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Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.


2008.09.DD - Excerpts from "A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other" by Greg Prato

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2008.09.DD - Excerpts from "A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other" by Greg Prato Empty 2008.09.DD - Excerpts from "A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other" by Greg Prato

Post by Blackstar Sat May 15, 2021 9:44 pm

Excerpts from A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other (The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon) by Greg Prato

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. A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other is the first book to tell the group’s story-culled from over 50 exclusive interviews (including the surviving band members, plus current/former members of Guns N’ Roses, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and the Lenny Kravitz Band, among others) and featuring many never-before-seen photos.

These two excerpts from the book give some insight into Shannon’s friendship with G n’ R singer Axl Rose. Both originally hailed from Lafayette, Indiana, and eventually, relocated to Los Angeles, California, to pursue rock stardom. With Axl already established as one of the world’s most renowned rock singers, he offers to help Shannon out - by letting him sit in on G n’ R’s Use You Illusion sessions, which results in Shannon singing on several songs, including “Don’t Cry,” for which Shannon also appears in the video. By mid 1993, the Shannon-fronted Blind Melon is on the verge of a major commercial breakthrough, and the group accepts G n’ R’s invitation to open up a series of shows in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe.

“I am honored that Greg has painstakingly accounted for what the hell happened during those crazy times. He has summed up all the chaos, jubilation, and paranoia that is Blind Melon.” - Brad Smith, Blind Melon bassist

Cast Of Characters
[Note: Descriptions and titles reflect the time period this book takes place]

Bill Armstrong [Friend of Blind Melon]
Gilby Clarke [Guns N’ Roses guitarist, toured w/ Blind Melon in ‘93]
Mike Clink [Guns N’ Roses producer]
Colleen Combs [Axl Rose’s personal assistant, friend and neighbor of Shannon Hoon in L.A.]
Paul Cummings [Blind Melon tour manager ‘92-‘95]
Lyle Eaves [Blind Melon soundman ‘91-‘95]
Glen Graham [Blind Melon drummer]
Nel Hoon [Mother of Shannon Hoon]
Shannon Hoon [Original Blind Melon singer]
Michael Kelsey [Styff Kytten guitarist - Shannon Hoon’s pre-Blind Melon band]
Duff McKagan [Guns N’ Roses bassist, toured w/ Blind Melon in ‘93]
Mike Osterfeld [Stage manager for Blind Melon from ‘93-’95]
Riki Rachtman [Owner of the Cathouse in Los Angeles, host of MTV’s ‘Headbanger’s Ball’]
Shelley Shaw [Worked for Guns N’ Roses and Blind Melon’s booking agency, ICM]
Rogers Stevens [Blind Melon guitarist]
Christopher Thorn [Blind Melon guitarist]
Brian Whitus [Friend of Shannon Hoon from Indiana]


Excerpt 1
Axl and Shannon

Shannon arrives in L.A. (via bus) in 1990, and an old friend lends a hand - Axl Rose. In the midst of G n’ R’s sessions for ‘Use Your Illusion,’ Axl invites Shannon to sing on the soon-to-be G n’ R classic, “Don’t Cry,” and to appear in its bombastic video.

Shannon Hoon: We’ve been friends for five or six years. He used to live in Indiana.

Colleen Combs: I met Axl when I still lived in Sacramento - I was in high school. We used to go to Los Angeles to see shows, and I worked for Tower Records in Sacramento. Axl worked at Tower Video on Sunset at that time - we’re talking ‘85, somewhere in there. When I was in grade school and junior high school, coincidentally, my local neighborhood garage band was the band that turned into Tesla. That’s Tom Zutaut, who was later involved in Guns N’ Roses. The original singer of that band moved to Los Angeles and as Tesla became Tesla, they got a new singer. I ran into him on the Strip, and he worked at Tower Video with Axl - he introduced him to me. This was before Guns N’ Roses existed. Axl and I sort of became pen pals - we used to write to each other. When I moved to L.A. in the summer of ‘85, I ran into him again, and became friends that way.

