The Last American Rock Star'

by Scott Sterling

Typed by Lola. (Courtesy of

His is a story so rife with clichés, it verges on formula:

Guy joins band. Band moves to L.A. Band plays a lot and gains loyal following and industry buzz. Band gets signed to major label and proceeds to move millions of records amidst cries of "sellout!" Guy does tons of drugs and goes in and out of rehab like the rest of us go through the fast-food drive-through. Guy's band gets pissed off and does highly unsuccessful side project while guy releases an equally unsuccessful solo record. Guy reunites with band and resumes the cycle ad infinitum.

It's a formula that's made VH1's 'Behind the Music' one of the most successful series on cable ever. It's also a formula so archaic and ridiculous it's on the verge of extinction. Hence all of these pretty pictures of a pretty man with a look of defiant desperation in his eyes, but none of the predictable patter ("This time it'll be different," "It's all about the music," etc.). Because the only thing harder than clawing your way to the top of the rock and roll heap is looking at how far you'll have to fall when the ride's over.

Granted, we can't simply dismiss Sir Weiland and his Stone Temple Pilots as another big rock casualty quite yet. Through all of the madness, they've never stopped writing those timeless FM radio staples that will follow us to the end of time. Not since Aerosmith has an American band so consistently produced such riff-driven gems: "Plush," "Interstate Love Song," "Vasoline," "Creep," "Sex Type Thing" - an oeuvre one can't exactly sneeze at. Even on their underrated comeback album "No. 4" they've crafted the exquisite pop masterpiece "Sour Girl" (which, ironically, is on heavy rotation at VH1 while being virtually ignored by MTV, even with the presence of Sarah Michelle Gellar in the video).

So if there's any band primed to pull a Red Hot Chili Peppers and save their careers from the brink of disaster, it's the Stone Temple Pilots (and the irony continues - the two bands are touring together this summer). There's definitely an album of "Californication" proportions lurking deep within their rock and roll hearts. The drama lies in seeing whether or not they can take the plunge and find it.

Of course, there are other mitigating factors to consider. If and when STP make that record, will there be anyone left to really care? One has to wonder who much longer new generations will even know what real rock is, especially when a great band like Buckcherry is already considered a throwback to times gone by.

But the ambiguous "they" have been chomping at the bit to write rock's epitaph for years now. From the dominating rise of hip-hop (which last year surpassed even country sales) to the plethora of other options for today's youth to spend their time and money on, rock is in a precarious position.

"There's just something to be said about being in a rock 'n' roll band. It's a powerful thing, and we wanna save rock 'n' roll. Because, hey, somebody's gotta do it." So goes Weiland's now infamous quote, uttered not long before he began a one-year sentence in the LA County Jail. I don't need to point out the irony there. It's just that kind of constant contradiction and hyper-hypocrisy that seems to fuel him and his band. Without it, would we even be here talking about them at all? More questions, fewer answers.

Ultimately, only time will tell. Let's not forget that this was a band that critics and contemporaries alike predicted wouldn't last past their second album, let alone survive to see the new millennium. Thanks to accusations of being bandwagon-jumpers and blatant grunge copycats (powered primarily by Weiland's supposed Eddie Vedder impersonation in the "Plush" video), STP was the band never quite hip enough to hang with the cool kids, disdained by those with more indie credibility. But where are those bands today? Most have broken up (Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, etc.), the notable exception being - more irony, please - Pearl Jam. A band that played it smart (and safe) by spending more time in the shadows than the limelight (and are on course to following in the Grateful Dead's footsteps, catering almost exclusively to a large flock of faithful followers).

No matter what happens, Stone Temple Pilots have made an indelible mark on rock history. Weiland has emerged - hell, the fact that he's emerged at all is reason enough to give him props. His irrefutable passion and talent have gotten him this far, so there's no reason for it to stop now. Here's to that undeniably brilliant album in their future, the one that silences the critics once and for all. In the meantime, let's enjoy the ride and revel in the anticipation. We all know it's only rock 'n' roll. You can figure out the rest.

Velocity Magazine-- 5.3 Issue