I have a funny kind of memory. I’ve always been the kind of person who looks at the trees rather than the entire forest. I can tell you everything I had for dinner the day I received my Masters Degree, the arcade machines at the Eagle Rock Lanes when I bowled every Saturday morning from grade school to college, and all the stores in the Headquarters Plaza Mall during the late 80s and Early 90s during our weekly trips to the movies. I can remember all these small minute details but I can’t tell you where I was or what was playing the first time I heard my all time favorite band, Stone Temple Pilots. It’s a shame because now as an adult I not only embrace STP’s music as art and an early gateway to similar artists, but also the soundtrack to my life staring in my teens up until my mid-thirties.
I know I wasn’t an early adopter of their music; I didn’t own a CD player until Christmas 1994 (sophomore year of HS) and even then my early CD collection was various volumes of “Scott and Todd Phone Scams”, music from the video game “Secret of Mana” (I totally hit it off with all the girls), and a copy of Aerosmith “Big Ones” which I only bought because I overheard the girl I had a crush on tell her friends how much she liked the band (guess she didn’t have Nintendo). The first time I even knew of Stone Temple Pilots (STP) was in spring of 1994. I rushed to CD World because my favorite musician at the time, Hammer, had a new album out titled “The Funky Headhunter.” While I was at the register I noticed STP’s debut album, Core, on display near the far aisle. I took note of it because of the band’s unusual name and the artwork stood out; I didn’t buy the album that day- in fact I never actually purchased a copy of Core or the band’s follow up Purple. A few years later my taste in music had evolved a bit. I had developed a habit of going to bed while watching 120 Minutes on a Sunday night. During this time I was afraid to share my music with others and unfortunately, was too intimidated to expand my circle of friends. Had I done this, I probably would have discovered STP earlier. My best friend growing up had taken a liking to classic rock, funk, and electronic music and my sister had moved on to more rap and dance music. Although I appreciated all these other forms of music, and still do, I lacked the communal feeling a fan develops from listening to music with others. I would come home and draw (my favorite after school activity) while listening to CIV, Everclear, Soundgarden, Presidents of the Untied States of America, Bush, and others. One afternoon my sister was cleaning out her room and getting rid of CDs she stopped listening to. I picked through one of the boxes she was discarding and rescued a trove of musical treasures. My haul that day included Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, Ozzy, Pantera, and my beloved STP. If my sister never gave me another Christmas or birthday gift again, I would be OK with it because her discarded tunes are a residual gift that has enriched my soul for years. Around this time, my Language Arts teach assigned the class a paper to write about and dissect our favorite song. We would present our papers to the class and get a change to share the actual song in the class. By this time STP’s second album Purple was almost 2 years old and had become (and still is) my favorite album of all time. I had memorized every note, riff, and lyric of the music and eagerly wrote about my favorite track, Vaseline. Being that I didn’t share my love for music with any of my classmates I didn’t know the single had been played to death nor did I realize the album was considered passe by now. After I read my paper and played my song in class, someone had commented, “really? this song is so old.” I don’t know why the comment bothered me but it did. I didn’t discuss music with anyone until midway in the fall semester of Freshman year at college. Despite this, Purple, had a permanent spot in my CD player for the next decade or so. Later the same year, STP’s third album “Tiny Music…Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop” was released. The weekend before the album was released, I was on vacation in Florida with my best friend’s family. When we piled into the rental car for the first time and flipped the radio on, the DJ announced in anticipation of the new album the station would broadcast Tiny Music… in it’s entirety all weekend long. By the end of the trip, I was hooked and Stone Temple Pilots had become cemented in my mind as my favorite band. I had planned to get tickets to see STP when they came around but as many know, the tour never happened as Scott was arrested and incarcerated for drug possession.
