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From the KORD writers:

How MTV buzz launched Blind Melon’s ‘No Rain’ into the stratosphere

No hit single is more symbiotically tied to its hit music video than “No Rain.” Blind Melon’s lone Top 40 entry and its fantastical Samuel Bayer-directed clip linger in the collective consciousness as conjoined twins: inseparable, indivisible, different but the same. Premiering on cable network MTV in mid-1993, close to a year after the release of Blind Melon’s eponymous debut album, “No Rain” made a pop culture sensation of the video’s outsider heroine, the bespectacled, tap-dancing Bee Girl — a character whose meteoric rise ultimately eclipsed the music of the star-crossed five-piece responsible for bringing her to life. 

Blind Melon experienced the power and influence of MTV even before entering the recording studio. Soon after arriving in Los Angeles via Greyhound bus from his native Lafayette, Ind., charismatic but troubled vocalist Shannon Hoon reconnected with fellow Hoosier Axl Rose, the frontman for Guns N’ Roses, lending backing vocals to the sessions that produced GN’R’s two Use Your Illusion albums. Hoon (something of an Axl Rose doppelgänger) even appeared in the music video for Guns N’ Roses’ “Don’t Cry,” fueling media interest in the then-unknown singer, who formed Blind Melon in March 1990 with guitarist Rogers Stevens and bassist Brad Smith, both born and raised in tiny West Point, Miss. Adding fellow Missippian Glen Graham on drums and Pennsylvania-born folkie Christopher Thorn on second guitar, the group recorded a four-song demo, The Goodfoot Workshop, which attracted the attention of Capitol Records A&R exec Tim Devine; seeking to capitalize on Hoon’s “Don’t Cry” fame, the label dialed up the pressure to finish writing Blind Melon’s debut LP, prompting all five members to decamp to Durham, N.C.

The bulk of Blind Melon was recorded at Seattle’s London Bridge Studios under the auspices of producer Rick Parashar, who previously helmed Pearl Jam’s grunge landmark Ten. Eschewing contemporary production effects in favor of vintage amplifiers and legacy studio technology, the album’s sunbaked, mudcaked neo-psychedelia earned positive reviews upon its Sept. 22, 1992 release, and the lead single, “Tones of Home,” reached number 20 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. For the follow-up, Capitol selected “No Rain,” a loose-limbed, deceptively upbeat meditation on depression and alienation expertly tailored to Hoon’s careening, Janis Joplin-esque wail. 

Blind Melon on 11/8/91 in Chicago,Il. (Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage)

“No Rain” (whose signature E Mixolydian mode chord progression unmistakably recalls the Grateful Dead’s Janis tribute, “Bird Song”) was written and performed by Brad Smith prior to Blind Melon’s formation, back when the bassist was working a construction job and busking on the Venice Beach boardwalk for spare change. “The song is about not being able to get out of bed and find excuses to face the day when you have really, in a way, nothing,” Smith later told Songfacts. “It was like rock bottom. I wasn’t even on drugs or drinking. It was just tough. It was just a tough point in my life. And the cool thing about that song, I think a lot of people do interpret those lyrics properly and can connect with it on that level, where ‘I don’t understand why I sleep all day and I start to complain that there’s no rain.’ It’s just a line about ‘I’d rather it be raining so I can justify myself by laying in the bed and not doing anything. But it’s a sunny day, so go out and face it.’”

Samuel Bayer, who directed the “Tones of Home” video (and, more famously, directed the era-defining video for Nirvana’s 1991 breakthrough “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” ushering in the commercial ascendance of alternative rock) reunited with Blind Melon for the “No Rain” clip, drawing visual and narrative inspiration from the snapshot of Glen Graham’s younger sister Georgia that adorns the cover of the LP.  The heartbreakingly hilarious photo — once seen, never to be forgotten — depicts the pre-teen Georgia ahead of a school play, posing awkwardly in a makeshift bumblebee costume and tap shoes. “We were all sitting around in the [Graham family] living room, and that picture just jumped out at us,” Hoon recalled in a 1993 Rolling Stone profile. “Someone jokingly said, ‘That would make a great album cover.’”

