Scott Weiland, dead at 48, joins the list of rockers gone too soon
Kurt Cobain. Layne Staley. Andrew Wood. And now Scott Weiland.
A fourth face has joined the Mount Rushmore of grunge gods gone too soon, as Weiland, the incandescent yet incorrigible singer of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, was found dead on his tour bus Thursday at age 48.
That Weiland would die before his time - just like the singers of Nirvana, Alice In Chains and Mother Love Bone - is, tragically, no real surprise. His was a life of drugs, drink, divadom and defiance. Each played a role in his decades-long downfall, and we all saw it coming. Weiland himself titled his sobering 2012 memoir Not Dead & Not For Sale - a book now available used, one grimly notes, for under $4 on Amazon.
As so often happens with rock's dark and tormented godheads, Weiland's death will revive interest in the songs he left behind, and that's absolutely as it should be. Stone Temple Pilots were unfairly painted as knockoffs of Seattle pioneers like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden - they hailed from sunny San Diego, for pete's sake, and their 1992 debut Core had a certain Bowie/Zeppelin shimmer that felt out of place in the soggy shadows of Mount Rainier.
This, though, was Stone Temple Pilot's true lane, bridging the worlds of grungy despair and aggro swagger, with Weiland wailing out grunge's purest and most accessible pop hooks with greasy, glammy charisma.
The crashing, clamorous single Plush won a 1994 Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance, while that year's rusty road rocker Interstate Love Song became a huge radio and MTV hit. Before and after came bludgeoning metal ramrods like Sex Type Thing and Wicked Garden; bluesy meditations like Creep and Big Empty; glam-punk experiments like Big Bang Baby and Vaseline; secret pop gems like Sour Girl and Lady Picture Show.
Paradoxically, while STP was becoming one of the ‘90s' biggest rock bands, selling more than 13 million albums in the U.S. alone, they struggled to remain, well, a band. Weiland's demons and battles with his bandmates led to breakups, make-ups and canceled shows aplenty. They fought, sometimes physically. Weiland did coke, crack, heroin. He went to rehab. He relapsed. He got arrested. DUIs. Violence. Multi-million dollar lawsuits. Behavior that truly tested fans' patience.
But he never stopped touring, never stopped releasing solo albums. He was still Scott Weiland, sexy, serpentine devil in perfect designer shades. He never stopped looking like the cover of a magazine. His career persisted through sheer force of personality.
For example: When STP first went on hiatus in 2003, his bandmates, all equal or greater musical contributors, experimented with side projects that didn't really stick. Weiland, meanwhile, immediately formed Velvet Revolver, a hard rock supergroup with former members of Guns N' Roses, that won another Hard Rock Grammy for the smash single Slither.
The last time STP hit Tampa with Weiland was during a 2010 reunion tour at the then-named St. Pete Times Forum. Even then, they were so fractured and fragile a foursome that there was no telling how long this reunion would last, or even if this show would take place.
I got there early enough to stake out a space on the front row rail, the first and only time I've done that at an arena. Through a curtain, I watched them walk to the stage separately - first the band, then Weiland. He wasn't in peak physical condition; he looked much older than he was. He moved gingerly at times. He sipped from an array of bottles and cups behind him. He was sweating.
Yeah, the signs were there. The signs were everywhere.
But when he sang, we looked past them. We heard Plush and Interstate Love Song and Vaseline and howled right along as if we were all holding megaphones of our own, amazed he was still shuffling around on stage before us.
"He actually showed up!" a woman in the pit shouted. "And he's freaking amazing!"
That was Weiland in a nutshell. When he was present, it was a presence you could feel. Now all that's left is his absence. The rock world will feel that, too.