With the passing of Scott Weiland, I’m sure we will see all sorts of tributes and retrospectives on his life and times throughout the media from television to social media. Stories about how his band Stone Temple Pilots were one of the commercially successful bands of the 1990s, nearly 20 top ten songs on, 8 of which number 1. How they won a Grammy and sold over 40 million albums worldwide. Stories about how despite being treated unfairly early in their career as a Pearl Jam rip-off, they still managed to come into their own and continued to stay relevant enough to create music and tour for nearly 30 years. I’m also sure there will be stories about Weiland’s constant battles with the demon of addiction. With all of these stories, and tributes, what more can really be said?
I’m in no way a biographer by any means, I didn’t get the chance to meet Weiland, and I’m sad to say that I didn’t get a chance to see him live with any of his projects throughout the years, but I can tell you how his music has been a major part of my life. I won’t sit here and say that his music speaks to my inner being, or is a life changing element that saved my soul because that would be extremely pretentious and lame. I grew up in the 90s and if you were a kid who listened to rock music, odds are you at least loved one Stone Temple Pilot’s song. The first time I had heard them I was probably nine or ten years old. I remember being in a record store with my Dad and while he thumbed through tapes, I would wander around and gawk at all the weird album covers and listen closely to what was being played in there. One day they were playing what I would later find out, was Plush. I remember really liking how it was noisy and distorted like hard rock but at the same time melodic much like a modern day Led Zeppelin. It wasn’t until almost a year later when I heard Vasoline for the first time that I found out it was the same band.
Bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and of course Nirvana were considered that era’s ‘Big Four’, giving a face and sound to a generation of rock music that represented the every-man. The singers weren’t marketed as dreamy, angelic idols, for the most part they were tortured souls that sang songs about pain, neglect, bitterness and hurt instead of bedding party girls and having a good time like the mainstream bands a decade before. I loved all of those bands for different reasons, but when these bands were in their element, I was too young to really get it. The Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots were a good bridge for my tastes on a level of relation. Is it really even fair to call those particular bands grunge anyway? Even though their success came into the mainstream during the end of the first wave of grunge acts, they always felt a medium to me.
What separated Stone Temple Pilots from the likes of Nirvana or Pearl Jam was their influences and how they incorporated their respective inspirations into the music they were releasing. Scott Weiland’s love of David Bowie and Jim Morrison, brought a sense of classic rock n roll that was sort of missing in that particular movement. Sure they had some brooding tunes like Big Empty and even Interstate Love Song to a degree, but Weiland’s charisma elevated his showmanship with his horrible 70’s outfits, drunk dancing, and wild hair, to a point where being unpredictable became part of his routine. No matter what goes down, seeing and hearing him scream the lyrics of Wicked Garden into a megaphone, is nothing short of iconic. His knack for rock n’ roll imagery would become a staple of his live show throughout his career and maybe even the star of his first solo album in 1998.
Weiland’s showmanship earned him a spot as one of the most important frontmen in modern rock music history. But aside from flamboyant outfits and spectacle, Weiland was a fantastic singer and songwriter. Throughout his career, bands, artists and projects, his evolution as an artist remains one of the most interesting aspects of who he was as a person. He was commanding enough to be a staple of the 90s rock music scene, and still have enough artistry to make his solo albums work on their own legs. Even when he joined the supergroup Velvet Revolver, his songwriting and vocals kept the project from being a contrived cash grab and into a legitimate band with their own sound and vision.
It’s sad that Weiland’s personal battles haunted his life both inside and out of his various music endeavors. Years of substance abuse, addiction, run ins with the law and even lawsuits from his former bandmates among other drama with people he has worked with over the years but I won’t judge him on any of those aspects. Not because I’m such a fan, but mainly because it’s none of my business. Each and every one of us have our personal issues we deal with in our lives and labeling someone who has addictions as a ‘junkie’ or a ‘drunk’ doesn’t help them. More importantly, no matter how much the media likes to share these stories and events, they have nothing to do with us. The only thing that concerns us fans is the music he had put out over the course of his three decade long career. Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver, The Wildabouts, solo albums and projects in which he contributed, one thing is for certain for me: Scott Weiland was one of the voices of my youth. A voice that I can now only hear in the recordings I’ve cherished while growing up. I can’t say I loved every single thing he has released over the years and not every one has, but despite what people have said, whether it be fans, media, or naysayers, those imperfections were who he was as an artist and at it’s core, isn’t that what art is all about? You will be missed Scott, thank you.