A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon
A new book A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon by Greg Prato has quite a bit that will be of interest to Neil Young fans.
One of the most tragic stories of the 1990’s rock world was that of singer Shannon Hoon, and his band, Blind Melon. Despite scoring one of the decade’s most enduring singles and videos, “No Rain,”and a quadruple platinum hit with their 1992 self-titled debut album (in addition to touring alongside rock’s biggest names), Hoon could not overcome a dangerous drug addiction. Only two records into a promising career, Hoon was dead from an overdose at the age of 28.
Here are some recollections of touring with Neil Young as an opening act in 1993 from the chapter titled 'Neil Young and Lenny Kravitz Tours/Rolling Stone Cover':
GLEN GRAHAM [Blind Melon drummer]: I've been a Neil Young fan since I was very young. Just getting to see six weeks worth of shows was amazing. He had the oddest choice of a backing band possibly ever for Neil Young – Booker T & the MG’s. Booker T & the MG’s are fantastic…but as Neil Young’s backing band? And they had Jim Keltner as the drummer – it was a thrill to meet him. My memories of that tour, like most tours, have nothing to do with playing. Neil was touring with his kids, one of whom had severe Cerebral Palsy. He was in a wheel chair – Ben, the model train guy. He was on the side of stage the whole time watching and loving it. And his other son, Zeke, who was about 18 or at the time, I think he had Cerebral Palsy – but extremely mild. I remember at Bill Graham Amphitheater, Neil giving him a Bronco or something for a birthday present. It was casual. It was like, these are adults – people who have done this 50 times. It was just nice to see what you could grow into eventually. Also, David Briggs was on that tour. David had a monitor on the side of the stage – I think he was next to Ben – and he would stand there and do the same thing that he did in the room when we were recording ‘Sippin’ Time.’ He would dance and conduct – it was incredible. They might as well have put lights on him.
I remember [Neil] knocking on the dressing room door one time, looking in, and going, “Hey guys, do you mind if I borrow a guitar?” We’re like, “Uh…sure!” He looked at us with this little impish grin, like, “O.K., these guys are scared to death,” and ducked out, real quick. That was really it. I remember Lyle, who was a motorcycle guy, was really impressed because Neil carries his motorcycles with him. And he, his guitar tech, and possibly his soundman, structure the tour so they end up away from San Francisco as far away as possible, and then they ride home. That’s so cool – you’re finished with the tour, it’s not, “Fly home, you’re in your house, and you can’t sleep.” These guys have a decompression time. I also remember Neil Young’s bus - which burned. This old Buffalo Springfield bus, that he had decked out it looked like a hippie boat inside. The coolest stained glass windows, and he had he tops of two Hudsons welded over the holes in the roof so you could sit up there like you were driving one of those Hudsons down the freeway, twelve feet off the ground.
ROGERS STEVENS [Blind Melon guitarist]: The audience was somewhat older than what we were used to playing for. And he was a really kind man. I mean, I’ve heard things about him, that he can be cantankerous.
But he’s a great songwriter and he has to deal with a lot in his life, I’m sure. The first night we were there, he invited us to his dressing room for a party for his son. That was really nice.
NEL HOON [Shannon Hoon's mother]: I think what he loved the most about that was getting to meet people like Neil Young. I went to either Cleveland or Cincinnati. My son, Tim, and I drove there because Tim was a huge Neil Young fan. He had been since he was a little kid. It was just unreal. I think [Shannon] enjoyed the bands he opened for so much more than he enjoyed playing to the big crowds. It was just so great to meet those people that he had listened to all of his life.
Author Prato did over 50 interviews for the book, including quite a few renowned rock names - Duff McKagan (Guns n' Roses), Gilby Clarke (G n' R), and Mike Clink (G n' R producer), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden guitarist), Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains guitarist), Mike Inez (Alice in Chains bassist), Craig Ross (Lenny Kravitz guitarist), and the surviving band members. There are also quite a few previously unpublished photos included in the book.
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