For this post I thought I’d tell the ironic backstory of the massive 1992 Blind Melon hit single No Rain.
Blind Melon released their debut, self-titled album in September 1992. Initially it sold poorly. The first two singles went nowhere and their record company’s head was on the verge of giving up on the band. He said he’d give them one more single.
With hindsight it’s unsurprising that they struggled. Grunge, and specifically Nirvana, had erupted onto the scene and changed everything. Rock was now angry, introspective and self-destructive. A bunch of joyful, silly, psychedelic, hippy-types didn’t exactly chime with the new zeitgeist.
Facing a likely abrupt end to their dreams and careers they re-grouped to consider which tune would be their last shot. No Rain was the quirkiest song on the album and not one they’d initially considered for release. But, during their incessant touring, they’d noted how enthusiastically audiences had responded to it. They sung along and knew all the words. It was clearly connecting with people, so they decided to peg their hopes on it.
The song was written by bassist Brad Smith before the band formed. It was characteristic of his song-writing style in that it featured melancholic lyrics over upbeat music. At the time, he was dating a girl battling depression. At the depths of her illness she would often sleep through sunny days and complain that it wasn’t raining as rainy days offered more justification for staying in bed. Smith initially told himself that the lyrics were written solely from her perspective, but later came to realise that he was also writing about his own struggles with depression. He commented “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 lying in the bed and not doing anything. But it’s a sunny day, so go out and face it.”
The cover for the album was a 1975 photo of the drummer’s younger sister, Georgia Graham, in a bee costume during a school performance. It was guitarist Christopher Thorn who first considered the photo for the album. He later said “One day, we were hanging out at Glen’s house, and they had all these pictures as you went up the steps in their house. I just remember walking up the steps and seeing that picture of Glen’s sister, and it just hit me that that had to be the cover. Everybody has that shot that they’re a little embarrassed of. It’s that shot before you become self-conscious, and before you start thinking about what’s cool and what’s not cool—you’re just completely authentic. That’s what that shot meant to me when I saw that. It just really hit me, and I started a campaign to make that our album cover and everyone went along with it. None of us had any idea that it would become such an iconic image.”
The No Rain’s video director, Samuel Bayer, decided to take the album cover and bring the bee girl to life. He developed a storyline of a young girl in a bee outfit trying to find acceptance among the people she meets. She’s repeatedly rejected until, at the end of the video, she discovers a field full of people also in bee costumes who welcomingly accept her. The amusing video with its underdog storyline and hippish/upbeat song caught MTV’s, and everyone’s, attention in a way that no one could have anticipated.
The quirky song, with its equally quirky video, became one of the most requested on MTV. The song catapulted up the charts and became a phenomenon. It’s success also sky-rocketed the album up the charts from 157 to number 3. The album went on to achieve quadruple-platinum status and the video reached number twenty-two on MTV’s Greatest Videos Ever Made countdown at the end of 1999. The band became instant stars, and the bee girl became an icon of the nineties. It’s ironic that a band struggling to find its place in the music world inadvertently found it, on a scale they’d never imagined, with a video about a girl also trying to find her place in the world. And the fact that this happened when they were on the verge of being dropped only heightens the drama.
The 10 year-old girl who featured in the video, Heather De Loach, also became famous in her own right. Her fame was so intense that fears began to grow that it would prove too much for the young girl. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder even improvised a song called Bee Girl that expressed these fears, although many felt his words were equally directed at Blind Melon’s singer, Shannon Hoon. If so, the lyrics were sadly prophetic.
Hoon had been struggling with drug and alcohol abuse for many years. He’d even taken LSD during the filming for No Rain, as if it wasn’t surreal enough already. While touring for their second album, the brilliant Soup, he was found dead in his bunk of their tour bus. He’d overdosed on cocaine and suffered a heart attack. He was only 28 years old and his daughter, Nico Blue, was only a few months old.
Just to demonstrate that we have old photos like this, here’s one of me. Or is that the actual cover…