Bayer believed it would make a great video as well, outfitting 10-year-old actress Heather DeLoach in an updated bee costume derived from Georgia Graham’s original ensemble. “No Rain” opens with the so-called Bee Girl performing her tap routine: when the audience responds with derisive laughter, she runs off-stage, tearfully wandering the streets of Los Angeles in search of a more appreciative reception. Moments before Rogers Stevens’ rollicking guitar solo (performed on his reissued 1962 Fender Stratocaster) takes center stage, DeLoach finally finds her place to bee: a tribal gathering where everyone is dressed the same as she — kindred spirits in yellow and black tutus, dancing joyously in the tall green grass under the bluest of skies. 

Heather DeLoach the Bee Girl from Blind Melon’s video at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

DeLoach was the first to audition for the Bee Girl role, winning over Bayer thanks to her uncanny resemblance to the young Georgia Graham. “They told me Sam didn’t look at any other tapes,” the young actress recalled to MTV News. “I went in with my hair in braids and wearing those chunky glasses, because they said to look nerdy. My mom said we had to find some glasses before we went in, so we ran to a local mall right before the audition and bought them, and Sam liked them so much, they’re the same ones I used in the video.” 

MTV liked the “No Rain” video so much that network brass added the clip to its tastemaking Buzz Bin rotation in mid-June of 1993, and seemingly overnight, the nine-month-old Blind Melon LP caught fire, re-entering the Billboard album charts at number 156 and skyrocketing to the number three position in just seven weeks. By the time the members of Blind Melon appeared au naturel on the cover of Rolling Stone’s Nov. 11, 1993 issue (two months after DeLoach closed out the annual MTV Video Music Awards broadcast with an encore performance of her Bee Girl dance), the album was selling more than 100,000 copies a week. “It’s really weird how the momentum picked up because of one video,” Smith told the magazine. “The music hasn’t changed — it’s been on the CD forever. What we do has not changed. The video and the politics behind everything are what’s changed. Success has a lot less to do with music than I thought it did.”

All I Can Say, a crowdfunded feature documentary assembled from handheld video camera footage shot by Hoon between 1990 and 1995, further exposes the frustration gnawing at the members of Blind Melon as the Bee Girl went supernova. The same reporters who once badgered Hoon for insider dish on pal Axl Rose now peppered him with questions about Heather DeLoach, and when Blind Melon appeared as the musical guest on the Jan. 8, 1994 episode of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, cast member Chris Farley bounded onstage in a plus-sized Bee Girl ensemble, performing a brief tap dance ahead of a slow-burning rendition of “No Rain” that features Hoon revising the song’s opening lyric from “All I can say is that my life is pretty plain” to “All I can say is my life, it’s pretty lame.” Even more problematic, two subsequent singles from Blind Melon — “I Wonder” and “Change” — failed to chart despite an extensive tour in support of the album, as well as high-profile dates opening for simpatico headliners Lenny Kravitz and Neil Young. In one of All I Can Say’s most jarring interactions, an unnamed interviewer tells Hoon his teenage nephew has already labeled the group a one-hit wonder, mere months after “No Rain” peaked at number 20 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

Shannon Hoon from Blind Melon at the Waterloo Village in Stanhope, New Jersey (Photo by Steve Eichner/WireImage)

It’s absurd to suggest that Blind Melon’s moment in the sun depends solely on the Bee Girl, however. In hindsight, the timing of “No Rain” was absolutely impeccable: the song’s idiosyncrasies and intricacies were perfectly attuned to the frequencies of an American society on the cusp of a fin-de-siècle golden age — a period of unprecedented prosperity and peace that granted college kids from coast to coast the freedom to let their freak flags fly. 

