Edited by Brett Buchanan
With Pearl Jam recently becoming alternative rock’s latest band to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the topic of discussion has shifted to, “Who’s Next?” The 90’s grunge and alternative boom no doubt provided a plethora of top notch acts. A band that almost automatically rises to the surface is Stone Temple Pilots. One of the generation’s most enduring and influential acts, STP etched out a career filled with massive highs, and equally tragic lows. Multiple multi-platinum albums, a seeming endlessly amount of alternative rock radio staples, and one of the most charismatic, powerful frontmen not only of the genre, but in the history of rock music.
Stone Temple Pilots seem an obvious choice for induction. But the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a funny organization. Just ask bands like Rush, Kiss and Deep Purple, who it took decades to induct; despite seemingly being no-brainers. Without question, Stone Temple Pilots have a lot of the prerequisites and credentials to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. But while they clearly deserve to be, nothing is ever guaranteed. When Pearl Jam was inducted into the Hall of Fame, the Hall claimed that Pearl Jam influenced Stone Temple Pilots, giving a hint at what they may think of STP. Let’s take a closer look at why STP absolutely should be inducted, but may face an uphill battle.
Music, especially good music, is made for the people, by the people. Scott Weiland, Robert DeLeo, Dean DeLeo and Eric Kretz struck gold as a group of friends (and brothers) who had undeniable chemistry, and a knack for writing incredibly catchy, hard-hitting rock songs. Huge choruses, powerful vocals, crunching guitars, and a swinging rhythm section. The complete package. In their heyday, STP had an innate ability to cover a massive amount of musical ground while not compromising who they were as musicians and as people.
The first two STP albums, 1992’s Core and 1994’s Purple, stand as two of the best-selling albums of the Grunge era. Being certified an impressive 8x Platinum and 6x Platinum, respectively, the commercial dominance of STP cannot be denied. Fans loved them. The juxtaposition abrasiveness of “Sex Type Thing” and the melancholy somberness of “Big Empty” proved their range. Yet while they were winning over fans in droves, critic were less than impressed with the band.
Perhaps the greatest example of the divide between fan and critic came in 1994 courtesy of Rolling Stone. In January of that year, readers of the magazine voted STP best new band, yet critics voted them the worst new band of the year. And the ribbings didn’t only come from critics. Even Saturday Night Live got in on the bashing. During Weekend Update, on a segment of Hollywood Minute Spade quipped, “I liked them better the first time…when they were called Pearl Jam.” Ouch.
To the uninitiated, there were a lot of “clone” bands popping up everywhere after Pearl Jam and the Big Four of Grunge burst out of Seattle to take over the music world. And understandably, most of those bands blended together into a generic, watered-down version of what had come first. STP may have been late to the party, but they were hardly a Pearl Jam rip-off. Anyone with a basic knowledge of Grunge, post-Grunge, and 90’s alternative can name at least five bands who more clearly and deliberately hijacked the Seattle Formula.
Throughout the history of rock, you can look to almost every genre and see how great successful bands may have been second in line, but proved just as if not more successful than their predecessors. Think of The Rolling Stones to the Beatles. Aerosmith were touted as nothing more than an American knockoff of Led Zeppelin early in their career. More recently, Linkin Park did the same. They exploded onto an already established Nu-Metal scene to not only become more commercially successful than their Nu-Metal forefathers, but they have outlasted them in terms of career length and relevancy.
What took these bands, including Stone Temple Pilots, to another plateau was the fact that they grew, matured, and expanded far beyond the preconceived boundaries of their initial genre. If there is any question to whether STP did that, look no further than their third album, 1996’s Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop. This is the clear line in the sand that proved to naysayers that STP were a tour de force. Unfortunately Scott Weiland’s debilitating drug addiction made the band an easy target for critical bashing.
Whereas Pearl Jam’s battle with Ticketmaster halted their more extensive touring, it was Weiland’s dependency and frequent run-ins with the law that crippled STP. Fairly or not, it became another reason for naysayers to jump on the STP-bashing band wagon. You know the old saying, Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll. For STP the drugs gave them a bad rap as they completely hindered the band’s ability to consistently rock and roll. But should they continually be held hostage by a scenario that has plagued so many other bands; they’re hardly unique in this regard. And should this also be a reason that they are denied entrance into the hall?
Hall of Fames have a tendency of being run by elitists who drive their own agenda while disregarding the opinions that matter; the people’s (I’m looking at you Baseball Hall of Fame). Rarely does a band see a career without its share of ups and downs. If the hall tries to assess their worthiness merely on unfair media comparisons and personal turmoil of the members, they are making a massive mistake. But if they want to look at comparisons, here are the ones they should focus on.
Stone Temple Pilots have to date released six studio albums. They have sold over forty million albums. Pearl Jam have sold sixty million albums; but they have released ten albums. Alice in Chains have sold twenty million albums worldwide, with Soundgarden moving twenty-two million. Furthermore, STP has seven number one singles on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Charts, with seventeen in total making the top ten. Pearl Jam has 17; two of which have topped the chart.
When Scott Weiland tragically passed away in December of 2015, the music world lost a true giant. Perhaps more telling than the praise of your fans is the acknowledgement of your peers. Speaking on the passing, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan said, “ And that is if you asked me who I truly believed were the great voices of our generation, I’d say it were he, Layne and Kurt.” High praise indeed.
The legacy of Stone Temple Pilots is set whether the Hall of Fame inducts them or not. They were absolutely one of the biggest bands of the 90’s, and unlike a lot of other bands from that era, the band’s music has remained vibrant and relevant in the music world ever since. Whether STP were together, or off in various solo projects or supergroups like Velvet Revolver and Army of Anyone, STP have endured and provided a massive amount of great music to their fans.
STP were an everyman’s band. They offered something for everyone and anyone. Therein lies the reason you can’t go more than an hour listening to alternative radio without hearing “Plush” or “Vasoline” or any other of their impressive collection of hits. Maybe one day they will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but their validation as one of the greatest bands of a generation doesn’t depend on it. That validation has been there since 1992.