Scott Weiland was not the voice of a generation. He can be considered a popular, even important, voice that represented a style of singing and music that defined a generation. I write this on the 35th anniversary of the death of a true voice of a generation. I do not mean this assertion as a slight on Weiland’s vocal talent, performance charisma, or above average talents as a lyricist. Kurt Cobain wasn’t the voice of a generation for that matter either. Cobain defined much of what Generation X holds dear: a healthy sense of irony, an unapologetic love of both metal and punk (and even pop), an affinity for loud, loud guitars, dressing down, and most importantly: genuineness. Weiland was nothing if not genuine. The toll his addictions took on him was genuinely hard to hide at times, as equally as his voice and talent were as well though. No doubt, he will be missed. As Weiland’s ex-wife Mary Forsberg Weiland stated though, we definitely shouldn’t “glorify this tragedy.” I don’t say these things to be sensational. I don’t write this to chase glazed, internet baked eyeballs or to serve as lucrative click bait. In fact, it drives me crazy that there are so many music journalists out there, sadly many of whom are Millennials chasing their own instance of Lennon and Cobain commiseration with the Baby Boomers and GenX’ers, who keep pumping out article after article bewailing the great loss of a “voice of a generation.” No. I say all of this as a FAN of Stone Temple Pilots and Scott Weiland, even though I couldn’t always say I was…
I hated STP. I hated Core. I really, really hated “Plush.” Who THE fuck were these guys whose claim to fame was that they met at a Black Flag concert (as if that gave them legitimacy), and whose lead singer was a Jim Morrison/Eddie Vedder wannabe who every girl wanted to fuck and unceremoniously surrendered their riot grrl poseur cred by admitting so. Who was the guy whose lyrics were at best background fodder and who had a more powerful affinity for dogs as a metaphor than Chris Cornell has for black hole suns? What the hell was “Sex Type Thing?” A song that obviously was trying to outdo the metaphorical disgust that Nirvana’s “Polly” was supposed to incite, but instead served as the playlist to many a fraternity party, or more sadly, the afterparty. If you haven’t guessed it by now, yeah, I was quite the egotistical music snob in those days, and STP were the perfect, if sadly adequate, target and recipient of my ire.
Then came Purple, along with a little loosening of the stringent elitism that defined my coming of age music listening habits. New Kids on The Block were still trash, and always will be, but I began to see the intelligence is a FEW of the works of artists outside the “new rock revolution.” The religious and racial ecstasy and tension that Madonna so brilliantly brought to life in “Like a Prayer” became recognizable as the ballsy art that it was (although GaGa will always be a pale imitation (hey, even I still have my pride). Okay, so Purple wasn’t Vs. or Badmotorfinger. It definitely wasn’t Core either. The lyrics weren’t much better (except for on the superb “Meatplow”), but the vocal delivery was astoundingly better. Weiland began to find HIS voice, not what he, or his record company, thought was what a generation wanted out of a voice. ‘90s rock producer extraordinaire Brenden O’Brien (who admittedly did produce Core as well), really helped the band find their sound, and Weiland his voice. So many of the grunge era groups’ second albums were better than their firsts, something that could never happen today. If the first album isn’t a current-quarter, profit-beating beast… well, there rarely is a second album, of any artistic merit at the least. “Meatplow,” with it’s leaps and bounds improvements in lyrical content and “Vaseline’s” straight up grunge era defining mix of metal, punk, and rock was pure rock perfection. Weiland did go back to singing about the “dogs that won’t release” him in “Loungefly,” but for the most part the album ended strong with “Unglued” and “Army Ants.” Yeah, Purple definitely softened me to STP.
This is what has affected me most poignantly about Scott Weiland’s untimely passing. He never reached that artistic pinnacle. He never came up with that one genre, and yes even generational, defining lyric or song. If Weiland could have gotten past the drugs, the booze, the rock n’ roll lifestyle, the enablers, and the disheartened fans, he might have ended up finding that true, deeper, metaphoric voice. The kind of voice that defines a generation.