As I think back to the late 1980’s with MTV at its height of popularity with hair bands and rap stars totally dominating the air waves of this now faded cable station, I realize now that a change was needed because it was nauseating to see the same Poison or Winger video for the 10th time in one day. That’s the way it was and despite most people thinking that MTV was the greatest thing since sliced bread, again one knew something was going to change. And then it was… Nirvana turned MTV on its head as Tom Petty once said not only did it knock those hair-bands off the air but it almost seemed like a whole genre was wiped out, never to be heard from again except recently with the advent of outdoor festivals which like a Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Brother circus rides through a town every summer and reminds those of us who are of age, what it used to be like.
The genre of “grunge” basically blanketed the earth with its dark lyrics, gloomy guitar riffs with a heaviness that some of us riding the “hair-band” float gravitated towards as it was something different, (something scary to be honest) and the glamour in the music and videos disappeared into thin air like one’s breath on a cold winter’s day. The playing field was leveled to just Nirvana. But just as flowers bloom every spring, here comes Pearl Jam on to the horizon and seemingly just behind them is Soundgarden and Alice-In-Chains (“AIC”). Some people may have a different order of who came first but we all agree that these were the four bands that now popularized the grunge era.
So now enter two brothers- Dean and Robert DeLeo creating those “STP” riffs we are all know within a few seconds of hearing their music, along with Eric Kretz on drums and the man called Scott Weiland who release an album called “Core” in 1992. We all knew from the first 15 seconds of “Dead and Bloated” with only the vocals of Mr. Weiland that there was a new entrant into the world of grunge with an exclamation point! We should all open our arms and let them in, right? But no, for reasons I still don’t understand today, they were criticized heavily from every direction that they sounded too much like Pearl Jam or AIC. As we all know decades later that there is a clear difference between the music that Pearl Jam makes (made) and the Stone Temple Pilots, there is no arguments anymore on that front. And I could never understand why the new kid on the block was like the can one used while playing the childhood game of “kick the can”- from every angle they were kicked like a crushed can but thankfully this band had the fortitude and hunger to separate itself from the pack earning their stripes to the point where they are now considered as one of the pioneers of this genre we call “grunge.”
Where were you the first time you heard-“Sex Type Thing?”- you knew you had to find out who this voice was and the band that created these electrifying guitar riffs. Like a dog that smells a piece of liver we searched and pounced on this classic album which is still selling today to add to its eight times platinum status, making it the bands’ most sought after album. Three minutes and forty seconds of pure head banging bliss that keeps you thirsting for more. Who is this guy singing? We finally see the band behind the music and say how can a guy that skinny possess the vocals that he does? What? Are you kidding me? Next comes “Wicked Garden” and if those were the only three songs on the album, it was an instant classic in my mind—not too many albums with a one-two-three punch that Core packs. But of course it does not end there as anthems such as “Creep” and of course, arguably their most popular song ever-“Plush” puts them in a rarified air as “Core” is arguably the greatest album of the 1990’s. (By the way- “Crackerman” is my most favorite on Core). I was in- no turning back- I became instant fan and hoped that the band would not listen to all the noise coming from its distracters. Carry on boys and so they did.
“Purple” is released in 1994 and I knew I couldn’t wait for it and of course it does not disappoint. The driving “Meatplow” leads into one of their classics still today-“Vasoline”- which Scott performed at his last show with the Wildabouts just about a week ago. Then “Interstate Love Song” which was referred to by the NY Times yesterday as almost a country song today but we all know is still an anthem where we all sing along. In their first album and a half- STP had stadium anthems that are played endlessly on the radio still to this day. Purple is where Scott’s lyrics and songs started to sink into me and leave an impact in my life which will never die. “Still Remains” was released into my bloodstream and to this day keeps the blood flowing—“pick a flower, hold your breath and drift away”—which is exactly what I do when I hear this song. The passion and magic that he puts into the vocals is really the first song from them that knocks me out. And then “Pretty Penny”—c’mon who would have thought a grunge/alternative band would put out a song like this? These two songs, like cement being poured into a house foundation, reached into my soul and never let go.
At the time of their third album- “Tiny Music..” it became apparent that Scott was having issues with drugs and the band had to cancel most of their tour for that album- which I believe is a good album but was missing that “Pretty Penny” sound that infiltrated my body. Then in 1999, STP releases “No. 4” and wow they are back—back with a vengeance and arguably their best effort ever. The opening licks to “Down” grabbed me by the throat and made me stand up and pay attention. They were back, I was back—Scott’s opening vocals- “Pleased to meet you..nice to know me” was like the carrot aroma that made Bugs Bunny sleep walk in the air as the smell took him to the “Core.” I could go on for days about “No. 4” but the songs that I believe everyone needs to have in their music library is “Church on Tuesday” “Heaven & Hot Rods” “Sour Girl” and “I Got You”- with the last two mentioned as arguably two of the best songs that Scott has ever created. “Sour Girl” takes me to another stratosphere and is on my top 25 songs ever- his vocals are stupendous, there are no words for it. His music, along with his bandmates, has made my life better. “I Got You” – wow how personal is this song- brings tears to my eyes as I listen and type to try and capture the pure beauty of a dark situation—how can I love this so much when it is so dark? The passion and humanity in his voice is something that only a few in this world can put into a song, it gives me goose bumps as I ponder the situation.
Then in 2002, the album that forever changed my life -“Shangri-La-Dee Da”-and I can’t thank this band enough for making this gem. Now most of the fan base ran away from this album because it was too “poppy” or whatever. Instead of embracing change and not wanting the same sound on every album (aka “Kill ‘Em All” only Metallica fans) the album was cast aside like something one would put in their “junk draw.” I always wondered what was wrong with “Days of the Week?” This song is fantastic and something one can’t get out of its head. The melody is infectious and you can’t help but sing along. But I want to get to the songs that changed my life forever—“Wonderful”- wow a song that is so powerful that the tears are streaming down as the lyrics get you right in the gut. Scott we will all hold on as you were the wonderful in everything that’s wonderful. “Black Again” is another amazing song that you need to familiarize yourself with. As the album comes to an end, he writes a song for his son-“Noah” in the heart warming “Song for Sleeping.” If anyone out that just had a baby boy this is the song for you. How can a grunge labeled band perform a song like this? This is why Mr. Weiland was such an amazing writer/singer/performer because he could blast them out with the best of them, then take it down like no other. These three songs are the best songs, in my opinion, that STP ever created and serve as a lifeline for me.
Mr. Weiland (and his bandmates) I’m not sure what my life would be without your music but I do know there would be a void. Scott, I didn’t know you personally but you made an impact in my life that you could have never known. I know I am not alone in that sentiment. Hopefully you are now at peace and my thoughts and prayers are with your family and friends. Your music will fill our souls for generations to come.