While we often look at the iconic voices that lead a band to stardom, a large part of the rock driven sound from bands that originates from the 1990’s is thanks to their respective lead guitarist. In the case of Stone Temple Pilots, as a unit, few bands coming from that era could touch the masterful musicianship and creative genius that these four musicians showcased when they were together. Frontman Scott Weiland was obviously responsible for so much of the band’s identity, but from a musical standpoint, guitarist Dean DeLeo was the man responsible for the iconic riffs found on tracks like “Interstate Love Song”, “Plush”, and “Vasoline” to life (while his brother Robert was key writer on those tracks). His unique chord progressions and tasteful solos elevated STP’s music to an entirely new level, and made him one of the standout guitarists of the 90’s. While it is incredibly difficult to narrow down his best solos to just the top ten, I have given it my best shot.
- Stone Temple Pilots – Lounge Fly (1994)
While this isn’t Deleo’s most flashy solo by any means, Lounge Fly is a perfect example of his tasteful and versatile style. After the mellow bridge, the solo takes you back into the powerful verse, with DeLeo’s gritty, slide-driven guitar playing complementing Eric Kretz’s thundering drums and Robert DeLeo’s pounding bass line. After a final chorus DeLeo takes off on another mesmerizing solo, not stopping until the final drum beat fades away. This live performance from Chicago in 2010 showcases the band, especially Dean, firing on all cylinders. DeLeo’s solo at the end of this version is a bit more reserved than the 1994 studio solo, but it is still a great example of his enthralling style.
- Stone Temple Pilots – Seven Caged Tigers (1996)
This is an example of DeLeo’s more understated playing which still manages to raise the song to a whole new level. Once again, it is not speed or length that makes this solo so great, but rather the genius that went into creating a solo that complemented the rest of the song so well. It’s not about speed or intricacy with Dean, and that is what sets him apart from many other guitarists. It is about the sound. The Seven Caged Tigers solo is one of DeLeo’s most brilliantly crafted. The haunting guitar outro cannot go without mention either. Dean’s solo in this 2009 live version from Manchester, NH is, on point, as always.
- Army Of Anyone – This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen (2006)
The final track from Army Of Anyone’s one and only album features one of DeLeo’s sweetest guitar solos. While DeLeo is no stranger to loading up his solos with plenty of effects, he once again showcases his versatility with this stripped-down beauty of a solo to close out the album. In this 2007 live version he has no trouble recreating the same gorgeous solo you hear on the record.
- Stone Temple Pilots – Take A Load Off (2010)
Stone Temple Pilots self-titled sixth and final studio album with Scott Weiland is not everyone’s favorite, but DeLeo is undeniably on fire throughout. Every song features some type of solo, making it very difficult for me to choose just one from this record. The solo on Take A Load Off features DeLeo’s classic stylistic mix of southern rock and alternative rock, building the song up into its intense final chorus. Unfortunately this song has never been played live, but DeLeo did incorporate parts of the solo into STP’s live sets many times during the Self Titled tour.
- Talk Show – Hello Hello (1997)
Talking of underrated, Talk Show is one of the most underrated albums of the 90’s. DeLeo’s solo on the lead single from the short-lived bands only album is a psychedelic wah-infused trip, bearing similarities to the Beatles-esque sound that is found all over STP’s Tiny Music. While there aren’t any live versions that I could find on YouTube, this creepy music video should suffice.
- Stone Temple Pilots – Bi-Polar Bear (2001)
This monster of a song graces the second half of one of the most criminally underrated records of all time, 2001’s Shangri La De Da. While I was tempted to go with the crunchy outro solo of the epic “Long Way Home”, or the haunting melodic solo found on “Wonderful”, I had to give the nod to “Bi-Polar Bear”. DeLeo brings the slide back for this track, but unlike the gritty use on “Lounge Fly”, here the use of slide makes for a smooth sounding clean effect that is just as rhythmic as it is “lead”. Deleo once again shines in this rare 2011 live performance from Asbury Park, NJ.
- Stone Temple Pilots – Vasoline (1994)
One of the most simple yet most iconic riffs of the 90’s, “Vasoline” will forever be a classic. If you’re a beginner on guitar, you may even think this song is pretty easy. That is, until you get to the solo (I know this from experience). This is an example of one of Deleo’s faster solos, but once again, it is not just fast for speeds sake. When DeLeo does play fast solos, they are still meticulously crafted. Never are they just the same three notes repeated back and forth. This live version from 1994 features the band performing the song on Letterman, as the track was peaking in popularity.
- Stone Temple Pilots – And So I Know (1996)
One of Deleo’s main skills as a guitarist is his uncanny ability to write a solo that perfectly fits the overall feel of the song. His solo on “And So I Know” is perhaps his best example of that. While Weiland’s haunting vocals are the main focus of this groovy laid back tune, DeLeo’s ambient solo is what really takes the song to another level. This is another track that is incredibly hard to track down on YouTube, but the studio version never gets old.
- Stone Temple Pilots – Lady Picture Show (1996)
This track is a bit of a pop oriented break from the intensity of the opening sequence of tracks on Tiny Music. No STP song is complete without any of the four original members parts, but DeLeo is what really make this track shine. Throughout the song he leaves his mark, using various effects to create subtle melodies. Nevertheless, his towering solo is anything but subtle. It manages to enliven the track and sends a jolt of unexpected energy into it that exhilarate to the end. When I talk about tasteful solos, this might be his best example. He nails this live version from the Letterman show in 1996.
- Stone Temple Pilots – Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart (1996)
This is the mother of all Dean DeLeo solos. This energetic show closer is just that for one primary reason – the blistering solo. Yes, this is a fast solo. But once again, it is not a sloppy repeat of the same three notes for 20 seconds. Hearing this song live with the original four members will always be one of my most powerful and affecting musical experiences. The energy that DeLeo’s solo exerts on this track is truly something special. To me, it transcends the song and becomes a wholly different animal. It’s like the culmination of all the years of craft and devotion reached their natural high watermark. This solo, combined with Weiland’s iconic chorus vocals, not only make this track one of STP’s best, but is a perfect example of how music can touch and inspire and become something more. Just listen.