I never gave the '90s rock band Blind Melon much thought. When "No Rain" came on the radio, I'd never change the station. It is, after all, one of the happiest earworms about depression I've ever heard. But it never gave me the urge to dig through the band's catalog.
But after watching the new documentary All I Can Say, I've corrected 27 years of neglect and been listening to Blind Melon nonstop.
Music documentaries have long been a great introduction to forgotten acts. Searching for Sugar Man turned us on to Sixto Rodriguez, and The Devil and Daniel Johnston brought the titular outsider artist into our consciousnesses. All I Can Say, which will be available to stream via O Cinema starting July 10, is a different kind of rockumentary.
There are no interviews with band members or music snobs. All of the footage was shot by frontman Shannon Hoon, who compulsively recorded everything with his Hi8 camera from 1990 until hours before his death in 1995. You see him starting in anonymity in his small Indiana town, you see him becoming a star while filming the "No Rain" video, and you see him become a father just a few months before his fatal cocaine overdose at the age of 28.
"I think we made a movie where if you're a fan of Blind Melon, you'll like it, but also if you're a fan of filmmaking," co-director Danny Clinch says. "It's all shot through Shannon's eyes. And one of the main characters is time itself."
Clinch met Hoon and the rest of Blind Melon in 1992 when he was on assignment for Spin magazine to photograph a different band on its MTV-sponsored tour.
"We became fast friends," Clinch recounts. "Shannon was fun to be around, but he didn't easily trust someone. It was hard to get to know him well."
That description doesn't fit with the Shannon Hoon you see in All I Can Say. In the film, Hoon comes across as an open book willing to bare all. But then you remember Hoon was always the one filming. He could choose to turn on the camera whenever he felt the urge to perform and press stop when he felt the show he wanted to put on was over.
There is little that documents Hoon's mastery as a performer. The film's biggest showstopper is a scene shot during Woodstock '94 in which Hoon owns the massive crowd, belting out the title song from Soup in his rootsy, reedy voice while clad in his girlfriend's white dress and tripping on acid.
Clinch says his only regret is that he couldn't afford to include more Blind Melon performances in the film.
"I would have loved to include more intimate musical moments," Clinch says. "We showed his methods of demoing songs. But the cost of putting music in the movie is more than people think."
Winnowed down from nearly 250 hours of Hoon's tapes, the documentary's original cut was five hours long. The final cut clocks in at just over 100 minutes and makes use of hours of Hoon's answering-machine tapes, which included personal calls and interviews Hoon gave and recorded.
While All I Can Say features a treasure trove of previously unreleased material that will make Blind Melon fans happy, the movie's unique form serves more as an introduction to the band. For the uninitiated, Clinch recommends the book A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon, and the 1996 documentary Letters from a Porcupine.
But he says Blind Melon's best source of information continues to be the band's music.
"I was in Europe with Blind Melon when Rolling Stone gave their second record, Soup, one and a half stars," he remembers. "That's a great record. The production was a dry mix, making it more timeless. The production wasn't trendy, so it doesn't have that grungy '90s feel. I encourage people to listen to it."
Clinch also thinks All I Can Say stands up to repeated viewing.
"There's a lot to digest," he says.
And what would Hoon make of it?
"I think Shannon would have liked the movie, but he would have wanted more nudity," Clinch says. "He was always first to take off his clothes."
All I Can Say. Starring Shannon Hoon, Glen Graham, Lisa Sinha, and Brad Smith. Directed by Danny Clinch, Taryn Gould, Colleen Hennessy, and Shannon Hoon. 102 minutes. Not rated. Premieres Friday, July 10, via O Cinema's Virtual Cinema.
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