Scott Weiland, vocalist for Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, was found dead on his tour bus a few days ago. Like most of his fans, I wasn’t surprised, just disappointed. When celebrities die young, there’s usually some aspect of shock, but Weiland – like Amy Winehouse some years ago – provoked no such response. Sadly, it always seemed to be very much a case of when, not if.
Stone Temple Pilots were easily my favourite American band of the ‘90s. I first fell in love with Vaseline and Interstate Love Song from their second, self-titled LP in 1994. Weiland’s baritone vocals and the band’s Zeppelin-esque brand of rock were a nice antidote to the ‘too punk to learn our instruments’ aesthetic that evolved out of the grunge movement. Their cover of Zeppelin’s Dancing Days from the Encomium tribute album sealed the deal. These were guys who had a love and respect for the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Once I’d digested the singles from that second album – known to all as Purple – I went back to check out their first record, 1992’s Core. I have a firm memory of standing at a bus-stop in the freezing cold on Boxing Day 1994, listening to the opening intro of Dead & Bloated on my Discman. Man, it’s a heavy album. Not the type of heaviness you’d hear at the time from the likes of Pantera and Sepultura, but a heaviness that was steeped in the radio-friendly sound of classic rock. The thing that distanced them from those post-Metallica bands was the empty spaces between the DeLeo brothers’ guitars and Eric Kretz’s drums. STP weren’t rushing anywhere; most of their songs were mid-tempo and Brendan O’Brien’s production focused just as much on the light as the shade.
Then it all started to go wrong. Third album Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop was doomed from the start. Released without anyone taking a lot of notice, Weiland’s drug problems outshined the record despite killer singles in Big Bang Baby and especially Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart.
After album number three, I turned off. No. 4 and Shangri-La Dee Da were released in 1999 and 2001 and I didn’t even notice. I’ve only just bought them in the last year or so to complete my collection. I do regret not hearing them at the time, but I’d moved on.
In 2010 my ears pricked up again. After a lengthy hiatus while Weiland was the faux-Axl Rose in Velvet Revolver, Stone Temple Pilots reformed and recorded another self-titled album. I didn’t think much of the material – too much water had passed under the bridge – but the album spurned a tour which reached New Zealand.
I couldn’t believe I was seeing one of my favourite bands play live. They had avoided touring overseas back in the ’90s, for the same reasons that Aerosmith stayed in the USA during the ‘70s – addicts will always want to stay close to their dealer and not risk carrying anything over borders. Here they were, playing all my favourite STP songs, and when they dropped Crackerman just a couple of songs into the set, I could have left right there and then, a happy man.
Like most, I was concerned at Weiland’s recent woeful attempt to sing one of STP’s better known songs, Vaseline, with his new band (a video comparing the performance to when he could really belt it out is just horrible to watch). But there were the danger signs right there. He didn’t look like he should have been out in public; let alone showcasing his new band on TV. I’ll prefer to remember him in his element, blasting out Plush at the 1993 MTV Movie Awards.
Hit: Days Of The Week
Hidden Gem: A Song For Sleeping