life and career, most of which will never be answered. But the filmmakers note that they did have conversations of sorts with the musician throughout the process. "I look at things and think, 'What could we have done differently," says Clinch. "When Shannon was in rehab he and I had a strong dialogue. That's when we were really starting to become friends. He knew how much I cared about him. I do find myself having a dialogue with him now. 'You fucker.'"

The directors add that most of Hoon's family has seen the film, including his daughter, Nico, who now has a music career of her own and who was born only a few months before her father's passing. "His parents haven't seen it yet," Clinch says. "They weren't ready but I do hope they can find some time to watch it so that they can see Shannon again, which I think is really important."


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.

Film

Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.

Music

3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".

Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.