Valium Vickie

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My Life According to Stone Temple Pilots Albums

People love to say, "Music was so much better when I was growing up." I don't agree with this statement at all, but I can definitely see why so many people feel that way. As much as I enjoy "discovering" a great new band, these new additions to my iPod never seem to rival the bands I first heard in grade school or high school. And it doesn't have much to do with the actual music. For me, it's all about the memories and emotions that the music stirs up. Music is like time travel sometimes. There are a bunch of songs that can actually bring me back to a specific moment in my past. There are times when "Scar Tissue" comes on the radio, and the next thing I know, I'm back in my scrawny, 17-year-old body driving my old Jeep Wrangler with the top down. Just another white-beater clad asshole headed down to Ocean City, NJ, for Senior Week. Unfortunately, all of the songs that have power to achieve this were recorded between 1992 and 2002.

More than any other band, the Stone Temple Pilots have served as the musical soundtrack to my life. For every STP song -- from "Wicked Garden" to "Coma" -- there's some memory stowed away in whatever part of the brain it is that keeps important info safe for later use. And the different phases of my life can be neatly divided according to a corresponding Pilots record. So here's my life according to STP albums (phrase trademarked by Greg Dougherty):

Core: I actually picked this up on cassette back in fifth or sixth grade -- right before a field trip to Harrisburg. On the trip up to the state capital, my teacher at the time, Mrs. Heinly, picked up the cassette jacket, looked over the tracking listing, and handed it back to me while simultaneously shaking her head and muttering something about "Sex Type Thing" and "inappropriate." I bought the STP album simply because I didn't want to copy off of Dave Tassoni and Shawn Moore, both of whom had recently discovered Pearl Jam and Nirvana. What started as a complete accident became a lifelong obsession, and I've been in love with this band ever since.

Purple: This was the first Rock CD I ever purchased (Bobby Brown was the first actual CD). I bought it at the Circuit City up in King of Prussia, PA. I remember playing it start to finish on my Sony Boom-box -- the one with speakers you could slide off of the main player. I listened to songs like "Meatplow" and "Still Remains" while studying the linear notes and pictures, and thought Weiland looked a lot like a woman. My love of STP was at a fever pitch at this point in my life.

Tiny Music Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop: I don't actually remember where I was when I bought this album. (I've purchased several replacement copies over the years.) I have a ton of Tiny-Music inspired memories from this time but, for whatever reason, these two stick out the most:
  1. Watching this rockumentary with Ryan Doc in my Kendrick Lane basement. It was one of those perfect spring days where you could smell the raw sewage from the plant down the street wherever you were in my neighborhood. I remember the special ended with Weiland confidently stating that his problems with drugs were in the past and "Lady Picture Show" playing out the closing credits, and
  2. Seeing the band live for the first time at the Spectrum with Greg and Ryan Doc -- and a bunch of other people that I don't remember at all. Arguably, this was when the band was at its best live. In response to the constant bashing and Pearl Jam comparisons they'd endured from critics during the first two albums, STP dropped their most creative and ground-breaking album to date. Not only did they have a lot to prove, but Weiland was still in the honeymoon phase of his heroin addiction at this point. This show included the infamous acoustic set that was lowered from the ceiling, complete with the old couches, a rocking chair, lava lamps and David Bowie cover of "Andy Warhol." During "Big Bang Baby," a deluge of multicolored balloons came down from the ceiling and landed on people in the good seats, which we'd somehow managed to sneak into during the concert.

No. 4: This album came out during my senior year of high school. First time I heard the album in its entirety was on a Y-100 preview show/in-studio interview with the band. The tape deck on the Sony broke (even though the Boom-box itself had another two years left), so I commandeered my sister's stereo -- and her room -- to tape the event. I stayed up listening the first new STP I'd heard since grade school! In between songs like "Sour Girl" and "Church on Tuesday," Weiland and the DeLeos attempted to explain the inspiration but, like most musicians, they communicate far better through music than conversation.
Between Oct. '99 and Oct. '00, I managed to see STP live three times: 1.) In the pit at the Tweeter center when the band formerly known as Shirley Temple's Pussy headlined the Y-100 Feztival 2.) At the PNC Arts Center when they were co-headlining with the Red Hot Chili Peppers (A drunk lady "accidentally put her cigarette out on my bare back during this show), and 3.) At the Wachovia Center in Oct. 2000 -- I skipped several classes to make the trip down from State College for this one.