Shelley Shaw: I got a job working for the head of worldwide music at I.C.M. [International Creative Management]. I knew a lot of acts; I’d traveled, and got to meet the managers. I’d been to L.A. a lot and I had a core of friends there - somehow I met Guns N’ Roses. I went to see them at the Roxy, and went over to Geffen - I knew John Kalodner. He gave me ‘Live Like A Suicide’ [G n’ R’s 1986 E.P.]. I was like, “This isn’t really what I saw at the Roxy last night, but O.K.” Anytime I got $200 in my pocket, I bought a ticket to L.A., went out, and saw people. So we ended up signing them - I’d bring back things for my boss and he’d listen to them. It was amazing to me that nobody had Guns N’ Roses yet.

Over the years - from ‘87 to ‘91 - Axl and I became really good friends. It’s really hectic for people to go through that kind of growth through the public eye and be famous... and be 25. Axl had a ‘seen it all/done it all’ reputation - but on a lot of levels, he was really naive. So there was a lot to go through - I was the same way, so we got along really good. We were really close. I remember he said a friend of his in high school had rung him up - her little brother was going to L.A. to try and make it in music, and would he keep an eye out. That was Anna, Shannon’s sister. So he said, “Yeah - give him my numbers.” I think he got there sometime in 1990. I think it was Axl that had a picture of him on the fridge, that was clipped out of the Lafayette paper. It was Shannon deserted at the Lafayette bus station - sitting there for two or three days. There was a bus strike.

Shannon Hoon: We’re both from the same town; he went to high school with my sister. We ran around with the same crowd, but I never really hung out with him in Indiana because I’m a few years younger. Out in L.A., there’s a handful of people who are from our community. I’d sometimes run into friends who were from Lafayette and it was such a breath of fresh air. It felt like you were going home without going back home.

Colleen Combs: Axl told me Shannon was coming to L.A., and asked me to help him settle in. I remember Shannon already having been at parties via Axl. Shannon came by my place - Axl told him he was going to Vegas to marry Erin [Everly]. But I wasn’t talking to Axl very much at that period, and Shannon was going out with him a lot. A month after that, Axl was calling me again. I ended up being a personal assistant to him. [Shannon] really had this idea of me that I was this Rolodex of Los Angeles, because of all the nightclub work I did - I knew a lot of people casually and the city pretty well.

Riki Rachtman: Axl at that time was always great about helping his friends out. Obviously, Axl was a very influential part in Shannon’s success. And Shannon would do anything for him - just like Axl would do anything for his friends. If you were at the Cathouse, and somebody said something bad about Axl, Shannon would just hit the guy in the face.

Bill Armstrong: I was playing in bands - we were all musicians in town, everybody trying to get a band together. Axl was a big fan of Shannon’s. He really loved the way Shannon sung, and felt like, “Here’s a guy from my hometown, and I’m going to do anything to help this guy out.”

Shelley Shaw: In 1990, it was the holidays - I think that’s when [Axl] had been through a really quick divorce with Erin. He was sad and living at the studio - he was in a really bad way. I remember Shannon looked after him and stayed there with him. But he was like, “I’ve got to go home to Indiana to see my family on Christmas Eve.” Somehow, he got a hold of me - I still hadn’t talked to [Shannon] - "I’ve got to go, and I heard you might come in. This is what’s going on.” I kind of took over, and then when I left, he came back. We were like ‘ships in the night’ - it was really weird. When I got there, [Axl] was sleeping a lot and going out to eat - there was no recording going on. He was just living there and he had a lot to say. It was more like Axl always needed somebody - he loved to sit and friggin’ filibuster. They were doing the sessions for ‘Use Your Illusion,’ and I remember Axl was like, “My voice just isn’t there for these high bits - I’ve got to get somebody in there to help.” So he brought in Shannon to see if he could do some things. I still hadn’t met him. It was like this myth - this little ‘charge’ that had been sent from the cornfields to have Axl look after.

