At a key point in All I Can Say, a film compiled entirely from camcorder footage shot by Blind Melon singer Shannon Hoon in the five years before his fatal, cocaine-induced heart attack in 1995, Hoon explains why he decided to capture so much of his life on home video. To paraphrase: life moves too fast to appreciate in the moment, so he planned to watch it later, at his leisure, in the hope of understanding it all.
Maybe he found solace and catharsis in the camera lens, like a video diary. Perhaps, as he began filming several years before his star ascended, he hoped to document the rags-to-riches emergence of a grunge rock legend. All I Can Say isn’t that. Narrative-wise it’s no Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, the story of an anguished icon torn to shreds by success. Blind Melon’s journey, judging by the evidence here, was one of a grunge Reef. Lucking into a record contract thanks to their connections to Guns N’ Roses, they had one massive MTV hit (‘No Rain’) before Hoon descended into hard drug and alcohol addiction, with tragic consequences. There are no historic Paul-writing-‘Get Back’ moments here. All I Can Say instead tells the oh-too-familiar tale of the small-town boy sucked in and chewed up by the rock ’n’ roll dream.
With Hoon such a comprehensive self-documenter – he films himself at urinals, on business calls and from some of the most unflattering naked angles imaginable – it all makes for a rare and unique first-person insight. As ‘No Rain’ sees Blind Melon rocket through the pop ranks toward an all-too-brief moment of glory, the minutiae of first-flush success is crisply captured by the sharp editing.
Watching Blind Melon popping corks on the roof of Capitol Records, you share their golden ticket rush. But like his camera, Hoon – battling alcohol issues that pre-dated his fame – seems a dislocated observer of his own success. He is unsuited to relish it, and early enthusiasm soon turns to slog. There are exhausted interviews and groupie-free nights in soulless shared hotel rooms; footage of the band watching themselves lose out on a Grammy to Toni Braxton; the obligatory piss-take slo-mo on Saturday Night Live. Hoon even secretly records his bandmates complaining about him potentially appearing alone on the cover of Rolling Stone. Besides a celebratory singalong to Dr Hook’s ‘Cover Of The Rolling Stone’ when they all appear, no-one on this ride seems to be enjoying themselves very much, least of all Hoon. Throughout, his lens acts as a cold eye on the souring, crushing effect of the flash in the pan.
And, ultimately, the scorch marks it leaves. Road fatigue and homesickness set in, bad habits re-emerge and, while recording in New Orleans, heroin arrives. And we sure know how that story goes. Rehabs, relapses and arrests ensue, before All I Can Say spirals towards its tragic end. Awfully, Hoon’s final scenes appear mere minutes after his baby daughter is born on camera. If we’re to understand Hoon’s life through his footage, it’s as a victim of a lifestyle that amplifies not just the sounds in your head but the problems at your core.
- Directors: Danny Clinch, Taryn Gould, Colleen Hennessy
- Featuring: Shannon Hoon, Glen Graham, Lisa Sinha
- Release date: April 8 (select UK cinemas)