Capitol released Blind Melon six weeks ahead of the election of President Bill Clinton, the saxophone-wielding Democratic candidate whose victory MTV helped engineer through programming like the televised town hall Choose or Lose: Facing the Future with Bill Clinton as well as its partnership with Rock the Vote, the nonprofit launched by Virgin Records America co-chairman Jeff Ayeroff “to engage and build the political power of young Americans.” Clinton presided over what would become the longest recorded economic expansion in U.S. history, an eight-year-long sugar high fed by steady job creation, low inflation, soaring productivity, rapid technological innovation and a surging stock market. Add to the mix the collapse of the Soviet Union (allaying fears of imminent nuclear warfare) and the resolution of the Gulf War (ending speculation that Congress might reinstate the draft for military service), and the conditions were ripe for the kind of sensitive, self-consciously quirky jams proffered by Blind Melon and fellow Clinton-era hitmakers like the Dave Matthews Band and Counting Crows — the “mellow dudebro rock” soundtrack for “the peak of liberal confidence and American power and post-ideological relaxation,” per New York Times columnist Russ Douthat’s 2022 op-ed “Hootie and the Blowfish and the End of History.”

Blind Melon on 4/10/92 in Chicago,Il. (Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage)

Douthat — a self-described “white male child of the 1990s” — revisits the hacky-sack-circle anthems of his late teenage and early college years through a lens informed by political scientist Francis Fukuyama, whose post-Cold War essay The End of History suggests that “the triumph of the West, of the Western idea” signaled the culmination of humankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of liberal democracy as the final form of government. “It’s hard to formulate exactly what made [acts like Dave Matthews Band] so distinctive or explain what happened to their vibe,” Douthat writes. “It’s not joy at the end of history, exactly, that defines the Hootie-DMB-Counting Crows aesthetic, but maybe it’s what you might call a sense that ordinary life suffices (a key stabilizing sentiment for a liberal society). That you can have a rich human experience, full of joys and sorrows, without the extreme premodern or 20th-century stuff, war and God and utopia and all the rest… That you can be a fulfilled human person just through the highs and lows of normal-seeming suburban American life. That tropes of early-adult male heterosexual experience like ‘the yearning to be famous’ or ‘the awesome girl who lets you down’ or just ‘hanging out with your friends and feeling a little sorry for yourself’ are all sufficient as grist for the strong feelings that make up an interesting life. And that when those feelings get you down, you can be depressed in a way that’s personal rather than existential, that’s just about you rather than about everything that’s wrong with life under late capitalism or whatever.”

But at the same time songs of ordinary life catapulted other mellow dudebro rockers to extraordinary success (Dave Matthews Band’s 1994 major label debut Under the Table and Dreaming was certified platinum six times over, and Hootie and the Blowfish’s debut Cracked Rear View, issued that same year, is as of this writing the 19th-best-selling album in U.S. chart history, going platinum 21 times over), Blind Melon’s career continued to unravel. The band’s performance at the Woodstock ‘94 music festival earned decidedly mixed reviews, and Hoon’s longstanding problems with drugs and alcohol grew increasingly pronounced, leading to multiple stints in rehab. After supporting the Rolling Stones on tour, Blind Melon retreated to New Orleans to begin work on its second album, 1995’s Andy Wallace-produced cult favorite Soup, which reached number 28 on the Billboard albums chart but soon plummeted from sight. Eight weeks after Soup hit stores, Hoon was found dead of a drug overdose hours before a scheduled performance at New Orleans’ venerable Tipitina’s; he was 28 years old. It took the surviving members of Blind Melon more than a decade to find his replacement, former Rain Fur Rent vocalist Travis Warren. 

And what of the Bee Girl? DeLoach reprised the role in “Weird Al” Yankovic’s 1993 music video “Bedrock Anthem,” the same year Pearl Jam recorded the tribute song “Bee Girl” during an appearance on the nationally syndicated radio program Rockline. (The track was officially released in 2003 via the Pearl Jam rarities compilation Lost Dogs.) DeLoach continued her acting career and later appeared in two episodes of NBC’s hit medical drama ER; in 2020, while pregnant with her second child, she once again reclaimed the Bee Girl mantle for an appearance on the FOX network’s musical game show I Can See Your Voice.

The original Bee Girl Georgia Graham, younger sister of band member Glen on the cover of Blind Melon’s 1992 debut album.

“I had an amazing childhood, and [‘No Rain’] gave me so many amazing experiences,” DeLoach told Spin in 2020. “I will put that costume on until I’m 90. When I put that costume on, I am honoring something so amazing. The Bee Girl is part of me.”

No Rain (KORD-0038)

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