Shannon Hoon: I still think of Axl as a friend, but we don’t sit around talking about the music business or publicity stunts, because that kind of talk doesn’t matter much to either of us. We always seem to find much more interesting things to talk about.

Mike Clink: Shannon was great. He was this shy little kid, that used to sit in the back of the room. And he would come night after night after night – sit there and listen. He was a sponge taking it all in. At that time, Blind Melon didn’t exist - he was just doing demos every once in a while at home, and he would come in and play them for me. Trying to get my reaction on them. But he was still searching for his sound. I think we had decided to get a whole bunch of people - with a bunch of different textures. We had some girls coming in singing - just a ton of people. When he did the vocals, he had a really great, smooth, pretty voice. It added a nice little texture to the songs. My first impression was of him being this shy little kid from Indiana, who was a friend of Axl’s. He was very respectful of everybody’s space - he never got belligerent. He was there to take it in and experience the events.

Duff McKagan: He was a good guy. He was a friend of Axl’s, so he was hanging out quite a bit in the early days of Guns N’ Roses. A fucking hell of a singer. He sang on “Don’t Cry" - he was around a lot, before that even.

Shannon Hoon: I got to know the rest of the band through him, and that day I just happened to be in the studio and they asked me if I wanted to sing on that one track.

Nel Hoon: He was very excited. The fact that he was on the “Don’t Cry” video and the song - I have to give Axl credit, that he did help. I know that now Axl’s not the most popular guy - I still think he helped Shannon out.

Michael Kelsey: Before Shannon met Axl, he had gotten a hold of G n R’s demo from mutual Axl friends. He was bent on [Styff Kytten] doing a tune on the tape that hadn’t been released. So we were doing a version of “Don’t Cry” years before he ever recorded the actual studio version with Axl.

Shannon Hoon: It was just a couple of friends getting together to sing a song. As far as the big deal that was made out of it, that was your fault, not mine.

Bill Armstrong: I remember going out with Shannon and Axl, when Shannon was singing on the ‘Use Your Illusion’ records. One night, we were standing on Sunset Boulevard, and this car pulls up out of nowhere, and it’s Axl. He goes, “Hey you fuckers - jump in the car!” We all get in, we got driving around town listening to rough mixes in the car, and went to a couple of parties together. It was just surreal. And then Axl drops me off at my house! Shannon used to live maybe a block and a half away from me, so we’d see each other all the time.

Riki Rachtman: The way I knew about Shannon was pretty much from Axl. I had an office in Hollywood that handled all my clubs, my apparel company, and a lot of my appearances through MTV and radio. So Axl said, “Look, there’s a friend of mine that is coming into town and he needs a job.” If there was somebody from the old days, he always helped a lot of his friends - where he had either an old friend write a video or get a job in the band. He’d always done a lot of help for me, so whatever he wanted; I was like, “Yeah, no problem.”

Shannon Hoon: If I had to deal with half the stuff that [Axl] has to deal with, then I’d be mad! I think everyone would!

Colleen Combs: [Shannon was] completely jazzed. That was one of those things where... that world is so huge. There’s such a difference between having to play covers back in your hometown, moving to a place like L.A., where you can play all original stuff, and get shows. It’s a bit strange when some of your friends have already made it, because you can see it - it seems so real, it’s not like winning the lottery any longer. It seems like a really accessible thing. And really, at that time, it was an accessible thing - a lot of people were being signed. Axl was living pretty large, so anyone coming in at that point didn’t see Guns N’ Roses when they were struggling and living in their practice space. By that time, he had his condo up on Sunset, I think, and money to buy other property. Everything was huge - he had that custom convertible BMW. I’m guessing what it would look like to Shannon, but Shannon was enthusiastic about almost everything. When I say he was sweet and nice - a lot of things really made him excited. And all of Los Angeles to him was huge, exciting, and completely open to him-he was always meeting people, getting invited places, and going places.

