Friday, December 4, 2015

Can I Bring You Back to Life?

     In many ways, Scott Weiland, former front man for the Stone Temple Pilots, was a rock and roll cliche. Even before the band's breakthrough CD, Core, came out, it was as if he was checking off a list drawn up by so many of his predecessors: Write and sing some hits, check. Get millions of fans to adore me, check. Die of drug overdose way too young... In a way, he was his generation's answer to Keith Richards, After countless trips to rehab, it wasn't a question of if he'd OD but when and who would find his body.
     Perhaps related to his heavy drug usage, Weiland died yesterday in his sleep on his tour bus, presumably of cardiac arrest. He was in Minnesota touring with his last group, the Wildabouts. The tour had been suspended eight days before on account of sluggish ticket sales.
     For his most devoted fans, including yours truly, it was an ineffably sad fall from grace that seemed to begin immediately. Like the Zombies, STP seemed to begin at the top then worked their way down. Their debut album, Core, was by far the band's most commercially successful one. By the time they released Four, it was obvious the band's popularity dropped literally with every CD. Weiland briefly rebounded with Velvet Revolver, the super group made up of former members of Guns 'n' Roses.
     It would be easy to blame drug and alcohol abuse for his and STP's sliding popularity and one would have a point. Yet if drug abuse guaranteed failure, Keith Richards' career would have been finished by the time Weiland was born in 1967. One could blame his personal demons. After, in his book, Not Dead and Not For Sale, he claimed to be a victim of child rape. But what rock and roll artist doesn't have demons? Who among us does not, for that matter? Surviving life is about conquering them.
     One thing is indisputable- To some measure the Stone Temple Pilots did not deserve the fickleness of fans who perhaps hoped for more and more Cores. With its wild electric brilliance and Weiland's primal bass vocals, Core stands as one of the greatest hard rock albums ever produced, achieving that rarity of albums: Not one throwaway song made the final mix.
     But bands evolve as a rule and the good ones don't shy from taking risks. And sometimes capricious fans cannot forgive them after a brilliant debut. I was one of the faithful few. While not living constantly in the 90's, I'd always hoped Weiland would reunite with STP for good even though after 2013, it was obvious that wouldn't happen.
     It's true there are many things plaguing us and the world- ISIS is threatening the White House and we are re-invading Iraq with Special Forces and it seems as if we'll never leave Afghanistan and its vast, untapped wealth. We're entering an election year in which every single Republican candidate is out of their fucking mind. In contrast to Wall Street, Main's Street's economy is hardly any better than when Obama took over and white cops are killing unarmed black people literally with impunity. We seem to be backsliding as a nation as surely as STP's CD sales, with misogynists and racists streaming out of the woodwork threatening to kill black people and defending the rape of women.
     So what does Scott Weiland's too-early demise mean compared to all that? A cynical person, one who wasn't a fan of his incredible body of work, would say, "Nothing." But I disagree. Because Weiland and STP addressed some of the abovementioned issues ("Sex Type Thing", for instance, is actually about date rape).
     Weiland, like any conscientious artist, tackled issues that many would prefer to ignore and this why we need people like Weiland to remind us of what is important. At some point our interests as human beings have to turn to the personal and parochial. It is what keeps us human, preserves the charm of the picayune and helps to keep the horrible and intolerable at bay. It's important to be informed, yes, but not to the point where we become mere slack-jawed consumers of news or propaganda. And in my spare hours over the last two decades, I greatly enjoyed the Stone Temple Pilots, led by the sexy, atavistic growls of Scott Weiland.
     In 1995, Massachusetts Governor William Weld said when he'd heard of Jerry Garcia's death, he put on a Grateful Dead album, Terrapin Station, I believe, and shot pool. As I finish my new book, my own tribute to the personal and picayune, I'll be playing Core and STP's other CDs today in tribute to a man who refused to let us forget about the ugliness of human life while immensely entertaining those who got it. Life and surviving it is all about striking balances and Weiland, tragically, could not maintain his.

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At December 5, 2015 at 6:01 AM, Anonymous CC said...

Liked "Big Empty" from The Crow Soundtrack.


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