December 4th, 2015
One day when I was an eight-grader, the kid who sat behind me in homeroom gave me a copy of Stone Temple Pilot’s “Core” on cassette tape. It wasn’t a copy he had made but a legit one, complete with album art and everything. I’m not sure why he gave it to me–I suspect it just wasn’t metal enough for him–yeah he was one of those kids. “Dead and Bloated” was probably the first STP song I ever heard because of it’s placement on the album–This was before I had even heard them on the radio. I listened to it over and over again. I loved it.
Later that year, my parents bought me my first CD player. I was a big Nirvana fan too, but for some reason I had most of their albums in the form of tapes I’d copied from friends. I bought legit copy of “In Utero,” but this must have been before the CD player. Since I hadn’t actually paid for “Core,” it felt worth it to buy it again, so it became the very first compact disc I ever bought. The sound was better and by then my cassette was fairly worn, so again I listened to it over and over.
I have been thinking all day about what it was that kept me listening to that album. I remember at the time they were often compared unfavorably to Pearl Jam, a comparison that never made much sense to me. Their vocalists occupied some of the same vocal range, but that is more or less where the similarities ended.
I think that the main appeal was that the mood was one I could relate to. The lyrics were somewhat Joycean in nature and I never had a clear idea of what the songs were about–What the hell is a Wicked Garden–but their songs were always less angst-inducing than those of Nirvana, who was always painfully depressing, even before Kurt Cobain’s death. As near as I could make sense of them, their songs were about frustration and loneliness and trying to do the right thing. Sometimes I was a pretty depressed teenager, and I think STP was music that was comfortably depressing.
When their second album, “Purple” came out, I was initially disappointed at the divergence in style, but I later came to accept it. It is far more experimental and textured than “Core,” and showcased similarly ansgty but more complex emotions. “Big Empty” and “Lounge Fly” and “Interstate Love Song” have become some of my favorite songs of all time.
I think it was on the tour following the release of “Purple” that I saw them live. This was the only time I would see them, regrettably, because they put on a fantastic show. The concert was at the Shark Tank, formerly known as, well, whatever its formal name is/was back then. For those who don’t live in the San Jose area, this venue is known for its terrible sound. But Scott Weiland was wearing a San Jose Sharks jersey and they were amazing.
And so, it is an understatement to say that when I heard of Scott Weiland’s death at 5:30 this morning while I was drinking my coffee, I was saddened. I listened to “Purple” on the way to work and “Core” on the way home, and I’m still sad. So rest in peace, Scott. May you no longer be shackled to the shadow, and may you finally know where the river goes.