Shangri-La Dee Da: Bought this one at Disc-Go-Round, on the small wall at the front of the store that sold new releases for a buck or two less than stores like Circuit City or Best Buy -- and five dollars less than the outrageous Sam Goody.
I remember listening to this album with The Fist in my old green Jeep Wrangler. We were in one of those neighborhoods next to the State Hospital. This was back when Jon was the master of creating aluminum foil bowls -- and always carried a wad of foil on his person. "Black Again" was playing when Jon passed me the foil. I've always had trouble doing two things at once, so I stopped the car in the middle of the street and took a nice slow hit of the Fist weed. I remember Jon cracking up and saying, "Bilski, you're fucking ridiculous. I love it."

Only saw the band once in support of this album: After I finished the first night of my red belt test -- still the most grueling physical thing I've ever done -- I picked up Greg and Shawn, and we drove out to Latrobe, PA, for the Rolling Rock Town Fair. When we finished the four-hour trek sometime well after midnight, we had nowhere to stay. Greg and Shawn slept in my car (the gold Saturn). I spent half of the night on the pavement outside of a motel room, and the other half on the floor inside the hotel room of a group of ravers. We managed to get extremely close to the stage by the time the Pilots went on. But, because it was one of the hottest days of the summer, the concert was mostly an endurance test. STP ended up playing one of the best shows of their career and even included a bunch of footage of it on the DVD that accompanied their greatest hits collection. Here's a clip.
On the way home, Shawn and I were both hallucinating from lack of sleep, and I ended up getting pulled over for speeding -- by a cop that had his lights off. As the cop was telling me what I did wrong, Shawn leaned across my seated and yelled, "Hey! You're not allowed to pull us over. You need to have your lights on, man. It's the law." It was not the law; I got a ticket.

Stone Temple Pilots: Bought this one at Target on my lunch break, which marked the fourth phase of my life in which an STP record came out -- grade school, high school, college and work. Because it came out right before the Memorial Day weekend, it's already become the soundtrack to a weekend that included stories that will be grossly exaggerated for years to come. On Sat. night, JUSTIN WILSON announced that he wanted to sit on the porch, drink a few beers and listen to the new STP record. By the end of the night, I had watched a perfect game in the home of the Gallagher's, a very, very, very old couple, been arrested (and bailed out of jail) for a warrant that had been outstanding since 2003, watched a very inebriated JUSTIN WILSON lose his balance and fall ass-first into a group bushes while the cops who were arresting me at the time exchanged a Can-we-really-let-this-shit-go look, and got repeatedly yelled at by Greg Doc for not grasping the finer points of "Apples to Apples."

Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington

File:Stone Temple Pilots High Rise EP.jpg

High Rise: I went back and forth about including this one. I mean, if I'm adding Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington to the list, then why not include Talk Show as well? And if I include Talk Show, then don't I have to do the same for Velvet Revolver? And what about Army of Anyone or Scott Weiland's solo albums? On top of that, I wasn't even going to buy this album; I wanted nothing to do with the Stone Temple Pilots without Scott Weiland. But like every musical endeavor that includes either Scott Weiland, Dean Deleo, Robert Deleo, Eric Kretz or any combination of the four, I paid my hard-earned money to give it a listen. For the past three days, I've been telling jokes at Magooby's Joke House, an A-level comedy club with a F-level name. I picked up this little EP at a Best Buy located a few minutes down the road from my shithole hotel (when I checked in, there was a man in a wife-beater on the second level -- outdoor -- balcony, who was gripping the railing and howling at the Baltimore night). I'm actually writing this post at the same Cockeysville, Md., Starbucks where I penned a letter to the accepting Christian folks of the God Hates Fags organization.

A lot has happened since the last Stone Temple Pilots' album back in 2010, both for me and the band. Since that eponymous, Deleo-brother-produced STP record, I've entered in my third decade on this planet, lost my dad and my dog, and gotten engaged to a girl I started dating while the band was broken up. For their part, Stone Temple Pilots fired and sued a former singer, hired a new one and completed a short tour where they took the stage at the scheduled time for each performance. Their former singer released a memoir and album of cover songs, counter-sued his former band, married for the third time, went on his own tour and allegedly recorded a new album of solo music. Because there's only five songs on it, I've already listened to this effort more than half a dozen times already as a crisscrossed the greater Baltimore area looking for ways to kill time before talking to strangers. 

Is there something undeniably strange about listening to an STP record without Weiland's signature voice and brilliant melodies? Absolutely. Will High Rise ever compare to the other STP albums (including the 2010 self-titled one) in my eyes? Probably not. But you know what, High Rise isn't half bad, and I'd much rather have new music from this incarnation of STP than wait for Weiland, the Deleos and Kretz to figure out a way to release a new album. So, like many things that have happened since I first discovered this band, STP's new situation isn't exactly ideal for me. But not only do I accept it, I may also learn to love this line-up at some point -- especially if they keep showing up for concerts on time and putting out new music regularly.

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