Brian Whitus: I recall when they did that video on the roof. Shannon wore that outfit - the blazer shirt and jeans. Axl went and changed his clothes to kind of simulate Shannon. Shannon laughed about it - "That guy took my idea!”

Shannon Hoon: They had one hell of a catering situation at that thing.

Bill Armstrong: I think Axl saw a little bit of himself in Shannon. Shannon definitely had some ‘Axl-like qualities.’ Not as far as being a dictator or any of that kind of stuff - more along the lines of living life by the seat of his pants.

Shannon Hoon: I don’t really want to talk about that any more. It seems like such a long time ago to me now, but that’s all everyone seems to think about. It’s not something I feel is relevant to what I’m doing now.


Excerpt 2
Crammed in a Van Tour

After the release of ‘Blind Melon’ on September 22, 1992, the band hits the tour trail, headlining their own gigs on what’s dubbed the ‘Crammed in a Van Tour,’ as well as playing with some of rock’s biggest names - Ozzy Osbourne, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, John Mellencamp, their old pals Guns N’ Roses, and almost, Bob Dylan.

Glen Graham: Then we got the Guns N’ Roses thing. We went out with those guys, and that was amazing. That was sort of life changing. You felt a lot better about the whole plan. We got pretty good responses on the Guns N’ Roses [dates].

Lyle Eaves: [Shannon] loved to grab people and tackle them. When we opened for Guns N’ Roses, I go into the production office to meet these big time road guys-who at the time, were heroes of mine. Y’know, this is what I want to do - the same thing these guys are doing. I go in the office to meet these guys, and as I’m sticking my hand out to shake the hand of Opie, their production manager, Shannon comes through the door and tackles me-in the production office. Lays me out on the floor. A great first impression. It was always something with him. He definitely acted first and thought later.

Mike Osterfeld: Watching the stage manager for Axl try and jump in front of a limo to keep Axl there, because he felt like he was having some déjà vu and didn’t want to play a show. It was watching real rock star problems.

Christopher Thorn: I hated waiting around for Axl every night-that kind of sucked. I saw what I didn’t want to be-that’s one thing that that tour taught me. People stepping aside because Axl was walking down the hallway. It’s like, “What the fuck? He’s just a guy.” I’ll never forget people playing ping-pong in this big hallway, and then suddenly they stopped playing and moved to the side. I was like, “What’s going on? Why would you stop in the middle of the game?” Everyone’s sort of winking, like, “Look who’s coming down the hallway.” It was like, “Oh O.K., it’s Axl. Why are you guys stopping? Are you afraid he’s going to get hit with a ping-pong [ball]?” It was so pathetic. I thought, “I never want to be like that-you’re still human, you’re still a fucking punk.” We used to have to wait, because he would fly in and out on a helicopter. In the States, we weren’t flying around with them-we were in a van, trying to keep up with them on tour. There were times when we would want to leave to get to the next show, and we would have to wait for Axl to fly in on the helicopter. It was just always this ‘waiting on Axl thing.’ It would drive me crazy. But I’m so grateful that we got to open up for them and play to that many people.

Shannon Hoon: I think the big rock shows are for certain people, but not for us. It was a good tour, and we got to play to a lot of people, but as far as what kind of environment we feel comfortable in and what kind of vibe we create, it’s definitely realized better in a smaller, sweatier, stinkier place than a 60,000
seat venue that’s sold out.

Rogers Stevens: Airplane! We toured on the MGM Grand [when Blind Melon played in Mexico with GN'R]-that was really fun. It was full-on rock star treatment. We went from touring in a van to getting on their plane. And they were in their full-on decadent collapse at the time. So that was sad to watch, because I was a big fan-they still played great. You learned a lot from them-they were one of those bands that could really fill up a stadium. They would play on stage at a stadium, and you’d think, “Wow, I don’t know if I have that sorta ‘outside personality’ to do that.” But they could really pull it off.

