From 1990 to 1995 Shannon Hoon carried a video camera around with him, recording as much of his life as he could. A lot of this was the minutiae of his day to day existence, but about this time he was starting to see his musical career take off, and he would make sure there was footage created of his concerts with his band Blind Melon. Initially, he was a backing vocalist for Guns 'n' Roses, the superstar rock band of the turn of the eighties, but his band started to pick up traction and soon were on their way to a huge hit single called No Rain and a million plus selling album. But life on the road took its toll on Shannon, and he descended into drink and drugs despite many attempts to get clean for good...
If you have heard of Blind Melon, you're either an old school fan who says the second album should have been far bigger than it was, or you simply know the video for No Rain, which featured the little girl in the bee costume and according to this became something of a millstone for the band that they were unable to shake off. Not that they had much time, as Hoon died of a drug overdose a few weeks after that follow-up album was released while on tour, leaving his wife to bring up their baby daughter without him. There are conflicting emotions resulting from watching his antics here, which is almost entirely edited together from those amateur videos, with all the caveats of poor quality that can bring with it.
You could feel angry at Hoon for being so irresponsible, abandoning the little girl and her mother just when they needed him the most, or you could feel sorry that it turned out this way, given that in the clips we do see of him with them, he obviously loved them very much. But that is the curse of addiction, with all the self-destruction that comes with it, often the victim is not thinking much past getting their next fix, and there's no question over Hoon committing suicide, as his overdose was accidental, though other famously shortlived rock stars are driven to their demise that they orchestrate themselves. It certainly colours the whole documentary here, being aware from the beginning that the subject was on a journey to a very fast arriving death, and for that reason the mundanity of the imagery doesn't make for a sparkling experience.
Not that there were no moments of humour, Hoon could joke around with the best of them, and there were shots of them when they had made it, performing to big crowds, where you could perceive the delight Hoon felt at connecting to the mass audience. And yet, the drag of boredom in between those musical highs led him to irresponsible behaviour - he was arrested on more than one occasion - is plain to see too, and the fact he supported his interest in his days by recording as much as he could was not an indication of how fascinating he found the world, it was more an act of will to make the world more engaging than it was for him (and to generate acts of engagement). Every so often we see Hoon take joy in something, his niece, his music, seeing his parents after a long time a way, his partner who was his high school sweetheart, and wish he could have done more with that rather than witness the numbness that takes over in the footage. His daughter appears to be the last thing he really appreciated; when she grew up, she became a musician too, which you like to think he would have loved. This messy, respectful tribute is more for the fans, though.
[Bulldog Film Distribution presents All I Can Say in select cinemas and on demand 8 April 2022.]