Where The River Goes – R.I.P. Scott Weiland

December 3, 2016 marks the one year anniversary of the passing of Scott Weiland. The ex-vocalist of Stone Temple Pilots collapsed in Minnesota after overdosing on a toxic mix of cocaine, booze, and MDA. Even though everyone kind of assumed his addictions would eventually kill him, it was still a pretty big shock to see one of the best voices of the 90’s drop dead on a tour bus. He had dealt with addiction over the length of his whole professional career, causing him to get kicked out of several different bands after they got fed up with his shit.

Scott initially rose to superstar fame with the Stone Temple Pilots, who were pioneers of the grunge movement of the early 90’s. Most of their songs were written by brothers Dean and Robert DeLeo, (the guitarist and bassist respectively), with Weiland lending his signature vocal growl. Their first album, Core was a massive success, and the album’s hits were played on constant rotation on both radio and MTV. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing “I AM I AM I AM I SAID I WANNA GET NEXT TO YOU”

At the time, I wasn’t huge into either Stone Temple Pilots or most of the grunge takeover in general. I was tearfully grasping onto the last few dominant moments that butt-rock had in musical history. As a teenager, I was convinced that black leather jackets and Dream Theater would be cool for-ev-er. This made me close my ears to emerging new music and the alternative/grunge wave for a long time.

I might have enjoyed some STP here and there in the 90’s, but it was never in my sweet Blaupunkt CD player very often. I was too busy learning how to play “real music” that consisted mostly of 17 minute-long Dream Theater overtures. I thought that music like Stone Temple Pilots was far too simplistic in comparison to the 12 pages of bass solos I fumbled through like Sid Vicious with a head injury. I didn’t listen to STP very much after Purple came out, and they became nothing more than a footnote memory of my rebellious teen years.

Stone Temple Pilots released a few more albums, but the band eventually got tired of the carousel of Scott’s drug addiction and rehab, and they parted ways. He then joined another band, Velvet Revolver, which consisted of 3 ex-members of Guns N’ Roses and the keyboardist from the Spin Doctors. I never got into Velvet Revolver, because I had issues with the concept as a whole. The idea of grunge’s biggest voice joining forces with the superstars of butt-rock (that it utterly destroyed) seemed completely idiotic. I’ve listened to a couple Velvet Revolver tracks over the last couple days, and honestly, paint me unimpressed. It mostly just sounds like a bored Scott phoning it in while Slash noodles around for three minutes with scales. Meh.

In the last few years, now as a retired musician, I’ve gotten more and more attached to the first few Stone Temple Pilots albums. I love listening to all the beautifully textured and layered multiple guitar tracks. I love the little funky underlying bass fill that Robert added to the last chorus of “Sour Girl”. I’ve also noticed how Scott’s vocals could take an extremely basic song like “Unglued” and make it memorable. The verse of that song is a single note that gets taken to the next level by Scott’s fluctuation in phrasing and melody. They were a really incredible band where the sum of the parts came together to capture both a great song idea and a moment in time.

After finding out about Scott’s death, I sat around listening to STP playlists on YouTube in a state of mourning. While a large majority of picks on these playlists I had heard before, I was also exposed to other songs that were new to me. There’s a lot of good hidden stuff on No. 4, and the hit single/video “Days of the Week” from Shangri-La Dee Da is amazing. The song is wonderful, but the music video with them tearing around door to door in an old Ford Escort is the best. I always get bummed out when I finally realize the true depth of somebody’s greatness, but only after they have passed on from this world.

Stone Temple Pilots crafted some seriously amazing albums. Scott’s incredible vocals could take the most basic song and make it fucking soar. Even though they were an top-notch band, they also had a couple lean albums as well. But for the better part of a tumultuous decade, they managed to capture lightning in a bottle.

Godspeed, Mr. Weiland.

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