OBITUARY : Shannon Hoon

Friday 27 October 1995 00:02 GMT

The rock band Blind Melon's last show in Britain was at the Mean Fiddler club in London on 8 September. Shannon Hoon, the lead singer, appeared on stage wearing a false moustache and glasses, and a red, flashing clown's nose. He looked like a man with an insatiable lust for life. It is the image by which he will be best remembered.

Hoon was born in Lafayette, Indiana in 1967. Lafayette was, he said, "a small, repressed community. You're able to live your whole life there and really be quite comfortable, but I wanted to see more." He initially took out his frustrations on the sports field in high school, but turned towards music. When he was 18, he packed a small car full of his belongings and drove cross-country to Los Angeles, ostensibly to broaden his horizons, but also with the notion of finding and joining a rock band at the back of his mind.

When Hoon arrived on the West Coast, he had nowhere to live and nothing to do. To begin with, he spent his time people-watching. "I'd try to be invisible and zoom in on people and eavesdrop on their conversations," he recalled.

The first people Hoon actually met in California were also small-town exiles - Roger Stevens, Christopher Thorn, Brad Smith and Glen Graham. Together, they formed Blind Melon in 1990, taking their inspiration from America's leading musical outlaws of the Sixties, the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers, and adding a spiky edge that recalled the hugely influential alternative band Jane's Addiction.

The quintet were signed to Capitol Records, and made their first record in Seattle. Hoon also accepted an offer from his childhood friend the Guns 'N' Roses frontman Axl Rose, to sing backing vocals on their single "Don't Cry", and appear in the subsequent video.

By the end of 1993, Blind Melon were MTV stars in their own right. Their debut album, Blind Melon, had sold more than 2 million copies in the United States, propelled by the jaunty "No Rain" video, which featured the "Bee Girl", who appeared on their album sleeves and with whom the band were to become synonymous.

Their success kept them on tour for two years, which pushed the increasingly fragile Hoon to breaking point. A genuinely likeable and approachable human being, he was acutely aware of the many absurdities of the music business, and became progressively more uncomfortable when he was confronted with them.

When the band finally came off the road, after cancelling a handful of European shows, the "wheels had come off the vehicle", as Hoon later put it. The singer, who had publicly acknowledged his drug problems, went through at least two rehabilitation programmes.

But when Blind Melon re-emerged earlier this year, after making their second album, Soup, in New Orleans, Hoon sounded happy about the present, and optimistic for the future. He was proud of the record and elated at the news that he was to become a father. It had, he said, given his life a whole new meaning.

Soup had been less well received than its predecessor. Its dark, initially impenetrable songs couldn't have been further out of synch with the current fashion for re-packaged and instantly digestible punk rock. Lyrically, too, it was a moving, often claustrophobic vision of personal breakdown and dysfunctional family life, rather than a series of teen angst sound bites.

Hoon's girlfriend, Lisa Crouse, gave birth to a daughter, Nico Blue, in May. Shannon moved his new family back to Lafayette, before reluctantly having to leave them to go on tour once more. He died last Saturday in New Orleans, of a suspected drug overdose.

Paul Rees

Richard Shannon Hoon, singer: born Lafayette, Indiana 26 September 1967; died New Orleans 21 October 1995.

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