I really don’t have time for this. I need to be working on LISTS.
Besides, it’s been over a week. Who the hell cares any more?
I couldn’t concentrate on anything else, though. My hope is that posting this will allow me to write other things again, and listen to other music again, and think about other things. Maybe I’ll be less angry and less sad once I finish this. Let’s hope.
Now, on with the narcissistic psychoanalytical plunge into why I loved this man so much.
During the grunge era, Rolling Stone was basically my bible. A kind soul had bought me a subscription at some point, and its competitors always struck me as tacky rags, probably thanks to my English teacher/school newspaper guru. Besides, Rolling Stone and I were on the same bandwagon, and more specifically, we both worshipped Kurt Cobain.
When Stone Temple Pilots came along it was like Scott Weiland had a bullseye on his face. He didn't pretend he didn't want to be a rock star, and of course, there's that "I feeeeeeeel iiiit" thing in "Plush" that made him the easiest possible target for critics and musicians and the cool kids. I mean, Pearl Jam was already unhip; the perception of copying Pearl Jam was next-level lameness. (I had no idea people thought Weiland was imitating Kurt in "Creep" until a few days ago. That's rich.)
I think my crew all giggled about the "Plush" thing at first but I can't remember for sure. I just know at some point it seemed absurd to me that a guy would intentionally mimic a popular song like that at a time when AUTHENTICITY was all anybody seemed to talk about. Looking back, if Weiland did willfully steal that hook from "Even Flow", then my hat's off to him. That's balls. STP weren't a Seattle band, and who knows what it's gonna take to hit the big time as an outsider in the alt-rock sweepstakes. If that’s what it took to bring STP to the world, bravo.
I don't know if STP were ever really grunge, though. Maybe the Deleo brothers had the guitar pedals for it, but their riffs screamed 'arena rock' from the get-go. Weiland was the only weirdo in that band, but as its default spokesman, he found himself doing nothing but defending himself from day one, even though he was the least pretentious person in the entire grunge explosion. It seemed like nobody in the press or the showbiz world ever had his back. Seriously, people thought "Sex Type Thing" was pro-rape? What the fuck is wrong with this country? Then again, Kurt caught the same shit for "Polly", didn't he? I guess Weiland was copying Kurt by getting accused of glorifying rape.
In the end, I sort of bought into the critics' perspective, at least where Core is concerned. There are only a few songs on that album that I ever feel like listening to even now. In the fall of '94, In Utero came out, and a line from the five-star RS review concerning "Heart-Shaped Box" has always stuck with me: "…the kind of song Stone Temple Pilots couldn't write even with detailed instructions…". My first reaction was a smile. I probably wished I had come up with that line, having begun to write godawful music reviews of my own for the school paper, and it fit the pervading paradigm: Kurt was a genius whereas Weiland was a relative hack. The more I thought about it, though, the more that quote struck me as idiotic. It was like the press couldn't let it go, clinging to a single storyline about Weiland that they needed in order to perpetuate the myth of Seattle. Why would Weiland want to write a song like that? To feed back into your conception about his lack of originality? Could Kurt write a song like "Sex Type Thing"? The line is simply mean-spirited. Imagine you're Weiland, reading that. Maybe you love In Utero. Maybe you see those five stars and you're excited to indulge in some solidarity. Then you read that.
This wouldn't be the last time that the press funneled the STP conversation into a single topic, of course. I have to admit that for those first couple years, even though I dug Pilots, I was as likely to be making fun of Weiland as earnestly singing along to "Plush". The guy sounds goofy sometimes, and at his best, he was the ultimate glam caricature, daring you to take him seriously. In reality, I think he was full of shit at all times for the last two decades of his life, except when he was writing songs. He had a wall up, an ever-growing network of walls, that the public never saw through from some point in the mid-90s until his death.
I had no reason to question his integrity in ’93, though. I was into some of his tunes, but not a superfan. Everything changed the first time I heard "Big Empty". I will never forget it. A friend and I were cruising through our little hometown when the DJ announced it, and we were transfixed as the jazzy beginning of that song crept out of the car speakers, and then the chorus hit and we were floored. We didn't anticipate this kind of subtlety and dynamic coming from STP.
