“It isn’t you. Isn’t me. Search for things that you can’t see. Going blind. Out of reach. Somewhere in the vasoline.” ~Stone Temple Pilots
I first heard his voice in 1994, the phenomenon known as Scott Weiland, and I was instantly hooked. It was summer, and I was in Huntsville, Alabama, enjoying my recent high school graduation with a bit of freedom down south. My first stop when I got there was to head to the mall, and to The Wall, the amazing CD store that offered free replacements for broken CDs. It was perfect, in my estimation, but I wasn’t there for the amenities. I was there to find some new music to last me for my trip.
You see, I had graduation money burning a hole in my pocket, and all of my money back then eventually found itself lining the coffers of some music store or other. When I entered The Wall I went straight for the new music display where they had albums by the Counting Crows, by Pearl Jam, and by a band I hadn’t heard of before, living as I was in my sheltered world — Stone Temple Pilots. The album cover was a painting of sorts, and there were no markings on it to say what the album name was, but I was hooked by that simple, obscure painting. So I grabbed it and brought it to the register. Little did I know then that it would turn out to be one of my favorite albums of all time, and that the band would become intrinsically linked with me forever.
I almost saw Scott Weiland live back in 1998. He had since split with STP and had embarked on a solo tour with Daniel Lanois as his opening act. I bought tickets for $25 bucks at the TLA, a little dive joint on South Street in Philadelphia, and it was an ecstatic moment. The man I had idolized for four years was finally going to be on stage in front of me in little more than a week from when I bought the tickets. But it was not to be. The day before the concert was to happen it was announced that the show was canceled and money would be refunded because Scott was admitted to a rehab place in New York City. I thought I would have other chances to see him live. I was wrong. Scott Weiland died last night.
And in the intervening years, from the moment I first picked up Purple, to the disbanding, rebanding, and the trash talk of STP, to the supergroup Velvet Revolver, to Scott’s solo albums (both excellent) I followed him because of his voice, because he was more than just a reminder of my youth. He was one of my favorite singers because of his story, because of the emotion it brought to his lyrics, and to his gravelly voice. I just read last week that he was confident STP would get back together sometime in the future, and it made me excited for new music from a group that I’ve always connected with in some way since that day back in 1994.
I put on my headphones back then, once I got the CD back to the apartment I was staying in, and I blasted the volume on that first listen. The haunting lead-in to Meatplow was perfect for my grunge-induced mind at the time, and it still is today. It continued into the frenzy of Vasoline and throughout the record as it ebbed and flowed, but never disappointed. It was, and remains, one of the most complete albums — start to finish — that I’ve ever listened to, and I’ve never been ashamed to say it. And it was because of how the band blended as one, but it was really about the lyrics and the voice.
I will always treasure that voice, even though it will never again be heard live, because it was always honest, even if what it said wasn’t something I wanted to wrap my brain around. It was one real thing in a world where everyone is always so fake. Scott, I will miss you. I miss you already. There is an empty place that you will never fill again in this world, but you will always be remembered.
“Time to take her home, her dizzy head is conscience laden. Time to take a ride, it leaves today, no conversation.”