The best way to pay tribute to Scott Weiland, enigmatic front man and general force to be reckoned with, is through his music. Whether with Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver, the Wildabouts or on his own, the man obliterated the songs he performed and took us along for the ride. The demons he fought may have been far too common among musicians, his was a singular talent.
This is but the tiniest tip of the iceberg, a smattering of songs suggested by friends. This list could easily stretch into a series of posts. If your favourite isn’t here, please add it, and any thoughts, below.
“Interstate Love Song”
Raise your hand if the intro to this song transports you back to the time and place you first heard it. The opening notes hit the air and it’s fall 1994 again, a bright day with the smell of leaves and campfires in the air. Considered one of the band’s biggest and best loved songs, even the video is iconic, with Weiland’s skin an ethereal blue in a mostly black-and-white world, until the end, when more colors slowly sneak in. All the potential in this band, the collective talent of Weiland, the DeLeo brothers, Robert and Dean, and drummer Eric Kretz, was just starting to peek out and we were all captivated.
If “Interstate Love Song” wasn’t your introduction to STP, it’s very likely “Creep” was your first exposure to the band. Slow, deliberate, aching with a touch of something older and more soulful, there’s nothing happy here. He’s struggling. He’s fighting. He’s losing. In the video, Weiland’s rocking back and forth, illuminated by a fire, or sitting alone in a room, hugging his legs, a hell of his own creation.
A bluesier song than I’d heard from STP to that point, “Big Empty” has always been my favorite song from the band. It’s moody without being menacing, with lyrics that aren’t about the narrator but rather someone else, a woman in trouble who can’t seem to get herself together. I don’t know whether “conversations kill,” I’d argue that the lack of them can sometimes lead to dangerous situations.
“Lady Picture Show”
“It’s such a perfect song,” one of my G&B cohorts said. This song, from STP’s third album, doesn’t quite fully match the others listed here, in that it’s almost got a sing-song-y quality to it. Very melodic, Weiland doesn’t growl through the lyrics. There’s no grit. In interviews at the time, Weiland said the song was about a dancer who, after being raped, falls in love but doesn’t know how to move past the trauma. “She doesn’t know her name, she doesn’t know her face.”
“Lady, Your Roof Brings Me Down”
There’s an assortment of perhaps forgotten gems on the soundtrack to 1997’s Great Expectations. This is Weiland’s contribution, later appearing on his first solo album, 12 Bar Blues. It’s got an old barroom feel to it, swaying back and forth, arms draped on shoulders as hours slide and slush past. The song is simple but not one-dimensional. There are elements of both the Doors and the Beatles here, and if STP or Weiland fans are honest, there are nods to both bands and others from the mid-to-late ’60s and ’70s across their catalog, when they weren’t firing up the distortion and Weiland wasn’t baring his teeth.
“Big Bang Baby”
When this song came out, in 1996, on Tiny Music…Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop (the same as “Lady Picture Show”), I remember wondering what was going on. It’s so poppy! Weiland’s wearing bright green pants and shimmying in the video! Why does it look like something that would’ve appeared on Laugh In?! There’s psychedelia everywhere. But damn if it’s not a catchy song. And that’s the point–this is a statement song. “Sell your soul and sign an autograph….I wanna die but I gotta laugh,” he sings. “Nothing’s for free.”
“I Got You”
Found on No. 4, the band’s release following Weiland’s time in jail, this is an contemplation. “I’ve got you, but it’s the craving for the good times that see me through troubled times, when the mind begins to wander to the spoon,” he sings. “And I got you, ’cause you’re there to bend and nurture me through these troubled times.” Is the object of his appreciation helping him try to stay clean, to keep him from falling off the edge? Is he saying he’s only clean because she’s there to protect him from himself? Is there a petulance lurking underneath–yeah, I’m doing better for now, but only because…
“Fall to Pieces”
This might be one of Weiland’s most autobiographical songs, about his struggles with the law, addiction, the tumultuous relationship with his wife Mary Forsberg, who appears in the video with him, the omnipresent temptations and the struggle to avoid them for someone trying to stay clean and get his life in order. It’s not subtle, either: The video shows not one but two overdoses, a woman in a bathroom and Weiland himself unresponsive on a floor, found by Duff McKagan, who picks him up and revives him.
At the time of this posting, it was unclear what caused Weiland’s death. Whether it was a relapse or just his body giving up after so many years of struggle, it doesn’t matter. He left behind two children, Noah and Lucy, along with countless friends and family members.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the US and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse have helplines and other resources for those struggling with addiction or looking for help.
Thanks to Vanessa, Jason, Matt, Shane and non-G&Ber Heather for their suggestions and encouragement.