I admit I didn't really get what Weiland meant by "Too much trippin' and my soul's worn thin". I was a sheltered kid from a small town. Drugs weren't real life. Even Kurt's inadvertent romanticization of heroin hadn't put any temptation in me. Now he was dead. That whole thing was over. The glossy sounds of Purple (plus all the 25-dollar Nirvana "imports" I could get my hands on) soundtracked my post-high school summer. Alcohol isn't a drug, right?
The Marcus Amphitheater was the place to be that summer for the white males from the generation of x: Soundgarden (pretty good), STP (everything we hoped and more), and Smashing Pumpkins (one of the most boring performances in history by a rock band). Weiland seemed to have a smidge of earnest humility in those days. We all clung to our knowledge that Kurt’s death had fixed our rockstars’ drug urges for about a year. Then in the spring of 1995, we heard this clip of Courtney Love reading a letter supposedly written by Weiland on the radio: “I have a disease. The disease is called drug addiction.” I could swear she sounded like she was about to burst into laughter while she read these words. I was completely confused. Why of all people would Weiland go to her, for any reason, but especially to confront a drug problem? Why on Earth would anyone want to get to know this woman?
Oh shut up, I was 19.
This was the first time I’d ever heard of drug addiction being referred to as a disease. I summarily dismissed that notion. Taking drugs was a choice, and Weiland was a dumbass.
All the evidence I can find on TV, on the radio, on the internet, suggests that most Americans are unwilling to consider an alternate perspective once they’ve made up their minds about an issue. I’m thankful that occasionally I can still change mine. I didn’t fully change it where drug addiction was concerned until Philip Seymour Hoffman died. I read a lot of articles about addiction and I became sympathetic about it in kind of a rush of understanding, the feeling that an issue is finally resolved within you, at least for the moment. Call it a disease or don’t, but being human is about compassion above all. I’d been failing on that score.
I’ve always been a defender of STP, and of Weiland as an artist, but not as a person. I’ve made fun of the guy on countless occasions. I have not given him the benefit of the doubt. I realized a day or two after he died that part of it was because I’ve been so bombarded with Weiland gossip almost since I could think for myself that I feel like he’s a friend of mine and I’m just giving him shit. Except like a friend who never stopped sharing his art, his innermost thoughts, his demons, in an age when we’re all too busy for emotional interpersonal communication.
And what kind of friend was I in return?
In 1998, he put out this incredible solo album, 12 Bar Blues. I bet I’ve listened to it as many times as any STP album. It’s a Plastic Ono Band-esque unleashing of pain and gratitude. I still only have a burned copy.
I saw STP in Milwaukee in October of 2000. At the end of the show, Weiland stripped and wrapped himself in an American flag. I was not impressed. I walked out of that place talking nothing but shit. Weiland was a fading star, playing the hits for the MTV crowd, all bullshit posturing, no concern for the real fans. I wished I had saved my money and gone to see Pearl Jam instead.
I am listening to the first Velvet Revolver album for the first time as I type this. I heard one song on the radio when it came out and decided the band wasn’t worth my time. This “Fall To Pieces” song is killing me.
The last STP show I saw/will ever see was at the Rave in 2010. I’d give you a link to my review of it, but I’m too ashamed. I bet subconsciously, I was driven by the idea that my words might guilt the poor magnificent bastard into cleaning up his act. But mostly I was just exercising my Critic muscles. Have I learned nothing.
I found out a few days after Weiland’s death that he put out a new album earlier this year. Huh. He was scheduled to play Turner Hall on December 6th, but died on the 3rd. I didn’t have tickets.
This is a man who gave up his chance at mental stability and health in order to be the bona fide false idol of my generation, to ride every cliché to its inevitable conclusion, to almost certainly see his tally of unhappy days overrun the happy ones, to enrich my life immeasurably. I always used to think ‘man, doesn’t anybody have this guy’s back?’ I sure as shit didn’t.
Was it my disappointment about the smack that made me drift apart? Was I acting out the role of the jilted Pilots fan? Or did I let the critic in me overpower the fan? As I listen now to some of Weiland's between-Pilots material, I’m getting this creeping dread that I have no valid excuse. In the aftermath of his death, I probably can’t judge it very well, but the problem is I assumed it was all junk. A lot of his shit is cheesy, but this was always the case. Since when is cheesiness a deal-breaker for me? Since never. I simply deserted the guy. I looked for reasons to be disappointed, and I found them. That’s how that works.
