By Adam Waldman
After learning about the tragic (but predictable) passing of Scott Weiland, my thoughts took me back to the summer of 1994 and the Jones Beach Theater on Long Island. The setting is so perfect there, that the stage itself can become something of an afterthought.
When I reminisce about the shows that I’ve seen at Jones Beach through the years, the picture in my mind’s eye features the large stage, the beautiful view of the water surrounding it and the cool breeze in the air. Very few stage shows can compare to the natural beauty of the surroundings.
On August 25, 1994, Stone Temple Pilots drew your attention away from the majestic view, and turned an open-air theater into an intimate, cozy experience with the unique living room setting on stage. It’s hard to remember all of the details of the night over two decades later, but the everlasting memory is one of happy nostalgia. Those moments were few and far between in the ‘90s for many hard rock music fans.
For one evening, led by one of the most talented and charismatic frontmen in the genre’s history, there was no resentment of the grunge movement that laid waste to many of the bands that formed the soundtrack of my youth. Scott Weiland stole the show like few others could.
Though Stone Temple Pilots were classified as “grunge,” the label seemed like a convenient way to pigeon-hole the band into the trend of the moment. It was always surprising to hear someone refer to them (inaccurately) as a Pearl Jam rip-off. Whereas Eddie Vedder was a frontman indicative of the times, Weiland was engaging, entertaining and loaded with charisma. He was the epitome of cool, but he was also tortured, and haunted by demons that he could only elude for so long before they caught up to him again.
On a cold Minnesota evening, those demons were too much to overcome, and Weiland was gone. A tragic tale that is far too commonplace in rock and roll. Tragic, but sadly predictable.
In the day and age of social media, the news of Weiland’s passing spread like wildfire. Few expressed shock; most expressed sadness, but none have questioned the cause of death. There was no benefit of the doubt given to Weiland. No wait-and-see approach to find out what took a rock legend way before his time. Only remorse that the demons finally finished the job that has seemed inevitable for many years.
Scott Weiland left an indelible mark on many with his music, and a void in the lives of those who loved him. He was a tortured soul that lost a battle that many others lose. It is the same battle that has taken the lives of countless young people in recent years…an epidemic that has spun out of control.
History will remember Weiland as another tragic rock star lost to addiction. Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. They go hand-in-hand, so we mourn the loss and accept this reality.
As a parent of school-aged children – one who grew up at the same time as Weiland – my thoughts today go beyond the stage and the musical legacy that he leaves behind. My thoughts are with the real legacy that he leaves behind…his two children, whose lives will be forever changed.