That’s a line from Fall To Pieces. It was never my favourite Velvet Revolver track, but I’ve grown to really like it over the years. Lyrically, it’s less abstract than a lot of Weiland’s words and, well, there’s also a notable lack of those unexpected twisting melodies… Weiland played it straight. Played it safe. A ‘I-miss-you-now-you’re-gone’ rock ballad. A shocker.
The anniversary of Weiland’s death has passed and I wasn’t quite sure what to say about it. I still feel saddened each time I listen to him. The moments of “He really did die? He really did, didn’t he?” passed after a few months, but they returned a few weeks ago. During those weeks I stumbled down one of YouTube’s rabbit holes watching video after video of Weiland in action. In his prime. Mega-phone in hand, slinking across the stage, a toned rake of a man sneering and writhing as he tells folks that “breathing is the hardest thing to do”
Depending on who you speak to, Weiland in his prime could mean anything. There are some who would point at the two years at the start of Stone Temple Pilots’ initial emergence and those who point out a handful of moments during the course of a career that was littered with too few moments. Those moments being a combination of utter brilliance and frustration. Which is part of the thing with Weiland.
Personally, I haven’t ever really rated Core, but found Purple, Tiny Music…, and No. 4 to be incredible albums. Alongside Weiland’s 12-Bar Blues, those three albums are perfect examples of Weiland’s unique confessional anti-poetry. The albums are littered with references to his relationship with drugs (as well as relationships with significant other and his colleagues). But maybe none quite as clearly as Fall To Pieces.
The sad thing was that we could see the end coming. Watching the YouTube videos you can see the dip in his performances over the last 10 years. The decline since the Stone Temple Pilots five years ago is quite starling. Off stage, his relationships with Velvet Revolver and then Stone Temple Pilots colleagues were ending unceremoniously and in acrimony. Even when they seemed like a solid band of brothers. He burned bridges and when he burned them, he literally made sure they were cinder and ashes, man.
Crucially, it appeared that there was something more going on. We were aware that he was bi-polar, but in his last year or so he looked like he was in bad shape. Slurring his words and less animated in interviews. There’s unflattering footage out there, but I was all set to go catch Weiland & Co. when they visited Glasgow in October on their UK tour. This would be the third time I’d catch Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots in 2001 and Velvet Revolver in 2005). Unfortunately the tour was cancelled. More than the meds, it looked like the fire had gone out. But his words deceived how he looked. He spoke with enthusiasm about The Wildabouts. Rediscovering his love for the whole music thing. The Wildabouts sounded better and better, reports about the live shows improved and then… the stage lights went down.
I find it strange that no-one really mentions his mental health, but instead focus on him being a junkie. He was frustrating, but he was tenacious (at being an addict and someone who tried to quit) and, ultimately, he had problems. I didn’t know him, so I remember him as one of the most creative vocalists alternative rock gave us. And yes, he was a junkie.
Anyhoo, I guess what I was wanting to say is that I don’t listen to Weiland’s stuff any more or less than I did prior to learning of his death on December 4th 2015. Sure I get a bit misty eyed occasionally and wonder about where things would have gone with The Wildabouts, but the music that he left us with is, as I’ve said, brilliant. Particularly that period between 1994 and 2005. Purple to Contraband via 12-Bar Blues. The man was a unique talent and, while he may not have lived long enough to be widely considered one of the best, he was, to me, peerless.
It’s just a shame that he could never truly face his demons sober.
Will the memories die? Not likely.