I’m realizing now that I never gave “Happy” In Galoshes a fair shake. There are some really good songs on there—“Beautiful Day”, “Crash”, “Hyper-Fuzz-Funny-Car” and “The Man I Didn’t Know” are all top-notch Weilandness. I’m not as enthused about his new album with the Wildabouts so far, but “Parachute” at least sticks out as solid. Maybe it’ll grow on me. And I’m definitely buying that Christmas album of his, which I’ve never listened to.
A Compilation Of Scott Weiland Cover Songs, though, is painful. If this isn’t a cry for help in musical form, I don’t know what is. Seriously, after everything that’s happened, you release a cover of “Dead Flowers”? Then again, you never did shy away from singing about drugs, but you sound so strung out on some of these songs I can’t believe whoever managed your affairs let you put this out at all. Of course the Bowie covers are awesome. And the Radiohead one is actually pretty great too. But “Personality Crisis” and “Into Your Arms”, whoa. Sounds like staying vertical while recording these took effort.
What the hell kind of tribute is this? you're asking yourself. Maybe I am doing this as penance, for my own lack of faith, for all the guys I grew up with who stopped giving a shit years ago, for all the people who read Weiland's ex-wife's open letter and thought less of him a few days after he was gone. Right, let’s judge a dead guy based on his ex-wife’s perspective. Nobody's glorifying the fucking tragedy here, and nobody's arguing that Weiland was some model husband or father or bandmate. And only one person on Earth is arguing that he belongs “barbecuing in the backyard and waiting for a Notre Dame game to come on.” Maybe that’s what she wanted him to be, but any idiot could see that’s not who he was.
Or, maybe it’s stupid of me to even muse about anything but the music. That’s all there is now, and I guess for me, all there ever was. The thing about Weiland was he didn't need grunge. The rest of 'em needed the embrace of The Underground to rasp and emote. Weiland was a crooner at heart, and way more gifted as a writer of melodies than any of his contemporaries. He could've been the next Cole Porter and Sinatra combined if that were something you could be in the 90s. Instead, he went in all directions at once, and for at least three straight albums with STP and the one brilliant solo album, he did pretty much everything a person could do with rock and roll.
I’m not discounting his bandmates at all, either. The DeLeos were the perfect craftsmen to catch and mold Weiland's raw emotion and inspire his best melodies. They wrote some of the greatest guitar riffs of the century. While their contemporaries were busy creating hipster culture, STP were unabashedly writing timeless anthems. But they aren't shit without a fully-functioning Weiland at the helm. Ever notice how every one of Weiland’s non-STP bands sounds at least kinda like STP? Even the one that was supposed to be the new Guns N’ Roses? I empathize deeply with the DeLeos and Eric Kretz where STP's wasted potential is concerned. I lament every tour and rehearsal session that was sabotaged by Weiland's illnesses and bad decisions. But I don't feel sorry for those guys. For several years they were on top of the world, the biggest fucking rock band there was, and rarer still, they earned it. They can go ahead and cling to the bitterness; you can feel it in their released statement on Weiland’s passing. It seems so petty, but I guess pettiness is forgivable when you’re dealing with profound grief.
And while I’m at it, screw Billy Corgan and his veiled insult to his entire generation that its three "voices" are the famous dead junkies. He thinks he’s really fucking clever, doesn’t he?
I don’t doubt that Weiland was virtually impossible to deal with on a personal level and I’m doing my very best not to feel resentment towards anybody about his life and death. It’s hard. At times I think to myself ‘couldn’t someone have locked him in a room for six months???” but I know you can’t physically change someone like that. Nobody can kill anybody else’s drug addiction, or so I’m told. It must’ve been a nightmare knowing him. He’s yet another celebrity I’m glad I never met, best admired from a distance. That way he can remain one of the greatest rock and roll singer/songwriters who ever lived in my eyes. I mean from 1994-99 every song he released into the world was absolute gold. I’m pretty confident that only Bono has written more songs that will instantly bring me to tears if I’m alone, and make it a struggle if I’m in public. And that was before he died. Now I’m really screwed.No hard feelings, though, Scott. I’m sorry I’ve been intentionally mispronouncing your name my whole life; at first I didn’t realize it was wrong, and I just got used to it. You’ll forever be Weeland to me. It’s a term of endearment. And, I’m sorry I lost faith in you. I wanted to always remember you like you were at the Coliseum in ’97. I wish you could’ve kept it together a little longer, but I’m so thankful for everything you gave to the world. You bastard.