Scott Weiland’s music provided the soundtrack to my teenage angst and my post-teen hopefulness. He will always have a place in my heart.
Coming up as an angst-filled teen in the late ‘90s, grunge and alternative rock were a regular staple in my musical diet. I remember being around 11 years old when I discovered Nirvana and fell in love with the voice of Kurt Cobain, a man who would be my introduction to musical loss. At 12 years old, I mourned for Kurt as much as I could. When I saw older kids in school weeping and congregating to memorialize the fallen rock star, I got it, but I didn’t get it. Until now.
In three days, I’ll be 33 years old, but for tonight, I am 17 again and the death of singer/musician Scott Weiland has left me gutted and vacillating in a thick fog of nostalgia, sorrow and anger.
Scott meant a lot to me and my gang of teen angst-saddled friends. We adored him. We deciphered his lyrics. We emulated his onstage pelvic and hip gyrations. We cooed over his cute face and tatted body. We overlooked his troubles with addiction because we believed in him and the power of his talent and passion. I know…we were kids. We needed him to be fine. He was as misunderstood as we were. No judgments on our part, just the overwhelming certainty that things would work out for him because we needed things to work out for him. When we decided to attempt to learn how to play the guitar, it was the Stone Temple Pilots song “Plush” that we worked on for weeks on end before abandoning the guitar altogether.
In my junior year of high school, he released his debut solo effort, 12 Bar Blues, a frenetic mix of carnival music meets jazz with a foundation of glam rock (which was somehow very listenable). It would provide the soundtrack to all of my post-high school carpe diem terrible decision-making. His raunchy, drugged-out debut was not well-received by many, but as usual, I was in the business of buying what Weiland was selling.
When he fell in love with Mary, the woman whom we thought inspired one of STP’s biggest hits “Sour Girl” (Scott later revealed the song was about the death of his first marriage), we rooted for him. All the while, we wished that we could receive the affections that Scott bestowed unto Mary in interviews and videos. Scott was a complex, talented dreamboat for us. After we graduated high school and moved toward the chaos of post-high school life, we soon realized that the men who courted us were nothing like our beloved Scott, our perfect but troubled fantasy man. For better or worse, we held strong to the dream.
Scott’s voracious love for Mary quickly resulted in matrimony. This marriage gave birth to a slightly mellowed sound for STP as heard in their fifth studio album, Shangri-La Dee Da. After all his grunting, raging, and throaty howling, Scott’s voice was showing signs of change, turning into a raspy, gentle ethereal audio dream. Me and my crew welcomed this change with open arms. Shed of our angst (mostly), we were now a group of hopeful-ish twenty-somethings. The album’s spotty optimism gave me the feeling that psychically Scott’s sound was mimicking my life’s journey. It was a giant reach but I was like 20 at the time and in a constant state of longing for a deep connection to my artistic heroes.
Things took a turn for the worse in 2002, STP went on hiatus and I was forced to move on. I still listened to Scott but heartbreak and longing left me in the unforgiving, eyeliner-encrusted, chipped black nail polish grips of the emo music movement. Again, I was a kid who didn’t know any better. As I became a loyal My Chemical Romance fan, Scott moved on to join Velvet Revolver, a “supergroup” which featured Weiland on the mic, Slash and Duff from Guns N’ Roses and a selection of other semi-notable former hair rock musicians. I tried to like VR but the thumping testosterone-filled hard rock left much to be desired for my emo-loving ears.
Meanwhile, Scott’s issues with drugs intensified and soon became the stuff of legend. He relapsed and fought and got sober and relapsed and went to war with those around him. The familiar rinse, lather, and repeat of some tales of addiction.
I could write a 1,000 page discourse on all the ways that addiction enrages me but there’s actually one word that embodies the way witnessing the effects of addiction makes me feel: helpless.
As the years passed, my feelings and views were shifting about Scott. Worrisome interviews with rock zines, conflicts with band members, his eventual imprisonment and domestic disputes with Mary, left me very concerned and feeling like a helpless onlooker. I was starting to see the affects of addiction on people in my real life and I worried for my teenhood music hero and what his future held.
Then, in 2007, Scott’s younger brother, Michael, died from a drug overdose and Scott had to identify his body. I was shocked and saddened when I read the news. For that moment, Scott was sober. But losing a younger sibling so tragically to an overdose while dealing with the aftermath of a tumultuous divorce in the same year left me shuddering at the frailty of Scott’s sobriety. But he held on and pushed forward.
Time passed and Scott laid low, for the most part. My life kept happening, as it does, and my connection to Scott began to fade as I made other musical connections.
Then in 2013, something happened that made me reach out and contact an old member from my gang of Scott-loving friends. The phone rang twice before my friend answered the phone:
“Hey Des! What’s going on?!”
(Pardon my impending blitz of expletives.)
“I can’t fucking believe it.”
“Oh no. What happened?” she replied, her voice trembling with worry and a dash of excitement.
“I just found out that those fuckers in Stone Temple Pilots had the fuckin’ nerve to ‘officially’ fire Scott and they replaced him with Chester Fucking Bennington from LINKIN FUCKING PARK.”
“No fucking way,” she countered.
“Yes fucking way,” I retorted. “Google it.”
I waited patiently as she pulled out her phone and did her diligence. Facts matter and sometimes you have to see the ridiculous to believe it.
“But how–why in the–I don’t get it! How could they?!”
This was the exact reaction I was hoping for. From opposite ends of the city, we watched videos of Chester “Fucking” Bennington performing our favorite classic STP songs and we lost it. Now let me just say that there’s nothing wrong with Chester “Fucking” Bennington but he was encroaching on sacred territory. Scott’s territory. And we were not having that shit. Our connection to Scott reignited the old flame of a flickering friendship because there’s nothing more rewarding than when you can mutually hate the fuck out of something with a dear friend. It is electrifying. It was fulfilling to fall back in line with a fellow Scott lover.
Then two years later, tonight, a Facebook post from a former coworker broke the news that I hoped I wouldn’t hear for a long time. News that I especially did not want to read about on a Facebook post.
I saw a picture of the Shangri-La Dee Da album cover on my former coworker’s post followed by the words, “So sad…” There was definitely more to the post but I couldn’t read through the wall of tears that had quickly consumed my line of vision. I just knew. I didn’t need to read the rest to know that Scott was gone. News reports are saying that he was found dead on his tour bus. He was only 48 years old. Forty-fucking-eight.
I assume that he died from an overdose, but I am too emotionally raw to read the details, if they’re even available.
For the last 20 years, I have been a fan of Scott Weiland, a man who entered the world as Scott Richard Kline on October 27, 1967. A man who is loved by millions for his musical gifts. A man whose voice sold over 35 million albums. A man who leaves behind a wife and two children just weeks before Christmas. A man that united a group of high school girls in Los Angeles for life. A man who changed my world with his voice without ever knowing it. Fuck. This sucks.
Now I will dig my old STP t-shirts out of my closet and retrieve my old Shangri-La Dee Da CD from my retired CD collection and somberly sing the words to my favorite Scott Weiland vocal performance, “Hello, It’s Late.”
It’s never too late to pay homage to your heroes and I intend to do just that as I contemplate life on this sometimes shitty but mostly amazing mortal plane.
R.I.P. Scott Weiland
Desiree Bowie is the copy editor for The Fix and a freelance writer.