Well, it finally happened – possibly the most overdue overdose in rock history, but I’m still sad. Scott Weiland was one of my favourites, from the first intonations of Stone Temple Pilots ‘Core’ through Velvet Revolver and to his much less “popular” solo stuff. The first time I heard Plush someone told me it was Pearl Jam and I believed them…for about 15 seconds of Dead and Bloated. I knew at that point that STP was much chunkier rock than PJ, with amazing bass lines and poetic lyrics. STP was (and still is) one of my favourite bands and who knows what they could have been had Scott had more than a one night stand with sobriety in his troubled life. That’s the thing with drugs and musicians, though – we don’t know if there would even have been an STP or if would have been as good had he been sober. Maybe you get what you get and you don’t get upset. Maybe a shorter time with an amazing, but tortured artist as Scott would not be as wonderful a ride as a longer, tamer ride.
Everyone is familiar with Core, Purple and even some Tiny Songs…Music from the Vatican Gift Shop, but do you know much of No. 4? Or Scott Weiland’s solo stuff? Some of my favourites are the lesser lights, the unreleased tracks and I’m going to mention a few of them here as my form of tribute. My favourite track off Core was Crackerman – never made the radio, but holy hell what a speedy, deep riff running through that. Add Scott’s signature mash up of lyrics “He’s a man, he’s a man, Crackerman, Crackerman he’s a woman, too,” and I’m home. My old band learned the standards, Plush, Creep and Wicked Garden as some of our first covers and they never got old. Purple’s Interstate Love Song was another band favourite and along with Vasoline et al, received strong radio play. Again, these were not my faves in the end – Still Remains is a hauntingly, dark love song and Silvergun Superman has one of my favourite heavy riffs ever, along with excellent Scott lyrical twists.
‘Tiny Music…‘ had several radio hits, but I found them lacking some edge, a little too mainstream for my taste at the time. Digging deeper on the album, I found what I was looking for – Ride the Cliché and Seven Caged Tigers are reminiscent of Led Zeppelin blues-rock and are more than enough to make me happy with this album overall. Give them a listen and see if you don’t feel a little more psychedelic. After the lukewarm reviews of ‘Tiny Music…’ and some hiatus time, STP tried to hit a heavier note again on No. 4 opening with Down– the opening riff grabs you by the balls and seemingly doesn’t plan to let go. Eventually it does, settling in to a more mellow album overall. The lyrics are more realistic, as opposed to some of the more poetic earlier stuff, but you can start to feel Scott’s pain a little more easily as it comes through in tracks like I Got You and Atlanta. They’re both among the slower STP songs, but excellent musical pieces akin to their earlier slow, but catchy songs off of Core.
Scott released two main solo albums during “prime-time” of his career – 1998’s 12 Bar Blues and 2008’s Happy in Galoshes. With Scott’s history, it’s 50/50 whether 12 Bars refers to an instrument or a helluva Friday night. Somehow, I feel that “Happy” was his most personal work referencing in clear detail and sober second thought some of the pain in his life from drinking and drugging, to encounters with law enforcement and treatment, to personal struggles with his wife and kids and the untimely death of his brother, Michael. You don’t have to love the album to love the honesty; that’s something that Scott always seemed to bring, unless you were asking him if he did any drugs the day of a show, perhaps…but to his music, his stage persona and his absolutely frenzied energy.
I’ll leave this piece with some lyrics from my favourite Scott Weiland solo song, and in my top 5 all time with or without STP or Velvet Revolver, Missing Cleveland. Verse two is about his home life – “There was you and there was me, like a perfect family. Thought we’d always, live forever. But one and one and one is three and it changed the recipe – I forgot it, truly toxic.” Wow, a stunningly honest revelation about the stress a child can add to a seemingly perfect relationship. Brutal, sad, heartbreaking. And the chorus in relation to fame and infamy: “You’re holding on, but letting go. I’m missing Cleveland and the snow, the lonely bars where everybody knows the truth and let’s it be. Well, I’m a dreamer you don’t care. At least it seems so when you’re there, but even Earth is lonely when your feet aren’t on the ground.” Double wow! I can’t imagine the pain and shame this man held inside him most of the time after probably feeling like he had wasted his talents, his time, his life on false pursuits and still couldn’t do anything about it. That’s addiction in a nutshell, folks – and all he wanted was to ‘let it be’. I will miss this man and his gift, but always be thankful for what he gave us – a lifetime of music that still shakes me to the “Core”.