Gilby Clarke: Our tour bus was a plane. One of the times, Shannon came with us. He ended up sitting beside me, because we hadn’t spent a lot of time together. Sometimes at shows-especially with GN’R – we were in and out. I would try to go early to watch Blind Melon or Faith No More – ‘cause I hated sitting in my hotel room. I’d rather be at the show, watching the bands, and getting into the groove. On one of the plane rides, [Shannon] sat next to me, and we hung out and talked about what was going on. But man, he was getting so liquored up, so fast. I kept saying to him, “Dude, pace yourself!” Shannon was always ‘in the moment.’ Whether that moment lasted five minutes or twelve hours, he had to get to that moment quickly. That was wild, because we were just hanging, having a couple of cocktails, and I remember him going faster. I always liked Shannon because he didn’t buy into the whole ‘rock star’ thing. It wasn’t just because at that time grunge was fashionable - to not care. He was just cool. He loved being in his band and touring. He was on a plane with Guns N’ Roses-he was having the time of his life.

Mike Osterfeld: I’d sit in the back of the plane-away from everyone-and frickin’ Axl would come on with his ten entourage people. His masseuse, food therapist-all these people-and he’d sit in the last seat in the plane! Even though he’s got his V.I.P. room in the front, he’d come sit next to me. I’d immediately get up and try to get the hell out of his way.

Paul Cummings: I remember when we did the shows in Mexico, we did Guadalajara, Monterrey, and two nights in Mexico City. Shannon wanted to say something to the crowd, so we got somebody to write out what he wanted to say, and stick it on the stage. It seemed like a good idea, but it got to be a bit too verbose for him. The crowd in Mexico City - in an arena - was probably one of the most responsive and best rock crowds I’ve ever seen. They did the thing where you light the lighters, and for an opening act that they hadn’t even heard, the place was lit up with lighters. I was near the stage-Shannon turned around and his jaw dropped.

Christopher Thorn: I have really intense memories of opening up for Guns N’ Roses in Mexico. They didn’t know any better down there-they thought we were giant rock stars in the States, so they treated us like we had sold millions of records. So we’re in Mexico with a bunch of people that don’t speak our language and they’re chasing us around. It was the first time we felt like, “Wow, this is cool!” People showing up at the hotel and asking for autographs-they had no idea who we were. I think just the fact that we were American and opening up for Guns N’ Roses. My one super intense memory of those shows, in “Deserted,” we used to go into this long, extended jam. And I’ve never seen this before-we’re playing in front of like 80,000 people in some giant place in Mexico City. They were turning on and off their lighters to the beat of the song, at the end of the song. And I’ve never seen that since-it was so unbelievable to look out and see 80,000 people doing this. I’ll never forget that moment.

Gilby Clarke: We used to do an acoustic set. There was a part of I think “I Used to Love Her" - every day we would have somebody different come out and play bongos. Normally it would be crew guys - the lighting director, one of the backline guys. We always had a Domino’s Pizza outfit for this person-a Domino’s Pizza shirt and hat-and what they would come out and deliver us a real pizza. Because our set was so long-it was like a three hour set-we always got hungry halfway through! Every day it was someone different, and every day - I would sit next to Axl on the couch-he would turn to me and go, “Who is that guy?” “Axl, that’s Phil - that’s been our lighting guy for the last five years.” And then one day, Shannon came out-naked!

Shannon Hoon: Since it was the last show we were doing with them, I decided to do it, so I took [Axl] his pizza wearing nothing but a horned Viking helmet. Then I sat down and played the congas. Axl was very shocked.

Nel Hoon: I never went over a week without talking to him. When he was in Europe with Guns N’ Roses, he made so many calls home that I think Axl got mad at him - because this was on Axl’s bill.

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