Thoughts on the Death of Scott Weiland
I knew this day was probably coming. I hoped it wouldn’t be soon, but feared that it would.
1992 was the year I first got really into music. MTV introduced me to the Stone Temple Pilots’ first single, “Sex Type Thing;” its dark, menacing main riff hit me in that sweet, heavy spot, and as a naive 10-year-old the video’s depiction of dungeons honestly scared me a little.
In the summer of 1993 my parents took me on a family vacation to Yellowstone Park. “Wicked Garden” was the song of the moment; I holed up in our hotel room and pined for the daughter of my parents’ friends we’d met earlier that day. Instant crush. Young love.
Purple was in constant rotation in my Walkman upon its release in 1994. I spent hours trying to teach myself the main riff of “Interstate Love Song” on the guitar and marveled at the simplicity of “Vaseline,” one of the shortest and best pop songs ever written. “Big Empty” and The Crow soundtrack played a huge part in my life around that time, too.
In 1996 I stayed up late to watch the premiere of “Big Bang Baby” on MTV. What was this new, lo-fi STP sound with a remarkably lo-fi video? I was confused, but I loved it. I spent countless hours trying to imitate Scott Weiland’s stage moves in my bedroom mirror. I was fascinated by his constantly changing aesthetic and hair styles.
And so my obsession with STP — and Scott Weiland — began. Weiland was unquestionably one of the best frontmen of our time; no, he wasn’t the most talented singer, but he was good enough, and he knew how to make use of what he had. His scintillating performances were a huge part of that. Pure sex; girls wanted to fuck him, guys wanted to be him, the ultimate recipe for rockstar success.
I saw Stone Temple Pilots live more times than I count. I always point people towards STP’s performance at the Rolling Rock Town Fair in Latrobe, PA in 2001 as an example of Scott — and the band — at their peak, absolutely on fire. It was 95 degrees with oppressive humidity, and Weiland put on the performance of a lifetime — clean and sober, slithering and snaking about the stage, the audience in the palm of his hand captivated by his every movement. At his best, he was that kind of frontman.
At his worst, he was anything but. STP made the audience wait nearly two hours on account of his shenanigans at a show several years ago in New Jersey before an obviously impaired Weiland bumbled about the stage, struggling just to take off his jacket and get on with the show. At a private solo performance in a small club a couple of years ago featuring Weiland and The Wildabouts playing Christmas music he was an absolute mess: lethargic, uninterested, stationary and often off-key. And those are just my own personal experiences; the Internet is littered with countless others.
How much of Weiland’s appeal can be linked to his ongoing struggle with addiction? How much of his success and the attention he got was because of the trainwreck element? On Weiland and the band’s own merits and talents I think they would’ve certainly done quite well for themselves, but Weiland’s off-stage shenanigans probably amplified their success. We’ll never know for certain.
This much I do know: whatever caused Weiland’s demons is the same thing that gave rise to his monstrous talent. Take those away and he would’ve been just another rock n’ roll dude. Such is the tale of so many rockstars who died way too young: Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin, Cobain, Brockie and on and on.
My love affair with STP and Weiland didn’t end as a teenager. No. 4 was the soundtrack to my freshman fall in college, a very challenging time in which I felt extremely isolated and depressed (the positively gorgeous, completely overlooked ballad “Atlanta” helped a lot). Shangri-La Dee-Da was a fucking dud, but I bought it anyway; at least we got “Days of The Week.” Greatest Hits compilation Thank You, released in 2003, gave us “All in the Suit That You Wear,” a track that can stand up to almost any in their catalogue. And shit, STP released an album in 2010? I nearly forgot. That one fucking sucked too, but I blame the DeLeo brothers… by then they were simply out of gas.
Weiland delivered a standout performance with Velvet Revolver’s first album. That band’s success is kinda remarkable when you look back on it; so few get a second chance like that and actually run with it. Perhaps my opinion of that album is colored by my love of STP and GN’R, but I really, really liked it.
His solo work was, ummm… interesting. If you’ve never listened to 12 Bar Blues you owe it yourself to do so, if purely as a chance to gaze into the creative process of a strung-out addict’s brain. It’s not John Frusciante Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt-levels of crazy, but it’s pretty fucking out there.
Weiland’s recent work with his solo band The Wildabouts didn’t particularly stand out, to be honest. It wasn’t bad, but it also wan’t that good. By that time in his career one got the sense that Weiland, too, might have been out of gas.
So where does that leave us? And what does it say about the legacy of a man who died way too fucking young?
It almost feels like it had to end this way. There was no happy ending for Scott Weiland. And everyone knew it. The man had all the resources in the world to get better, and he couldn’t… or chose not to. Perhaps this ending is better than watching him descend further into addiction — which was already a painful and emotional roller coaster over the years — and further into the “Fat Elvis” period of his career on which he’d already begun to embark (minus the fatness).
The man was prolific as fuck, a lifer, and a true rock n’ roller by any measure. He leaves quite an impressive body of work in his wake. There were some incredible successes, some rock-bottom lows and everything in between — both artistically and personally. He will be missed by millions.
R.I.P. Scott Weiland.