Farewell Scott Weiland, and Say Hello to Heaven

Thank you for comforting us angry misfits with your music

Stone Temple Pilots were the mixtape of my youth. I don’t recall owning a smartphone, an iPod or a record collection without a copy of Purple in it. Now, the voice that spoke to me through dancing air molecules is gone.

No one expected Scott Weiland to live to be 48, so intense were his drug problems. Of the great grunge frontmen, only Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell remain vertical. Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley and now Scott Weiland have all left the building.

Snarky accountants and music moguls will rue Scott not dying sooner. If he had fifteen years earlier, when “Sour Girl” (the best Beatles song Lennon-McCartney-Harrison never wrote) was a monster hit, the record industry could have milked his back catalog and outtakes for perpetuity, as they’re doing with Nirvana and Amy Winehouse.

Parents disapproving of their children’s garage band lifestyle will also point to Scott’s life and death as a cautionary tale of rock n’roll excess. “This is what happens when you become a professional musician,” they’ll warn with grim satisfaction.

Scott Weiland sold more than 20 million records, but one of his last shows in Pennsylvania a week ago pulled in less than 300 people. While he shrunk to a 90s throwback, playing small, half-empty clubs, his peers in Pearl Jam and Soundgarden kept playing arenas.

The “why” part is not rocket science. Scott was always a musical chameleon, the kind of elastic voice that resisted lifelong fandom. You can tell it’s Eddie or Chris singing 3 seconds into a song, but I demanded a refund the first few bars into “Big Bang Baby.”

There was no way this was the same dude who had swaggered through “Plush” and “Interstate Love Song.” How could a macho grunge god morph into a whiny punk wannabe? Preposterous! Of course, as I discovered, the whole Tiny Music album was filled with startling vocal shades.

The drugs that sparked Scott’s creativity unmade him in the end. He thinned out a lot because of them, unrecognizable from the snarling, stocky farm-boy who MTV worshipped in 1993.

Velvet Revolver, his promising supergroup with Slash, folded after two albums because he couldn’t keep it together. Scott spent more time in rehab than out of it as his demons returned with a vengeance. “Slither,” from VR’s Contraband, still gives me goosebumps with its serpentine sex appeal and Scott’s patent, soaring choruses. It is a wistful reminder of what could have been.

Music critics always gave Scott a rotten time. First, he sounded too much like Eddie and then not enough. They accused STP of being grunge bandwagoners from San Diego and later, mainstream outliers who couldn’t write a decent tune to save their lives.

In hindsight, Scott’s solo career was a reaction to all the shit thrown at him. From 12 Bar Blues to “Happy” in Galoshes, his solo work actively shunned the sellable for left-field muso appeal. He tried sounding like Bob Dylan, like David Bowie. Anybody but Scott Weiland.

Scott tried writing singles again with his news band, the Wildabouts, but whatever faculty of his conjured hits had long since fried, whether by drugs or design. He had been down for the count before and stormed back into relevance, but a last hurrah was not meant to be.

Today, millions of 90s kids like me will play their favorite STP and VR tunes in synchronicity, mourning the loss of our hero. Take a bow, Scott, and thank you for comforting us angry misfits with your music. You truly were a superman, even if looks are deceiving.

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