I don’t remember the exact moment I first heard Stone Temple Pilots, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that I was in the Navy, stationed in Keflavik, Iceland. That was my home from October 1990 to May 1994, so the timeframe checks out. I was working on the base radio/tv station. My friends and I were big Pearl Jam fans, still stoked at the beauty of Ten (“it’s alternative, but it’s kinda like classic rock! How’d they do that?”). STP were saddled with the unfortunate reputation of a sort of watered-down, more arena-friendly version of Pearl Jam and the rest of their Pacific Northwest contemporaries. This is unfortunate, because they wrote some great songs, and let’s face it – despite (or perhaps because of) the drug use and erratic behavior, Scott Weiland made for a hell of a rock star. The growl of a voice, the impenetrable lyrics almost bordering on comical (“And I feel / when the dogs begin to smell her” – WHATEVER, DUDE!), the elastic stage presence – all the appropriate boxes were checked.
I was never a huge STP fan, although several of their singles were undeniable earworms – “Plush” (especially the unplugged version), “Vasoline,” “Sour Girl,” and of course, “Interstate Love Song.” I don’t know what it is about the latter song that does it for me; it’s not terribly complex, it’s incapable of breaking any kind of ground – it’s just a guitar-heavy mid-tempo stomper that sounds great. True to its title, it works best when played in a fast car at loud volume. In fact, I remember when that song was big and I was living in Virginia Beach. I often drove alone during my daily commute to and from my job in Norfolk. I had the car to myself and “Interstate Love Song” was in heavy rotation on whatever alternative station I would be tuned in to when I grew tired of the mixtapes that were in the car. “You liiiiiiied…”
I guess what really hits home for me, personally, regarding Scott’s death is that he and I are part of the same generation. He was only two years older than me. He was part of the soundtrack of my young adulthood. I remember when Nirvana released “Nevermind” and I found out that Dave Grohl was my age. I think that was the first time that I was the same age as a rock star. Nowadays, a lot of them are old enough to be my kids. But that age proximity really makes me think – if I grew up in suburban D.C., maybe Dave and I could have been classmates. If I grew up in the vicinity of Weiland, maybe we would have been on the same school bus. It’s weird.
But it’s also horribly sad. When I was a kid, 48 seemed ancient. Nowadays, it’s right around the corner. And not old by any stretch. Scott had decades of life left in him. I won’t shame someone with drug dependency issues by dismissing his death as a foregone conclusion – nobody deserves to be marginalized that way. Rest in peace.
“In tribute, I recommend that the next time you get to karaoke, you fire up “Interstate Love Song” and just go to town; go ahead, ham it up, it’s funny, sorta. You don’t have to totally mean it for it to be meaningful. Scott Weiland taught us that, whether he knew it himself or not.” – Rob Harvilla, Deadspin