I developed a theory, more of a policy really, stating I won’t consider myself a fan of a band or musician until I’ve seen them perform live at least once. I formed this theory because of STP and the emotional impact their live show had on me. Five years after my trip to Florida, I was all in when it came to STP. I had all four albums, posters, magazines, bootlegs, everything! My first tattoo is of the cover of Purple, a baby riding on a dragon in a distinct Japanese style. Surprisingly enough I hadn’t seen STP live yet, due to lack of opportunity. The closest I came was seeing Scott Weiland perform a short set to support his solo album 12 Bar Blues during K-Rock’s Dysfunctional Family Picnic II tour. I was supposed to see the band on tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers at PNC Bank Arts Center earlier in the summer but a freakishly harsh rainstorm slowed traffic down to a crawl. By the time I walked into the venue, I heard the band saying their goodbyes to make way for the Chili Peppers. The opportunity to see them finally arose in fall of the same year, at the Asbury Park Convention Hall. I remember walking into the small venue, a far cry from the stadiums and arena the band had played previously. The entire show was all general admission allowing my sister and I to get close to the stage, but not precluding me from having to protect my sister from grabby guys around us. On this evening, I believe I experienced what it truly means to feel the power of music and how it can effect one’s soul if allowed. It was akin to a religious experience where one can understand an aspect of the human condition that may have eluded them before. Somewhere between the guitar parts of Interstate Love Song, the soft quiet stillness of Atlanta, and a magnificent cover of Shine On You Crazy Diamond I felt like I had found the answers to every question I ever had. I went on to see STP play eight more times at the PNC Bank Arts Center, Susquehanna Bank Arts Center, Stone Pony Summer Stage, and lastly NJPAC (the single best show I’ve ever seen in my life). I sang every song, I danced around like a fool, I listened intently as fellow New Jersians Robert and Dean DeLeo told the crowd the same story every single time they played in NJ: their first concert ever, The Carpenters at the Garden State Arts Center.
Then there was Scott. Outside of his work in STP I’ve seen Scott perform with Velvet Revolver on three occasions, completely solo once, and with his final band, The Wildabouts, four times. At one point in my life I knew I had seen Weiland once too many in too short of a time when I found myself thinking of wearing a scarf in the summertime (thankfully I didn’t). Scott was the kind of artist who projected his emotions into his performances so heavily at times it drowned out the music. When he was happy, the entire venue felt his intensity, it was like what I would imagine watching an artist like Jackson Pollack create one of his masterpieces. When he was stressed, we all felt it. I had seen the shows were he showed up 3 hours late slurring his words and almost falling off the gigantic speakers adorning the stage. I’ve been to hundreds of concerts in my life and seen a wide variety of artists from Metallica to the Dave Matthews Band, Beastie Boys to Paul McCartney, and Less Than Jake to The Cherry Poppin Daddys but no one has ever matched the amount of emotion Scott Weiland brought to the stage. The last time I saw Scott Perform turned out to be one of his final shows- November 28th 2015 at the Wellmount Theater in Montclair, NJ. The show itself wasn’t his best but not his worse either. He started the show acting a little subdued and quiet but by the end the rock star I had come to admire was in full effect. In my mind, it was noticeable his fame was fading and I had decided he would reunite with Stone Temple Pilots soon. His last album, Master Blaster, showed he still has the talent, both parties needed each other, it made perfect sense. After the show, Scott was doing meet and greets for $300 a couple. I had discussed it with my girlfriend and decided to pass, as it was a lot of money right before the holidays. Had I known he would be dead less than a week later, I would have certainly paid the money.
The purpose of my rambling post isn’t to glorify Scott Weiland’s death. Even though I had secretly hoped it wasn’t the case I, like everyone else, knew the case of death would be drug related. I would rather celebrate the music, memories, and understanding Scott gave me. His music was like a friend, holding my hand during turbulent times and celebrating with me during the fun times. Our heroes are never perfect, they are humans with very real problems and trials just like you or I but their work lives on and resonates with us long after the final encore. If I ever had the opportunity to speak to Scott Weiland I’d like to think I wouldn’t gush or get nervous like I tend to around those I admire, I’d thank him for helping me understand more about myself by writing and singing about himself. I’d like to end with these thoughts, a quote from my favorite film Almost Famous, “Music, you now, true music – not just rock n roll – it chooses you. It live in your car, or alone listening to your headphones, you know, with the cast scenic bridges and angelic choirs in your brain. It’s a place apart from the vast, benign lap of America.”
Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. Scott truly flew without no feathers.