Note: I had written this article to publish close to Christmas near the end of Scott Weiland’s tour. With Scott’s tragic death, I thought it would be a fitting tribute to post it now.
Scott Weiland was one of rock’s most dynamic frontmen of the past twenty three years; consistently reinventing himself and taking risks throughout the years with Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver. Though Weiland had recently been trying to bring his solo career to the forefront of rock music with Blaster, many have no idea that he already had quite an eclectic catalog of solo songs under his belt.
His first two studio LPs, 12 Bar Blues (1998) and Happy in Galoshes (2008) were a couple of the most ambitious alternative records of their time; even critics who had previously given Weiland hellish press in STP were left stunned by 12 Bar Blues. I’ll liken 12 Bar Blues to the Berlin era of David Bowie: it was such an experiment that paid off with critics, but Scott bypassed the whole Major Tom and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars part of it, releasing an album too ahead of its time as a first release.
The following are ten songs by Weiland, either solo or backed by The Action Girls or The Wildabouts (depending on the era), that represent the best of each record, not even counting obvious singles such as “Missing Cleveland“, “Modzilla“, and “Paralysis“.
A sprawling tribute to B-movies juxtaposed with lyrics depicting a man who seems to like any sort of self-confidence, “Barbarella” kicked off Scott’s solo career in 1997, accompanied by a music video that saw Scott in sort of a Man Who Fell To Earth knockoff. You play the game, I’ll masturbate and sing a lullaby, You run the race, Ill pay the miles, You sing the pink love fuzz, And dance the musty queer, Ill stay at home cause I’m the mouse.
“Lady, Your Roof Brings Me Down”
A love song straight out of your nightmares, “Lady, Your Roof Brings Me Down” was featured on both 12 Bar Blues and the soundtrack to Great Expectations. A swirling, piano and accordion driven circus act of a song that features Sheryl Crow. “I’ve become the painted clown, I’ll paint your town.”
“Where’s The Man”
One of Weiland’s most cryptic songs, sort of a spiritual sequel to STP’s “Big Empty” aesthetically, capturing a sense of exhaustion in possibly the darkest era of Scott’s recording career.
“As I get behind the wheel again, Pray to live a million years, Know I lie but if it makes you glad, Tell you what you wanna hear.”
One of Scott’s most tripped out and interesting songs is actually one that was lost to copyright issues; after being included on early versions of Scott’s first solo record, it disappeared in later printings after Scott learned the lyrics of “Mairzy Doats“, which comprise the chorus, were actually copyrighted. That tune’s gibberish lyrics (which may have been popularized in the 90’s by Leland Palmer’s insane rendition of it on Twin Peaks) were mistaken as being traditional, or in the free domain, by Scott. The rest of the tune plays out like a tripped-out version of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude”.
Weiland’s touching dedication to his late brother, Michael, previously referenced on Velvet Revolver’s “For A Brother”. Scott reminisces on the holidays he had with his brother before Michael “flew away with a broken wing”. The penultimate track of Weiland’s most cathartic release gave way to a hidden rendition of the traditional Catholic hym, “Be Not Afraid”. Christmas Day we were the best of friends.
Remember we fucked up the gravy (lumpy)? Hadn’t seen such a smile on your face, Since we harmonized a little Bing Crosby, 10 Days later your girl says yes, I can’t live without you, You’re my man (daddy), But the Christmas song left your head, And you flew away with a broken wing. Your way (arch angel)
“The Man I Didn’t Know”
From the second disc of the deluxe version of Happy in Galoshes, Weiland’s tune to his biological father from Cleveland was the singer’s first real dabble into country music, albeit injected with sort of a David Bowie sensibility. Tell me things that I wanna know, Now I’m a man with a family of my own, Why’d you go and leave me in the cold? With the face in the mirror of the man I didn’t know.
“She Sold Her System”
“She Sold Her System” kind of continues the sonic blueprint of 12 Bar Blues with its manic bursts of Floydian psychedelia amid airy verses that. All the wine in your head, All the clippings that you read, tell your story, Forty miles high above your bed you sold your system, You sold your system, Now couldn’t you have found a better time, To let it drift away from you?
One of the most uplifting songs on Blaster, the ethereal Parachute is a psychedelic blend of Bob Dylan lyricism and Nirvana-cum-Beatles instrumentation. Jeremy Brown’s guitar work during the chorus and bridge, in conjunction with Weiland’s layered, heartfelt vocals, creates sort of a seafaring/sailor-type vibe that just strikes a certain chord. Catch you when you’re falling, even when you’re not, I’ll see you through the eyes of love.
Guitarist James Iha of The Smashing Pumpkins fame guests on this Blaster ballad featuring classic Weiland melodies and lyricism, playing alongside Jeremy Brown. “I never really spoke computer language, Always chose communication, And still I found you now, Could believe it, Never could’ve dreamed it.”
A swirling ballad off of Scott’s latest record, “Amethyst” possesses a swirling arena rock vibe with Scott’s traditional impassioned yet cryptic lyrics of love.
Look away, We gotta white light blinder, Come my way, You know I’ll always find her, In about a second, Or a week or two I gotta tell ya a lil riff, About what she can do, Half way home, But in the nick of time, I was taken by surprise, By this girl of mine.